LEVERETT, Mass. Some 2,000 people shrouded in fog and braving drenching rain, intoned Buddhist chants to a haunting drumbeat at the dedication Saturday of the first peace pagoda constructed in North America.

“The pagaoda represents a love of labor. It is fitting symbol of peace,” said Sumitra Gandhi kulkarni Devi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, who travelled from India expressly for the dedication.

“The weather is trying our patience. It is testing our dedication to peace,” she said, vowing to keep talking to thwart the weather’s intent.

A procession of 70 white and yellow robed monks from India, Tibet and Japan joined local residents and clergymen from around the country in a march up the 1,000foot mountain on which the pagoda has been built over the past year.


While the monks chanted those familiar with the language joined in with English translation with which they were provided.

At the top of the hill, overlooking the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, the crowd surrounded the 10storey structure, including a 100foot spire, for a 21/2hour dedication ceremony.

The round pagoda was bedecked with flowers, flags and windsocks, their bright blue, red and yellow colors defying the day’s grayness. At one point, a monk scaled the structure to gather flower petals on its roof.

Besides Gandhi, town officials, other local residents, and a representative of the London city government, spoke.

Sen. John Kerry, D. Mass., and Gov. Michael Dukakis, who declared Saturday Peace Pagoda day, sent messages of congratulations.

The bronze spired white pagoda was built, largely by hand, with contributions from all over the world. It is one of 70 the Buddhist order, “Nipponzan My ohoji” has built across Europe and Asia since the bombing of Hero


Its spire is ornamented with intricate engravings of the Buddha and its dome is 103 feet in diameter. Ringed with lotus petals carved into concrete stones that cover a circular “prayer” walkway, it features four hollows with statues chronicling the Buddha’s life.

“We always have monuments for war. This is a monument for peace,” said Gandhi. “This kind of work sets in a chain reaction which makes people think and it makes them become aware of

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 11, 1985