Right after reports appeared in press, about plans to install a 500ft. tall statue of Buddha Maitreya in Bodhgaya, China put out word that a 509 ft. Maitreya will come up in Central China sooner ! After all China has a record to defend ; it is home to the current Tallest Statue in The World - also a Buddha.
I have not yet seen this Biggest Statue in The World.
But here's a listing of some of the other Biggies i've met .
The biggest statue i'd seen as a child was the monolithic Nandi atop Chamundi Hill in Mysore. In those days, it was more approachable, there being no forbidding railings around the image as now. Children were encouraged to walk through the arch created by its bent foreleg, to ensure good health. As we passed under that stone knee, the statue seemed imponderably immense. But it is only 18 ft. high. Whereas the other famous monolith of Karnataka, the awe inspiring Gomateshwara at Sravanabelagola, is 18 meters tall . It's always an exciting moment when, as one drives towards the hillock, Bahubali's head becomes visible from kilometers away .
The Buddha gracing Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad is said to be of the same height, but somehow it doesn't show.
Hanuman and Shiva are two deities most often chosen for mega image making. Namakkal's Hanuman used to be the tallest ( about 19 ft), evoking the similie : "so tall, there's no roof overhead."
But taller and taller Anjaneyas have been sprouting all over , both in India and abroad, on a regular basis since the the mid 1960s. The Hanuman Murti in Delhi, about 20 meters tall, looming above a cluster of busy roads, is a rather disconcerting distraction !
When modern day sculptors start thinking Big, steel and concrete come handy for executing their grand designs perfectly. The huge Shiva statues at Murudeshwar ( 123 ft, with base), at Haridwar ( 100ft) and at Kids Fort Plaza in Bangalore ( 65 ft) are towering examples.
The most massive Shiva Lingam, worshipped in a temple, that i have seen is in Thanjavur ( Brihadeeshwara : 4 meters high, 7 meters circumference.) .
The Far East offers an explosion of Buddhas - Sitting, Standing, Reclining. Tiny to titanic. Of all styles and material .The ascetic Buddha, who renounced everything, has some mystique that impels people to create grand and rich statues of him ! Especially in Thailand. The one giant i particularly like is the Phra Buddhasaiyyas, the 46 meter long gold plated image at Wat Pho, reclining inside a hall too small for him. Trying to get a full lateral picture of the idol is impossible. The only way is to have its feet( the soles decorated with 108 holy symbols) in the foreground, from which the rest of the body stretches away to the horizon, so to say.
The other striking image is at Wat Traimit in chinatown. The world's biggest solid gold statue. 5 tons, 10 ft. tall. Also in Thailand is the tallest Walking Sakhyamuni at Putthamanthon : 16 meters tall. A holy thread runs from its blessing hand to a smaller image at the base, so that worship offered to the latter gets transmitted to the larger one!
Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, is a natural limestone cavern system , 400 million years old,famous for the shrine to the tamil god, Murugan. The high roofed central cave, (with a natural skylight opening), where the small image of the god was installed in the 19th. century by tamil immigrants, has the overwhelming qualities of an ancient gothic cathedral. In 2006, a 140 ft. tall golden hued Murugan, made of steel and concrete, was erected at the foot of the hill. The name Murugan means Beautiful ; this enormous figure amply validates the meaning.
The same sentiment cannot be extended to another Tamil icon in Mega mode : Thiruvalluvar , author of Thirukkural, the Tamil Veda. A 133 ft. tall statue of the seer-poet stands on a rock at the confluence of Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea in Kanyakumari, where both sunrise and sunset create extravagant , colourful backdrops for it every dawn and dusk. Its size is breath taking no doubt, but , aesthetically it is quite mediocre. ( The 133 feet height denotes the 133 Cantos of his epic)
Think BIG, think Egypt ! The Great Sphinx of Giza (66Ft) and the different Ramases( none shorter than 20 ft) are all pointers to the grand vision of those ancients who reached for the stars. The biggest free standing images in Egypt, the two Colossii of Memnon ( 60 ft. without the base) are unfortunately so dilapidated that no features can be recognised . As a result , they merit only a cursory 10 minute photo-op stop on tour itineraries. But we heard an interesting story about the twin statues there. Both portray Amenhotep III and were part of a memorial temple that was flattened by an earthquake around 26 BC. Soon after this disaster, the statues started to "sing", "sigh" or "groan" frequently ! In no time at all, they were declared as Oracles and a popular cult grew around them drawing crowds of pilgrims from far and near . Then, around 200 AD, a Roman Emperor wishing to curry divine favour, got some repair work done on the old statues - and to his utter horror, found that he had silenced the oracles forever ! Later it was deduced that the old earthquake had caused some fissures and crevices in the statues which gave rise to those sounds when the breeze blew through them. With the expert patching and sealing job, the statues just ceased being wind instruments ! And so died the Oracles !
Dewa Wisnu is a superstar in Bali. One omnipresent artistic motif is Wisnu riding on Garuda, a dynamic and lively image with the bird's wings stretched out, an umbrella or bower overhead and the deity in a warrior like stance. A 140 meter high replica of this beloved motif was planned for a park on a high plateau, overlooking the sea in Jimbaran district. But now, just a hunky 23 meter high bust stands in place ; the rest of him has been put on hold because of widespread native belief that such a massive construction would create imbalance of natural elements in the little island. Just as well. It wouldn't do to have this Wisnu rise up to his full height and have his handsome face veiled by clouds !