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Buddhist Temple Gets Golden Makeover

Monday, November 18, 2013

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Armed guards are standing watch over a glittering coating project in the town of Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India.

The extra security is aimed at deflecting a golden opportunity for thieves: The project, in fact, involves 289 kg (637 pounds) of gold … donated gold, at that.

A team of technical experts from Thailand has begun gold plating the dome of the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi Temple, according to reports. The Temple is considered the holiest pilgrimage center for Buddhists worldwide.

Mahabodhi Temple

© query_squidier / World Heritage Convention

Experts from Thailand have embarked on a mission to coat the dome of the Mahabodhi Temple, constructed between the 5th and 6th centuries, in gold.

A 40-member team, including security forces, will complete the work in 40 to 50 days, Temple officials told media outlets Wednesday (Nov. 13). The project is reportedly being videographed.

The gold was provided by private Buddhist donors in Thailand.

Coating the Dome

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Atulya decided to cover the dome of the temple with gold in 2012, but it took a year to obtain clearances from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the work, reports relate.

ASI officials say they are also providing technical supervision for the project.

A chemical treatment was completed on the 15-foot dome in August to prepare for the gold inlay.  

"Now, stairs have been installed around the temple's dome to enable experts to reach the top of the structure to inlay it with thin gold sheet," officials said.

About the Temple

The 160-foot-tall Mahabodhi Temple is estimated to have been constructed between the 5th and 6th century AD, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention description.

The Temple site is believed to be where Lord Gautama attained his enlightenment, turning him into the Buddha. Therefore, protecting the site's sacred tree and sanctum shrine during the coating work is paramount.

Additionally, the Temple is one of the few surviving examples of early brick structures in India, and has had a significant influence on architecture throughout the centuries, according to UNESCO.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Churches; Decorative finishes; Decorative Finishes; Design; Historic Structures; Metal coatings; Metals

Comment from Michael Kramer, (11/18/2013, 9:20 AM)

I wonder how they are applying the gold. I don't think this is being plated per se, since brick and mortar cannot be plated. I expect they are fabricating gold kavacham (repousse coverings) which mimic the intricate profiles of the temple and are affixed mechanically to the surfaces. This is similar to the way the Romans "gilded" exterior sculptures and buildings, like the Pantheon, which had a bronze roof originally clad in gold foil. Or they may actually be fabricating copper kavacham and plating them with the gold, prior to installation. This is a more traditional method in that region of the world. If this installation really is gold foil as opposed to plated copper, it will last hundreds of years. The roof of the Pantheon lasted 400 years until Rome was overrun by the Byzantines, who promptly removed it.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/18/2013, 9:42 AM)

Over 600 pounds of gold on a 15-foot dome indicates gold foil, not plated copper.

Comment from Jeff Laikind, (11/20/2013, 9:29 AM)

For a comparison, the 75' diameter dome of Georgia's state capitol required 20 ounces of gold leaf when it was gilded in the late 1950's.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/21/2013, 8:56 AM)

I am starting to wonder if there was a misread somewhere, and it was supposed to be 289g, not 289kg...

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