A 1600 year old statue of a sleeping Buddha - uncovered by archeologists from the former Soviet Union 35 years ago and never before seen by the outside world - will soon be on display in Dushanbe, the capital of the Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan. After Afghanistan's Taliban destroyed the largest Buddhas in Central Asia, the newly unveiled Tajikistan Buddha, which dates back to the 5th century AD, will be the largest ancient Buddha statue in Central Asia.
The 14 meter long Tajik Buddha was first excavated by archeologists from the former Soviet Union in 1966, from a vast Buddhist monastery complex in Ajina Tepa in southern Tajikistan. Ajina Tepa was on the ancient Silk Route connecting both China with Europe and Central Asia with the Indian seaports. Instead of publicizing their enormous find, the Soviets excavated the Buddha only to hide it.
Bringing the Buddha to light has been the lifetime task of Dr. Babamulloev Saidmurad, the newly appointed Director of Tajikistan's Museum of National Antiquities which will officially open in August.
Ahmad Rashid is the author of Taliban:
Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.
Based in Pakistan, he writes frequently on developments in
Afghanistan and Central Asia.