Stupa’s festival to expand

The Festival of Light has plans to grow next year after five years of success.

Held at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Myers Flat, thousands of people visit the one-day festival each year.

The festival is a multicultural celebration of peace and harmony inspired by Buddha’s birthday.

As well as guided tours among Buddhist relics, meditations, music, dance and vegetarian cuisine, the festival features a spectacular light and fireworks show.

Great Stupa chairman Ian Green said a re-structuring of the festival would see it extended to three days.

“Instead of a sit down audience at night, we would open the place up to a walk-through festival with entertainers and light features,” he said.

“I think we would be aiming for at least 25,000 people (to visit) over the three days.”

Mr Green said the festival traditional attracted between 4000 and 5000 people each year.

“We find we sell out every year. So unless we change the whole structure we cant get many more people through,” he said.

“It is very encouraging. This started as something we wanted to provide to the community and give them a reason to come here.

“There were signs of it being big form the outset. It’s good to see people still supporting it.”

Next year will have an extra cause for celebration with the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace expected to arrive in Bendigo.

The four-tonne statue was created for Bendigo’s Great Stupa and was consecrated by the Dalai Lama.

“The Jade Buddha is currently in Korea and has been touring for nine years,” Mr Green said.

“It will come to Bendigo next year, which will be it's final home. I think it will bring thousands of people from all over the world here.”

Mr Green, his wife, and their three sons moved to Bendigo to set up Atisha Centre in 1981.

The Great Stupa laid its foundations in 2003 and continued to develop. The Dalai Lama visited in 2007.

Mr Green said he believed a lot of local residents were proud of having the largest stupa in the western world in Bendigo.

“(Locals) are bringing people to see it. I think people see Buddhism as positive influence, a more peaceful influence and they are more inclined to be positive about it because of that,” he said.

“The Buddhist centre in Bendigo has been here for 35 years, so I think people are certainly used to us now.

“As a result of the effort we are putting into the stupa, we are building a major attraction in regional Victoria.

“I think people are seeing this will be a major reason for visitors to come and it can have a big economical impact (on the Bendigo region) as well.”