Akhilesh Semwal


The Golden Buddha

In 1955, the government of Thailand decided to build a highway in Bangkok through a location where an old temple stood. They purchased the rights to the temple, and agreed to let the local monks move a centuries-old clay Buddha to another location.

The clay Buddha was massive. It stood more than ten feet tall, and its belly was more than six feet in circumference. So the monks arranged for a crane to safely move the Buddha from the old temple to a new home.

But when the crane began to pick up and move the Buddha, it was clear they’d miscalculated its fragility. The idol was cracking. Immediately, the temple’s abbot screamed for it to be lowered to the ground and covered with tarps to protect it from incessant rains.

Later that night, the abbot couldn’t sleep. So he returned to the Buddha with a flashlight to inspect the damage to the sacred idol. As he peered at one of the cracks, he noticed something strange deep beneath the surface.

He returned to his monastery, found a hammer and chisel, and chipped away a small section around the crack. He was puzzled by what he saw. So he returned to the monastery, awoke the other monks, and asked for their help.

He told them each to bring a flashlight, hammer, and chisel. Together, they returned to the clay Buddha and, synchronously, they began to chip away at the enormous idol they’d been protecting for so many years.

When they finished their work the next morning, they stood back and gazed at what, together, they’d uncovered: their clay buddha wasn’t clay at all. Instead, it was a solid gold Buddha — the largest known solid gold statue in the history of the world