History of Bamyan

The archaeological surveys in this area was started in 20th century which depicts that the area was in close connection  by culture and trade to its neighbours in the east, west and north. Various artifacts of Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages have been found in the region. It is believed that Urban Civilizations in this region was started as early as 3000 BCE and the city of Mundigak near Kandahar was colonised by the Indus Valley Civilization.

After 2000 BCE, a wave of semi-nomadic people start moving from central Asia to the south in Afghanistan. These tribes included Indo-Europeans and Indo-Iranians who later on traveled south to India, to the west (what we now call Iran) and towards Europe.

The people have the same culture like other Indo-Iranians. The ancient Kafiristan religion survived till 19th century. As Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism religion has lived and died in Balkh, it is believed that this religion has also remained practiced in Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE.

The Median Empire was conquered by the Achaemenid Persians by the mid-6th century BCE so the area was incorporated in Arachosia. In an inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia, the Kabul Valley has been mentioned as one of the 29 countries he had conquered. In 330 BCE Alexander the Great occupied the area but soon after his death it was given to Seleucids to rule.

The area also holds some tangible and intangible traces of Buddhist legacy. Various religious and artistic remains has been found by the archeologists. Husang Tsang documented that during the life of Buddha (563 BCE – 483 BCE) the Buddhist rules did reach as far as Balkh. For Buddhists, this was a religious house which why many statues of Buddha craved over here are facing the city of Bamyan. Two of the most prominent statues among them are of standing Buddha which are 55 and 37 meter high and are considered as the largest standing statues of Buddhas in world. They are also known as the Buddhas of Bamyan. As per archeologists, these statues were created in 4th or 5th century A.D

The Arabs first arrived in the region in the 7th century when it was being ruled by Kabul Shahi. Then Saffarids conquered the area in the name of Islam in the 9th century. Later on it fell to Ghaznavids and then to Ghurids. In the 13th century, Mongol invaded and conquered the area after which the area fell under the jurisdiction of Arghun Khan of Ilkhanate. Later on it was also ruled by Timurids and Mughals. After the Mughal Empire, Ahmed Shah Durrani made it a part of the Afghan Durrani Empire.

At the time of the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, a rebel leader Abdul Ali Mazari, with the support of Iranian politicians, tried to take control of the area and established the Hezbe Wahdat political party in 1989. After Taliban government he was killed and Bamyan province came under the supremacy of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

In March 2001 the Taliban government ordered that the Buddhist statues in Bamyan province are Idolatrous and that’s why they should be destroyed with explosives.

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