Indonesia's Tallest Pagoda, Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda, Rises in Riau Islands

The Buddhist Channel, 14 Oct 2023

Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands (Indonesia) -- The Riau Islands Province now boasts Indonesia's tallest pagoda, the Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda, nestled within the Avalokitesvara Vihara complex, W. R. Supratman Street, Kilometer 14, Tanjungpinang City.

This architectural marvel was officially inaugurated on Saturday, July 8, 2023, in a ceremony graced by Supriyadi, the Director General of Buddhist Community Development at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

After a seven-year journey, this magnificent pagoda, serving as a symbol of faith and unity, has finally become a reality. The inauguration event featured a jubilant ribbon-cutting ceremony and a mesmerizing barongsai (lion dance) performance, setting the tone for what promises to be a significant cultural landmark.

Under the stewardship of the Maitri Paramitha Foundation, which manages the Avalokitesvara Vihara, the construction of this awe-inspiring pagoda commenced in June 2016 and concluded in June 2023, with a total investment of approximately Rp100 billion (equivalent to $6.36 million USD).

Soaring to a height of 46.8 meters, the nine-story pagoda spans 52 meters in length and 32 meters in width. With the capacity to accommodate around two thousand people, it stands as a focal point for prayer activities within the Buddhist community.

What distinguishes this pagoda are the 20,708 ceramic tiles adorning its walls, featuring intricate Buddha statue motifs specially crafted and imported from China. On the first floor of the pagoda, three jade statues of significance—Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Bhaisjyaguru Buddha—add to its spiritual ambiance.

The Sata-Sahasra Buddhist Pagoda, towering at 46.8 meters, has etched its name in the Indonesian World Record Museum (MURI) as the nation's tallest pagoda. The pagoda also holds the record for the most number of Buddha statue-motif ceramic tiles—20,708, a testament to its grandeur and artistry. Operational Director of MURI, Yusuf Ngadri, presented these certificates during the pagoda's inauguration.

In a heartfelt acknowledgment, Hengky Suryawan, the foundation's owner and concurrent chairman of the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Permabudhi) of Riau Islands Province, expressed his surprise and gratitude for the recognition. He shared, "I built the pagoda and vihara because I want to serve Buddhists."

More than just a religious site, the Sata-Sahasra Buddhist Pagoda is expected to serve as a center for religious activities, meditation, and worship, promoting harmony among people of diverse beliefs. Moreover, it has rapidly become a sought-after tourist attraction for both domestic and foreign visitors to Tanjungpinang.

Before the pagoda's construction, the Avalokitesvara Vihara was already a renowned attraction in the city, home to the towering 22.8-meter statue of the Guanyin Goddess, believed to be the tallest in Southeast Asia. Foreign tourists, especially those from Malaysia, Singapore, and China, once flocked to the vihara, with up to eight buses of visitors in a single day before the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Located in the heart of the urban area, the Avalokitesvara Vihara complex remains easily accessible to tourists arriving at the Sri Bintan Pura (SBP) port entrance, a mere 15-20 minutes away by two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicles.

The Governor of Riau Islands, Ansar Ahmad, praised the construction of the Sata-Saharsa Buddha Pagoda and commended the Buddhist community for its dedication and contribution to social and cultural harmony, particularly in Tanjungpinang. This pagoda is poised to become an iconic symbol of the city, representing the beauty of Buddhist culture and attracting visitors and pilgrims from around the world.

The Sata-Saharsa Buddha Pagoda is a testament to the unity and diversity that defines Riau Islands Province. This effort supports the region's reputation for inter-religious tolerance, strengthening its identity and cultural richness.
As of 2022, Riau Islands is home to 147,811 Buddhists, making it the fourth-highest population of Buddhists among Indonesian provinces, according to data from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
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