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Screengrab from video showing vandals in Pakistan destroying Buddhist statue

Vandals Destroy Priceless Buddha Statue for Being Un-Islamic


In Pakistan, a group of construction workers destroyed a priceless Pakistani Buddha, smashing the figure to pieces. The almost 2000-year-old figure was vandalized because it offended local religious sensibilities and was deemed un-Islamic. The destroyed Pakistani Buddha incident has been condemned by authorities and is viewed as an act of vandalism. Pakistan has a rich and fascinating Buddhist heritage, but some reject the country’s non-Islamic past.

The destroyed Pakistani Buddha was unearthed in the Takht Bahi area of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administrative province in northwestern Pakistan. This area is mainly inhabited by members of the Pashtun ethnic group and is viewed as a very conservative and traditional part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The statue was found by the workers while they were digging the foundation of a building on a farm.

Destroyed Pakistani Buddha Dates From Gandharan Civilization

It appears that the statue was a life-sized figure of the Gautama Buddha. It was estimated to be 1800 years old. India Today reports that ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's old name is Ghandhara and the region is a highly revered place for the followers of Buddhism.’ Gandharan Civilization thrived in much of modern Pakistan and Northern India. The majority of the population were Buddhist and the culture was also deeply influenced by Indo-Greek culture. Gandharan Civilization reached its pinnacle during the Kushan period (30 AD-300 AD) and played an important role in the spread of Buddhism in Central and Eastern Asia.

Initially, the workmen were not sure what to do with the figure. A local Muslim religious leader was invited to view the discovery. He is believed to be a Molvi, a local leader of prayers. He urged them to destroy the statue as it was un-Islamic. Arif Aaajakia, a local government official tweeted that the religious leader told the men that if ‘If you do not, you will burn in hell’ reports India Today. In Islam, any images of humans are considered to be idols and are thus strictly prohibited.

Priceless Ancient Pakistani Buddhas Was Smashed to Pieces

After hearing the words of the local Islamic leader, the construction workers proceeded to destroy the figure of the Buddha. The Hindustan Times reports that a video, which has since gone viral on social media, showed the construction workers smashing the Buddha statue using a sledgehammer and expressing their resentment against the un-Islamic relic. It is believed that four men used a sledgehammer to destroy the ancient relic.

Gandharan Buddhist sculpture found in northwestern Pakistan

Gandharan Buddhist sculpture found in northwestern Pakistan. (Daderot / Public domain)

The video of the destruction of the priceless figure was posted on social media and it went viral. This allowed the authorities to quickly identify the culprits. Abdul Samad, the local director of archaeology and museums, stated ‘that the statue was destroyed by a local contractor and that five people had been arrested for breaking antiquity laws’ reports RFERL. No further information has been disclosed about the arrests. It seems that nothing is left of the relic. REFRL quotes Samad as saying that ‘that the statue was completely destroyed.’

Other Gandharan Buddhist Masterpieces Have Luckily Survived

There have been many important Buddhist finds in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province over the years. Swarajya reports that ‘Archaeologists have dug up hundreds of ancient artefacts since the excavations began in the 1830s.’ In the process, archaeologists have uncovered many figures made of stucco, terracotta, clay and countless related artifacts.

In 2017, two rare Buddhist figures were found in the province that date to the 3 rd century BC. One had a double halo and one depicted the death of the Enlightened One. This World states that ‘The statue depicting the death scenario was the oldest of its kind in the world.’ The regional museum in Peshawar has one of the largest collections of Buddhist art in the world. Gandharan art was a unique fusion of Indo-Greek and Buddhist designs and was hugely influential throughout Asia.

Buddhist Controversies in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Many suspect that the vandalism was in part motivated by a desire to destroy the heritage of the area. Many Muslims are embarrassed by the region’s Buddhist past, which they view as un-Islamic. The area was overwhelmingly Buddhist until the Ghurid invasions in the 12th century AD. Afrasiab Khattak, a former Pakistan public representative, wrote on Twitter on July 18 that the incident was part of a ‘systematic effort to separate Pashtun identity from Buddha’ according to RFERL.  This sense of shame over their Buddhist past means that many other relics that may eventually be uncovered in this archaeologically rich region could be in danger.

Top image: Screengrab from video showing vandals in Pakistan destroying Buddhist statue. Source: Twitter

By Ed Whelan



Trowza's picture

And yet draw a cartoon of Mohamed and they go nuts

Troy Morgan

There isn't a punishment harsh enough for anyone that takes away history that belongs to the world for selfish personal reasons. Hang them over fire.

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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