Many areas across the world are dedicated to one religion yet formed by another. Afghanistan is one such country that firmly adheres to Islam; but, before the arrival of Islam, the country was the main hub of Buddhist instruction. Several Buddhist relics confirm the country’s early Buddhist history.
While most of the relics were destroyed by conflict and neglect, the majority of the museum collections were plundered or severely damaged. As a result, a substantial investigation is required to uncover the vestiges of the rich Buddhist history. The Bamiyan Buddhas, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, are one of the most important pieces of evidence relating to Buddhist history in Afghanistan.
In Samangan Province, one of the most outstanding pre-Islamic sites in Afghanistan, there are amazing Buddhist relics – a highly unique underground stupa known locally as Takht-e Rostam (Rustam’s Throne). The stupa was named after Rustam III, the Bavand dynasty’s Persian monarch.
Unlike others, this stupa has been cut into the earth, in a manner reminiscent of Ethiopia’s monolithic cathedrals. A Buddhist monastery with five distinct caves is carved into the channel’s outside banks. It also contains several monastic cells used for meditation.
Small breaches in the roofs enabled small beams of light to enter the caverns, creating a beautiful twilight quiet environment. The subterranean monastery lacks ornamentation but is stunning for its sheer technical marvel.
Why was this stupa of Takht-e Rostam carved in such an unusual way?
Historians have given two probable explanations: one is that it was done for camouflage to defend the monastery from invaders; another, far more commonplace argument is that it was done simply to escape Afghanistan’s dramatic temperature variations.
Takht-e Rostam (Throne of Rostam) is an Afghan name for a mythical character in Persian culture. When the original function of the stupa was forgotten during the Islamization of Afghanistan, the site became renowned as the location where Rostam allegedly wedded his bride Tahmina.
Stupas are Buddhists’ symbolic religious “sanctuaries” around the world. According to ancient Vedic writings, strange flying ships or “Vimanas” visited Earth 6000 years ago, according to certain ancient astronaut theories.
The name for stupa in India is ikhara, which means “tower”. Ikhara is similar to the Egyptian term Saqqara, which refers to the Step Pyramid or the Stairway to Heaven.
What if the ancient Egyptians and Indians were both teaching us the same thing about stupas, that they are wombs of metamorphosis, ladders, or cosmic stairways towards the heavens?