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Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.
Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.
Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.
Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.

The iconic seventh-century defaced Buddha at Jahan Abad, Swat, at last, got its face back after a nine-year-long wait following a scientific restoration process conducted by Italian archaeologists.

The 7th century Buddha seated in a meditative posture which is considered one of the largest rock sculptures in South Asia was attacked in September 2007 by the Taliban, who blew up half the statue's face by drilling holes into the face and shoulders and inserting explosives.

The explosives in the face, when detonated, destroyed half its face, but the explosives in the statue's shoulders failed to detonate.

The defacement of the Buddha sparked worldwide anger and concern among the Buddhist community, historians and archaeologists.

The defacement of the Buddha had sparked worldwide anger and concern.
The defacement of the Buddha had sparked worldwide anger and concern.

The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan were able to restore the statue to its original form after six scientific missions.

"It was our professional and moral obligation toward the people and heritage of Swat and Pakistan which forced us to restore the Buddha. It took about five missions of about a month each from 2012-2016 in its complete conservation program," said head of the Italian Archaeological Mission, Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, adding that international experts worked on the restoration process.

“Two restorers/trainers, two 3D scan experts/trainers, one chief restorer, five local restorers, 20 field workers, two carpenters, and three watch-keepers were involved in the restoration process, while the 3D equipment was provided all-inclusive by the University of Padua, Italy,” he said

"It was restored under the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) Field School project funded by Italian government, a joint project of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Italian Archaeological Mission," Olivieri added.

Fabio Colombo, a restorer and member of the Italian Archaeological Mission who has vast experience in the field of conservation and who worked on-site in Bamyan, Afghanistan, said that he enjoyed the work at Jahan Abad as it was a very important historical site where the locals also gave him love and respect.

The explosives had destroyed half its face.
The explosives had destroyed half its face.

"It is one of the biggest rock sculptures in the region and different traces showed that it was once a central Buddhist location in the past. The surrounding of Buddha statue is peaceful, picturesque and serene. Owing to its historical, religious and archaeological importance," he told Dawn.

"I hope local people understand its value as it is one part of their history which also belongs to the entire world.”

Syed Niaz Ali Shah, an official and representative of the Archaeology department with Italian Archaeological Mission in the ACT project, said that Tibetan pilgrims who visited Swat in the past mentioned about the Jahan Abad Buddha along with a Buddhist temple here.

“Some of the highly technical and experienced Italian experts worked in the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology for which we are thankful to them."

He said that the site would, once again, become a tourist spot as it was in the past. “I hope Buddhist visitors and other tourists will once again visit this place, not only to enjoy the area serenity but the rich cultural heritage of the region here,” Niaz Ali Shah hoped.

He said that the Buddha sculpture would play a vital role in the revival of International and national tourism.

Russian tourists said they were excited to visit the iconic Buddha.
Russian tourists said they were excited to visit the iconic Buddha.

After restoration of the Buddha the first foreign delegation which visited the site was Russians, who appreciated the classic sculpture art and the scenic location.

Yury Zhorno, a Russian tourist who visited Swat valley to see Buddhist archaeological monuments and rock carvings, said he was excited to visit the iconic Buddha.

“The Buddha sculpture is really amazing not only for its history but also for its nifty carving. The view from the foot of Buddha is also amazing as Swat valley is beautiful,” he told Dawn.

He invited people from across the world who took interest in Buddhism and natural beauty and said there was no need to be afraid as there was perfect peace.

Another Russian tourist who is tour agent in Moscow and brings Russian tourists to Pakistan also liked the location of Buddha and said that it was good sign that the situation in Pakistan was improving.

“The security situation here in Swat valley is very good and when we came here so the army assisted us everywhere and we feel safe here,” he said, adding that Pakistan had huge potential for tourists with diverse landscapes and rich culture heritage and people from across the world should visit it.

Abdul Bari a resident of Gilgit Baltistan and an owner of the tourist company said Swat was the most beautiful place in Pakistan with oldest Buddhists records in form of archaeology.

“People of the valley are also hospitable so I want tourists to come here and discover all these things at the same time,” he said, adding that the government must promote tourism and attract tourists from across the world here.

— All photos provided by the author.


Comments (35) Closed



Magister Nov 07, 2016 10:02pm

Proud of our heritage. Good show! Jolly good!

Rizwan Nov 07, 2016 10:02pm

They have lost their values for ever. Why allow Taliban to be able to deface it in first place.

SM Nov 07, 2016 10:09pm

This is great! Feel so good after reading this

Saeed Nov 07, 2016 10:31pm

Thanks to Italy government and thanks to Fazal Khaliq for sharing this story with us. Hope we can prove to the world that we don't live in stone age.

Riazullah Baig Nov 07, 2016 10:33pm

Thank you Italians, thank you the hardworking officials of KPK Archaeology Department, and above all, the PTI government, who took it very seriously. We have seen MMA, ANP & PPP governments doing nothing but helping the saboteurs to destroy this culture treasure trove.

zee Nov 07, 2016 10:44pm

Thank you, Thank you..I thought something like this will never happen in Pakistan.

zee Nov 07, 2016 10:45pm

Thank you, Thank you..I thought something like this will never happen in Pakistan.

Javed Nov 07, 2016 10:44pm

Most restorations if done improperly, are a disaster.

Paklander Nov 07, 2016 10:59pm

Nice!

yawar abdul rehman Nov 07, 2016 11:00pm

kudos ... we should respect each others religion and their sentiments towards their religious personalities. Peace.

Sami Nov 07, 2016 11:01pm

thank you to the Italian team from the people of Pakistan. Forever indebted :)

FA Nov 07, 2016 11:07pm

This is amazing! Finally some good news from Pakistan. Much gratitude to the Italians!

tariqandalus Nov 08, 2016 12:30am

Finally some positive developments in Pakistan. This restoration is sure to bring a large number of religious tourists from Japan and China and benefit the local community and the wider travel industry in Pakistan.

Congratulations to the Government of Pakistan for supporting this project.

Asif Nov 08, 2016 12:32am

Very well done. I wish my friends in Sawat or any where in Pakistan should not witness this situation again.

Ahmed Bilal Sheikh Nov 08, 2016 12:53am

Thank you ITALY

FAR Nov 08, 2016 12:59am

Thank you so much to italian archeologists. We are proud of you.

Abbas Kd Nov 08, 2016 01:20am

Thank you, all the Italian archeologists who worked hard for years to give this gift to Pakistani nation. we, Pakistani nation invite the world to come experience our hospitality & beauty of our land, our mountains & valleys.

saqib Nov 08, 2016 01:27am

This is my history, history of the people of Pakistan. We can never allow such actions to take place ever again. Great job on the restoration.

Sultan Alvi, Toronto, Canada Nov 08, 2016 01:48am

Congratulations to all Pakistanis, and a very big thank you to Italy for helping to restore this historic Buddha monument. Let us not lose our rich cultural history.

AXH Nov 08, 2016 02:26am

"It was restored under the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) Field School project funded by Italian government, a joint project of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Italian Archaeological Mission,"

Truly appreciate the extraordinary work of these skilled people. The ideology of hatred towards any religion and ethnicity should be shunned by the citizens of Pakistan. How would be expect others to respect our heritage if we do not respect theirs. Even though those who carry out these subversive activities are very small in numbers, they still need to be dealt with properly.

IFTIKHAR KHAN Nov 08, 2016 02:40am

Lets hope that the meticulous restoration of this monument becomes an example and norm for hundreds of ancient pre-Islamic heritage sites, which are in dire need of preservation, protection and restoration.

AHA Nov 08, 2016 03:48am

Good work

Saba Nov 08, 2016 04:18am

Well done!

Amer Nov 08, 2016 04:30am

This is amazing work ! Now that the people of Swat are finally getting back to their lives after the destruction from the Taliban, the KP and center governments should make sure they do everything to enhance tourism in the region.

Serg Nov 08, 2016 05:07am

This is great news. Saving the heritage. Kudos to the people who brought about this difficult task.

Malik Nov 08, 2016 05:08am

Excellent job! We commend such restoration. Our heartfelt thanks to our friends from Italy in restoring this treasure house. Pakistan loves you. This is our heritage and our multiculturalism and variety of religious background. Now, the Swat people should love to live in harmony.

Farouq Omaro Nov 08, 2016 05:28am

Good job, congratulations on the restoration.

Maverik Nov 08, 2016 07:27am

Good job. History needs to be preserved.

Trekker Nov 08, 2016 07:39am

Great job the restoration will bring good name for the country. thanks Italians.

Gem Khan Nov 08, 2016 08:41am

Beautiful and fantastic job.

AK Nov 08, 2016 08:56am

Thanks Italy

Ron Nov 08, 2016 09:56am

Not the same

Peace prevail Nov 08, 2016 10:44am

@Maverik Unfortunately defacing or desecration is also a part of history.

But restoration reflects desire to preserve good memory of an equally good monument.

Imposing figure of Buddha assuring us that in the end peace always prevails!! Let us have positive outlook for the future !

fayyaz Nov 08, 2016 01:21pm

Would have been great to give a few better and more pictures along with the write up.

swati Nov 08, 2016 03:32pm

We are thankful to Dr Luca and his team.