Big Buddha's Watching

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

Big Buddha's Watching


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION In 2000, the Mail ran an article about the proposed construction of a 500ft 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 360ft (110m), 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 420ft (120m).

The statue mentioned by the Mail in 2000 was proposed by the Maitreya Project, an international organisation which has operated since 1990. It wanted to build a 500ft Maitreya Buddha costing [pounds sterling]150 million that would last 1,000 years.

To achieve this, engineers proposed a steel truss structure coated with 'about 6,000 aluminiumbronze panels ... cast from resinbonded sand moulds'.

But the project ran into trouble when local farmers refused to relinquish the 700 acres of land required. So in 2005, the foundation chose another holy site 200 miles 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 his 'reconsideration of support for the project' and the fate of the Maitreya project remains uncertain.

Keya Anand, Dunstable, Beds.

QUESTION Is there some type of 'MoT' test for international shipping containers to avoid them falling apart on the quayside? THE ISO container is now the standard means of shipping freight around the world by sea.

ISO stands for International Standards Organisation, which defines the standard dimensions for these containers to make sure they fit neatly on top of each other, regardless of who makes them, and that they fit onto the lorries and rail trucks that take them to and from the docks.

Containerisation went through many stages before two Americans, Malcolm McLean and Keith Tantlinger, designed the first intermodal container in 1955. This was intended to be carried by rail, road or sea.

The first international standard was introduced in 1968. There are now five standard sizes, ranging from 20ft to 53ft in length. The standard width is 8ft, but there is no standard for height. …

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