As the valley rests under the glimmering stars, young men and women carry lighted lanterns, climb the narrow spiral staircase carved in the heart of the yellow cliff, to reach over the head of Salsal, a 55-meter tall Buddha statue, which is one of the world’s wonders. To honor this ancient cultural heritage, which is reminiscent of the golden age of the region’s glory, on March 09, a group of activists in the central highlands of Bamyan got together to mark the anniversary of the Taliban’s destruction of the giant statues of Buddha. For ten years now, on this occasion, hundreds of young activists take kerosene lanterns to commemorate the memory of the ancient Buddha, which is a 6th-century cultural heritage. In March 2001, the Taliban blew up Buddhas of Bamyan despite international appeal and condemnation.
This year, a number of young activists held a two-day memorial ceremony, known as A Night with Buddha. They read poetry, organized book exhibitions, performed theater, and displayed Salsal on the projector. “We came here on this occasion to mark the anniversary of Buddha, just to say that they mean a lot to us,” a participant told Kabul Now.
“A Night with Buddha is an important event held in the memory of Buddha,” says Amir Jan Kawsari, a civil activist in Bamyan.
A Night with Buddha, this year, is celebrated as the country is preparing to share power with the Taliban, the group that blew up these two giant Buddha statues of Gandhara civilization.
Zahra Hosseini, an activist who organized the event, says she is willing to know the Taliban’s reaction now to the destruction of the Buddhas as they prepare to reconcile a peace settlement with the people of Afghanistan.
A resolution issued by A Night with Buddha organizers says there must be guarantees, pointing to the peace talks with the Taliban, that the cultural heritage of the country like Buddha statues in Bamyan and Logar and other national assets should not be destroyed.
In a conversation with Kabul Now, Mohammad Reza Ebrahim, a university professor, said in the event of A Night with Buddha we pay tribute to the ancient history of Bamyan.
Afghanistan’s Culture and Information Acting Minister Mohammad Taher Zuhair has promised to make efforts to preserve the historical sites that surround the Buddha statues. He told the event via video conference that efforts were underway to build an archeological site in front of Buddha and engage UNESCO to rebuild historical monuments in Bamyan.