Abandoned heritage: In Jahanabad, world’s biggest Buddha sculpture awaits tourists

Published: March 14, 2012

The defaced sculpture of Buddha in Swat is yet to be repaired. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ

The defaced sculpture of Buddha in Swat is yet to be repaired. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ The defaced sculpture of Buddha in Swat is yet to be repaired. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ
SWAT: 

The world’s biggest Buddha carving in Jahanabad, Swat, despite its majestic attraction, has not been able to draw tourists since the militancy.

According to archaeologists, the meditating Buddha is the most remarkable piece of rock carving in the entire Gandhara region.

Situated in a peaceful isolated area, its serene surroundings feature a spring with crystal-clear water flowing downhill as well as a stream traversing verdant fields, enhancing the historical site’s beauty.

Archaeologists believe the structure is the biggest Buddha sculpture in the world, second only to the monumental statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Though the local Taliban in Swat also tried to demolish the structure in 2007, they only managed disfigure the upper portion of Buddha’s face.

“It is indeed a breathtaking sight and I find true peace after coming here,”  said Zameer Alam, a tourist who seemed awe-struck by the grandeur of the structure.

“It is no doubt one of the best monuments in the world, but unfortunately it is being neglected by the government,” he added.

Describing the splendour of the statue, Tufail Anjum, who has a keen interest in archaeology, said, “It is an iconic figure which outshines all other carvings. Its gigantic size makes it unique and its exquisite rendition characterises its historical significance.”

“Buddhists believe Buddha visited Swat spiritually so the region is of paramount importance for his followers,” said Suvastu Arts and Culture Association Chairman Usman Ulas Yar, who actively fought to preserve the archaeology of Swat valley during militant rule.

He also suggested repairing Buddha’s disfigured face with the help of skilled artisans so the magnificent structure could regain its original splendour.

“As it is located in a scenic area, an archaeological park should be built with a track leading to the monument for easy access to tourists. In addition to that, its surroundings should also be protected to preserve its legacy,” he said.

He also stressed on initiating awareness sessions on all archaeological sites at a local and national level, adding that the recent introduction of culture as a subject in school was a commendable step.

“Remnants of a vast number of Buddhist sites, which were destroyed by vandals and locals because of ignorance, can be seen throughout Swat valley. However the few monuments, which have survived over the centuries, must be protected,” said Yar.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Raj
    Mar 14, 2012 - 3:37AM

    Tourists do not want to get killed. I am surprised Talibans did not not destroy this sculpture of Mahatama Gautam Buddha.

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  • Corrupt
    Mar 14, 2012 - 7:46AM

    mahatama who? :p
    Its yet another stone.. move on. dont you guys have enough already? Get some tools and carve some more…

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  • Mar 14, 2012 - 8:41AM

    The one in Bamyan Afghanistan was 55 meters.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D-z6sTs3pU

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  • Nadir
    Mar 14, 2012 - 9:29AM

    how is it the world’s biggest? Please report responsibly so that the public can keep their trust in you.

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  • Jaan
    Mar 14, 2012 - 9:32AM

    if this monument had some other countries in the world, it would be famous and visited like those of Rome or Egypt monuments. but what to say?

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  • unbeliever
    Mar 14, 2012 - 10:19AM

    @Corrupt:

    if you had been only corrupt, no problem with it.
    but it seems you are heartless too, to ignore the archaelogical importance of these statues.

    and i can also write, it’s just a book with words in it.. so what? there are millions of books with more words and substance in them. so why that raze over it’s alleged burning?

    would you like to answer that?

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  • Jaan
    Mar 14, 2012 - 10:47AM

    @ Pakistani Hindu: yes but it was destroyed by yahoos

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  • Expert
    Mar 14, 2012 - 10:51AM

    @Nadir: it was second largest after Bamyan but since that was destroyed by Taliban in 2001, presently the Jehanabad Buddah is the biggest statue carved in a rock

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  • AftabSiddiqui
    Mar 14, 2012 - 10:56AM

    I’ve been there and saw that before the terrorist activities in swat valley, it was totally breath taking that how can someone reach that place and carve it centuries ago.. its a big monument and as stated in article it is second to Bamiyan statue :) nothing wrong with the reporting…

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  • IZ
    Mar 14, 2012 - 11:02AM

    I think the article needs to distinguish between the world’s biggest Buddha carving and the world’s biggest Buddha statue. The biggest statue is Spring Temple Buddha in China which is 153m (over 500 feet) tall. From the photographs this does not look near as big.

    Having said that I do hope the government preserves and develops these archaeological treasures.

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  • Noor Muhammad
    Mar 14, 2012 - 11:16AM

    The ones in Bamyan were statues. This is stone carving. There is a difference.

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  • Mar 14, 2012 - 11:35AM

    Islam forbades idol worship…as simple as that…why dont these people understand

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  • JS
    Mar 14, 2012 - 11:44AM

    Nothing breaks my heart more to see that we…..a 9000 year old continous civilization (Mehrgarh to present day), have been reduced to our present day ignorance. Woe to those that deny our history……Woe to those who learned nothing from our past…

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  • JS
    Mar 14, 2012 - 11:48AM

    @Corrupt
    You are the shame of this country and history will remember your kind as the most ignorant lot to have lived on this land…..

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  • Shyam
    Mar 14, 2012 - 11:51AM

    Great! best of luck in gettng tourists to Swat. You can name it suicide tourism

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  • Peer
    Mar 14, 2012 - 12:57PM

    It must be impressive but when you see the tree nearby, it is not a big tree. Very small. It is the biggest in the world, no, but just in the Gandhara area it could be a big carving not a statue. But it must be preserved. Law and order must prevail. In Pakistan you cannot go to Keerthar Park, you could be kidnapped. You can’t give your intention to buy some land lest kidnappers follow you. The condition of the country overall must improve to bring in tourism. Without law and order forget it.

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  • Pinky
    Mar 14, 2012 - 1:04PM

    i like the shape of the rocks in the pic…very Mount Rushmore-esque :) we can leave the carving intact & make sculptures out of the rocks…Quaid & Allama Iqbal…..the tourist attraction value of the venue might also be doubled ;p

    nice idea, right?

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  • JS
    Mar 14, 2012 - 1:05PM

    @Aqeel Ahmed

    Islam does forbid idol worship, but it does not forbid studying an archeological, social, artistic, and intellectual peice of history. You might think studying/understanding is the same thing as worship and you have a lot of people who subscribe to this type of belief but you are wrong. Throwing acid on a girls face is also forbidden in Islam (under any circumstance), as is corruption….why don;t you fight that crusade instead of destroying what remains of our pre Bin Qasim past.

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  • khan
    Mar 14, 2012 - 1:23PM

    Read the intro it is clearly written that it is carved statue: The world’s biggest Buddha carving in Jahanabad, Swat, despite its majestic attraction, has not been able to draw tourists since the militancy.

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  • Shayan
    Mar 14, 2012 - 2:36PM

    true: it is the second largest rock-carved Buddha.

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  • TheTourist
    Mar 14, 2012 - 3:26PM

    What, go see the statue and get gunned down by bearded pakhtuns and mullahs? No thanks, I’ll pass.

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  • Tom
    Mar 14, 2012 - 5:32PM

    Just one simple and logical question for all.
    If in 2000 years later, the local populations of Gandhara gradually by negligence, ignorance, invasion and any reason become totally different culture and does not at all
    understand the current Islamic traditions and norms. And some people at this futuristic time, are totally against the remains of the current mosques and places associated with, and totally wanted to destroy it out of ignorance and hatred because of the culture at future time is totally different. Would you support those people wanted to destroy or those who want to preserve it so that one can learn from the past Islamic culture?

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  • vivek ruparel
    Mar 14, 2012 - 11:45PM

    @Aqeel Ahmed:
    No1 is askin u 2 do idol worship, its an archaeological site like Pyramids and meanwhile ask ur ppl 2 stop idolizing Arab Afghan and Turkish invaders also? hav sum respect 4 others if u want others 2 respect U. Need i remind U tht the region actually was inhabited by Hindus and Buddhists b4 the murdering invaders destroyed it all.

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  • Rizwan Iqbal
    Mar 15, 2012 - 1:39AM

    Swatis wanted Shariah (yes, they initially welcomed the Taliban), now they will never see tourist dollars again. I hope their Shariah was worth it – now they can enjoy Islamic law and poverty.

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  • Ch Allah Daad
    Mar 15, 2012 - 3:48AM

    The Budhists are peaceful, tolerant and loving people. None of them talked revenge or created myths that thousands of Taliban were killed in Swat and Afghanistan because they tried to disfigure Budha’s sculpture and bombed Bamiyan. As a goodwill gesture and prove that most of the Muslims are as good an anyone else, we must restore this sculpture and turn it into a tourist attraction.

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  • Peer Sain
    Mar 27, 2012 - 1:50AM

    @JS:
    But we Sindhis of Jiye Sindh never rose up against tyranny either yesterday or today. When Hindu vaderas did tyranny we kept quite. Now the Muslim vaderas some of whom converted to Islam to occupy Hindu lands, we do not protest. Do you think we were going to rebel against the British. Some body somewhere fought and got us Pakistan. Now we are everywhere in comfortable jobs. Taken the place of the gora and enjoying all the perks of excellent cars, houses and servants. What civilisation are we talking about? Slavery of the vaderas? Is that our civilisation? No. Think again.

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  • Peer Sain
    Mar 27, 2012 - 2:42AM

    @Aqeel Ahmed:
    No body asking you to worship.Recommend

  • JS
    Mar 27, 2012 - 11:50AM

    @Peer Sain:
    Your comment makes no sense to me at all….are you upset about being willing subjects of the vaderas?

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  • Peer Sain
    Apr 7, 2012 - 11:58AM

    @JS:
    Precisely “willing subjects of the vaderas“. It doesn’t make sense to you coz for 9000 years it is dinned in to your heads to be subservient and be a slave of someone. Why did we gain independence? Was it to perpetuate our slavery? No. Isn’t it time to undo this injustice.Time to ask for justice and equitable distribution of resources. Land is a resource.Get it. You deserve too. Be a free man, man!

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