Bamyan

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Bamyan
بامیان
Black Hawk flying over a valley in Bamyan View of the town in which both statues are visible
Bamyan Governor Dr. Habiba Sarabi Bamyan Valley in 2012
Afghan National Police (ANP) Afghan National Police (ANP) vehicle
Local boys with bicycles Young students
Bamyan is located in Afghanistan
Bamyan
Bamyan
Location in Afghanistan
Coordinates: 34°49′N 67°49′E / 34.817°N 67.817°E / 34.817; 67.817Coordinates: 34°49′N 67°49′E / 34.817°N 67.817°E / 34.817; 67.817
Country  Afghanistan
Province Bamyan Province
Elevation 2,550 m (8,370 ft)
Population (2006)
 • Total 61,863
Time zone UTC+4:30

Bamyan (Persian: بامیان Bāmyān‎), also spelled Bamiyan[1] and Bamian,[2] is the capital of Bamyan Province in central Afghanistan. With an altitude of about 2,550 m and with a population of about 61,863, Bamyan is the largest town in the central Afghan region of Hazarajat, and lies approximately 240 kilometres north-west of Kabul, the national capital. Bamyan was the site of an early HinduBuddhist monastery from which Bamyan takes its name (Sanskrit varmayana, "coloured"). Bamyan's name is translated as ‘The Place of Shining Light’.[3] Many statues of Buddha are carved into the sides of cliffs facing Bamyan city. In 2008, Bamyan was found to be the home of the world's oldest oil paintings.[4]

The Bamiyan valley marked the most westerly point of Buddhist expansion and was a crucial hub of trade for much of the second millennium CE. It was a place where East met West and its archaeology reveals a blend of Greek, Turkish, Persian, Chinese and Indian influence.

Geography[edit]

Historical reconstruction work in the valley.

Situated on the ancient Silk Route, the town was at the crossroads between the East and West when all trade between China and the Middle East passed through it. The Hunas made it their capital in the 5th century. Because of the cliff of the Buddhas, the ruins of the Monk's caves, Shar-i-Gholghola ('City of Sighs', the ruins of an ancient city destroyed by Genghis Khan during the 1221 siege of Bamiyan), and its local scenery, it is one of the most visited places in Afghanistan. The Shar-i-Zohak mound ten miles south of the valley is the site of a citadel that guarded the city, and the ruins of an acropolis could be found there as recently as the 1990s.[5]

Shar-i-Zohak

The town is the cultural center of the Hazara ethnic group of Afghanistan. Most of the population lives in downtown Bamyan. The valley is cradled between the parallel mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and the Koh-i-Baba.

Bamyan is a small town with a bazaar at its center. It has no infrastructure of electricity, gas, or water supplies. According to Sister Cities International, Bamyan has established a sister city relationship with Gering, Nebraska, United States. It has an airport with a gravel runway.

Mountains cover ninety percent of the province, and the cold, long winter, lasting for six months, brings temperatures of three to twenty degrees Celsius below zero. Mainly Daizangi Hazara people live in the area. Transportation facilities are increasing, but sparse.

The main crops are wheat, barley, mushung, and baquli, grown in spring. When crops are damaged by unusually harsh weather, residents herd their livestock down to Ghazni and Maidan Provinces to exchange for food.

Climate[edit]

Bamyan's climate is transitional between cold arid (Köppen BWk) and semi-arid (Köppen BSk), with cold winters and warm, dry summers. Precipitation mostly falls in late winter and spring.

Climate data for Bamyan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.0
(53.6)
12.5
(54.5)
20.6
(69.1)
28.7
(83.7)
29.4
(84.9)
31.2
(88.2)
33.2
(91.8)
32.2
(90)
31.4
(88.5)
26.2
(79.2)
20.6
(69.1)
13.0
(55.4)
33.2
(91.8)
Average high °C (°F) 1.0
(33.8)
2.0
(35.6)
7.9
(46.2)
15.6
(60.1)
19.9
(67.8)
24.1
(75.4)
26.3
(79.3)
26.1
(79)
22.9
(73.2)
17.4
(63.3)
11.0
(51.8)
5.1
(41.2)
14.94
(58.89)
Daily mean °C (°F) −6.4
(20.5)
−4.8
(23.4)
1.4
(34.5)
8.6
(47.5)
12.4
(54.3)
16.3
(61.3)
18.4
(65.1)
17.4
(63.3)
12.8
(55)
7.8
(46)
1.6
(34.9)
−2.8
(27)
6.89
(44.4)
Average low °C (°F) −10.1
(13.8)
−6.1
(21)
−3.8
(25.2)
2.9
(37.2)
5.7
(42.3)
8.5
(47.3)
10.0
(50)
8.8
(47.8)
4.2
(39.6)
0.0
(32)
−4.9
(23.2)
−8.6
(16.5)
0.55
(32.99)
Record low °C (°F) −30.5
(−22.9)
−28.4
(−19.1)
−21.2
(−6.2)
−6.5
(20.3)
−2.5
(27.5)
0.6
(33.1)
5.4
(41.7)
3.0
(37.4)
−2.6
(27.3)
−7.9
(17.8)
−14.5
(5.9)
−25
(−13)
−30.5
(−22.9)
Precipitation mm (inches) 8.3
(0.327)
15.7
(0.618)
27.4
(1.079)
29.8
(1.173)
26.0
(1.024)
5.7
(0.224)
1.0
(0.039)
0.0
(0)
3.1
(0.122)
4.2
(0.165)
7.5
(0.295)
4.3
(0.169)
133
(5.235)
Avg. rainy days 0 0 2 7 6 1 1 0 0 2 2 0 21
Avg. snowy days 5 7 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 24
 % humidity 43 54 52 52 52 46 45 45 43 44 48 52 48
Mean monthly sunshine hours 196.7 174.6 210.7 239.4 no data 356.9 372.9 357.8 325.3 276.7 245.5 198.0
Source #1: Hong Kong Observatory[6]
Source #2: NOAA (1960-1983)[7]

History[edit]

Statue of a bearded man with cap, probably Scythian, Bamyan, 3-4th century.

Part of a series on
People of Bamyan-3.jpg Hazara people




The city of Bamyan was part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire in the early centuries of the Christian era. After the Kushan Empire fell to the Sassanids, Bamyan became part of the Kushansha, vassals to the Sassanids. The Hephthalites conquered Bamyan in the 5th century. After their Khanate was destroyed by the Sassanids and Turks in 565, Bamyan became the capital of the small Kushano-Hephthalite kingdom until 870, when it was conquered by the Saffarids. The area was conquered by the Ghaznavids in the 11th century. The first European to see Bamyan was William Moorcroft (explorer) about 1824.

For decades, Bamyan has been the center of combat between zealous Taliban forces and the anti-Taliban alliance; mainly Hizb-i-Wahdat – amid clashes among the warlords of local militia. Bamyan is also known as the capital of Daizangi.

Buddhas[edit]

On the cliff face of a mountain nearby, three colossal statues were carved 4,000 feet apart. One of them was 175 feet (53 m) high standing statue of Buddha, the world's tallest. The ancient statue was carved during the Kushan period in the fifth century. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, on the grounds that they were an affront to Islam. Limited efforts have been made to rebuild them, with negligible success.

At one time, two thousand monks meditated in caves among the sandstone cliffs.[citation needed] The caves were also a big tourist attraction before the long series of wars in Afghanistan. The world's earliest oil paintings have been discovered in caves behind the partially destroyed colossal statues. Scientists from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility have confirmed that the oil paintings, probably of either walnut or poppy seed oil, are present in 12 of the 50 caves dating from the 5th to 9th century.[8] The murals typically have a white base layer of a lead compound, followed by an upper layer of natural or artificial pigments mixed with either resins or walnut or poppy seed drying oils. Possibly, the paintings may be the work of artists who travelled on the Silk Road.[9]

The caves at the base of these statues were used by Taliban for storing weapons. After the Taliban were driven from the region, civilians made their homes in the caves. Recently, Afghan refugees escaped the persecution of the Taliban regime by hiding in caves in the Bamiyan valley. These refugees discovered a fantastic[clarification needed] collection of Buddhist statues as well as jars holding more than ten thousand fragments of ancient Buddhist manuscripts, a large part of which is now in the Schøyen Collection. This has created a sensation among scholars, and the find has been compared with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Since about 2002, a Provincial Reconstruction Team has been based in Bamyan, first manned by U.S. forces, and, since about 2003, by personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force.

Demography[edit]

Hazaras form 95.4% of the city, Tajiks 4.1% (ind. Qizilbashs and Sadat), 0.9% Tatar, and 0.1% Pashtun.[10]

Education[edit]

Bamyan is home to the region's only university, Bamiyan University. The school was founded in the mid-1990s, and largely destroyed under the Taliban. It was renovated following the fall of the Taliban.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1977) [1st Edition: 1970]. An Historical Guide to Afghanistan (2nd Edition, Revised and Enlarged ed.). Afghan Tourist Organization. 

External links[edit]