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It’s hard to believe that Afghanistan, a country torn by war and religious extremism, was once a peaceful Buddhist nation. Pilgrims from all over Central and South Asia came to this remote mountainous region, built monasteries and colossal statues, dug caves into the sandstone and meditated.

Buddhism was brought to Afghanistan in the first century by the Kushan Empire of the historic region of Bactria in Central Asia. The most famous Kushan Emperor, Kanishka the Great, was a great patron of Buddhism. His conquests and patronage of Buddhism played an important role in the development of the Silk Road, and the spread of Buddhism across the Karakoram range to India, China and other Asian countries.

bamiyan-buddha-10

The 175 feet high Buddha statue in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, destroyed in 2001. Photo credit: Afghanistan Embassy

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