Bamian or Bamiyan (both: bəmyänˈ), town, 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a town in Afghanistan, located on the banks of the Bamian River (Kunduz River basin) in the northern foothills of the Baba Range.

Bamian is the administrative center of Bamian Province. Its population was 46,000 in 1961. Bamian has been mentioned in sources since the first century A. D. Until the Arab conquest (seventh century), Bamian was a very important Buddhist religious center with temples and monasteries in caves. Bamian has been part of the Afghanistan state since the second half of the 18th century. A Buddhist monastery compound (first to eighth centuries) cut into the cliffs has been preserved near Bamian. The monastery has over 2,000 grottoes (sanctuaries, cells, meeting halls, and so forth) interconnected by staircases and corridors and decorated with statues of Buddha, paintings, and carved ornaments. Enormous statues of Buddha (35 m and 53 m high) were carved in two niches. There is a historical and ethnographic museum in Bamian, and the town is a tourist center.


Masson, V. M., and V. A. Romodin. Istoriia Afganistana, vol. 1. Moscow, 1964 (See the index and references.)
Hackin, J., and J. Carl. Nouvelles recherches archéologiques à Bāmiyān. Paris, 1933.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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