Friday, October 24, 2008

Splendors of Afghanistan (Gandhara)

Hazrat Ali, the most beautiful mosque in Afghanistan, dates to the seventh century and is open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike (Beth Wald).

[In ancient times, present-day Afghanistan was a part of India called Gandhara. It was a Buddhist land, building some of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world -- including the largest Buddha (in Bamiyan prior to its destruction by the Taliban). Buddhism's influence is still to be seen in Mosque art -- particularly iconography deemed neutral by Muslim conquerors such as the lotus. According to Ranajit Pal, Buddhism existed much farther west than Afghanistan , to Indo-Iran, with its philosophical influence going far beyond that.]

The Enduring Splendors of, Yes, Afghanistan
Rob Schultheis (Smithsonian magazine, February 2003)
A writer and photographer crisscross a nation ravaged by a quarter century of warfare to inventory its most sacred treasures

Our quest begins beside an austere sarcophagus of white, black and pink marble with a simple little ivory-colored mosque below and vast terraced flower gardens beyond, high above the dusty, war-battered city of Kabul. The man buried beneath these stones, Zahiruddin Mohammed Babur, was one of Asia’s greatest empire builders. Starting about the time of Columbus as an Uzbek princeling in the Fergana Valley north of Afghanistan, Babur and his followers captured eastern Afghanistan and Kabul; from there they rode east across the Khyber Pass, to conquer northern India all the way to the Himalayas. More>>

Despite heavy internecine fighting near Kabul for more than a decade, the simple but majestic marble tomb of Mohammed Babur the Conqueror has largely escaped damage (Beth Wald).

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