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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 20:12 GMT 21:12 UK
India's 1,000 year Buddha underway

By Priyath Liyanage

Work has begun on a project to build the world's tallest Buddha statue in one of the poorest regions in India.

Organisers say the statue will last for 1,000 years.

The Maitreya project, in the northern province of Bihar, will also include a village complex on 16 hectares of land surrounding the holy Bodhgaya shrine.

Artist's impression of the statue
British engineers are helping with the statue
There will be monasteries, guesthouses, meditation pavilions, teaching facilities and countless holy objects. The surrounding area will benefit from modern hospitals and schools.

Organisers say the five-year project will cost around $200m, which will be raised through donations generated by an international network of offices in major cities around the world.

The 500-foot statue, designed and constructed by a group of eastern and western architects and engineers, will have a bronze outer shell supported by an inner steel framework.

The statue, which will be three times as tall as the statue of Liberty in New York, will be built using the latest technology. It will create more than 1,000 jobs for local people.

Tourism hopes

Income from tourism is projected to be huge as it is expected to attract Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world. One of the organisers, Venerable Manthabhani, told the BBC the Indian Government planned to build an airport nearby.

Bamiyan Buddha
Buddha destroyed in Afghanistan
The statue of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the future, is built according to specifications described in scriptures as told by Gautama Buddha who attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya 2,500 years ago.

Project organisers say they have not faced any resistance from the local community, which is mainly Hindu. Indian President K.R. Narayanan and the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have both given their approval.

The organisers see their task as having new meaning following the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan in March.

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | South Asia
Brits to build biggest Buddha
02 Apr 01 | South Asia
Buddha rubble 'up for sale'
15 Mar 01 | South Asia
Afghan Buddha destruction revealed
19 Mar 01 | South Asia
Footage shows Buddhas blast
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bosnia asks for ruined Buddhas
11 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bamiyan: Wonder of the ancient world
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