September 01, 2010

Buddhism's crumbling past

taxila, buddhist temple, asian historical architecture

Not to be an alarmist, but preserving Buddhism's past is an increasingly challenging endeavor. And while the truth of impermanence is fundamental to the Buddhist teachiings, no one said it's easy. Bamiyan was a heartbreaker, and recent news that the Chinese may blow up the ancient ruins of a newly discovered monastery in order to mine for copper raised another alarm. Now, an SOS to Unesco from Buddhist Art News:

TAXILA, Aug 28: The recent rains have caused severe damage to scores of priceless stucco sculptures of the Buddhist period (4–5th century AD) at Taxila valley’s Mohra Moradu Stupa and Monastery which could have been saved had the archaeology department taken necessary steps to protect them.

This site is among the three most important of Taxila’s 18 Buddhist remains containing a rich collection of stucco sculptures and figures of Buddha which were still intact in the cellars of the monastery before the torrential rains.

The Mohra Moradu Monastery is located in a small valley between the ancient city of Sirkap and Jaulian, the site of the famous Buddhist University.
The site was savaged by treasurehunters who split apart the main stupa in the hope of finding gold inside. However the lower portion of the stupa buried under the ground remained protected as the vandals could not reach there and was found in good condition when the site was excavated by John Marshall in early 20th century. The stupa is famous for the many bas-reliefs of Buddha that adorn its base. The monastic cells around the stupa though badly crumbled yielded a treasure of stone stupas.

Now Mother Nature is taking her turn at finishing the job, and she tends to be more thorough than thieves and White Huns. It could have been avoided, though, the article complains, if the ruins had been properly protected. There's still time, and so Unesco has received a distress call.

Take a look at the article here.

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Buddhist Art News: “SOS to UNESCO as Rain Endangers Ancient 's picture

[...] and Monastery, Pakistan, Punjab, rains, Taxila trackback This via the great James Shaheen at the Tricycle Editors’ Blog:  Buddhist Art News brings us the depressing information that rains have damaged a Buddhist site [...]

James Shaheen's picture

Agreed!

Ki Ananda's picture

Just heard that Pakistan government wants to promote their Budhist sites to boost tourism. Have contacted a few of Pakistan Travel Agents to find out the itinerary etc, as I would like to bring my fellow Indonesian Buddhist friends there. Fund and expertise from Unesco is important but real care from Pakistani government and the Pakistan people is of foremost important.
Nothing is impermanent, but destruction is not a good thing to do.