Bamian or Bamiyan (both: bəmyänˈ) [key], town (1984 est. pop. 52,000), capital of Bamian prov., N central Afghanistan, on the Kunduz River. The population is predominantly Hazara. It was long a major caravan center on the route across the Hindu Kush between India and central Asia. By the 7th cent. the town was a center of Buddhism; the Chinese pilgrims Fa Hsien and Hsüan-tsang traveled through the town. Bamian was invaded by the Saffarids in 871. A Muslim fortress town from the 9th to the 12th cent., Bamian was sacked by Jenghiz Khan in 1221 and never regained its former prominence.
The Bamian valley is lined with cave dwellings cut out of the cliffs by Buddhist monks. Particularly interesting were two great figures (one 175 ft/53 m high, the other 120 ft/37 m) carved from rock and finished in fine plaster. The statues were destroyed, however, in 2001 by the Taliban, which considered them idolatrous. The area also has grottoes decorated with wall paintings in Greco-Buddhist styles.
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