He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Buddha

In a place where there can never be enough images of the country’s predominant religious icon it might be disrespectful for me to say it: another day, another Buddha. But this one, installed in an annex at Wat Traimit near Bangkok’s Chinatown district is especially mindblowing. The largest of its kind in the world, it is thought to be about 900 years old, stands (or rather sits) about 10 feet tall, and is comprised of 11,000 pounds of solid 18K gold.

Legend has it that back in the latter part of the 18th century when Burma invaded Thailand and sacked what is now Bangkok, this Buddha was covered entirely in plaster to hide its worth. It seems hard to believe, but apparently whoever did the plastering kept that information to himself because it wasn’t until almost 200 years later in 1957 when it was being moved to Wat Traimit that an accident led to the discovery of the true stuff of which this Buddha was made.

And yeah, I did the math. At today’s posted price of $1400 an ounce, retail value on this fine fella would be $246,400,000.

Which is why religion and religious idolatry always flummoxes me to no end. Because if I were Fearless King of the Land, I’d risk the outrage of my subjects and perhaps buddhists the world over, and order this one be replaced with an exact replica made of solid plaster and gold paint. Then I’d auction this thing to the highest bidder and take that quarter-billion-dollar ocean of money and make my country that much better a place.

But that’s just me.