New Monument in Tanjungpinang Attracts Tourists and Fosters Inter-Religious Harmony in Riau Islands


Tanjungpinang, a city in Indonesia's Riau Islands Province, is now home to the country's tallest pagoda, the Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda. This magnificent structure stands as a testament to the dedication and faith of the local Buddhist community, and it has quickly become a symbol of religious harmony and a new tourist attraction.

The Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda, located within the Avalokitesvara Vihara complex on W. R. Supratman Street, Kilometer 14, was inaugurated on July 8, 2023, in a ceremony attended by the Director General of Buddhist Community Development of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Supriyadi. The ceremony featured a ribbon-cutting and a vibrant lion dance performance.

Hengky Suryawan, the owner of the Maitri Paramitha Foundation, which manages the Avalokitesvara Vihara, shared his excitement about the completion of the pagoda, a project that took seven years to realize and had a total cost of approximately Rp100 billion (around US$6.36 million). The nine-story pagoda stands at an impressive 46.8 meters in height, with dimensions of 52 meters in length and 32 meters in width, offering space for up to 2,000 people for prayer activities.

The pagoda's exterior is adorned with 20,708 ceramic tiles featuring Buddha statue motifs that were specially imported from China. The first floor of the pagoda houses three main statues made of jade, including the figures of Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Bhaisjyaguru Buddha, all sourced directly from China.

The Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda has achieved recognition from the Indonesian World Record Museum (MURI) for its impressive height and the large number of ceramic tiles adorned with Buddha motifs. Operational Director of MURI, Yusuf Ngadri, presented certificates for these records during the pagoda's inauguration event.

Hengky Suryawan, who also serves as the chairman of the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Permabudhi) of Riau Islands Province, was honored during the event for his 70 years of dedication to guiding the Buddhist community. Suryawan humbly stated, "I built the pagoda and vihara because I want to serve Buddhists."

The Sata-Sahasra Buddhist Pagoda has been acknowledged by many as a significant milestone for Buddhists in Tanjungpinang and beyond. It is expected to serve as a center for religious activities, meditation, and worship, promoting harmony among people of different faiths. Furthermore, it has quickly become a sought-after tourist attraction for both domestic and foreign visitors.

The Avalokitesvara Vihara complex, home to the pagoda, was already known as a tourist attraction in Tanjungpinang, featuring a 22.8-meter-tall statue of the Guanyin Goddess, which is considered the tallest in Southeast Asia. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the vihara attracted numerous foreign tourists, particularly from Malaysia, Singapore, and China.

Accessibility to the Avalokitesvara Vihara complex is convenient, as it is situated in the heart of the city. Visitors arriving at Tanjungpinang via the Sri Bintan Pura (SBP) port entrance need only travel 15-20 minutes by two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicles to reach this architectural marvel.

Governor of Riau Islands, Ansar Ahmad, commended the construction of the Sata-Saharsa Buddha Pagoda and the Buddhist community's contribution to maintaining social and cultural harmony in the region. He views the pagoda as an icon for the city, showcasing the beauty of Buddhist culture and attracting tourists and pilgrims from around the world. It also plays a crucial role in strengthening the identity and diversity of Riau Islands Province.

The dedication and effort put forth by the Buddhist community in creating the Sata-Saharsa Buddha Pagoda have contributed to Tanjungpinang's reputation as a region with a high level of inter-religious tolerance in Indonesia. As of 2022, the Ministry of Religious Affairs reported that there were 147,811 Buddhists in Riau Islands, making it the fourth-highest number among Indonesian provinces.

The Sata-Sahasra Buddha Pagoda stands not only as a symbol of faith but also as a beacon of unity, drawing visitors from far and wide to witness this impressive architectural marvel and the culture it represents. It serves as a reminder of the power of faith, harmony, and community in Indonesia's diverse religious landscape.

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