Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who can build me the biggest Buddha?

The head's all that's left of this Buddha in Ayuthaya, Thailand. It's been here for a few centuries and nature has been trying to re-absorb

When you go to far East Asia, most places tend to have a lot of Buddha statues. The predominantly Catholic Philippines remains an exception, but 'communist' China is all about getting in on the Buddha bandwagon. And while, I suspect, Buddhism tends to generally discourage competition (especially when it comes to depicting Buddha himself), this hasn't really stopped everyone from trying to build bigger and bigger statues. Some time when I was in Burma (which really likes to build things on a grand scale), I started thinking about some of the biggest statues I've come across. And now that I'm back, and have access to my entire photo library again, let's share what I've come up with with the blogosphere. Note: the list is by no means scientific, and I don't even know the actual measurements of most of these statues, it's just the way I had remembered the Buddhas when I had first seen them... I also like how Lord Buddha looks significantly different as you move from country to country...

So, without further adieu, we'll start with:

#1: The cute and adorable, vaguely life-size Buddhas

From left to right: The Emerald Buddha at the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand; The slightly spacy looking Buddha at the Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos; and a very happy rotund Buddha in Kunming, China.

#2: Let's see what we find in this cave

A reclining, napping stone Buddha in the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India

#3: Bangkok chimes in with an imposing sitting statue

A golden seated Buddha at Wat Suthat in Bangkok, Thailand

#4: Mongolia is also re-discovering its Buddhist roots ever since the Soviet Union has withdrawn its influence

A white stone statue sitting just off the road in Darkhan, Mongolia

#5: reclining Buddhas are hard to judge, since they are not standing up, but they are nonetheless impressive, and giant

This may have been one of the biggest statues of any sort I had seen at the time - a huge reclining Golden Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

#6: I only spent one day in Sri Lanka, but that was plenty of time to come across a very serene and flexible Buddha
A statue in the park in the center of Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo

#7: Japan's not to be outdone!

The slightly weathered statue of Amida Buddha on the grounds of Kotoku-in Temple in Kamikura, Japan. This has so far been the only Buddha statue I've been able to walk inside of...

#8: The Burmese love a good competition, especially if the winner is determined by quantity, or sheer size

Things in Bagan, Burma, home of over 5,000 temples, really are on a whole different scale, so this massive Buddha statue, barely fitting inside of the Ma-nu-ha Temple is right at home

#9: Commence the heavy weight division!

Hong Kong didn't strike me as a particularly religious place, but the nearby island of Lantau is nonetheless crowned by a large statue of a sitting Buddha - the Tian Tan Buddha. Hong Kong being Hong Kong, of course, it's mostly just a tourist attraction

#10: Modern Technology to the Rescue!

This is the Naung Daw Gyi Mya Tha Lyaung in Bago, Burma. It was only built in the past twenty years, likely making it a lot easier to construct this giant relic. There was apparently a different reclining Buddha, a mere block away - that one was much older, and slightly bigger, but we didn't expect to keep looking for another huge reclining Buddha after finding this one!

#11: more from Japan
The Todai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan is the largest wooden building in the world, and today, it's only a third of the size it used to be at its peak a few centuries ago. Inside, there's a number of imposing (and sometimes angry) statues, headlined by the massive seated Virocana Buddha

#12: And the winner is...

The 45 meter tall Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha on the island of Phuket in Thailand rules over the surrounding islands and countryside. It is not yet quite finished, unfortunately, but it's just the details that remain - the huge structure itself is already in place.

If we were to be a little more scientific about it, things get very complicated very quickly as there are categories for standing Buddhas, and sitting Buddhas, and reclining Buddhas... and some have pedestals, while others do not, so it's hard to judge. The Taliban has also taken the liberty of destroying one of the biggest Buddha statues in the world in the mountains of Afghanistan - the Buddhas of Bamyan. The Leshan Giant Buddha, outside of Leshan City, China seems to be generally accepted as the biggest Buddha statue in the world at 71 meters in height - then again, it's unclear what the criteria are, as on this list it only comes in at number eleven. Everyone does seem to agree that the Maitreya Buddha in Uttar Pradesh, India will eventually become the biggest Buddha statue in the world (152 meters tall), but they are still working on it, and considering that it is India, I wouldn't hold out too much hope for a speedy completion.

In the mean time, if you'd like a Buddha of your own, to, say, decorate a backyard, the Thais have been perfecting their Buddha transportation techniques:

Buddha on a truck in Bangkok, Thailand - getting ready to hit the road!


b mathew said...

Fascinating stuff!

Ricky Peterson said...

Nice photo and information. Statue of Buddha is sited at Polonnaruwa. It is located at a distance of 216 km from the city of Colombo and also to the south east of Anuradhapura. You can see Gal Vihare, Sculpture of Great King Parakramabahu, Nelum Pokuna, The Vatadage, Atadage, Ran Kot Vehera, Pabulu Vehera, Potgul Vihara. To know more details refer Reclining Buddha

Wai Lynn Oo said...

Can i use your images in my website?