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The two most prominent statues were the giant standing Buddhas Vairocana and Sakyamuni, identified by the different mudras performed, measuring 55 and 37 metres (180 and 121 feet) high respectively, the largest examples of standing Buddha carvings in the world. The smaller of the statues was built in 507, the larger in 554.

Because Afghanistan’s Buddhist population no longer exists, which removed the possibility of the statues being worshiped, he added: “The government considers the Bamyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors.

The Taliban states that Bamyan shall not be destroyed but protected.” However, Afghanistan’s radical clerics began a campaign to crack down on “un-Islamic” segments of Afghan society.

as they were called by the locals, did not fail to fire the imagination of Islamic writers in centuries past.

The smaller Buddha was once known as a statue of Sakyamuni in Xuanzang’s Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, and physical characteristics of the Buddha has to be male.

Intriguingly, Xuanzang mentions a third, even larger, reclining statue of the Buddha.