Tsunami carried bronze Buddha 1000km across ocean

12 January 2005

By Jan McGirk
neewzealand herald In mid-December a little bronze-eyed idol, like so many in rural Myanmar (Burma), was placed in a little decorated kiosk, strapped to a crude bamboo raft and released on to the Irrawaddy river to drift to propitious sites and cast away evil. The 12.5cm figure of a Buddhist sage floated down the delta and then, a week or so later, the Boxing Day tsunami struck. Eight days on, 1000km away, fishermen in Tamil Nadu, India, spotted the raft floating offshore, its foil decorations glinting in the sunlight. Nine men set off in a boat to investigate and brought back a crude bamboo raft, lashed together with plastic clothesline and studded with silver-foil flowers. Its only passenger was a tiny crosslegged metal figure sitting on a plate inside a wooden hut. None of the villagers in Meyurkuppam, a small Tamil fishing hamlet in southern India, could identify the foreign statue, but two Western aid workers suggested that it looked like a Buddha. Actually, it was a chubby Jalagupta figurine, held holy by Burmese Buddhists. Everything on board the raft was intact, and its arrival coincided with another extraordinary event in Meyyurkuppam - everyone in the village had survived the tsunami. Hence their insistence on pampering what local Hindus have called "Buddha-Swami" under their biggest banyan tree. Believers credit this floating statue with protecting all 980 inhabitants of Meyyurkuppam. The first post-tsunami cult was thereby created. "It is a miracle," said Kuppurswamy, the village headman. "We keep a glass of water and a flower in front of the deity every day. We will worship him like we worship our own gods. Our village has accepted it as its own." . - INDEPENDENT

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