Tuesday, November 06, 2007

making buddhas

the thai temple in sarnath has a major effort underway to build a large –a very large – statue of buddha. the work is now in progress, and indeed has been since i was here last year. across the temple grounds are scattered massive chunks of lovely pink stone, most carved smooth on one or two sides, and some still looking as if they have only just been hacked out of a mountain. only the head and feet have been assembled and lie, appropriately enough, at opposite ends of the stone sprawl. already the faithful have begun offering small squares of gold leaf to the serene face of the buddha, which sits protected by a simple tent canopy. the feet have not received the same attention, but someone perhaps with a sense for symbolism has placed the feet at the base of a shade tree.

each stone that will comprise the body now lies scattered between the head and the feet, and each piece is marked with numbers. looking at these marks, i think of the other large stone images i have seen at various sites around india, and am suddenly transported by a leap of imagination to their process of construction. i see them too, carted in in separate chunks, lain across the earth, marked according to an elaborate master plan, and painstakingly carved under the watchful eye of the master sculptor.

nearby work has begun to erect the central post – what tibetans call the life tree or srog shing – that will serve as the spine of this imposing image (see right side of photo.) this life tree is made of steel beams and poured concrete. it is around this central support that the body of this buddha will at last come together, with the joyful raising up of these now earth-bound bits of stone. from the position of these two feet, planted firmly soles-down on the earth, it looks as if this buddha image will either be a standing figure, which would make it dizzyingly tall, or perhaps another maitreya figure, seated western style. there are no thais around for me to ask about this, just an aged hindi-speaking caretaker and sculptors, so it is again my imagination that must do the construction of the final form. and that form soars up, up high above the village to survey this land where buddha shakyamuni first taught. this towering new image of buddha seems perfectly content. and it is breathtaking.

3 comments:

gujugalpal said...

Great pics and article. Keep us updated on the progress. I'd love to see how far along it is by the time yout leave...

gujugalpal said...

The head is just beautiful...Quite lovely and serene! Thanks for the e-darshan!

damchö said...

most welcome, gujugalpal. but please do not expect to see it standing tall anytime soon. the work has already been in progress for at least a year and a half (since feb 2006)!