A few kilometres outside the city of Bendigo in Victoria, a most unexpected project is slowly taking shape. The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is well on its way to becoming the largest stupa in the Western Hemisphere, eventually rising almost 50 metres into the air and stretching 50 metres at its base. (A stupa is a large, dome-covered Buddhist shrine, most commonly found in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and now, country Victoria).
Modelled on the 600-year-old Great Stupa of Gyantse in Tibet, Bendigo's stupa will, by the time it's completed, offer a perfect replica of that ancient shrine, albeit with the addition of a native Australian garden filled with more than 100,000 micro-stupas.
Already more than two decades into its construction and with years of work still to go, it's the definition of slow creation – although with a plan for the shrine to last more than 1,000 years, what's a half century between friends?
Despite its half-finished status, the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is already open to the public, a must-see for those who want to ‘purify the mind’. If you're in the neighborhood on 20 May, stop by for the Vesak Festival of Light, a full-day celebration of the Buddha that culminates in a remarkable light show on the stupa’s walls. Find out more here.