Religious conservatives destroyed the Buddha statue found in Takht Bahi Mardan, KP during the routine excavation and exploration.
The locals destroyed the Buddha statue on the call of a cleric in Takht Bahi area, Mardan, KP, on Saturday. A video circulating on social media showed the locals smashing the buddha statue. The incident spread like a wildfire on social media- triggered the tourism department KP to take action.
The cleric feared people that their marriages would be invalid and they would lose their faith if the statute is not disposed. Hence, people hammered and destroyed the life-size statue of Buddha into pieces within no time.
Director Archaeology Abdul Samad said the area was traced and the culprits involved in the vandalism will be traced with the help of the video. “We have located the area and we will soon have those involved arrested,” he said.
Buddhist statute demolished in KP: religious intolerance on the rise?
The incident stoked a massive reaction from the people on social media. While they condemned the conservatives for destroying the historical and religious artefact, they also slammed the concerned authorities for a lacklustre response to the incident. The incident has once again brought into question the state of religious tolerance/intolerance in Pakistan.
A score of people lambasted the conservatives for stimulating religious intolerance in the country when it is fighting hard to reinvigorate its image of a peaceful, inclusive, and tolerant society globally.
The incident is alarming at a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan is aiming to thrive religious tourism in Pakistan. For this purpose, his government completed the Kartarpur Corridor project to facilitate the Sikh devotees spread across the globe.
He is also aiming to promote religious tourism in KP. Hence, the region of Takht Bahi holds immense significance in this regard.
Takht-I-Bahi: hub of Buddhism in Pakistan
Takht-i-Bahi (“Throne of the water spring”)is an Indo-Parthian archaeological site of an ancient Buddhist monastery in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The site is considered among the most imposing relics of Buddhism in all of Gandhara and has been “exceptionally well-preserved.
The Buddhist monastery was founded in the 1st century CE, and was in use until the 7th century. The complex is regarded by archaeologists as being particularly representative of the architecture of Buddhist monastic centers from its era. Takht Bahi was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
The ruins are located about 15 kilometers from Mardan in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. A small fortified city, dating from the same era, sits nearby. The ruins also sit near a modern village known by the same name. It is located around 500 feet atop the small hill and around 2 km from village Bazar.
KP: The centre of religious tourism for Buddhism
Also, last year the provincial government of KP arranged a high-profile visit of Buddhist monks to KP. A group of Buddhist monks from Thailand reached Pakistan to pay homage to historical Buddhist monuments in the upper northern region of the country. The Chief Monk of Thailand, Arayawangso, traveled Pakistan with a nine-member delegation.
The delegation toured the Bhamalah Stupa, dating back to the 2nd Century, in Khanpur where they performed religious rituals and a special prayer for the peace and prosperity in the region. Dr. Abdul Samad, Director Archaeology KP, welcomed the delegation and arranged the visits of the delegation to renowned Buddhist sites across KP. He also briefed them about the efforts taken by the Pakistani government to preserve and restore the historical Buddhist monuments across KP.
This is criminal. However, hope the Archeology Dept has taken control of the site and nearby. There is a real possibility of more such statues & other archeological remains there. https://t.co/hLHuQbx5qd
— Ijaz Khan (@ijazkhan) July 18, 2020
Besides visiting Bhamala Stupa, the delegation comprising of chief monks, monks and, officials from Archaeology and Museums were taken on a visit to famous Takht Bahi, an ostentatious Buddhist monastery in Mardan. The delegation performed religious rituals at the archaic monastery.
The clear intention of the provincial government is further evident through the tight measures taken for the safety of these religious sites.
“The followers of Buddhism would find a treasure trove of Buddhist statues and heritage after thorough research and revival of these sites,” the official told the delegation.