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Pre-Taliban stupa.JPG (43512 bytes)

Post-Taliban stupa.JPG (40575 bytes)

This votary stupa carved over a thousand years ago sits just outside of the Northern Pakistani town of Chilas. It is noted for its fine flowing banners.   The same petroglyph with whitewash and slogan, added sometime before August 2001, in support of  political candidate Ghullam Mullah.


Damage to Pakistan’s Buddhist art treasures...

It’s not just the Buddhist statues in Bamyan that have fallen victim to the Taleban’s iconoclastic excesses. In neighbouring Pakistan pro-Taleban political parties have taken to spreading their message by defacing the ancient petroglyphs that are to be found throughout the Hindu Kush. These petroglyphs, many of them of high artisitic value and archaeological interest, were left by travellers and Buddhist pilgrims over a period of thousands of years as they made their way along the treacherous mountain trail that today is followed by the Karakorum Highway – the same route as walked by Tripitaka (of 'Monkey' fame) on his journey to collect the Buddhist scriptures from Gandhara  (today’s Taxila).

In orthodox Islam it is forbidden to portray the human form and it is this directive taken to its extreme by the Taleban that lead to the archaeological travesty in Bamyan. In northern Pakistan it is not just the Buddha’s image that has been defaced but also others Buddhist symbols. The accompanying photo was taken in August 2001 just north of Chilas in a strongly orthodox region where many people have sympathies for the Taleban. At the start of the American bombing of Afghanistan the town was the scene of a mini uprising which included the releasing of prisoners from the town jail. The picture shows a Buddhist ‘stupa’ with a banner flying from its spire and is one of the more intricately carved examples in the region.

In nearby Shattila where the largest and finest collection of the areas carvings are found the authorities have begun steps to protect the site from a populace for whom the treasures are either blasphemous or meaningless. A small hut has been built and a resident caretaker installed to look after the site.  Everywhere else in the Karakorums and the Hindu Kush however the carvings remain at risk...


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             Revised and last updated: November 20th 2013. Links