Awakening the Sleeping Buddha

A recently restored Buddhist statue has become a symbol of renewal for war-ravaged Tajikistan.

Bryon Macwilliams

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Hair swirls into a bun at the back of the head. A small, narrow nose intersects deep eye sockets and round jowls, and the eyelids rest softly, closed. The right palm supports the head, which, in keeping with Buddhist tradition, faces southwest. The body reclines fully on its right side.

The forty-two-foot clay statue “Sleeping Buddha” was first unearthed by Soviet archaeologists in 1966, but for thirty-five years it lay scattered in seventy-two unwieldy fragments at the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences in Dushanbe, the capital of the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan. The statue remained in pieces during the Soviet war in neighboring Afghanistan, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and then during the civil war that followed Tajik independence in 1991. It wasn’t until 2001 that the Buddha once again became whole.

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