HARIPUR – Pakistan unveiled the remains of a 1,700-year-old sleeping Buddha image on Wednesday, part of an initiative to encourage tourism and project religious harmony in the troubled region.

A reflection of the diverse history and culture of the country, the ancient Buddhist site in Bhamala, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was first discovered in 1929.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archaeology And Museums Director Dr Abdul Samad said,”The 48-feet long ‘sleeping Buddha’ statue dates back to the third century, which makes it the world’s oldest ‘sleeping Buddha’ statue.”

He told that archaeologists found the statue, with its head intact, during excavations near the Bhamala Stupa.

“We have discovered more than 500 Buddha-related objects during excavations, in addition to the 48-feet long ‘sleeping Buddha’,” he said.

The latest discoveries by the archaeologists have opened new chapters in the history of the ancient Taxila Valley Civilisation.

The region was once the centre of Buddhist civilisation that took root under the Mauryan king Ashoka 2,300 years ago.

Imran Khan said: “It’s a question of preserving these heritage sites which are an asset for our country. It’s a world heritage site (and) because of it people can come for religious tourism and see these places.”