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Southeast Asia's largest sitting Buddha opens in Kelantan
AFP, September 9, 2001

Kota Bahru -- Southeast Asia's largest sitting Buddha was formally inaugurated today in Islamic opposition-ruled state of Kelantan amid a debate over Islamic extremism.

Orange-robed monks chanted prayers and lit two giant candles to inaugurate the 30-metre-high, 47-metre-wide statue of Buddha sitting cross-legged in a meditation pose atop Wat Machimmaram temple in sleepy Tumpat town in the eastern state.

The ceremony kicked off a week-long festival that will culminate on Sept 16, when the brown Buddha with pure gold lips will have his giant, tear-drop-shaped "heart" installed.

Hundreds of ethnic Chinese, who make up less than five percent of Kelantan's 1.4 million people, burned joss sticks and stuck thin gold foils on the Buddha's heart, which is being displayed on a makeshift stage.

They also inserted a pair of needles made of pure silver and gold into the hollow of the heart, symbolising a release of their attachment to worldly wealth and rejecting greed and hatred.

Some 100,000 worshippers from as far as Thailand, Singapore and Sri Lanka, plus 500 Thai monks, are expected to turn up for the grand installation ceremony by Thai deputy chief monk Somdel Praphut Thachan, said temple officials.

The 10-storey-high Buddha, which took 10 years to build and cost RM4 million, is surrounded by Chinese folklore statues, dragon-adorned pillars and meticulous carvings.


Updated: 10-9-2001

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