Forgotten and Found – The World’s Largest Solid Gold Statue: Part 1

At 10 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and weighing 5.5 tons, Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon (aka the Golden Buddha) is far and away the largest solid gold statue ever created. But, even though it’s one of mankind’s greatest marvels, the Golden Buddha was forgotten and ignored by its home country of Thailand for nearly 200 years.

There are no records indicating who crafted the Golden Buddha and where, but historians believe it must have been created during the reign of the Sukhothai Dynasty between the 13th and 14th centuries. The sculpture style is reminiscent of that period. From that point, the Golden Buddha may well have been highly revered, but it is rarely mentioned in historical texts. No one is sure of the exact date, but the statue began its fade into obscurity during the 1760s.

At that time, war was brewing in Thailand. It was rightly feared that the Golden Buddha was in danger, so the entire statue was covered in plaster, painted over, and moved into an inauspicious temple. During the Burmese–Siamese War from 1765-67, the Burmese invaded the Ayutthaya kingdom (the Golden Buddha’s resting place) and ransacked the city – ignoring the now mediocre-looking statue. Later on, the Thai people retook the city but forgot about the statue.

To protect the statue, it was later moved out of the area due to instability – but only because statues of Buddha were not permitted to be destroyed. No one believed there was any other reason to keep the statue out of enemy hands. When the statue’s new temple home in Bangkok fell into disrepair, no other temples wanted to accept such a large and plain-looking statue. Eventually, the Golden Buddha settled at the Wat Phraya Krai temple, but was housed outback under a simple tin roof.

It seemed one of most valuable artistic creations the world had ever known would stay lost and forgotten forever. That is, until it was rediscovered in 1955. How? Find out in our next blog post!

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