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On the cliff face of a sandstone mountain, visible from the ancient Silk Road near the town of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, are two massive voids left by two monumental statues of Buddha that once stood there. In 2001, the nearly 1,500 year old statues were blown to bits by the Taliban in an act of violence that shook the entire world, and set a disturbing precedent which has been imitated in recent years by Islamic State fighters in the Middle East.

For a long time, Buddhism was an important religion in the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, having been introduced during the early Kushan period, in the 1st century. Along the Silk Road, on which Bamiyan lies, are several Buddhist monasteries, chapels and sanctuaries constructed inside caves carved into the mountains. In several of the caves and niches, often linked by galleries, there are remains of wall paintings and seated Buddha figures.

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

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