HARIPUR: Pakistan unveiled the remains of a more than 1,700-year-old sleeping Buddha image on Wednesday, 15 November as a part of an initiative to encourage religious tourism, particularly Buddhists religious tourism and project religious harmony in the troubled region.
A reflection of the diverse history and culture of the country, the ancient Buddhist site in Bhamala, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was first discovered in 1929.
Eighty-eight years on, excavations resumed and the 14-metre-(48-foot)-high Kanjur stone Buddha image was unearthed.
“This is from the 3rd century AD, making it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha remains,” Abdul Samad, director of Bhamala’s archaeology and museums department, told media.
“We have discovered over 500 Buddha objects and this 48-foot-long sleeping Buddha remains,” he added.
“It’s a question of preserving these heritage sites which are an asset for our country,” Khan said.
The region was once the centre of Buddhist civilisation that took root under the Mauryan king Ashoka 2,300 years ago.
Recent attempts to improve Pakistan’s image have included overtures to minority communities by the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
In January, the then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the restoration of Hindu temples at Katas Raj in Punjab.
The preservation and presentation of this world heritage site like Bhamala could promote religious tourism.