The preservation of Ajina Tepa well underway

11 September 2007

The International Steering Committee for Ajina Tepa expressed satisfaction with the advancement of the preservation works at the seventh century Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa in Tajikistan. The steering committee, which met recently in Dushanbe, is composed of conservation and preservation experts from Japan and Tajikistan, representatives of the Tajik authorities and UNESCO, as well as representatives of Japanese Embassy in Tajikistan and UNDP.

"From now on, the next most urgent steps at Ajina Tepa is the conservation of the most endangered walls and the Stupa itself", UNESCO's conservation expert Yuri Peshkov says. The steering committee also decided that the mud brick and 'pakhsa' (mud block) walls in the courtyard of the monastery and around the stupa shall be protected soonest, before winter, against collapse and intensive erosion.

The Buddhist Monastery known as Ajina Tepa (Devil Mount) played an important role in spreading Buddhism in Central Asia in the seventh and eighth centuries. "During the excavations of the 1960s and '70s by the Soviet archaeologists, a 12-metres long reclining Buddha was found at Ajina Tepa", Mr Peshkov says and explains that after the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the statue, which is now at the Dushanbe Museum of Antiquities, started to draw particular attention. "It is today the largest surviving statue of the Buddha in Central Asia."

The on-going UNESCO preservation project started in 2005 and is funded by Japan. The project is expected to be complete in 2008 and it is seen as a first step for continuing future research and preservation of the important Buddhist Monastery Ajina Tepa after a long break.

Ms. Munzifa Babadjanova of the National Commission for UNESCO says that Ajina Tepa is included into the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage List of the Republic of Tajikistan. "It is one of the most representative Buddhist complexes in Central Asia. Therefore, it is on the priority list of potential sites to be nominated to the World Heritage List from the Republic in the nearest future.

The third steering committee meeting was organized by the UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office in collaboration with the Tajik National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

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