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State to go big on Buddha

- 108-ft statue to come up on hill at Neulpur

Bhubaneswar, June 15: A 108-feet statue of Lord Buddha will shortly come up on a hill at Neulpur, which is 3km from Chandikhol in Jajpur district and 76km from here. The hill is popular as the gateway to the Buddhist tourism circuit of Odisha.

Three major Buddhist sites — Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri — are located in the area.

The towering ferro-cement and fibre statue being crafted by Hindustan Steel Construction Limited would be visible to those taking the NH-5 connecting Calcutta and Chennai, and the express highway connecting Sukinda and Paradip port.

Buddha devotees getting down at Haridaspur railway station in Jajpur would also be able to see it from the station.

Most of them arrive at the station by the Mahaparinirvan Express (a special Buddhist circuit train that covers most parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha). Neulpur is located at 1,500ft above sea level. The proposed statue will be surrounded by miniature models of major Buddhist shrines in the state set in a landscaped garden.

“Though Odisha is well known for its Buddhist heritage, there is not a single iconic statue of Buddha anywhere in the state,” tourism secretary Arvind Padhee told The Telegraph.

“The Buddhist park near the statue will have a prayer hall,” he added.

A senior tourism department official said: “The placement of the giant statue on the hills will help in the publicity of Odisha as a major Buddhist destination.”

Mrutyunjay Tripathy, a frequent traveller, said: “In the south Asian countries, one finds iconic Buddha statues in almost all cities. Being so closely associated with the Buddhism, the state should have one to attract more tourists.”

“We have met experts of the construction company on a couple of occasions, and they will file the feasibility report shortly. Once it is submitted, formalities for the work will begin,” said an official.

The company’s project head Kaushik Mohanty said: “We have carried out several such projects in places such as Solophok and Gangtok in Sikkim. While the Buddha statue at Solophok is 108-ft high, the Shiv statue in Gangtok is 130-ft high.”

Sources said the 108-feet Buddha statue in sitting posture would have the three basic features following scriptures — a throne, lotus and the main statue. It will weigh about 80 tonnes and the state government will spend around Rs 16 crore on the project.

Earlier, the government had planned to have the statue installed at Deuli on the same route near the Neulapur hills, but the hill’s height did not meet the requirement. Besides, there is an ancient excavated structure atop the hill. On the other hand, the Neulapur hill is quite high and free of all encumbrances.

A huge Buddha statue was earlier planned at the Buddha Jayanti Park of Niladri Vihar in Bhubaneswar and a sleeping Buddha statue opposite the Dhauli Craft Bazar on the Dhauli Hills.

While the Buddha Jayanti Park project could not progress due to lack of funds with the Bhubaneswar Development Authority, the Dhauli statue is yet to be completed.

For the iconic Buddha statue at Neulpur, the state government had floated an expression of interest on May 29, 2012.


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