Gandhara's UNESCO site in danger of collapse

by Jiro Ikeguchi, Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov 6, 2006

Takht-i-Bahi, Pakistan -- Takht-i-Bahi, a representative Gandharan Buddhist ruin of northwestern Pakistan and a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in danger of collapse if an earthquake hits the region, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

<< A stone wall at Takht-i-Bahi in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province is supported by steel pillars.

Blasting in nearby quarry sites has added to the ravages of time, damaging the walls and pillars of the main cathedral tower and monasteries. In addition, shock waves from the blasting have caused some of the walls and pillars to move off plumb, and they are now leaning at an angle.

Although the Pakistani government has purchased the quarry company to help prevent further harm to the ruins, repair and preservation work have not progressed because the work requires advanced technology.

Takht-i-Bahi is located in a hilly area about 50 kilometers northeast of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province. The 3.9-hectare stone Buddhist monastic complex was constructed from the second to fifth centuries.

Among the remaining structures at the ruins is the foundation of the main tower, which measures six meters by six meters, an offering tower and a monastery housing a meditation room. Residential buildings for priests in the typical mountain temple style dot the surrounding mountain ridge.

The ruins were unearthed in the early 20th century. In 1980, they were included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites as the largest Buddhist remains in Gandhara, along with the Sahr-i-Bahlol urban remains that date back to the same period, located about a kilometer south. A unique Buddhist culture, including the creation of Buddhist statues, flourished in Gandhara.

According to the Pakistani Archaeology and Museums Department, the ruins began to lean noticeably in the late 1990s.

The five-meter-high, 15-meter-wide south wall of the lecture hall in the northwestern section of the temple grounds is about 10 degrees off vertical and is supported by seven steel pillars. Cracks and structural faults also have been found in the walls of the meditation room and pillars of the offering tower.

As construction materials are in great demand in the area, quarrying operations for materials, which had been contained to a mountain slope near the ruins, also began at a location just northwest of the ruins in 2002.

Blasting at the sites caused further cracks to appear at the ruins and caused the walls to lean.

Some walls at the ruins have been affected by rainwater, which began accumulating after passages in the ruins were paved as part of a maintenance project.

In 2003, the Pakistani government bought the quarry for about 9 million Pakistan rupees, or 18 million yen. In March, it designated a 220-hectare lot surrounding the ruins as a buffer zone to separate it from urban areas.

The department, however, has only five engineers to look after 74 ruins in the province, which is not enough to keep them all in proper repair.

Disassembling stone walls and reassembling them may be a good preservation strategy, but the department said it did not have enough expertise.

By the time Sahr-i-Bahlol was listed as a UNESCO site, there were about 1,200 houses on the site, with only an ancient stone frame remaining. However, the government simply advised local people not to build new houses there and took no further practical preservation measures.

Ahmad Nawaz, 44, who is in charge of preserving ruins at the department, said: "[The ruins] are in danger of collapse if we don't take steps. They're a cultural asset representing Gandhara. I hope experts across the world will help us repair and preserve them."

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: