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. Although 8ft is the most common height as it is the most suitable for rail use.
All new containers to be approved, and in Britain the necessary legislation is described in the Freight Containers (Safety Convention) Regulations 1984. These also apply to used containers, but not to their inspection and maintenance while in use.
Each container must display a plate that includes essential information about the safe use of the container, such as maximum stacking height and safe load.
There is no internationally agreed inspection and maintenance regime for containers once in use. In practice, other than rust removal, repainting and the greasing of door hinges and locking mechanisms, there is little preventative maintenance that can be carried out.
In Britain, the Provision and Use of Workplace Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires that all equipment used in the workplace is suitable for its intended use, is safe and is maintained and inspected in an appropriate manner to ensure it remains safe.
These regulations adequately cover the requirements for the use and maintenance of ISO containers, and similar laws exist throughout the EU and in other developed parts of the world.
It is the responsibility of the organisation dispatching a container to ensure it is safe for use throughout its journey, and also that it is loaded in a safe manner.
Containers used for the carriage of dangerous goods and flammable liquids or gases do have very clear and stringent maintenance and test requirements.
Bob Cubitt, Northampton.
QUESTION Is there anything left of the old village of Heathrow, or did it all eventually disappear with the development of the airport? FURTHER to the earlier answer, my uncle, Fred Greenhalgh, worked for the Air Ministry as a civil engineer during World War II and was part of a team involved in building the new 'air strip' that became Heathrow Airport towards the end of the war.
He was responsible for its design and conception from the plans provided by the government.
He told me that the plans were for an important, modern new RAF airbase, and his team were given basic specifications to work from.
He said none of those involved believed the project -- which was top secret -- could be for a military establishment as the dimensions for the new runway were far larger than any they had worked on.
I assume the project 'top secret' classification was due to the potential for controversy over building aircraft runways over areas of natural beauty. But as the project was part of the 'war effort' it went ahead unchallenged.
Peter Berry, Bolton.
QUESTION In the Seventies, the Royal Navy had two narrowboats cruising the canal network on recruiting duties. One was painted to look like a submarine, the other a battleship. Do they still exist? FURTHER to the earlier answer, despite the RN's innovative recruitment drive, it was not regarded as a success.
These narrowboats were a popular visitor attraction, bringing in 200,000 people in a six-month period each year from 1973-77, but unfortunately recruitment figures remained static.
Lt Commander Charles Gidley Wheeler, who was reluctantly put in charge of the project in 1975, explained: 'Frankly, I think the canal fleet was a bit of a waste of taxpayers' money, as it tended to attract children aged between six and 12.' It seems the boats were not reaching their target audience i.e. those of school-leaving age.
Gary Holden, Caernarfon, Gwynedd.
QUESTIONS Q: Who was 'Great Scott'? QAllan Willie, Glasgow. : Does anyone know the oldest documented racehorse ever to run under National Hunt or flat racing rules on a UK racecourse? Jim Clowes, Hailsham, E. Sussex.
Q: When did 'procurement' become something good rather than morally reprehensible? Andrew Heaton, East Barnet, Herts.
Imposing: The giant statue of Buddha at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Big Buddha's Watching. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: October 9, 2012. Page number: 57. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.