Case Studies

01.12.19

Tathagata Chortens (Stupas), Basgo Lagacherpon, Leh Ladakh, India

BHUTAN grc undertook the memorable construction of a set of Tathagata (The Buddha) Chortens (stupas)

In 2019, BHUTAN grc undertook the memorable construction of a set of Tathagata (The Buddha) Chortens (stupas), numbering eight distinct GRC perfected structures at the village of Basgo Lagacherpon in the Ladakhi capital of Leh in India. The village nestles at an altitude of 3,292m above sea level.

The project was daunting in that the mountainous landscape, high altitude, severe weather, demanding terrain and challenging logistics presented trials that had yet to be overcome whilst maintaining the GRC design, quality and - the final delivery of the materials which had to be entirely disassembled and then reassembled, without the luxury of making a mistakes, at the designated site.

The project’s principal client was the local Buddhist community of Basgo, and its spiritual elders, whose stated motive for green-lighting the project was to ensure continuing peace, harmony, well-being and protection of the Buddhist teachings for the village and, for the greater benefit of all sentient beings.

In times past, Ladakh was an independent Buddhist kingdom that shared a common cultural heritage with Tibet. As with most Himalayan inhabitants, the conception, construction and consecration of such Buddhist stupas are considered a compassionate calling; a responsibility to preserve the Buddha’s teachings. Such structures are believed to be empowered, acting as harbingers of happiness and good fortune, benefitting everyone.

BHUTAN grc was duly tasked with the project. It was a prestigious invitation to be chosen to execute what is a sacred endeavour. The designs of the eight stupas were then drawn adhering to strict traditional-monastic guidelines that oversee the construction of such holy structures, considered to be the symbolic physical representation of the Body, Speech, and Mind aspects of the Buddha and the enlightened ones.

Sacred Structure:

Functional Suitability -
The fact that BHUTAN grc could provide the material pertaining to the specific details of the stupas that were also manufactured by the company paved the way. Bhutan GRC’s acute observation and reproduction of geometrically precise scales befitting the stupas and its fine features were welcomed. Other advantages provided by BHUTAN grc included facilitating the ease of transportation in terms of the product’s portability. And considering the topographical challenges of such a heightened location, GRC was the ideal material, for reasons such as easing transportation burdens, providing authentic designs, an all-weather durable material, elemental resistance to harsh weather, safety from fire hazards (the bane of most traditional stupas made of timber), environmental friendliness (against forest degradation) and overall suitability.

Other advantages included lower costs (due to the toughness and flexibility of GRC), time efficiency (in comparison to time consuming traditional approaches), minimal wear and tear (as opposed to ageing timber), and simplicity of transportation (disassembling and reassembling of the stupas’ parts). This novel process amounted to a significant reduction in all-round costs due to the use of sustainable resources (providing savings by offering a viable alternative to expensive and limited skilled labour), with a resultant structure that is as enduring as it is faithful to its cultural sensibilities.

Properties of Concrete Exploited in the Design -
GRC stupas, such as the set built in Basgo, are uncannily proportionate in design, profile, dimension and overall artistry. The material is of a far superior standard compared to conventional structures that are built using weathering stones and unwieldy mud.

Innovation -
The ground-breaking revolutionary use of GRC in composition, structure and form - owning to its thinned section and lightweight properties that are mixed with cement, sand and glassfibre - produce a composition unrivalled by traditional methods of building. They are as heavy and as meticulous as the stupas in Basgo demonstrate.

Execution and Finish -
Though the GRC stupas were lightweight and could be handled comfortably, the most trying part of the execution was logistics. Here, the Indian company - TCI Express - were involved in the smooth delivery of the goods to the projected site, transporting the materials via the

long and treacherous Northern Indian State Roads en route to the consecrated location in Basgo. The final installation was laid out by a Buddhist master from Bhutan who administered the traditional rites and rituals, sanctifying the GRC stupas after its clockwork assemblage and successful formation. 

Sustainability Credentials -
As GRC stupas are manufactured with the latest state of the art technology observing strict compliance with prevailing Industry Standards, it has numerous properties enjoying umpteen advantages over conventional rote methodologies, but without damaging the environment or its natural resources (such as the use of timber, increasingly becoming passé).

The project was completed without any hiccups and handed over to the people of Basgo Lagacherpon for a memorable grand dedicating ceremony. The community and its elders thanked BHUTAN grc for a well-conceived, artistically rendered and professionally executed project. The Buddhist masters, elders of the community, and the villagers also thanked BHUTAN grc  for completing the project, which they were keen to point out, was the very cultural fabric of the Ladakhi social and spiritual way of life, stressing the cultural importance of its preservation.

The Spiritual Significance of the Eight Stupas:

1. The Lotus Blossom Stupa of the Buddha’s Birth -
This stupa celebrates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha to be. Legend has it that this was the first stupa his father built to mark and honour the Buddha’s victorious birth.

2. The Enlightenment Stupa -
This stupa commemorates Buddhahood; the Enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama when he was 35, reaching the state of absolute truth meditating under the Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya in Northern India.

3. The Stupa of Turning the Wheel of Dharma -
This stupa symbolizes the turning of the Wheel of Truth, when the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples who were performing penance at the Deer Park in Sarnath in Varanasi, Northern India.

4. The Stupa of Great Miracles -
At the age of fifty, for fifteen straight days, the Buddha displayed inconceivable miracles at Sravasti to overcome non-believers. This stupa marks that compassionate victory of providing the path that liberates.

5.  The Stupa of the Descent from Heaven -
This stupa marks the return of the Buddha from the heavenly realm of Tushita to repay his gratitude to his mother’s generosity by teaching her the path of liberation; mainly through the recognition and transformation of negative mental afflictions through the power of the truth, or the Dharma.

6. The Stupa of Reuniting the Sangha -
This stupa marks the harmonious reunion of the monastic body, or the brotherhood of the Sangha, that had been divided into a schism by his own envious cousin, Devadutta. The Sangha was the repository of the Buddha’s teachings and hence, his ambassadors of the Dharma, tasked with spreading the teachings to the laity.

7. The All-Victorious Stupa -
This stupa was erected to mark the postponement of the Buddha’s ultimate passage into Parinirvana, as requested by his disciples, so that he could continue teaching the Dharma for three months more.

8. The Parinirvana Stupa -
The eight stupa marks the passage of the Buddha, at the ripe old age of eighty one, into the supreme state of Parinirvana at Kushinagar in Northern India.

Conclusion:

All eight stupas were, and are built, to mark the auspicious events of the Buddha’s life. The intention behind and the motivation for constructing such buildings are intrinsically altruistic, with the wish to benefit all sentient beings, so that they too might gain liberation from the weary world of birth, suffering, sickness and death. The stupas are used as practicing tools, as in making offerings, bowing down in prostrations, and accumulating circumambulations that engender Boddhichitta, or the seed of the Buddhas, with the two soaring wings of compassion and wisdom. The aspirational prayer concludes with the wish that whosoever hears, sees, touches or even remembers such a stupa may be liberated from the mind’s distracting mental afflictions.

The rewarding completion of this set of eight stupas to the satisfaction of the hardy people of Basgo Lagacherpon remains one of BHUTAN grc’s proudest achievements.

Location:                    GPO Basgo, District - Leh Ladakh, India.
Principal Client:         The Local Buddhist Community
                                   represented by Mr. Tshewang Dorjay.
Stupas Designer:       M/s BHUTAN grc.
Purpose/Function:     For the Peace, Harmony and Wellbeing
                                  of all the people in the Village for a long time.
GRC Manufacturer:   M/s BHUTAN grc (A Unit of Peljorkhang Pvt. Ltd.)
Year of Completion:   2019

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