Sunday, February 06, 2011

Bamiyan

Something I found going through my archives and which I am posting here for others to read.


When Karabalgasun fell, it fell from its splendor as a gem of the
steppes, from its fame as the easternmost great center of the faith of
Mani, the Illuminator.
It is said that tens of thousands of dark, torch wielding horsemen
descended from north of the Orhon Valley, hailing down from the
monstrous hills surrounding the city before the dark of the night.
Flaming arrows were discharged, raining on palaces, temples and
pagodas like angels of death. The city soon found itself in hell,
perishing on a pit of fire and brimstone.
There was this Uighur prince, Tughlug Arslan Beg, who narrowly
escaped this Kyrgyz onslaught, which would bring the glory of the
Uighur empire to an abrupt end, after which Civilization would not
visit the valley of Karabalgasun for another 500 years. Tired and
dejected, Tughlug rode aimlessly, with a few of his vassals, toward
where the sun sets, where there still were followers of Mani, the
Illuminator.
"Beg, His Valiant Nobleness Arslan Beg, may your thirst of
spirit be quenched by the Light; May this Gobi desert be your ornate
rug; May the Eternal Sky be your yurt…" Rowshan, the jester, beat his
tambourine and started singing, hoping the cheer up his master.
"Rowshan, what's all that--- wouldn't a real yurt be more
helpful at this moment? When will we reach Samarkand?"
"Uh… Beg… Yes my Beg, another 13 days my Beg." --- All fell
silent as they marched on, observing a distant sandstorm ravaging the
ruinous ancient kingdoms of the Tarim Basin.
They finally reached Samarkand, only to find it overrun by
Tajik cavalrymen, who conducted raids of the Buddhist princedom and
garrisoned here, preparing for the investiture of their command of the
region by a certain Tahir ibn Hussein, the beloved of Allah and the
favorite of Caliph Harun al Rashid. There was not a decent Manichaeist
church to be found, all looted and carried to Tahir's fortress in
Balkh.
Tughlug clenched his teeth--- his face turned red with zeal---
and called upon his servants: "We will march southwest towards
Babylon, where the Prophet received the Angels of the Light. It is
there that I can find my peace of mind."
A few days on their southwestward journey, they arrived at a
site, a ghost town. They did not hesitate approaching this town, not
without awe and marvel, because--- presiding over the decayed adobes
and broken columns, were two giant statute of the prophet Buddha,
which, although weather beaten, still told of the heydays of a great
empire whose memories were otherwise long buried in the remote
history.
Stopping in front of the cavernous cliff where the Buddhas
were carved out, beholding this wonder of immortal hands, prince
Tughlug forgot about his grief and erupted into a hysterical joy,
covering his ears with both hands, screaming like a frenzied child,
his echo madly bouncing on the rocky walls in the surroundings over
and over again as if incarnating into ceaseless forms of existence
until it finally died down.
An old tattered man appeared in front of the crazed prince---
a dervish? No, a monk? No, a Brahmin, priest? A holy man. He seemed to
have just woken up from a long slumber, wearisome and cynical.
"Say, old man, what province on this great wide world are you
from?" Asked prince Tughlug.
"Young man, I am from Ard-allah, the Earth of God."
Tughlug startled a bit and Rowshan protested: "Over here is
Prince Tughlug Arslan Beg of Karabalgasun, Land of the Uighurs, the
Brave, Noble and Enlightened…"
Tughlug stopped Rowshan, looked up and surveyed around, and
rested his eyes on the old man: " Well then, Elder of Ard-allah… Do
you know… I am quite struck by the immensity of these… images of our
prophet Buddha. Who built it? When?"
"Yes my lord. These are in fact the monuments of the reigns of
Kushanshah Kanishka of old. His empire perished 500 years ago… They
said it wasn't men who destroyed this empire, for such a great empire
cannot be put down by human hands."
Tughlug felt a faintness seizing him, almost bringing him
aground from the saddle, and then he felt moistness blurring his eyes,
and wept. He said: " Old man, if you permit. My nation too, was such
that no mortal could destroy. On the night of its fall, I've seen the
Angels of Death. Now I am without home. Not even the faithful of Mani
are spared the mercy of God--- I just passed through Samarkand, that
city of Light. I saw wanton pillage and the rampage of believers of
the Arab religion. Come, Rowshan, come. Let's pray to Mani, for our
strength and deliverance."
The cynical old man interrupted: " Who is it that you are
praying to?"
"Pardon me?"
" Are you sure you are not praying to a dead man, for a dead
nation?"
Rowshan literally jumped up and, with rage, dragged the frail
old man to ground. He yelled hysterically to the offender: " You will
learn a lesson today, old… old beggar: do not insult a Uighur… do not
insult a Uighur before his Prince the Righteous, Pious and…" Tughlug's
face was also red with intensity.
The old man regained his balance, sat up on the dusty ground
and spoke with a panting voice: " Pri… Prince, a man is the most
powerful when he is without possession, most high when he is without
title. He will only see the true Light without prophets in between."
Tughlug burst in anger: " Lie! Pitiful lie! Mani is the
illuminator illuminated. It is through this window that Man can see
the true Light. He is the prophet of the Uighurs. It is from Mani that
we seek solace in misfortune. Although my nation is no more, my faith
lives on. It is in my prophet that my nation lives on and I know that
I am a noble prince of Uighur. The prophet is the pillar of my people
in exile, the pillar of my existence."
The old man, with a mysterious smile: "Oh no, my Lord the
Prince, don't let your existence blind you. You receive the Light
through the Heart. Your Ego is the curtain of the Heart; Nation is the
Ego of Humanity. Who are the prophets? What are the prophets but the
Light's shadow on Nations?" It took Tughlug quite a while to
contemplate on the old man's words, and then the prince burst into a
malignant laughter: "Hahaha, old fool… haha… I understand, I
understand that you are a mad, mad man…"
Tughlug then gathered his entourage and marched off in the
direction of Babylon again. Miles away from the giant cliffs, Tughlug
suddenly decided to turn back. Rowshan volunteered to go back alone
and chop that old man into pieces. But the prince stopped his horse
and gazed at the cliffs, murmured: " I've dreamed him… I've dreamed
him at the end of Babylon…"
By the way, later the prince bypassed the cliffs and Samarkand
on his way up to the marshes of Syr Darya. It is where he joined the
Oghuz nomads. There he would convert to Islam. One of his sons,
Seljuk, would seize Babylon, then called Baghdad and presided over an
empire reaching from Khorasan to Rum. The sons of Seljuk would see
Baghdad razed to the ground by the Mongols. But then an Oghuz vassal
of the Seljuks would again found a great empire extending from Iraq to
Europe to North Africa. It was these Ottomans, as they were call, who
proclaimed themselves to be the Caliphs of the Prophet, Amir of the
Faithful. And then, inevitably, this empire also fell.
Now the faithful of Islam lament the downfall of the
Caliphate. Some turn their grief and prayers into zeal and answer the
encroaching enemy forces with bullets and bombs.
It is a wintry day when the Taliban of Afghanistan capture
Bamiyan, where the great statues of Buddha stand. A Taliban minister,
as soon as he gets off the jeep, passes through the mortared rubbles
and corpses of Hazara fighters, and walks straight up to the open
ground facing the two badly weathered giants. He beholds these
monuments of awe, face turned red with intense zeal, and murmured:
"I've dreamed him… the mad man… I've dreamed him at the end of the
World…" And then he orders the demolition of the statues.

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