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2012 Update: On March 31 and April 1, 2012 the Padmasambhava statue will be consecrated at last. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will come to Tso Pema to officiate at the dedication ceremony, and give teachings. May all sentient beings benefit from this great work.
Lama Wangdor has spent more than 30 years meditating in the caves first used by Padmasambava, above Lotus Lake. Several years ago he began the project of constructing a massive Padmasambhava statue and center in the hills overlooking Tso Pema. The kind donations of many people within the Dharma community have allowed this construction project to make much progress, even though it will take years to complete. The statue's foundation alone has taken three years to construct. Among other benefits, the statue project has provided steady construction work for many people living in the Rewalsar area, as well as master artists from Nepal and Bhutan.
Few people realize that very, very little of the work on the statue is performed with heavy machinery. The statue itself is made of cement layered by hand over a skeleton of iron rebar. Stones for walls are cut by hand. Scaffolding is constructed from trunks of bamboo. The largest machine on site has been a cement mixer; materials such as cement and stones are ported onto the work site by laborers and packhorses. Bhutanese sculptors work the finer details into the cement while it is still wet.
A team of painters from Nepal came next, covering the statue in primer before applying final colors. While sprayers were used for larger parts of the statue, smaller areas were delicately filled in with brushes. Now the construction team is hard at work on the inside rooms and outlying buildings of the complex. A whole new batch of medicine pills and dzong have been made for the statues planned for the building's interior. Meanwhile, local Tibetans have been hard at work printing prayer flags to be hung later.
For a quick overview of the Padmasambhava construction project, you can view the slideshow below. For a more complete view involving over 200 photos, see the full photo gallery.
On the day His Holiness the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Bush, a double rainbow appeared over Rewalsar. One end of the rainbows landed at the statue. Other pictures of this remarkable event are in our photo gallery. Click the picture to enlarge. (Photo courtesy of Pia Rasmussen.)
The pictures below are a quick tour of the statue's construction. Click the thumbnails to see the larger photos. For over 200 more pictures, see our detailed photo collection.
Now that the main body of the statue has been painted, work is now focusing on the building that forms the statue base. 108 smaller statues are intended for the building interior. Each statue will have a batch of large-scale "medicine pills" stored within. As with making the dzong, the making of the medicine pills is a team effort involving monks and nuns from the Holy Caves of Padmasambhava. To see a video of the dzong making, right-click one of the links below.
Nuns kneading medicine pill mixture (AVI, 4.3MB)
Rolling the medicine pills by hand (AVI, 18MB)
When Guru Padmasambhava journeyed from the Swat Valley in what is now Pakistan to Tibet, he stopped at Mandi in India. There he encountered Princess Mandarava, who became his spiritual companion. The princess and her entourage became disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. Manadarava's father, the king, became outraged by their relationship, and commanded that the couple be punished. Mandarava was to be stripped, wrapped in thorns, and locked in the dungeon near the river. Guru Padmasambhava was to be burned in the charnel grounds high in the mountains.
Instead of burning, Guru Padmasambhava turned the fire into a lake and reappeared on a lotus. This miracle converted all who witnessed it to the Dharma. Mandarava's father also became a convert. Mandarava and Guru Padmasambhava were released. The lake became known as Tso Pema, or Lotus Lake.