High on the roof of the Abbey’s new Buddha Hall, traditional Tibetan art pieces will be the sign of the building’s virtuous purpose. These roof ornaments just took another step closer to their final destination when we assembled the large ganjira, the main spire at the roof’s center. All of the roof ornaments are now in the Sravasti Abbey barn, waiting to begin the last leg of their journey.

Path to the Abbey

The Abbey commissioned master Nepalese craftspeople from Chichhok Solukhumbu Handicraft in Nepal to create the roof ornaments. The three ganjira (spires), two deer, and a Dharma wheel were handcrafted using traditional techniques. Ven. Damcho explains the meaning of the roof ornaments, including clips of their construction, here.

When the copper ornaments were finished in Nepal, they were carefully packed into wooden crates and shipped to Spokane—a 7,000-mile journey! Our friend Sean has a warehouse in Spokane and kindly allowed us to store the crates there.

Shortly after they arrived in Spokane, a team of monastics went to open the boxes and inspect the pieces. We were amazed by the intricate details. See this video for a closeup view of the ornaments as they were initially uncrated.

Traditionally the ornaments are gold, but plating and gilding are very expensive. For a more practical approach, we thought to have them painted locally with golden-colored car paint.  Bryan and his team at the Auto Collision Shop in Priest River, Idaho, were capable of and interested in tackling this unique challenge. They did a beautiful job!

The size of our pickup truck and the shop limited how many pieces could be painted at once. After each piece was painted and sealed with a long-lasting protective coating, it was re-crated and brought to the Abbey. The large ganjira was the last to be painted.

Assembling the Large Ganjira

The large Ganjira is 8 feet tall. It had to be shipped and painted in multiple pieces. Assembling it in the Abbey barn required many strong people, a few ladders, and attentiveness to part order and orientation.

One key piece of the assembly was inserting inside a weather-proof container containing the Heart Sutra. The ganjiras and female deer will each contain the Heart Sutra, while the male deer will contain the Vinaya Sutra Root Verses by Gunaprabha. The base of the Dharma wheel will contain the Dharmacakra Sutra.

Symbolism of the Ganjira

The shapes of the pieces of the ganjira represent the five Buddha families.

F: Jewel, symbolizing the Buddha Ratnasambhava

E: Wheel, symbolizing the Buddha Vairochana

D: Vase, symbolizing the Buddha Akshobya

C: Lotus, symbolizing the Buddha Amitabha

B: Bell, symbolizing the Buddha Amogasiddhi

A: A large lotus, the common seat for all Buddhas