In Takht Bhai, Pakistan, a part of the Gandhara civilization, a 1700-year-old Buddha statue was found that was immediately smashed into pieces. A profound silence followed the news, a quietness good enough to bust the ears of a person with a sensitive heart. A silence that may well incorporate thousands of secrets!
Yet, this silence enabled me to hear murmurings of indiscernible voices, and some images flashed through my eyes. The head-less statues in Taxila, the mutilated pictures hung in our house, a famished Buddha lying at Lahore museum, whose one finger was perhaps separated during its cleaning, and the renewed effort to fix it made it look uglier than the statue would have looked without it.
When I saw a statue at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Singapur, I spontaneously said that it was “our Buddha”. Then I saw the statutes of those Buddhas in the ruins of Cambodia with heads of Bhagavan Krishan. The oppressed smile of the fairies still reflects the darkness of the reigns during which they might have lived. And where would be the rest of the body of the statue whose mere legs are found in an abandoned temple? It must have been stolen by the art thieves!
Amidst all these statues, and that ear-busting silence, I heard the knocking of the tools of the carver who had carved the Buddha statue. The statue had been there since time immemorial: the carver had only removed the extra stones!
- Religion, some abstract thoughts…
- What is the history of God and religion?
- My early encounters with the religion of my birth…
God knows whose headless statue it was? Who had carved it, and from which rock it was carved out? What kind of people were those whose delicate hands worked with such finesse that despite centuries years later, it looked as if a man of flesh and blood had been unearthed instead of a statue!
What would be going through the carver’s mind while carving this statue?
Or, maybe it is not Buddha’s statue at all. Perhaps it is just the creative work of the artist.
The statue that had been witnessing for centuries the ups and downs of many civilizations, and was tempting us to guess about those times in which they were created. Now, those “iconoclasts,” who perished it, and with it, all the remnants of history attached to it, have been arrested.
But were they culprits? Aren’t they as innocent as those who carved the statue, whose tools had made the statue to be unmade by these masons’ tools?
The society had taught the carver how to carve on a lifeless stone to make it look like a living soul; these masons were told how to smash them. Maybe the passion in each case was the same, wasn’t it?
Who is the culprit, then? The carver or the iconoclast? Can the law decide the case that goes beyond centuries and civilizations to connect the indescribable connection between the carver and the iconoclasts?
The masons will be punished, but who are the real culprits? These people did what they deemed appropriate, or what the prayer leader told them.
If their act was not appropriate, then who did not let this knowledge pass through the masons of Takht Bhai?
Those blocking the spread of the knowledge, and those who made knowledge a mere source of earning, perhaps they all are the culprits! But will they all be sent to jail?
History will ask this question from the posterity!
The article is translated from BBC Urdu Column by Amna Mufti