Bamiyan Buddhas, Silent Heroes

Bamiyan Buddhas Silent Heroes

The Bamiyan Buddhas stood for nearly two millennia as silent heroes, symbols of the Buddhist faith, witnesses to the hustle and the bustle of the Silk Route with its whirlwind of wealth, ideological exchange, and art, and to countless illogical wars.

In silence they stood since the middle of the first century, and witnessed. Did they know they were the largest in the world? Perhaps they heard rumors. Did they even care? I think not. Like the Buddhism they stood for, they enjoyed the freedom to observe and meditate, learning about human nature and that nothing lasts forever.

Bamiyan Buddhas Silent Heroes
Bamiyan Buddhas, these Silent Heroes

But how did the Bamiyan Buddhas really look like?

Yes, like standing Buddhas carved into performing specific gestures, but also carved into niches, allowing worshipers to circulate all around their feet, at the base of the statue, while meditating. They were not just shaped into the face of the mountain. By hairstyle they were Buddhist, but their capes showed clear Hellenistic Greek influences (think Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace) as well as Indian elements. Two cosmopolitan masterpieces.

The tallest Buddha was almost as tall as the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, or half the height of the Victoria Tower, London, or almost a third of the height at which World Trade Center once stood.

If we would have a telescope to look back in time we would see:

‘a rock statue of the Buddha standing, one hundred forty or fifty feet in height, a dazzling golden color and adorned with brilliant gems.’

as well as

‘a copper statue of the Buddha standing, more than one hundred feet tall.’

The Great Tang Records of the Western Regions (Da Tang Xiyu Ji) by Xuanzang (Hsuan-Tsang), chinese monk, description written in 643
Bamiyan Buddhas Silent Heroes
If we would have a telescope and look back in time (left) at the Bamiyan Buddhas

What happened to the Bamiyan Buddhas, these Silent Heroes?

‘Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan had destroyed these colossal statues in March 2001. They started by damaging the Buddha with anti-aircraft firearms and cannons. Yet the damage inflicted was not enough for the Taliban. They returned with anti-tank mines that they placed at the statues’ bases. When sections of rock broke off, the statues suffered further damage. And still, they did not stop here. The Taliban dropped men down the face of the cliff. They had placed explosives into the various grooves found in the Buddhas. The plan was clear, to completely destroy the facial features of the two statues. Maybe a bad understanding of the Quran: Islam condemns idolatry. When one of the blasts could not destroy the facial features of one statue, a rocket was used in its place. It left a hideous gap in whatever was left of the Buddha’s head.

The Taliban did not succeed in wiping out the two Buddhas, but they became unrecognizable as the figures they once were. A cultural, religious, historical and entomological symbol and landmark.

It was a bleak day in human history when something that watched over the valley for 1 500 years was destroyed in a matter of weeks.

Thanks to 21st-century technology the larger of the two Buddhas has been reconstructed using 3D light projections. A holographic image which, unfortunately, is only unveiled rarely, during special occasions.’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

Why destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas?

Maybe a bad understanding of the Quran, as Islam condemns idolatry and Taliban was known for their extreme iconoclastic campaigns. Maybe a need for gaining global media attention. Or just pure evil.

Bamiyan is now listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in Danger.

Bamiyan Buddhas Silent Heroes
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon or Loot (South Africa)

A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg - Women writing contemporary war books

As an author, I am the resultant force of the books I read, of the places I visit. As a woman, I am the resultant force of the women who influenced my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my daughter, my girl friends, my female role models. As a human being, I am one of the forces shaping my children’s future; albeit a tiny one, I can point forward and upwards.
Scientia potetia est.

It was an honor to have my article on Why We Need Contemporary War Fiction Written by Women published on Books By Women:

At some stage during my adult life, and this will astound my history teacher if she’d discover, I found myself fascinated by the thought of writing fiction inspired by contemporary events.

A thread that brought me here might have been reading Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” in my teens; another one, witnessing the terrorist attack on World Trade Center on Live TV while pregnant with my daughter. A definite thread, silky and alluring, came from enjoying historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. While the most recent one, still carding itself, draws from my son’s keen interest in war computer games and my own, in military working dogs.

Contemporary war fiction penned by women pales in comparison to the amount of books written by men. Be it in poetry or prose, throughout the centuries an author, not an authoress, depicted more often the combat male protagonist. As Homer put it in his Iliad, “war will be men’s business”.

Why so, since countless notable women were not afraid of fighting battles? The Greek goddess Athena is shown as a warrior, the patron of justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, and arts. The Celtic goddess Brigid is the patron of poetry and smithcraft. Scathach is an Irish Goddess who taught the martial arts. The Amazons were fierce warrior women and there were even gladiator women, gladiatrices, although Juvenal, the Roman poet of those times, depicted them as a mere novelty. History is splattered with the blood of innumerable women warriors: Hatshepsut, Queen Boudicca, Queen Samsi of Arabia, the Trung Sisters from Vietnam, Empress Theodora of Byzantium, Olga of Russia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary I and Elizabeth I of England. 

History also showed us that women who took to war were willingly followed by an army of men and women and that they won their battles much to their opponent’s dismay. Is it the fact that women can stand up for themselves in times of political upheaval what worries men or the fact that women could, eventually, bulldoze them? 

With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?

Read my entire article here.

With thanks to Barbara Bos for so graciously facilitating the publishing of my piece.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia FurstenbergSilent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for is my latest book release, a thrilling read about military dogs, soldiers and the populace caught in the War in Afghanistan.

You can read the opening pages right here, on my website.

Read about the symbolism depicted in this novel.

Find out what the readers of Silent Heroes have to say.

Buy Silent Heroes from Amazon UK, Amazon US or use the international Amazon link here.

Silent Heroes is also available in LARGE PRINT.

The 5 Lessons I Learned From Madiba

Nelson Mandela motivational quote

5 Lessons I Learned From Madiba. There are many magical places in the world, spaces where nature and time seem to have a place of their own. Where the earth is so fertile that even the people living there seem to draw energy out of it and where time has a different pace and a deeper meaning. For what is a man’s life, but a stepping stone on which his children’s lives and his grandchildren’s lives are built upon.

 Such a man, with a spirit as fertile as the rolling hills of his native land and a will power as inexhaustible as the wind’s, was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man upon which a whole new nation was built.
 

This tall man with a bright, friendly smile and colourful shirts walked with the crowds and stood near the kings, listened to by all. Always one to speak of forgiveness, of dialogue and freedom, he had been an inspiration for many. Here are a few of the lessons he had taught us.

1. Focus on your goals and keep on going.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela.

For the most of his life, Mandela fought to bring an end to apartheid. This was his life goal and although achieved through heart ache and much sacrifice, Mandela never gave up. Staying focused on your goal is a vital skill for a leader. By doing so, Mandela was able to keep the fight for freedom going and to keep a whole nation focused and fighting for the same goal.

2. If difficulties arise along the way, don’t avoid them, face them.

It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela.

Never lose hope on pursuing your dream. If something stands between you and your goal, be it health, hardship or discomfort, work out a strategy but keep your morals and work ethic intact. Accept the difficulty as it arises, all the time remembering that it will go away – or that you can make it go away. It is okay to sometimes feel sorry for yourself, but don’t procrastinate, step back and think of a solution.

3. Be kind and forgiving.

“If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela

When harm is done by a group of people, the individuals in that particular group seldom take responsibility for their own actions. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, yet when he was released he spoke of forgiveness.

By forgiving, we open our hearts to compassion. Research has shown that compassion makes our heart rate slows down, thus helping us focus which in turn helps us better understand other’s actions and finding the answers and clarity we need.

4. Let go of your past, you CAN do better.

“Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela had many reasons to stay bitter, yet he stepped away from answering violence with conflict. He chose closure and to share his experiences as well as to learn from others. He opted for negotiation and reconciliation instead.

The past cannot be changed, it is over; it isn’t who or what you are anymore. Rather look at your past as something you had to overcome to become a better you. And then stop thinking about it. Focus on the present by trying to be a better you as this will only improve your future.

5. Education is for all, but it involves responsibility.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela was an active and curious learner throughout his life. From the informal, oral and tribal teachings of his childhood which most probably gave him his democratic leadership style, to the formal, law schooling later on and his political education, Mandela never ceased to learn. Be it from books or as from those around him, through dialogue or by listening, through self-reflection and by observing the times and the masses, he was a life-long learner.

Mandela never took education for granted, for education is a give and a get undertaking. It is being offered and it should be available to all, but one must also assume the obligations and the responsibilities that come with being educated; learn, ask questions, think, communicate, respect your school and your teachers.

This article was initially published on the Huffington Post .

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