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date: 22 October 2019

Bamiyanlocked

  • Mary S. Lawton

Extract

Site in north-central Afghanistan. Located at the western end of the silk route, Bamiyan flourished as a trading and religious centre until the 13th century. It is the site of a rock-cut Buddhist monastery, the most distinctive feature of which were two monumental rock-cut standing Buddhas that bracket the religious complex. Confined in mandorla-shaped niches, they represented the first appearance of the colossal cult image in Buddhist art. Their size not only encouraged approaching pilgrims but exemplified the esoteric Mahayana doctrine of the Universal Buddha (see also Buddhism, §I). Faces and folds in the robes were modelled in mud mixed with chopped straw. This was supported by dowels and ropes pegged into the rock; a final coating of lime plaster was applied before gilding. The smaller Buddha (h. c. 38.5 m) probably dated to the 2nd–3rd century ad and its somewhat fluid drapery folds suggested Gandharan traditions. The frescoes and accompanying minor sculptures of donor figures were provincial Sasanian in technique and imagery. The larger Buddha (h. 55 m) was related to the style of Mathura during the ...

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