Islamabad: Pakistan has unveiled the remains of a 1,700-year-old sleeping Buddha as part of an initiative to encourage tourism and project religious harmony in a region roiled by Islamist militancy.
A reflection of the diverse history and culture of the south Asian country, the ancient Buddhist site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was first discovered in 1929. Eighty-eight years on, excavations resumed and the 14-metre-high (48-ft-high) Kanjur stone Buddha image was unearthed. The country’s opposition leader, Imran Khan, presided over Wednesday’s presentation.
“This is from the 3rd century AD, making it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha remains,” Abdul Samad, director of Bhamla’s archaeology and museums department, told Reuters. “We have discovered over 500 Buddha objects and this 48ft-long sleeping Buddha remains,” he added.
Khan said that “It’s a question of preserving these heritage sites which are an asset for our country.” The region was once the centre of Buddhist civilisation that took root under the Mauryan king Ashoka 2,300 years ago.
The presentation of the Buddha image coincided with a lockdown of main roads around the nation’s capital to contain a rightist protest against a perceived slight to Islam by members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).