The iconic Buddha statue of Swat, which was destroyed by the Taliban in 2007, has been restored by the government with the help of Italian archaeologists.
The Buddha stood in its glory, carved on a cliff in Jahanabad in the 7th century, serving as the centre of Buddhist heritage in the Swat valley, however, the acts of vandalism destroyed the top of the figure’s face.
The Italian archaeological teams have been on a mission to restore Swat’s cultural heritage since 1955; the restoration process of the Buddha started in 2012 when the damaged part of the figure was coated to prevent any further deterioration. Later, through the use of 3D reconstruction tools using surveys and old photographs, the sculpture was finally restored in 2016. This newly restored figure was almost as good as the original version, with some slight signs of damage.
An Italian archaeologist, Luca Maria Olivieri, who headed the mission to restore Swat’s Buddha, says that they have also been working closely with the locals to preserve other cultural heritage sites in Pakistan. The Archaeological Museum in Mingora has also been restored under his supervision; with up to $2.9 million invested by the Italian government for this purpose during the last 5 years.
The restoration of the statue is expected to attract a huge number of Buddhists from around the world. The sites can bring in a large number of tourists especially from India, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, etc.
A local, Parvesh Shaheen says:
The statue is a symbol of peace, symbol of love, symbol of brotherhood. We don’t hate anybody, any religion — what is this nonsense to hate somebody?
With the Buddha of Swat smiling again and a number of other sites restored for the tourists to see, Pakistan demonstrates once again that its open for business.