Islamabad: An iconic 7th-century Buddha statue in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which was defaced by the Taliban nine years ago has finally been restored to its original form by a team of Italian archeologists, it was reported on Monday.
The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, helped along by the locals of Jahanabad in Swat district, was able to undo the damage inflicted by the Taliban militants in September 2007 after four years of hard work, the Geo News reported.
“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, Luca Maria Olivieri, adding that international experts worked on the restoration process.
The militants had blown up the iconic statue’s face by inserting explosives and damaged the shoulders and torso by drilling holes into the structure. The act had sparked worldwide ire, especially among the Buddhist community, historians and archaeologists.
The Italian team started restoration work on the Buddha in 2012, employing latest 3D technology and restoration and 3D experts.
The meditative Buddha statue, dating back to 7th century, is considered to be the biggest such structure carved in stone in South Asia.
Towering at 21 feet long and 12 feet wide, the statue is an icon of the Gandhara art – a style of Buddhist visual art that developed in what is now northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE.
There are around 20 sites in the Swat valley with ancient historical significance.
The statue at one time drew a large number of tourists to the Valley, including Tibetan pilgrims and archaeology enthusiasts. It is now hoped the restored Buddha statue would once again be able to attract people from all over the world as well as from other parts of Pakistan.