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03/31/08
Uttar Pradesh to boast of world’s tallest Buddha statue
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:58 am

The Maitreya Project, Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India
…The World’s tallest statue and a brilliant religious masterpiece dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha!

Now, another great religious project has officially been given the go-ahead in one of the poorest parts of India. The Maitreya Project is a tribute to Buddhism for and from the land of the Buddha and is as a multi-faith cooperative designed by Tibetans who call India their home as as a lasting gift to India and Buddhism.

In this era of veritable skyscraper-hedonism (*cough*Dubai*coughh* j/k), this project is unique in that it is designed to fulfill a completely selfless goal, namely “to benefit as many people as possible.” A monumental sustainable work of art that will serve as a constant source of inspiration and a symbol of loving-kindness, work will soon begin on the 152 meter-tall Maitreya Buddha Statue that is the centerpiece of a large temple complex.

An engineering marvel that at will not only be — at three times the size of the Statue of Liberty — the world’s tallest statue and world’s tallest temple but will also be the world’s largest (first?) statue-skyscraper, designed to have a lifespan surpassing a 1,000 years.

For more information and a large collection of pictures of this beautiful project originally posted by me on Skyscrapercity.com, read on!…

 

The focal point of Indian architecture, like its culture, has always been religious in nature. Just as the Indian economic boom is bringing incredible economic and architectural growth in the secular area, so has Indian religious architecture once again become manifest in the construction of some of the largest, massive, and most intricate religious architecture the world has seen, from the recently completed Akshardham Temple, New Delhi — the largest volume Hindu Temple in India, to the under construction Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai — the largest stupa, largest dome, and largest rock cave in the world, to the planned Sri Mayapur Vedic Temple and Planetarium, Mayapur, the world’s tallest Hindu temple.

And now the Maitreya Buddha Statue is to be another gem added to this crow. The statue is a veritable temple-skyscraper that will contain 17 individual shrine rooms. The highest room at 140 meters high — the equviliant height of the 40th storey of a standard building. This statue and complex will be a fusion of Indian and Tibetan architectural styles that will adhere to ancient Vaastu Shastra design code and will also hold the world’s largest collection of Lord Buddha’s relics.

^ A cutaway view of the 152 meter Maitreya statue and throne building showing the spaces and levels within. Note that the throne itself will be a 17 storey fully functional temple, with 15 additional shrine rooms in the the body of the Maitreya statue.

Apart from the statue/skyscraper, the Maitreya Project organizers will also build free hospitals and schools servicing tens of thousands of poor, and also be a huge catalyst for infrastructure and tourism development efforts in one of the most economically backwards parts of India.

The project is a joint religious collaboration by organizations representing the various sects and faiths that revere the Buddha: from Hinduism to Mahayana to Vajrayana to Hinayana to Jaina to Christian and Muslim. Under guidance of the overall project conceptualizer, Nepalese-Tibetan spiritual leader Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Project was funded by Buddhist and Hindu temples, social organizations, religious groups and by individuals in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, the UK and America.

Through this project, India once again shows that the ancient arts of massive devotional architecture continues to undergo a veritable renaissance.

—–==–=–==—–

The Maitreya Complex: Project Detail


^ A prerendering of the Maitreya Buddha statue and temple, showing its massive size.

The Maitreya Project “is based on the belief that inner peace and outer peace share a cause and effect relationship and that loving-kindness leads to peace at every level of society — peace for individuals, families, communities and the world.”

The entire temple complex is designed to be completely sustainable, meaning that it will quite literally have the same environmental impact (i.e. emit the same amount of carbon dioxide and methane) as the paddy field it will be constructed.

The Project will include schools and universities that focus on ethical and spiritual development as well as academic achievement, and a healthcare network based around a teaching hospital of international standard with the intention of supplementing the medical services currently provided by the government to provide healthcare services, particularly for the poor and underprivileged.

As such, the Maitreya Project organizers are working in tandem with the local, regional and state governments in Uttar Pradesh, India, who have fully supported the project. To this effect, the Kushinagar Special Development Area Authority will support the planned development of the area surrounding the Project.

The total project cost is estimated at $250 million, but the project will develop this impoverished region and will earn a hundredfold more that will be funneled into the Maitreya Project’s historical preservation plans and charities.


^ Maitreya Project engineers on-site

—–==–=–==—–

The Location of the Maitreya Complex

The Maitreya Buddha project was originally concieved to be built in Bodh Gaya, Bihar state, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, but due to threat of delays due to red tape, was moved to what was seen to be a more appropriate location, the village of Kushinagar, in Uttar Pradesh state.

Kushinagar is a place of great historical and spiritual significance. It is the place where Shakyamuni (Historical) Buddha passed away and it is predicted to be the birthplace of the next Buddha, Maitreya – the Buddha of Loving-kindness - of whom this temple is dedicated to.


^ The original conception of the Maitreya Buddha statue, then to be located at Bodh Gaya

Recognising the long-term benefits Maitreya Project is bringing to the region, the State Government of Uttar Pradesh is providing, free of charge, 750 acres of mainly agricultural land in Kushinagar.


^ A view of the Maitreya Project land site, currently rice paddy

Indeed, the Project itslef will be located adjacent to the ancient Mahaparinirvana Temple, commemorating the Buddha’s passing, the ancient Ramabhar Stupa, commemorating the Buddha’s cremation site, as well as several equally old and older Hindu temples. It is predicted that the pilgrimage, tourism and development capital that will flow into this region because of this project will created sustainable income for the restoration, refurbishment and maintinance of these ancient sacred sites.

Surrounding the complex is the Kushinagar Special Development Area, designed as a sustainable development entity that will coordinate the various organizations involved in the project and surrounding tourist and general development that will come with the project.

-=—-=—=–

The Kushinagar Special Development Area

The Maitreya Project and the Uttar Pradesh have worked together to create the Kushinagar Special Development Area (KSDA), an additional area of 7.5 kilometres surrounding the Maitreya Project site.

Municipal bylaws and planning regulations have now been adopted to protect the KSDA from the kind of opportunism that is often seen in communities of emerging economic development. Maitreya Project has representation on the legal bodies governing the KSDA as well as the work of monitoring the development of the region will be ongoing.

It is within the KSDA that Maitreya Project will implement its extensive healthcare and education programmes.

—–==–=–==—–

Maitreya Project Preliminary Site Plan

Maitreya Project’s lead architects, Aros Ltd., have drawn up a preliminary proposed plan for the beautiful 750 acre Kushinagar site.

Main features being:

  • The Ceremonial Gateway & Maitreya Statue Sanctuary will lead visitors to the 500ft/152m Maitreya Buddha statue.
  • The Maitreya Buddha Statue will sit on the Throne Building containing temples, prayer halls, exhibition halls, a museum, library and audio-visual theatre.
  • The Hospital and Healthcare Centre will be the hub of Maitreya Project’s public healthcare programmes. The development of these programmes will begin with primary care clinics in the communities of the Kushinagar Special Development Area. Over the years, the medical services will be developed and expanded to meet the needs of many communities. A complete healthcare network will be developed to provide medical services that are centred around a teaching hospital of international standard. The healthcare system will primarily serve the poor and under-privileged, even in remote parts of the area.
  • The Centre of Learning, will eventually serve students from primary to university levels of education.
  • The Meditation Park will be a secluded area next to the ancient Mahaparinirvana Temple, which commemorates Buddha Shakyamuni’s passing away from our world, the ancient Ramabhar Stupa, commemorating the Buddha’s holy cremation site, and monasteries and temples belonging to many different traditions of Buddhism that include both modern facilities and ancient ruins.


^ A View from the Maitreya Project Park

All of these features will be set in beautifully landscaped parks with meditation pavilions, beautiful water fountains and tranquil pools. All of the buildings and outdoor features will contain an extensive collection of inspiring sacred art.


^ A view of the temple from the gardens surrounding the site

—–==–=–==—–

The Statue of the Maitreya Buddha

The center of the Maitreya Project, of course, is the bronze plate statue of the Maitreya Buddha itself. Rising 500ft/152m in height, the statue will sit on a stone throne temple building located in an enclosed sanctuary park.

-=—-=—=–

The Living Wall:

Surrounding the Maitreya Buddha statue is a four-storey halo of buildings called the “Living Wall.” This ring of buildings contains accomadation for the complex’s monks and workers as well as rooms for functions ancillary to the statue and throne building.

The wall also serves two additional important functions. In light of cross-border Islamist terrorist attacks against Indian holy sites in Ayodhya, Akshardham and Jama Masjid, the Living Wall also is designed to be a security cordon eqivalent to a modern castle wall, staffed with security personnel and designed to withstand an attack from 200 heavily armed raiders.


^ Prerendering of the Statue showing the location of the living wall, main gate, paths and garden areas.

The final major function it performs is that of the boundary for the enclosed sanctuary area of landscaped gardens, pools and fountains for meditation directly surrounding the Maitreya statue. The entry to the enclosed sanctuary and the Maitreya statue will be serviced by a main gate.


^ The tree and stupa lined paths to the ceremonial gate, which is the entrance to the sanctuary.

Passing the ceremonial gate, landscaped paths allow devotes to do Pradakshina (circumambulation) of the Maitreya Statue.


^ The terraced circumambulation paths, with the gate in the background.

Within the sanctuary, the gardens provide a place for relaxing, resting, and meditating, with educational artwork depicting the Buddha’s life.


^ A view towards the statue from one of these stupa lined terraces.

Walking further inward, the is Maitreya Statue and Throne Temple, surrounded by tranquil ponds and fountains that will cool the area in the intense Indian summer.


^ The Maitreya statue and throne surrounded by the tranquil ponds containing Buddha statues of the meditation sanctuary.

-=—-=—=–

The Throne Temple:

The “seat” of the statue is itelf a fully functioning 17-storey temple roughly 80m x 50m in size
. The building will contain two very large prayer halls, as well as meditation and meeting rooms, a library and facilities to deal with the anticipated annual influx of 2 million visitors.


^ The entrance to the throne building with the Maitreya Buddha statue resting upon the lotus on top

Pilgrims will enter the throne temple through the giant lotus that supports the Maitreya Buddha statue’s feet. The throne temple contains several entrance rooms that contain works of art on the Buddha’s life and teachings.


^ The first major prayer hall of throne building, containing works of art on the Buddha.

Continuing inward is the cavernous main auditorium of the Maitreya Temple containing the Sanctum Sanctorum which in Indian architectural tradition is the innermost most sacred room where the actual shrine is held. This Sanctum Sanctorum is unique in that within it contains two large auditorium temples.

The first temple in the Sanctum Sanctorum is the Temple of the Maitreya Buddha, containing a huge, 12 meter tall statue of the Buddha.


^ Upon entering the Sanctum Sanctorum, the 12 meter tall statue of the Buddha can be glimpsed.

A wall containing 200,000 images of the Buddhas rises up to the throne ceiling over 50 metres above, behind both auditorium temples.


^ A glimpse from the ambulatory of the side walls within the Maitreya Temple and the 1,000 paintings of the Buddhas.

The centerpiece shrine of the Maitreya Temple is the 12 meter tall Maitreya Buddha. Stairs and elevators lead to viewing platforms around the Maitreya Temple, allowing views of the entire room


^ A view of the Maitreya Buddha statue and the wall of the 200,000 images of the Buddha, seen from viewing platforms.

The next biggest shrine in the Sanctum Sanctorum is the Temple of the Shakyamuni Buddha which contains a 10 meter statue of the Shakyamuni (Historical) Buddha. Behind the shrine is the continuation of the wall of 200,000 Buddhas.


^ On a higher level yet again, the Shakyamuni Temple will house a 10 metre (33 ft.) statue of the historical Buddha. The glass rear wall will reveal the wall of 200,000 Buddhas within the Maitreya Temple.


^ Another view of the Shakyamuni Temple.

In Indian architecture, the Sanctum Sanctorum is encircled by a pathway that allows devotees to do Pradakshina (circumambulation) of the shrine. The Maitreya Temple, following this tradition, also has this feature.


^ The main throne building and Pradakshina path where visitors may circumambulate Sanctum Sanctorum of the Maitreya Temple, which can be seen through the doorways on the right

From this area, elevators and staircases will carry visitors to the various other rooms in the 17 storey base, including prayer halls, meditation halls and libraries. Eventually conveying devotees to a large rooftop garden terrace upon which the Maitreya Buddha statue actually rests.

Here, rising into the upper legs of the main statue, is the Merit Field Hall with a 10 meter, 3-dimensional depiction of over 390 Buddhas and Buddhist masters at it’s center. Surrounding this will be 12 individual shrine rooms devoted to particular deities in the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon.


^ The Merit Field Hall with its 10m, 3-D depiction.

From the garden terrace, another bank of elevators will whisk pilgrims to the higher shrine rooms contained in the statue’s torso and head.

-=—-=—=–

The Statue:

The statue will contain 15 individual shrine rooms and have a total height of 152 meters, with the highest shrine room in the statue’s head, at over 140 meters up. This is roughly equivalent in height to a 40-storey skyscraper.


^ A cutaway diagram of the statue-tower.

The statue is itself an engineering marvel. Rather than simply be designed in its massive size, the statue of the Maitreya Buddha was actually reversed-designed from a carved statue only a meter and half in height and the structure’s engineering extrapolated into its current form.


^ The original statue from which the Maitreya Buddha statue tower is extrapolated from was hand carved, and is in the Indian Gupta style.

Moreover, the statue is designed to stand for at least 1,000 years, supporting the Project’s spiritual and social work for at least a millennium. Due to the statue’s millenia-passing lifespan, the huge structure is designed to withstand high winds, extreme temperature changes, seasonal rains, possible earthquakes and floods and environmental pollution.

Extensive research has gone into developing “Nikalium”, the special nickel-aluminum bronze alloy to be used for the outer ’skin’ of the statue designed to withstand the most challenging conditions that could conceivably arise.

As the bronze ’skin’ will expand and contract dramatically due to daily temperature changes, the statue will require special expansion joints that were designed to be not only invisible to the observer, but also in such a way as to protect the internal supports of the statue from water leakage, erosion and corrosion. The material and structural components of the statue are meant to be able to withstand potential unforseen disasters like earthquakes and monsoon flooding.


^ The engineering process of the Buddha statue.

—–==–=–==—–

Construction Status — June, 2007

The Maitreya Project recently passed its first major milestone this month, when, in compliance with the Indian Land Acquistion Act, the State Government of Uttar Pradesh has completed the necessary legal requirements for the acquisition of the 750 acre land site to be made available to the Project.

While there are still permissions and clearances to be obtained, it has now officially given the green light and the full support of the government.

It is expected that the Project will formally break ground either later this year or early 2008, with an expected construction time of five years. The project will employ more than a thousand skilled and semi-skilled workers in the construction phase.

—–==–=–==—–

For more information on this fantastic project, check out

Maitreyaproject.org

Sorry for the length of the post, but I wanted this veritable essay to be a comprehensive introduction to what Maitreya Project organizers aim to literally be the 8th Wonder of the World, and an everlasting symbol of Religious Syncretism, Tolerance, Compassion and most of all, Love.

A cause truely fitting of the Buddha, Shakya Muni Sri Siddharth Gautamaji.

American Buddhist Net

Uttar Pradesh to boast of world’s tallest Buddha statue

Does this sound good to you? Here’s a story about something similar in Australia: Nowra to get its own Kung Fu temple: Australia ABN
____________

Tuesday, 25 March , 2008, 18:25

Lucknow: Decks are being cleared for the installation of the world’s tallest Buddha statue in Kushinagar town of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati was understood to have directed officials to speed up the acquisition and transfer of 600 acres of land required for the Rs 10 billion project to be funded and undertaken by the global Maitryi Group. Provision of land is UP government’s share in the project.

For more news, analysis click here>> | For more Science and Medicine news click here >>

The project involves installation of a 152-metre-tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha along with a giant meditation centre, an international university, a state-of-art world-class hospital and a museum. The project also envisages an entertainment complex in the neighbourhood that would include an amusement park and a five-star hotel.

Nowra to get its own Kung Fu temple: Australia

The more I read about this temple, the less I like it. See also this. ABN
_______________

There will be a three-tier temple complex, with two pagodas, 500-room hotel, a 500-place kung fu academy. There’ll be some residential subdivision, a 27-hole golf course, herbal medicine, herbal gardens, acupuncture, special massage, and that’s about it.

AM - Saturday, 10 June , 2006 08:24:30
Reporter: John Taylor
ELIZABETH JACKSON: It’s probably the most famous temple in the world.

China’s Shaolin Temple has been made famous through books, films, and TV, because of its legendary kung fu fighting monks.

Now, the Zen Buddhist temple is looking to build another home for its monks, outside Nowra in New South Wales.

A deal to purchase 1,200 hectares will be signed in China today, as our Correspondent, John Taylor, reports.

LINK TO ORIGINAL

JOHN TAYLOR: In the history of kung fu, there is no other place like the Shaolin Temple.

The 1,500-year-old Zen Buddhist monastery in central China is home to fighting monks, made famous in modern times on the big and small screen.

If things go to plan, the monks may be about to set up a lavish home away from home, just south of Nowra.

Greg Watson is Mayor of the Shoalhaven City Council.

GREG WATSON: There will be a three-tier temple complex, with two pagodas, 500-room hotel, a 500-place kung fu academy.

There’ll be some residential subdivision, a 27-hole golf course, herbal medicine, herbal gardens, acupuncture, special massage, and that’s about it.

JOHN TAYLOR: Today in central China’s Henan province Mayor Watson and the Temple’s Abbott are to sign off on the monks’ purchase of a 1,200 hectare property south of Nowra.

Patrick Peng is the Abbott’s representative in Australia.

PATRICK PENG: The Shaolin of course is very well known in China itself, so he like to take this opportunity to try to introduce the Shaolin legacy, the heritage to the rest of the world, through another outlet.

JOHN TAYLOR: The NSW Government is still to give final approval to the project. But speaking in Beijing yesterday, Mayor Greg Watson wasn’t expecting a fight.

GREG WATSON: What happened was, I heard via a Member of Parliament, that the Abbott was looking for a potential location to establish the second Shaolin temple in the world, somewhere in Australia, and I said have I got a deal for the Abbott?

JOHN TAYLOR: Who says religion and big business can’t mix?

The Shaolin Temple already has a performance touring the world, featuring the impressive skills of its fighting monks.

The Abbott’s man in Australia, Patrick Peng, says Shaolin is not just about kung fu.

PATRICK PENG: You know, it’s culture.

JOHN TAYLOR: Well can you have the two together, a tourist attraction and a functioning temple?

PATRICK PENG: Oh yes, in fact, on the contrary. Nowadays many religions, not only just Buddhism, Daoism, they’re all trying to make themselves more relevant to the modern world, and really they’re not exclusive, they’re not just men in the caves, you know.

So what they’re trying to do is to share the philosophies and the lifestyle, the healthy lifestyle, to the world.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Patrick Peng, who represents the Abbott of the Shaolin Temple in Australia, ending that report from John Taylor.

Thaindian News

Uttar Pradesh to have world’s tallest Buddha statue

March 25th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by admin

Lucknow, March 25 (IANS) Decks are being cleared for the installation of the world’s tallest Buddha statue in Kushinagar town of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati was understood to have directed officials to speed up the acquisition and transfer of 600 acres of land required for the Rs.10 billion project to be funded and undertaken by the global Maitryi group.

Proviuion of land is UP government’s share in the project.

The project involves installation of a 152-metre-tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha along with a giant meditation centre, an international university, a state-of-art world-class hospital and a museum. The project also envisages an entertainment complex in the neighbourhood that would include an amusement park and a five-star hotel.

UP Chief Secretary Prashant Kumar Misra presided over a high level meeting of state officials, in which representatives from Maitryi were present here Monday. A presentation on the project was made.

Significantly, the project was initiated during the previous tenure of Chief Minister Mayawati in 2003, after which it was put on the backburner during the Mulayam Singh Yadav regime.

“Since then, it had been hanging fire, so we decided to revive it after Maitryi officials approached us,” Misra told IANS.

He said: “Of the 600 acres required for the project, we need to acquire only about 300 acres while the rest is government land.

“The government had already started the acquisition process. The whole project would not involve any major displacement of people and not more than 70-80 farmers would be involved,” he said.

“We have worked out a handsome rehabilitation package for the farmers who would get displaced on account of the project.”

UP to have world’s tallest Buddha statue

Published: Wednesday, 26 March, 2008, 08:05 AM Doha Time

LUCKNOW: World’s tallest Buddha statue will be installed in Kushinagar town of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Chief Minister Mayawati has asked officials to speed up acquisition and transfer of 600 acres of land required for the Rs10bn project to be funded and undertaken by the global Maitryi group.
The state government will give the land for the project which involves installation of a 152m tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha along with a giant meditation centre, an international university, a state-of-art hospital and a museum.
The project also envisages an entertainment complex in the neighbourhood that would include an amusement park and a five-star hotel.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Prashant Kumar Misra presided over a high level meeting of state officials, in which representatives from Maitryi were present here on Monday. A presentation on the project was made.
The project was initiated during the previous tenure of Mayawati in 2003, after which it was put on the backburner.
“Since then, it had been hanging fire, so we decided to revive it after Maitryi officials approached us,” Misra said.
“Of the 600 acres required for the project, we need to acquire only about 300 acres while the rest is government land,” he said.- IANS

 

India eNews Logo

From correspondents in Uttar Pradesh, India, 03:33 PM IST

Decks are being cleared for the installation of the world’s tallest Buddha statue in Kushinagar town of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati was understood to have directed officials to speed up the acquisition and transfer of 600 acres of land required for the Rs.10 billion project to be funded and undertaken by the global Maitryi group.

Proviuion of land is UP government’s share in the project.

The project involves installation of a 152-metre-tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha along with a giant meditation centre, an international university, a state-of-art world-class hospital and a museum. The project also envisages an entertainment complex in the neighbourhood that would include an amusement park and a five-star hotel.

UP Chief Secretary Prashant Kumar Misra presided over a high level meeting of state officials, in which representatives from Maitryi were present here Monday. A presentation on the project was made.

Significantly, the project was initiated during the previous tenure of Chief Minister Mayawati in 2003, after which it was put on the backburner during the Mulayam Singh Yadav regime.

‘Since then, it had been hanging fire, so we decided to revive it after Maitryi officials approached us,’ Misra told IANS.

He said: ‘Of the 600 acres required for the project, we need to acquire only about 300 acres while the rest is government land.

‘The government had already started the acquisition process. The whole project would not involve any major displacement of people and not more than 70-80 farmers would be involved,’ he said.

‘We have worked out a handsome rehabilitation package for the farmers who would get displaced on account of the project.’

India - Uttar Pradesh - Kushinagar Buddhist Site

Kushinagar Buddhist Site

Population : 14,000
Distance : 55km from Gorakhpur

¤ Kushinagar - A Site of Buddhist Parinirvana

KushinagarSituated in Deoria district of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Kushinagara was a small town in the days of the Buddha. But it became famous when the Buddha died here, on his way from Rajgir to Sravasti. His last memorable words were, “All composite things decay. Strive diligently!” This event is known as the ‘Final Blowing-Out’ (Parinirvana) in Buddhist parlance. Since then the place has become a celebrated pilgrim centre. It was the capital of the kingdom of the Mallas, one of the 16 Janapadas (see Sravasti).

¤ Places of Interest

Muktabandhana Stupa
The Muktabandhana Stupa was built by the Mallas just after the Buddha’s death. It is built over the sacred relics of the Buddha himself. The Stupa is also known as Ramabhar Stupa and is 50 ft tall. It is believed that the Stupa was built on the spot where the Buddha was cremated.

Nirvana Stupa
1km west of the Muktabandhana Stupa is the Nirvana Stupa that was built in the days of Ashoka. It was renovated in 1927 by the Burmese Buddhists. In front of the Stupa is the Mahaparinirvana Temple in which is installed a colossal sandstone statue of the Buddha in the reclining position. It was built by the Mathura school of art and was brought to Kushinagar by a Buddhist monk named Haribala during the reign of Kumaragupta (c. a.d.415-454).

Kushinagar
   
Kushinagar

Once in Kushinagar, it appears that time has come to a complete halt. This sleepy town, with its serenity and unassuming beauty, absorbs visitors into a contemplative mood. It is this place that the Buddha had chosen to free himself from the cycles of death and life and, therefore, it occupies a very special space in the heart of every Buddhist.
Location
Kushinagar is situated in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 51 km off Gorakhpur. The place, which is famous for the Mahaparinirvana (death) of Lord Buddha, has been included in the famous Buddhist trail encompassing Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Nepal.
Kushinagar is also known as Kasia or Kusinara. The founder of Buddhism, Lord Buddha passed away at this place near the Hiranyavati River and was cremated at the Ramabhar stupa. It was once a celebrated center of the Malla kingdom. Many of its stupas and viharas date back to 230 BC-AD 413. when its prosperity was at the peak. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka added grandeur to this place by getting the magnificent statue of Buddha carved on a single piece of red sandstone. Fa Hien, Huen Tsang, and I-tsing, the three famous Chinese scholar travelers to India, all visited Kushinagar.

With the decline of Buddhism, however, Kushinagar lost its importance and suffered much neglect. It was only in the last century that Lord Alexander Cunningham excavated many important remnants of the main site such as the Matha Kua and Ramabhar stupa. Today, people from all over the world visit Kushinagar. Many national and international societies and groups have established their centers here.

Climate
Like other places in the Gangetic plain, the climate of Kushinagar is hot and humid in the summers (mid-April-mid-September) with Maximum Temperature touching 40-45°C. Winters are mild
and Minimum Temperature in December can go down to around 5°C. Monsoon reaches this region in June and remains here till September

Population
Around 22,35,505 people live here

Language
Hindi and Bhojpuri

 
Places of Interest

Mahaparinirvana Temple
The Mahaparinirvana temple (also known as the Nirvana temple) is the main attraction of Kushinagar. It is a single room structure, which is raised on a platform and is topped by a superstructure, which conforms to the traditional Buddhist style of architecture. The Mahaparinirvana temple houses the world famous 6m (19.68 ft) long statue of the reclining Buddha.

This statue was discovered during the excavation of 1876 by British archaeologists. The statue has been carved out from sandstone and represents the dying Buddha. The figures carved on the four sides of the small stone railing surrounding the statue, show them mourning the death of Lord Buddha. According to an inscription found in Kushinagar, the statue dates back to the 5th century AD.
It is generally believed that Haribala, a Buddhist monk brought the statue of the reclining Buddha to Kushinagar, from Mathura during 5th century, during the period of the Gupta Empire.

Nirvana Stupa
The Nirvana stupa is located behind the Mahaparinirvana temple. British archaeologists discovered this brick structure during the excavation carried out in 1876. Subsequent excavations carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) unearthed a copper vessel, which contained the remains of Lord Buddha apart from precious stones, cowries and a gold coin belonging to the Gupta Empire. The copper vessel bore the inscription that the ashes of Lord Buddha had been interred here.

Mathakuar Shrine
The Mathakuar Shrine is an interesting place to visit in Kushinagar. It is located near the Nirvana stupa. A statue of Buddha made out of black stone was found here. The statue shows Buddha in the Bhumi Sparsha mudra (pose in which Buddha is touching the earth with his fingers). It is believed that Lord Buddha preached his last sermon here before his death.

Ramabhar Stupa
The Ramabhar Stupa (also known as the Mukutabandhana stupa) is a 14.9 m (49 ft) tall brick stupa, which is located at a distance of 1 km from the Mahaparinirvana temple. This stupa is built on the spot where Lord Buddha was cremated in 483 BC. Ancient Buddhist scriptures refer this stupa as the Mukutabandhana stupa. It is said that the Malla rulers, who ruled Kushinagar during the death of Buddha built the Ramabhar stupa.

Modern Stupas
Kushinagar has a number of modern stupas and monasteries, which have been built, by different Buddhist countries. The important shrines worth visiting are the Chinese stupa and the IndoJapan-Sri Lankan Buddhist Centre.

Kushinagar Museum
The Kushinagar Museum (Archaeological Museum) is located near the IndoJapan-Sri Lankan Buddhist Centre. The museum has a collection of artefacts like statues, carved panels etc excavated from various stupas and monasteries in Kushinagar and places around it.

 
Excursion
Gorakhpur
Fifty-one kilometers off Kushinagar is Gorakhpur, an important city of eastern Uttar Pradesh. At Gorakhpur is the Rahul Sanskrityayan Museum, which has an excellent collection of Thanka paintings and relics of the Buddha. The water sports complex at Ramgarh Tal Planetarium and the Gorakhnath Temple in the city are also worth a visit.

Kapilavastu (Piprahwa)
Situated 148 km from Kushinagar and is an important Buddhist pilgrimage. Kapilavastu was the ancient capital of the Sakya clan ruled by Gautama Buddha’s father.

Lumbini
Situated in Nepal at a distance of 122 km from Gorakhpur, Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. There are regular buses to the Nepalese border, from where the remaining 26 km has to be covered by private vehicles

How to get there
Airport
The nearest airhead is located at Varanasi from where one can take flights to Delhi, Calcutta, Lucknow, and Patna.

Rail
Kushinagar does not have a railway station. The nearest railway station is at Gorakhpur (51 km), which is the headquarters of Northeastern Railways and linked to important destinations. Some important trains to Gorakhpur are Bombay-Gorakhpur-Bandra Express, New Delhi-Barauni-Vaishali Express, Cochin-Gorakhpur Express, Shaheed Express, Amarnath Express, and Kathgodam Express.

Road
Kushinagar is well connected to other parts of the state of Uttar Pradesh by bus. The distances from places around are : Gorakhpur (51 km), Lumbini (173 km), Kapilavastu (148 km), Sravasti (254 km), and Sarnath (266 km), and Agra (680 km).

BUDDHIST HEARTLAND  

Enlightening Odyssey



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It was a prediction that set it off. Terrified that his son might one day renounce the world to become a great seer, King Suddhodhana of the Shakyas, a small kingdom in the Terai region of Nepal, shielded the young Prince Siddhartha from the evil of the world by keeping him within the confines of his palace, in the embrace of material comforts and loving care. From his very birth in 623 BC, in a garden at Lumbini close to the Shakya capital of Kapilavastu, portent’s revealed that the young man’s fate was sealed for higher things than dealing with the earthly concerns and the business of a king.

It was chance too that rolled the dice in favour of the spiritual world, and Prince Siddhartha was a willing pawn when he rejected his regal life. It was an amazing journey that would transform the deeply troubled prince into the great Buddha, the Enlightened One, culminating in his release from the endless cycle of rebirths, at Bodhgaya in Bihar. His great quest would become the core of an important religious movement.

Buddhism - Charismatic Formula

For kings and commoners, criminals and courtesans, Buddhism had the power and strength to transform their lives forever. This is beautifully illustrated in the legendary commitment to Buddhism of King Ashoka, after the bloody battle of Kalinga in Orissa. The great king was enthusiastic in spreading the Buddha’s message of peace and enlightenment across the length and breadth of his vast empire, reaching from present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Buddhism was to travel from its home in India’s eastern Gangetic region of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa to encompass Sri Lanka and the countries of South East Asia, then onto the Himalayan countries of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, even far-flung Central Asia, China and Japan, under the umbrella of royal patronage and the dedication of its vast community of monks, teachers and artists.

The essence of Buddhism is embodied in the concept of the 4 noble truths and the 3 jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) via the 8-fold path to salvation and peace Anticipating his death in his 80th year Buddha urged his followers, especially his chosen disciples, to continue his work after his imminent Mahaparnirvana the attaining of nirvana (enlightenment). As a reminder of his difficult journey and its ultimate goal, he prevailed upon them to visit the four important places that were the cornerstones of his great journey - Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar.

The spread of Buddhism down the centuries was to leave in its wake a wealth of symbolic structures, including sculpted caves, stupas (relic shrines), chaityas (prayer halls) viharas (monasteries), mahaviharas (universities) and numerous art forms and religious literature. The arrival of Guru Padamasambhava, in the 8th century, was a major impetus in the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayan region.

Today, both pilgrims and tourists can enjoy the special appeal of these myriad experiences, in the Buddhist Heartland of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal. From the moment of his birth, his teachings, spiritual struggle, attainment of enlightenment, great meditations, and message of peace and non-violence, are as relevant to our life and times as it was in his day.

Buddhism - Jewels of the Lotus

Almost a hundred years later there emerged various schools of Buddhist thought evolving somewhat from the Buddha’s original precepts. The most prominent amongst these were the Mahayana School, the Theravada School (based on the old Hinayana School) which flourished in Sri Lanka and established itself quite quickly in many South East Asian countries, and the Vajrayana School with its Tantric features, which spread to the Himalayan regions of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet.

Lumbini, Sarnath, Bodhgaya and Kushinagar are the primary pilgrimage places associated with the life and teachings of the Lord Buddha. There are numerous other sites where the Buddha and the saints that followed travelled during his life after his transformation, which are held in deep veneration. Visitors can travel through this Buddhist Heartland today, to savour the splendid beauty and great appeal of Buddhism.

FOOTSTEPS OF LORD BUDDHA

The greatest impetus to Buddha’s teachings came from the Indian King Ashoka who went on a great pilgrimage visiting the important sites that are directly associated with his life, in the Footsteps of Lord Buddha. Primary amongst these holy places are Lumbini in Nepal, and Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar in India. The international Buddhist community has been active in supporting these important religious centres. There are other places of lesser significance on the Footsteps of Lord Buddha visitor circuit associated closely with Buddha’s life. Amongst these are Buddha’s monsoon retreats of Vaishali, Rajgir and Sravastii in India, and his early home at Tilaurakot in Kapilavastu Nepal.

Primary Patronage

Lumbini. Lumbini in southern Nepal is where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha. It is just a short distance from the Shakya capital of Kapilavastu. Pilgrimages focus on the sacred garden which contains the site of the birth, the Mayadevi temple, the Pashkarni pond and the Ashoka pillar. Designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, the sacred garden of Lumbini is a World Heritage Site with monasteries from many Buddhist nations. It is recognised as a supreme pilgrimage site and symbol of world peace.

Bodhgaya. It was in Bodhgaya in Bihar, India that Prince Siddhartha found Enlightenment (nirvana) under the bodhi tree after meditating for 49 days. No longer a bodhisattva (mentor), he became Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One.

Primary points of homage are the Mahabodhi Temple, the Vajrasan throne donated by King Ashoka, the holy Bodhi Tree, the Animeshlochana chaitya, the Ratnachankramana, the Ratnagaraha, the Ajapala Nigrodha Tree, the Muchhalinda Lake and the Rajyatna Tree. The spiritual home of all Buddhists, devotees from many Buddhist countries have built temples around the complex in their characteristic architectural styles. Bodhgaya today is a vibrant and inspiring tourist attraction.

Sarnath. Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath after achieving enlightenment, about 10 km from the ancient holy city of Varanasi. The sermon, setting in motion the wheel of the teaching (dharamchakrapravartna) revealed to his followers the 4 noble truths, the concept of the 3 jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha via the 8 fold path, for inner peace and enlightenment. It was here that the Buddha established his first disciples (sangha) to promote his new doctrine. The splendid Dhamekha Stupa at Sarnath was originally erected by King Ashoka, as was the famous lion capital pillar, now the proud symbol of India.

Kushinagar. At Kushinagar close to Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India en route to Kapilavastu, Lord Buddha fell ill and left this world in 543 BC. His mortal remains were preserved in eight commemorative chortens, and then further distributed by King Ashoka into 84,000 stupas across his kingdom and beyond. Important places to see here are the Mukatanabandhana stupa and the Gupta period reclining Buddha statue in red sandstone.

Mobilising Mantras & Sutras

The Buddha preached his last sermon before his death at Vaishali in Bihar, 60 km away from its capital Patna. It was here that he told his disciple Ananda about his imminent demise. The Second Buddhist Council was held in Vaishala about 110 years later.

About 70 km from Bodhgaya, Rajgir was Buddha’s monsoon retreat for 12 years whilst he spread his doctrine. It was at the holy Griddhikuta Hill that he expounded the precepts of his Lotus Sutra and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. The Saptaparni Caves set on Vaibhar Hill were the venue of the First Buddhist Council, held to compile the teachings of the Buddha in its authentic form, after his death. The world-renowned university of Nalanda is another important landmark site.

About 150 km from the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Shravasti was Buddha’s favourite rainy season retreat where he Buddha performed his first miracle.

The Ties That Bind

Around Lumbini in Nepal are seven other pilgrimage sites. The first thirty years of Buddha’s life were spent at Tilaurakot in Kapilavastu in his father’s home, 27 km west of Lumbini in Nepal. The well-preserved city foundations are evocative of former times, and the casket recovered from the original stupa is preserved in the nearby museum. About 34 km northeast of Lumbini is Devdaha whose Koliya people are considered to be the maternal tribesmen of the Buddha. The forest of Sagarhawa lies northwest of Niglihawa. Another important site is the stupa at Kudan, 5 km from Tilaurakot, where Buddha’s father King Suddhodhana met him after his enlightenment.

LIVING BUDDHISM

The trans-Himalayan regions of Bhutan, India, and Nepal are strongly rooted in the Buddhist faith. In Dharamsala, in the Kangra Valley, lives his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of all Tibetan Buddhists. Visitors can enjoy Living Buddhism experiences throughout the region, whether as a student of Buddhism, meditation and yoga, or as a layperson attracted by the vibrant culture, people and festivals.

Eastern Himalayas-The Lotus Blooms Still

Kathmandu Valley is an important Buddhist pilgrimage circuit with 15 major sites. It is a living center of Buddhist learning with many new monasteries and schools that attract funding and visitors from all over the world. The most important Living Buddhism sites are Swayambhunath and Bodhnath stupas, both with strong links to Tibet. Protected as World Heritage Sites, they are the most revered spiritual sites in the country, attracting thousands of pilgrims. Many of the indigenous Newar people of Kathmandu practice a unique form of Buddhism, unrelated to Tibet.

In the northern regions of Nepal, Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism continues to flourish and there are many monasteries and sacred sites. Many of these are in Mustang and Dolpa districts. The important monasteries Thyangboche, Thame, Chiwong and Thupten Choeling are in the Everest region of Solu Khumbu.

In the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, HM the King is considered equal in status to the religious leader, the Jekhenpo. The depth and vibrancy of the Buddhist faith is reflected in everyday life. Devotees revere Guru Padmasambhava as the second Buddha. Bhutan’s monastery fortresses (dzongs) are an integral feature of governance, and the repository of precious treasures of ancient literature, scriptures and art. The great dzongs of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Wangdi Phodrang, amongst many others, offer a fabulous journey for both pilgrim and tourist to explore Bhutan’s colourful history and spiritual splendour. An added temptation for the visitor is the fabulous repertoire of cultural activities associated with the Kingdom’s renowned festivals (tsechus).

A short distance from Paro is the renovated Taktsang monastery, the venerated location of Guru Rimpoche’s (Padmasambhava) deep meditation before subduing evil demons. Kyichu Lakhang in Paro and Jambay Lakhang in Bhumtang are amongst Bhutan’s most important and oldest Buddhist sites. The famous tsechu festivities are marked by prayers and religious dances, colourful costumes, morality tales, and invocations of protection against evil forces. Dungtse Lakhang is reputed for its fabulous collection of religious paintings .The spectacular Punakha dzong is the winter seat of the monkhood, and houses numerous sacred artifacts and important temples.

Living Buddhism flourishes in northern India, home of the Dalai Lama. Set amongst the splendid heights of the Eastern Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh is the remote Tawang Monastery. Amongst the native inhabitants, the Monpas and the Sherdupkens people keep alive the Buddhist faith from ancient times. This 17th century monastery is the largest of its kind in India and the second largest in Asia. The hill town of Bomdila offers local handicrafts and religious artifacts, and ancient monasteries

Other North East states also have Buddhist attractions. In the shadow of Mt Khangchendzonga, Buddhism flourishes in the sacred landscape of Sikkim which is dotted with 107 monasteries and many sacred stupas. Amongst the most important are Rumtek, the home of the Kagyupa sect, Pemayangtse, Tashding and Enchey. The monastery at Chungtang marks the footprint of Guru Padamasambhava when he rested en route to Tibet. Recently, the world’s tallest statue of Guru Rinpoche has been erected at Namchi. The people celebrate their faith during the chaam (masked) dances at the great festivals.

Surviving Buddhist Enclaves

Bangladesh is now largely Muslim, but the country has important pockets of Buddhist communities that date back to the 7th century, especially in the region of Chittagong, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Cox’s Bazaar, Noakhali and Barisal. There are at least 50 Buddhist settlements surviving from the 8-12th century in the Mainamati-Lalmai range at Tipera, Laksham and Comilla

ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY

The great journey of Buddhism throughout its 2,500-year history has manifested itself in a profusion of creative energy in its art, archaeology and architecture. These include beautifully painted holy caves, statues and sculpted heads, bas reliefs, mandalas, thangkas (religious paintings) and frescos, stupas and chortens, fine chaityas, viharas, mahaviharas and temples that offer the traveller cross-border cultural pickings that are as enriching as they are moving.

The earliest form of Buddhism had no iconoclastic roots. Buddha himself was regarded as a teacher not a God. When Buddha attained nirvana he was represented only in the form of symbols such as the lotus, the bo (peepul) tree, and the wheel.

Buddha as an icon emerged through the influence of the Mahayana School of Buddhism, and the mystical and highly symbolic Tantric form of the Vajrayana School. Vajrayana culture flourished at Bodhgaya, Nalanda and Vikramshila around the 8-9 BC. Buddhist Nalanda enjoyed the patronage of several dynasties of kings but was annihilated by the Turks in the 12th century. Tantric ritual and mysticism relied heavily on sutras and tantras - secret practices linked with the mandala (magical diagram). It saw the inclusion of occult concepts woven intricately into the rapidly expanding pantheon of Buddha images of gods and goddesses.

The Dharma and the Kings of old Bengal

Bangladesh enjoyed the fruits of early Buddhist thought and art. Buddhism received enormous support during the Pala, Chandra and Deva rulers, devout Buddhists, who were responsible for erecting a cavalcade of commemorative monuments. Amongst them was the important university of Paharpur, now archaeological remains about 300 km from Dhaka. Along with Nalanda University in Bihar, India it was an important centre of Buddhist teaching. Other important archeological sites in Bangladesh are at Mahastangar, Comila, Mainamati, and Ramu.

Pillars, Sculpted Caves and the Pledge of a King

The earliest form of Buddhist architecture is visible in the sculpted caves, monastic retreats that were in effect temples of great spirituality. The caves at Udaygiri, Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri in Orissa and the Barabar caves in Bihar are an excellent example of how the art form developed. At Dhauli, the site of the great battle of Kalinga fought by King Ashoka, 8 km from Bhubaneswar, stands Ashoka’s rock edict revealing his pledge to become a Buddhist.

Stupas, Chortens, Chaityas, Viharas and Dzongs

The splendour of the stupas at Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Bodhnath, Nalanda and other important Buddhist sites are an evocative message of Buddha’s teachings. The Dhamekha stupa at Sarnath is a cylindrical structure dating to the golden age of the Guptas (320 AD). It features the typical floral design on stone of Gupta workmanship. Nepal’s Swayambhunath features traditional Nepalese architectural design with its tall steeple mounting the dome, representing the 13 Buddhist heavens.

Chortens and viharas, stupas in miniature, were originally meant to preserve the relics of the Buddha or great Buddhist teachers. Excellent examples of the early viharas were those at Vaishali, Rajgir and Shravasti. Some of the most powerful mahaviharas were Nalanda and Vikramshila in Bihar, India and Paharpur in Bangladesh.

In Bhutan the great dzongs were ideal for keeping precious Buddhist treasures and also as monastic retreats thanks to their isolation and invincibility. These imposing structures with their tapering walls, courtyards and galleries have been created with traditional designs handed down verbally from generation to generation, No nails mar their creation.

Buddhist Centres of Learning

With the advent of the Mahayana school, the world-renowned university of Nalanda became an important centre for Buddhist learning, along with Pahapur, attracting scholars from around the known world. Nalanda enjoyed the patronage of several dynasties of kings but was annihilated by the Turks in the 12th century. It’s an amazing experience walking across the vast grounds of the ruins with its great stupa and other monastic structures.

Sculptures & Paintings - Messengers of the Buddha

The first images of Buddha were formed at Gandhara and show decidedly Hellinistic features (defined by drapery and hairstyle) due to the trade and cultural links with Mediterranean Europe at the time. With the emergence of the Mathura school, close to Agra, the features of the Buddha became more indigenous, inspired by the traditional yakshis and yakshas sculptural forms. In Bhutan, and Nepal the elements of the highly symbolic Vajrayana Buddhist style of iconography, so popular in the 10th-11th century, were however discontinued around the 14th century in exchange for a less complex range of artistic vision but which still retained its vibrancy and colourful splendour.

The massive Mahasthangarh archeological remains (240 km from Dhaka) throw light on the development of Buddhist art and architectural leanings in Bangladesh. This fortified city of the 3rd century BC, extending over an 8 km radius, is the earliest documented urban civilization of Bangladesh. Within easy reach are the Buddhist ruins of Govind Bhita, Gokul Medh Stupa and the Vasu Vihara monastery. The greatest collection of early Pala sculptures have been found in the Paharpur monastic complex at the central temple of the renowned Somapura Mahavihara.

At the tomb of Saint Shah Sultan Mahi Swar Balkhi, were discovered 40 bronze statues representing Buddhist deities, and terracotta plaques with scenes from the Ramayana. The Mainamati Museum houses an extensive range of finds from these Buddhist sites. The Salban Vihara in the Mainamati-Lalmai hills has a complex of 115 cells around a central courtyard with its cruciform temple facing the gateway complex, resembles the Paharpur monastery. Kotila Mura houses three stupas representing the holy Trinity of Buddhism - the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. From Rupban Mura was recovered an early standing Buddha in abhaya mudra.

The yellow-bronze statuary of Bhutan reflects influences in bronze-casting from the craftsman who settled here from the eastern Tibetan province of Kham, in the 16th century. Bhutanese painters are still sought after to decorate religious buildings all over the region.

The splendid innovation in the use of colour and expressive elements of Buddhist art down the ages is amply recorded in the fabulous thangkas or religious paintings of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and the trans-Himalayan regions of India. Objects of veneration and an aid to meditation, thangkas are traditional scroll paintings on cotton cloth with vegetable and precious mineral dyes. Buddhas, Boddhisatvas, Taras and numerous estoteric subjects reflect the artist’s vision of his Buddhist world. Embellishments with the lotus motif and themes from the Jataka Tales (lives of the Buddha) are a recurring form of imagery and inspiration for paintings.

The fantastic range of Buddhist art and archaeology in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, carries the visitor on a splendid journey that marks some of the most evocative and dynamic aspects of the Buddhist faith. Time and tide have worked upon the measures of the emerging artistic trends, but at the core of it remain the Buddha’s basic tenets - of self-discipline and balance as a means to the ultimate goal of the human being - the release from the endless cycle of rebirth-pain and suffering and finding the great peace.

Giant Face-lift of World’s Tallest Buddha Statue
2001.04.18 16:25:03

   CHENGDU, April 17 (Xinhuanet) – Looking through the cobweb-shaped platforms wrapped around the head and chest of a 71 meter-tall  seated Buddha statue, the backs of repair experts’ are seen while  they are busy painting dark-red clay, which will be the new  lipstick on the Buddha’s huge mouth.
   Like a slow motion, another expert with a safety rope is sent  down in mid-air from the base of the 8 meter-long middle finger of the statue’s left hand to the statue’s 8.5 meter-high flat instep  of the left foot, where 100 people could sit. 
   This is just one scene of an ongoing facelift project on the 1, 280 year-old Buddha statue in Leshan, a city in southwest China’s  Sichuan Province.
   Carving of the Buddha started in 713 A.D. and was completed in  803 A.D., in the prosperous period of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
   The statue was included in the World Cultural Heritage List  under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural  Organization (UNESCO) in 1996.
   The Buddha statue, which sits on a cliff overlooking the  merging of the three rivers: Minjiang, Qingyijiang and Daduhe. The statue is 71 meters from top to bottom and 28 meters from left to  right. It is 18 meters higher than the standing Buddha statue at  Bamian Valley, Afghanistan, once thought to be the highest of its  kind in the world.
   Over the past 1,000 years, erosion has become a major threat to the statue. Owning to damage by natural environment changes and  human activities, six major repairs on the giant Buddha statue  have been carried out since ancient times.
   Before the largest repair project, which was initiated early  this month, Xinhua reporters visited the famous sitting Maitreya,  which looked in need of immediate repair and attention. 
   ”Some coiled bobs on the head of the statue fell down, weed  coated on its surface rocks, and the face was darkened,” the  reporters recalled.
   But the reporters visited it again this week and it looks very  shiny and new after two weeks of repair.
   The 1,000 color-faded bobs on the Buddha’s head have been  painted black, the drainage system has been dredged and the big  crack going from the right eye to the back of its head  has been  fixed. 
   ”The crack use to cause the Buddha to burst into tears on rainy days,” said Zeng Zhiliang, an engineer of ancient architecture,  who climbed up onto the 10-story-high statue everyday to conduct  repair work.
   When the reporters followed Zeng to have a closer look and  touch the Buddha’s cheek, they could feel the smoothness and  brightness of the repaired surface of its’ face. 
   The black spots on the face of the Buddha, caused by erosion  have disappeared after a thorough cleaning,” Zeng said.
   At the Buddha’s neck, which 60 meters high from the base of the statue, an expert is using a small hammer to carefully knock  mantlerocks, rocks which have become loose on the statue due to  erosion, away from the statue surface. With a safety rope, the  expert is crouching in the narrow space of the platform  constructed around the statue. 
   After knocking it free, he has to use a brush and water to wash the spot and piece it up with repair material. To achieve the  perfect result, this procedure has to be repeated three or four  times.
   According to Zeng, the experts also take photos on the  mantlerocks in order to set up archives on the statue’s original  form and the repair work done. 
   The most difficult parts in the face-lift are the giant facial  features, Zeng said, for example, the Buddha’s nose is the  combined size of several persons. 
   ”If there is no accurate technique and skills, harmonious  proportionment can be hardly realized,” he told the reporters.
   Tourists to the statue are also interested in asking questions  about the repair work. 
   ”How do you mix the face color of the Buddha,” asked Ney Johnn, a German tourist. 
   Zeng’s answer is that the statue was carved out of red  gritstone and covered by skin-color clay.
   ”Why don’t you use chemical paint as my country did on some  historical relics?” Johnn said. 
   Natural repair material, in the same color of the statue, is   being used, Zeng said, adding that it is a mixture of rocks,  charcoal, hemp and lime. 
   This is in accordance with China’s law on cultural relics that  chemical materials or cement are banned for repairing relics.
   Chinese leaders have paid close attention to the repair work.  The repair plan was made by the State Administration of Cultural  Heritage and seven universities and related cultural relics  protection research institutes across China. 
   The face-lift project has aroused great attention at home and  overseas. The UNESCO has sent experts to the repair site, the  World Bank has provided considerable loans and foreign media  coverage with Time magazine and New York Times being contacted to  cover the event.      
   A massive petition signing has been staged here to call for  efforts to be made to protect the statue. So far, more than 10,000 tourists signed their names on a scroll of silk 71 meters long.
   The Buddha statue management center said the drive has received a donation of over 300,000 yuan (about 36,000 US dollars) from  people from all walks of life.
   The first phase of the repair work will be completed by the end of April. An additional investment of 250 million yuan (about 30  million US dollars) will be used for the further repair on the  statue as well as a number of projects to build roads and highways and control pollution in the area. 
   Experts suggested that the statue should be inspected and  repaired every five years after this project is completed.   Enditem
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