Saturday, February 14, 2015

Historical Sites Recall When Kazakhstan Was Buddhist

Kazakhstan today is a mostly Muslim country, but the Silk Road that crossed it was an important conduit for religions, including Buddhism, and some of Kazakhstan’s historic carvings and monuments are neither Muslim nor animist, but homages to Buddhas, bodhisattvas and the monks who carried their teachings from India and China across the Eurasian landmass.

Buddhism gained a large following in Central Asia between the second century B.C. up to the coming of Islam to the region around the eighth century, and many of the Turkic peoples living in Kazakhstan adopted it. Though now the Buddhist population of Kazakhstan is small – only about 0.5 percent of the population as of 2007 – the country has the largest number of Buddhists in Central Asia. It is also dotted with remnants of its Buddhist past, particularly in the Zhetysu (“seven rivers”) area of modern-day southeastern Kazakhstan, which includes today’s Almaty oblast and historically extended into Kyrgyzstan.

Within that area are the Tamgaly-Tas (“Stones with Signs”), one of Kazakhstan’s most popular tourist destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cliffs, about 120 kilometres from Almaty, are marked with thousands of rock paintings and carvings dating from the Bronze Age onward. Among the hunting scenes and animal figures are carvings of the Buddha, Buddhist mantras in Sanskrit and pictures of important Buddhist teachers.

Read full article at: http://www.astanatimes.com/2015/02/historical-sites-recall-kazakhstan-buddhist/

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