Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands (ANTARA) - Many are yet unaware that Riau Islands Province is home to Indonesia's tallest pagoda named Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda, located in the Avalokitesvara Vihara complex, W. R. Supratman Street, Kilometer 14, Tanjungpinang City.

The pagoda was inaugurated by Director General of Buddhist Community Development of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Supriyadi, on Saturday, July 8, 2023.

"We really appreciate it. After around seven years, finally, this beautiful and magnificent pagoda can be realized," he remarked at the inauguration event that was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, enlivened by a barongsai (lion dance) performance.

The building is managed by the Maitri Paramitha Foundation, as the manager of the Avalokitesvara Vihara.

According to the foundation’s owner, Hengky Suryawan, the construction process of the pagoda, which took seven years, was started in June 2016 and completed in June 2023, with a total cost of around Rp100 billion (around US$6.36 million).

The Nine storied-pagoda measures 52 meters in length, 32 meters in width, and 46.8 meters in height.

The building can accommodate around two thousand people, for instance, for prayer activities of Buddhists.

The walls of the building use ceramic tiles with Buddha statue motifs that were specially ordered from China. In total, 20,708 ceramic tiles are installed in the walls of the pagoda.

Apart from that, on the first floor of the pagoda, there are three main statues made of jade, which were also imported directly from China, namely the statues of Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Bhaisjyaguru Buddha.

The pagoda set the Indonesian World Record Museum (MURI) record for the tallest pagoda in Indonesia, at 46.8 meters, and for the most number of Buddha statue-motif ceramic tiles at 20,708.

The certificates for those records were given by Operational Director of MURI, Yusuf Ngadri, to Suryawan during the pagoda's inauguration event.

During the inauguration event, he was also given a special award for his contribution and devotion to guiding the Buddhist community for the last 70 years.

Suryawan, who concurrently serves as chairman of the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Permabudhi) of Riau Islands Province, admitted that he did not expect to be given the award because he feels what he had done was solely for fostering and advancing the Buddhist community.

“I built the pagoda and vihara because I want to serve Buddhists,” he remarked.

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A place for worship and tourist attraction

The Sata-Sahasra Buddhist Pagoda’s title, as the tallest in the country, was directly acknowledged by Supriyadi.

While inaugurating the pagoda, he complimented its architecture, which is deemed different from several pagodas in other regions of Indonesia.

He expressed hope that the pagoda would become a center for religious activities, a place of meditation, paying respect, and worship among Buddhist believers.

In addition, it is expected to be a means of building harmony among people of different religions.

It has also become a new choice of tourist attraction for domestic and foreign tourists, who come to Tanjungpinang.

Way before the pagoda was built, the Avalokitesvara Vihara was already one of the tourist attractions in the city.

Moreover, in the vihara, there is a statue of the Guanyin Goddess, with a height of 22.8 meters, which is claimed to be the tallest in Southeast Asia.

It was recorded that before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were up to eight buses filled with foreign tourists visiting the vihara in a single day. The tourists were dominated by citizens of Malaysia, Singapore, and China.

It is not difficult to reach the Avalokitesvara Vihara complex because it is located in the middle of an urban area.

For tourists from outside the region or abroad who come to Tanjungpinang via the Sri Bintan Pura (SBP) port entrance, they only need to take a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle for a distance of around 15-20 minutes.

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Harmony in diversity

Governor of Riau Islands Ansar Ahmad also lauded the construction of the Sata-Saharsa Buddha Pagoda as well as the Buddhist community's dedication and contribution to maintaining social and cultural harmony in Riau Islands, especially in Tanjungpinang.

The inauguration of the Pagoda is an essential milestone for Buddhists in Tanjungpinang.

This pagoda is also expected to become an icon for the city, exuding the beauty of Buddhist culture and attracting tourists and pilgrims from various parts of the world.

Apart from that, the pagoda is an important step in strengthening the identity and diversity of Riau Islands Province.

The Riau Islands provincial government is also committed to supporting tourism development and advancing the cultural sector in Tanjungpinang as the capital city of the province.

The hard work of the Buddhist community in making the Sata-Saharsa Buddha Pagoda into such an enchanting holy place that can be enjoyed by all is worthy of appreciation.

This effort supports the Riau Islands Province, especially Tanjungpinang, to be a region with a high level of inter-religious tolerance in the country.

According to data from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, as of 2022, the number of Buddhists in Riau Islands stood at 147,811, which is the fourth-highest among provinces in Indonesia.

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Translator: Ogen, Raka Adji
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
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