Big Buddha's Watching

Daily Mail (London), October 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Big Buddha's Watching


QUESTION In 2000, there was a plan to build a 500ft statue of the Buddha in the Indian city of Bodh Gaya. Was it completed? THERE is a long tradition of celebrating the life of the Buddha with monumental statues, and the earliest and greatest of these were the Buddhas of Bamiyan in the Hazarajat of Afghanistan.

These were the giant standing Buddhas Vairocana and Sakamuni that were 180ft and 121ft (55m and 37m) high respectively.

The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, with details modelled in mud mixed with straw and coated in stucco. But in a staggering act of vandalism, they were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, who declared they were 'idols'.

Bodh Gaya is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in the Indian state of Bihar. It's famous as the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

As one of the key stops on the Buddhist pilgrimage, in the early Eighties it was decided to build a monumental statue there.

Carved from sandstone and red granite, the completed structure stands at 82ft (25m) and is very impressive.

It was consecrated by the Dalai Lama on November 18, 1989.

But its building sparked something off a competitive streak among Buddhists, and many monumental Buddha statues have been built since its completion.

The four tallest statues in the world are all Buddhas. The Boddhisattva Guanyin of the South Sea of Sanya (2005), on the south coast of China's island Hainan Province, is 354ft (108m) tall; the Ushiku Daibutsu (1995), a statue depicting the Amithaba Buddha, in Japan is 360 ft (110 m), the Laykyun Setkyar (Standing Buddha, 2008) in Myanmar is 381ft (116m) and the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan Province, China, is the tallest statue in the world at 420 ft (120 m).

However, an even taller statue of the Buddha was proposed by the Maitreya Project, an international organisation that has operated since 1990. It wanted to build a 500ft Maitreya Buddha costing [euro]185million that would last 1,000 years.

But the project ran into trouble when farmers refused to relinquish the 700 acres of land required.

So in 2005, the foundation chose another holy site 320km north at Kushinagar, in Uttar Pradesh. Despite offering an international airport and 'landscaped park housing, a cathedral, monastery, convent, guesthouse, library and food halls', this scheme, too, was hotly opposed by local landowners and critics who thought it would be a monument to capitalism. Locals embarked on a peaceful protest in the form of a dharna or fast.

In 2010, the Cabinet Secretary of Uttar Pradesh announced its 'reconsideration of support for the project' and the fate of the Maitreya project remains uncertain.

Keya Anand, Dunstable, Beds.

QUESTION There has been talk recently of reviving Ireland's sugar beet industry.

What became of our old sugar beet factories in Carlow and Mallow? Have they been taken over or knocked down, or are they lying vacant and potentially operational? THE last two sugar beet factories in Ireland were closed down in the middle of the last decade when sugar beet growing and processing ended. Carlow's sugar beet factory closed down in March 2005, and the site was cleared in 2007 with the demolition of the plant.

Elaborate redevelopment plans were made, but nothing materialised.

The last sugar beet factory to be operational, in Mallow, north Co. Cork, was closed down by Greencore the next year, and was mothballed, although the chances of it going back into production, even if the sugar beet industry is revived, are remote.

Previous sugar beet factories were closed down at Tuam, Co. Galway at the beginning of 1987, and the Thurles plant was shut shortly afterwards.

Ireland's first sugar beet factory opened in Mountmellick, Co. …

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