The Maitreya Project, Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India
…The World’s tallest statue and a brilliant religious masterpiece dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha!
Now, another great religious project has officially been given the go-ahead in one of the poorest parts of India. The Maitreya Project is a tribute to Buddhism for and from the land of the Buddha and is as a multi-faith cooperative designed by Tibetans who call India their home as as a lasting gift to India and Buddhism.
In this era of veritable skyscraper-hedonism (*cough*Dubai*coughh* j/k), this project is unique in that it is designed to fulfill a completely selfless goal, namely “to benefit as many people as possible.” A monumental sustainable work of art that will serve as a constant source of inspiration and a symbol of loving-kindness, work will soon begin on the 152 meter-tall Maitreya Buddha Statue that is the centerpiece of a large temple complex.
An engineering marvel that at will not only be — at three times the size of the Statue of Liberty — the world’s tallest statue and world’s tallest temple but will also be the world’s largest (first?) statue-skyscraper, designed to have a lifespan surpassing a 1,000 years.
For more information and a large collection of pictures of this beautiful project originally posted by me on Skyscrapercity.com, read on!…
The focal point of Indian architecture, like its culture, has always been religious in nature. Just as the Indian economic boom is bringing incredible economic and architectural growth in the secular area, so has Indian religious architecture once again become manifest in the construction of some of the largest, massive, and most intricate religious architecture the world has seen, from the recently completed Akshardham Temple, New Delhi — the largest volume Hindu Temple in India, to the under construction Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai — the largest stupa, largest dome, and largest rock cave in the world, to the planned Sri Mayapur Vedic Temple and Planetarium, Mayapur, the world’s tallest Hindu temple.
And now the Maitreya Buddha Statue is to be another gem added to this crow. The statue is a veritable temple-skyscraper that will contain 17 individual shrine rooms. The highest room at 140 meters high — the equviliant height of the 40th storey of a standard building. This statue and complex will be a fusion of Indian and Tibetan architectural styles that will adhere to ancient Vaastu Shastra design code and will also hold the world’s largest collection of Lord Buddha’s relics.
^ A cutaway view of the 152 meter Maitreya statue and throne building showing the spaces and levels within. Note that the throne itself will be a 17 storey fully functional temple, with 15 additional shrine rooms in the the body of the Maitreya statue.
Apart from the statue/skyscraper, the Maitreya Project organizers will also build free hospitals and schools servicing tens of thousands of poor, and also be a huge catalyst for infrastructure and tourism development efforts in one of the most economically backwards parts of India.
The project is a joint religious collaboration by organizations representing the various sects and faiths that revere the Buddha: from Hinduism to Mahayana to Vajrayana to Hinayana to Jaina to Christian and Muslim. Under guidance of the overall project conceptualizer, Nepalese-Tibetan spiritual leader Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Project was funded by Buddhist and Hindu temples, social organizations, religious groups and by individuals in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, the UK and America.
Through this project, India once again shows that the ancient arts of massive devotional architecture continues to undergo a veritable renaissance.
The Maitreya Complex: Project Detail
The Maitreya Project “is based on the belief that inner peace and outer peace share a cause and effect relationship and that loving-kindness leads to peace at every level of society — peace for individuals, families, communities and the world.”
The entire temple complex is designed to be completely sustainable, meaning that it will quite literally have the same environmental impact (i.e. emit the same amount of carbon dioxide and methane) as the paddy field it will be constructed.
The Project will include schools and universities that focus on ethical and spiritual development as well as academic achievement, and a healthcare network based around a teaching hospital of international standard with the intention of supplementing the medical services currently provided by the government to provide healthcare services, particularly for the poor and underprivileged.
As such, the Maitreya Project organizers are working in tandem with the local, regional and state governments in Uttar Pradesh, India, who have fully supported the project. To this effect, the Kushinagar Special Development Area Authority will support the planned development of the area surrounding the Project.
The total project cost is estimated at $250 million, but the project will develop this impoverished region and will earn a hundredfold more that will be funneled into the Maitreya Project’s historical preservation plans and charities.
^ Maitreya Project engineers on-site
The Location of the Maitreya Complex
The Maitreya Buddha project was originally concieved to be built in Bodh Gaya, Bihar state, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, but due to threat of delays due to red tape, was moved to what was seen to be a more appropriate location, the village of Kushinagar, in Uttar Pradesh state.
Kushinagar is a place of great historical and spiritual significance. It is the place where Shakyamuni (Historical) Buddha passed away and it is predicted to be the birthplace of the next Buddha, Maitreya – the Buddha of Loving-kindness – of whom this temple is dedicated to.
Recognising the long-term benefits Maitreya Project is bringing to the region, the State Government of Uttar Pradesh is providing, free of charge, 750 acres of mainly agricultural land in Kushinagar.
Indeed, the Project itslef will be located adjacent to the ancient Mahaparinirvana Temple, commemorating the Buddha’s passing, the ancient Ramabhar Stupa, commemorating the Buddha’s cremation site, as well as several equally old and older Hindu temples. It is predicted that the pilgrimage, tourism and development capital that will flow into this region because of this project will created sustainable income for the restoration, refurbishment and maintinance of these ancient sacred sites.
Surrounding the complex is the Kushinagar Special Development Area, designed as a sustainable development entity that will coordinate the various organizations involved in the project and surrounding tourist and general development that will come with the project.
The Kushinagar Special Development Area
The Maitreya Project and the Uttar Pradesh have worked together to create the Kushinagar Special Development Area (KSDA), an additional area of 7.5 kilometres surrounding the Maitreya Project site.
Municipal bylaws and planning regulations have now been adopted to protect the KSDA from the kind of opportunism that is often seen in communities of emerging economic development. Maitreya Project has representation on the legal bodies governing the KSDA as well as the work of monitoring the development of the region will be ongoing.
It is within the KSDA that Maitreya Project will implement its extensive healthcare and education programmes.
Maitreya Project Preliminary Site Plan
Maitreya Project’s lead architects, Aros Ltd., have drawn up a preliminary proposed plan for the beautiful 750 acre Kushinagar site.
Main features being:
- The Ceremonial Gateway & Maitreya Statue Sanctuary will lead visitors to the 500ft/152m Maitreya Buddha statue.
- The Maitreya Buddha Statue will sit on the Throne Building containing temples, prayer halls, exhibition halls, a museum, library and audio-visual theatre.
- The Hospital and Healthcare Centre will be the hub of Maitreya Project’s public healthcare programmes. The development of these programmes will begin with primary care clinics in the communities of the Kushinagar Special Development Area. Over the years, the medical services will be developed and expanded to meet the needs of many communities. A complete healthcare network will be developed to provide medical services that are centred around a teaching hospital of international standard. The healthcare system will primarily serve the poor and under-privileged, even in remote parts of the area.
- The Centre of Learning, will eventually serve students from primary to university levels of education.
- The Meditation Park will be a secluded area next to the ancient Mahaparinirvana Temple, which commemorates Buddha Shakyamuni’s passing away from our world, the ancient Ramabhar Stupa, commemorating the Buddha’s holy cremation site, and monasteries and temples belonging to many different traditions of Buddhism that include both modern facilities and ancient ruins.
All of these features will be set in beautifully landscaped parks with meditation pavilions, beautiful water fountains and tranquil pools. All of the buildings and outdoor features will contain an extensive collection of inspiring sacred art.
The Statue of the Maitreya Buddha
The center of the Maitreya Project, of course, is the bronze plate statue of the Maitreya Buddha itself. Rising 500ft/152m in height, the statue will sit on a stone throne temple building located in an enclosed sanctuary park.
The Living Wall:
Surrounding the Maitreya Buddha statue is a four-storey halo of buildings called the “Living Wall.” This ring of buildings contains accomadation for the complex’s monks and workers as well as rooms for functions ancillary to the statue and throne building.
The wall also serves two additional important functions. In light of cross-border Islamist terrorist attacks against Indian holy sites in Ayodhya, Akshardham and Jama Masjid, the Living Wall also is designed to be a security cordon eqivalent to a modern castle wall, staffed with security personnel and designed to withstand an attack from 200 heavily armed raiders.
^ Prerendering of the Statue showing the location of the living wall, main gate, paths and garden areas.
The final major function it performs is that of the boundary for the enclosed sanctuary area of landscaped gardens, pools and fountains for meditation directly surrounding the Maitreya statue. The entry to the enclosed sanctuary and the Maitreya statue will be serviced by a main gate.
^ The tree and stupa lined paths to the ceremonial gate, which is the entrance to the sanctuary.
Passing the ceremonial gate, landscaped paths allow devotes to do Pradakshina (circumambulation) of the Maitreya Statue.
^ The terraced circumambulation paths, with the gate in the background.
Within the sanctuary, the gardens provide a place for relaxing, resting, and meditating, with educational artwork depicting the Buddha’s life.
^ A view towards the statue from one of these stupa lined terraces.
Walking further inward, the is Maitreya Statue and Throne Temple, surrounded by tranquil ponds and fountains that will cool the area in the intense Indian summer.
^ The Maitreya statue and throne surrounded by the tranquil ponds containing Buddha statues of the meditation sanctuary.
The Throne Temple:
The “seat” of the statue is itelf a fully functioning 17-storey temple roughly 80m x 50m in size. The building will contain two very large prayer halls, as well as meditation and meeting rooms, a library and facilities to deal with the anticipated annual influx of 2 million visitors.
^ The entrance to the throne building with the Maitreya Buddha statue resting upon the lotus on top
Pilgrims will enter the throne temple through the giant lotus that supports the Maitreya Buddha statue’s feet. The throne temple contains several entrance rooms that contain works of art on the Buddha’s life and teachings.
Continuing inward is the cavernous main auditorium of the Maitreya Temple containing the Sanctum Sanctorum which in Indian architectural tradition is the innermost most sacred room where the actual shrine is held. This Sanctum Sanctorum is unique in that within it contains two large auditorium temples.
The first temple in the Sanctum Sanctorum is the Temple of the Maitreya Buddha, containing a huge, 12 meter tall statue of the Buddha.
^ Upon entering the Sanctum Sanctorum, the 12 meter tall statue of the Buddha can be glimpsed.
A wall containing 200,000 images of the Buddhas rises up to the throne ceiling over 50 metres above, behind both auditorium temples.
^ A glimpse from the ambulatory of the side walls within the Maitreya Temple and the 1,000 paintings of the Buddhas.
The centerpiece shrine of the Maitreya Temple is the 12 meter tall Maitreya Buddha. Stairs and elevators lead to viewing platforms around the Maitreya Temple, allowing views of the entire room
^ A view of the Maitreya Buddha statue and the wall of the 200,000 images of the Buddha, seen from viewing platforms.
The next biggest shrine in the Sanctum Sanctorum is the Temple of the Shakyamuni Buddha which contains a 10 meter statue of the Shakyamuni (Historical) Buddha. Behind the shrine is the continuation of the wall of 200,000 Buddhas.
^ On a higher level yet again, the Shakyamuni Temple will house a 10 metre (33 ft.) statue of the historical Buddha. The glass rear wall will reveal the wall of 200,000 Buddhas within the Maitreya Temple.
^ Another view of the Shakyamuni Temple.
In Indian architecture, the Sanctum Sanctorum is encircled by a pathway that allows devotees to do Pradakshina (circumambulation) of the shrine. The Maitreya Temple, following this tradition, also has this feature.
^ The main throne building and Pradakshina path where visitors may circumambulate Sanctum Sanctorum of the Maitreya Temple, which can be seen through the doorways on the right
From this area, elevators and staircases will carry visitors to the various other rooms in the 17 storey base, including prayer halls, meditation halls and libraries. Eventually conveying devotees to a large rooftop garden terrace upon which the Maitreya Buddha statue actually rests.
Here, rising into the upper legs of the main statue, is the Merit Field Hall with a 10 meter, 3-dimensional depiction of over 390 Buddhas and Buddhist masters at it’s center. Surrounding this will be 12 individual shrine rooms devoted to particular deities in the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon.
^ The Merit Field Hall with its 10m, 3-D depiction.
From the garden terrace, another bank of elevators will whisk pilgrims to the higher shrine rooms contained in the statue’s torso and head.
The statue will contain 15 individual shrine rooms and have a total height of 152 meters, with the highest shrine room in the statue’s head, at over 140 meters up. This is roughly equivalent in height to a 40-storey skyscraper.
^ A cutaway diagram of the statue-tower.
The statue is itself an engineering marvel. Rather than simply be designed in its massive size, the statue of the Maitreya Buddha was actually reversed-designed from a carved statue only a meter and half in height and the structure’s engineering extrapolated into its current form.
^ The original statue from which the Maitreya Buddha statue tower is extrapolated from was hand carved, and is in the Indian Gupta style.
Moreover, the statue is designed to stand for at least 1,000 years, supporting the Project’s spiritual and social work for at least a millennium. Due to the statue’s millenia-passing lifespan, the huge structure is designed to withstand high winds, extreme temperature changes, seasonal rains, possible earthquakes and floods and environmental pollution.
Extensive research has gone into developing “Nikalium”, the special nickel-aluminum bronze alloy to be used for the outer ‘skin’ of the statue designed to withstand the most challenging conditions that could conceivably arise.
As the bronze ‘skin’ will expand and contract dramatically due to daily temperature changes, the statue will require special expansion joints that were designed to be not only invisible to the observer, but also in such a way as to protect the internal supports of the statue from water leakage, erosion and corrosion. The material and structural components of the statue are meant to be able to withstand potential unforseen disasters like earthquakes and monsoon flooding.
^ The engineering process of the Buddha statue.
Construction Status — June, 2007
The Maitreya Project recently passed its first major milestone this month, when, in compliance with the Indian Land Acquistion Act, the State Government of Uttar Pradesh has completed the necessary legal requirements for the acquisition of the 750 acre land site to be made available to the Project.
While there are still permissions and clearances to be obtained, it has now officially given the green light and the full support of the government.
It is expected that the Project will formally break ground either later this year or early 2008, with an expected construction time of five years. The project will employ more than a thousand skilled and semi-skilled workers in the construction phase.
For more information on this fantastic project, check out
Sorry for the length of the post, but I wanted this veritable essay to be a comprehensive introduction to what Maitreya Project organizers aim to literally be the 8th Wonder of the World, and an everlasting symbol of Religious Syncretism, Tolerance, Compassion and most of all, Love.
A cause truely fitting of the Buddha, Shakya Muni Sri Siddharth Gautamaji.