The destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas became a symbol of oppression and a rallying point for the freedom of religious expression.
Despite the fact that most Afghans are now Muslim, they too had embraced their past and many were appalled by the destruction. Later, the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, tried to use heavy artillery to destroy the statues.
It was the site of several Buddhist monasteries, and a thriving center for religion, philosophy, and art.
Monks at the monasteries lived as hermits in small caves carved into the side of the Bamiyan cliffs.
In March 2001, the statues were destroyed by the Taliban of Mullah Omar following a decree issued by him.
The Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar explained why he ordered the statues to be destroyed in an interview: I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddha's destruction.
The two most prominent statues were the giant standing Buddhas Vairocana and Sakyamuni, identified by the different mudras performed.The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco.This coating, practically all of which wore away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands, and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors.In July 1999, Mullah Mohammed Omar issued a decree in favor of the preservation of the Bamiyan Buddha statues.Because Afghanistan's Buddhist population no longer exists, so the statues are no longer worshipped, he added: "The government considers the Bamiyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors.