Buddhas brood over the Bamiyan Valley, where Greek and Buddhist cultures met about 20 centuries ago. A cult of colossal sculpture developed there; artists draped Greek chitons on stylized forms to create the giant Buddhas that then became popular throughout the Orient. Caravans passed through Bamiyan on their way from Balkh to India under their gaze, and thousands of Buddhist monks lived in caves built into the cliff walls. A great civilization flourished until Genghis Khan destroyed every living soul, man and beast, to avenge the death of his soldier grandson. The 175-foot-high Buddha at left once gleamed with polychrome and ornaments amid Buddhist frescoes. Unfortunately, the statue was destroyed by order of the Taliban in March 2000.

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