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Bhutan to have the tallest statue of Lord Buddha
Bhutan will have the largest and the tallest statue of Lord Buddha ever to be built in the world. The 169-feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, Vajra Throne Buddha, symbolising indestructibility, and seated on a vajra throne, will be erected at Kuensel Phodrang in Changbangdu, overlooking the capital city.
Now in ruins, Kuensel Phodrang was once the palace of the 13th Desi Sherab Wangchuk. It is located some 100 metres above Thimphu on a slope.

Approved by His Majesty the King and the government, the Buddha Dordenma project is being initiated by the chairman of Menjong Chhothuen Tshogpa, Lam Tshering Wangdi, to commemorate the hundred years of monarchy in 2007.

In order to fit the structure exactly on a one-acre land the foundation and the concrete structures, which will support the statue, will be built as soon as the government clears the five-kilometer approach road.

"The government will also provide electricity and water supply," said Lam Tshering Wangdi. "We are still waiting for the government to start the work."

The Buddha statue will overlook the capital city
A model of the proposed statue
Within the gigantic bronze structure including the thri (throne) there will be enough space to house 17 storeys of different lhakhangs.
In the first two storeys, which are both 15 feet high there will be 25,000 images of 12-inch Buddha Dordenma. "Made of copper and gilded in gold they will be displayed around the walls of the meditation hall inside the throne," Lam Tshering Wangdi said. "The names of the individual sponsors of the statues will be engraved on copper-plate with powder coating."

The first storey, which surrounds the centre, will house eight 10-feet standing bodhisattvas, the miracle sons of Buddha Shakyamuni.

The second storey surrounding the centre pillar will have eight more 10-feet sitting Medicinal Buddhas.

The third storey inside the lotus seat will house six-feet high 16 arahats, King Hashang (Maitreya Bodhisattva), Dharmata Tiger, Sutra Holder and the four direction kings. In the centre chamber will be seated the main Buddha Shakyamuni.

The rooms from the third storey till the top will accommodate 100,000 statues of eight-inch Buddha Dordenma made of copper and gilded in gold placed in multi-layered grid-boxes. "We will accept donations from interested individuals for these eight-inch statues as well," said Lam Tshering Wangdi. "The names of the donors will be inscribed separately on copper-plates, and displayed in the meditation hall."

The Bhutanese master sculptors had built a 12-meter high model statue of the Buddha and given it to a Chinese company, Aerosun Corporation in Nanjing, China. The work on the bronze statue began towards the end of 2004. To make sure that the statue is given a Bhutanese look, the master sculptors who made the model are frequently visiting China. The contract was given to the Aerosun Corporation for US$ 20 million, which includes shipping the 600-tonne statue to Bhutan after its completion in 2007 and assembling it at Kuensel Phodrang.

Another 10 acres of land will be required to build public galleries, restaurants, large parking spaces, camping grounds, dharamsalas and quarters for monks.

Lam Tshering Wangdi said that before the contract was handed over to the Chinese company, the proposal was taken to other Asian countries like India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. "But they all declined the offer stating that it was too big a structure and would be impossible to complete it within three years," said Lam Tshering.

Lam Tshering later heard of a similar bronze statue of about 86 feet built in Nanjing by the same Chinese company. The company was a major manufacturer of bronze and copper, which are ideal and cheap material to build statues. The company further reduced the cost of building the statue by US$ 5.0 million, according to Lam Tshering Wangdi.

The statue is expected to be a major pilgrimage centre and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world to converge, practice, meditate and retreat.

"It is also meant to fulfill the prophecy of bestowing blessings, universal peace and happiness to the world as a whole," Lam Tshering Wangdi said. "I have taken this initiative in accordance with Lam Sonam Zangpo's prophecy, a renowned yogi, who said that construction of a statue either of Guru, Buddha or Phurba in this region would bring stability, peace and prosperity in the country."

A Singaporean billionaire, Rinchen Peter Teo, is the main sponsor of the project.

This article was contributed by Rinzin Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
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