Iconic Buddha Statue In Pakistan Destroyed By Taliban With Dynamite Restored To Old Glory

For centuries it stood as one of the symbols of the long history of Buddhist heritage of the region which became Pakistan. But in 2007 when the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) better know as Pakistan Taliban overrun the Swat Valley, it became one of the casualties.

The Buddha of Swat, carved on a cliff in the seventh century, was dynamited by the TTP which was opposed to idol worship. 

Buddha of Swat

The destruction, much like in the lines of what the Afghan Taliban did to the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the tallest know Buddha statues, left the carving severely damaged, especially its face.

It was blown up by inserting explosives and damaged the shoulders and torso by drilling holes into the structure. The act had sparked worldwide ire, especially among the Buddhist community, historians and archaeologists.

Buddha of Swat


But after the Taliban was driven out of Swat in the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, along with locals began a tedious process of restoring it. 

Carried out in phases, it began in 2012 with the application of a coating to protect the damaged part of the sculpture.

The reconstruction of the face itself was first prepared virtually in the laboratory, in 3D, using laser surveys and old photos. The last phase, the actual restoration, ended in 2016.

Today the meditative Buddha statue, dating back to 7th century, considered to be the biggest such structure carved in stone in South Asia, towering at 21 feet long and 12 feet wide stands tall, with the Buddha sitting in a lotus position, calm, collected and unaffected.

Buddha of Swat


With the statue restored, many locals hope it will help in once again bring back the tourists from all across the valley, especially from Buddhist countries.

It felt "like they killed my father", says Parvesh Shaheen, a 79-year-old expert on Buddhism in Swat. "They attack... my culture, my history."

Swat was once a thriving Buddhist hub and even today there are around 20 sites in the valley with ancient historical significance.

Bobins Abraham


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