Two thousand golden Buddhas flank the 199-steps to the 10-metre statue towering over those below, at the Putkiri pagoda – one of the Kingdom’s newest religious sites – while thousands of other Buddhas sit in meditation.
Located in Takeo province’s Trapaing Kro Nhoung commune, the site was founded almost a year ago by four monks led by venerable Serey Keo Kakda.
Their goal was to create a place for both worship and tourism that would eventually be the home of 84,000 Buddha statues, even as their numbers increase by the day.
Construction on the 30-metre hill and the road leading to it were supported in part by Oknha Lok Chumteav.
Asked how he came up with the goal of 84,000 statues, Keo Kakda said three of the main Buddhist texts had a total of 84,000 passages of dharma.
“Other countries have not built 84,000 Buddhist statues. There are only 5,000 statues in Myanmar . . . representing what the Buddha predicted before he died, that his religion would last for only 5,000 years. And now it has been 2,562 years.”
Currently, there are 20,000 statues on the hill, but Keo Kakda hopes the final goal will be met. He said he doesn’t know when the target will be met as “it depends on Buddhist followers”.
But for now, visitors are content on visiting the site to pray for good fortune or snap pictures of the amazing view to post on Facebook.
Some even pay 80,000 riel ($19.75) to sponsor the creation of an additional statue. Despite criticism from some about youths not showing due respect for the Buddha’s images, Keo Kakda is hopeful that the pagoda on the hilltop will breathe new life into the religion.
“The benefit from building a great number of Buddhist statues is the growth of our religion so that our young generation will know about the 84,000 Buddhist statues in Takeo province and they will want to come and see them.”
“And when they come, they will think of the Buddhist religion and what it stands for,” he said.