Q: What’s 33 metres high and looks like a big white bell with a gold handle?
A: A stupa!
OK – so what’s a stupa?
In the Buddhist religion, it’s a monument representing peace, harmony and prosperity – a tower of good luck, if you will – and also a place for quiet meditation.
Stupas are some of the oldest forms of religious architecture to be found anywhere in the world, and appear in every country where Buddhism flourishes, including India, Sri Lanka, China, Tibet, Nepal and many of the far eastern nations.
And here in Spain too! It may come as something of a surprise that the biggest stupa in the western world is just 10-15 minutes’ drive from your holiday resort at CLC Benal Beach!
The Benalmádena Stupa, which was inaugurated in 2003, symbolises the sacred enlightenment of Buddha, hence its alternative name used by devotees – the ‘Enlightenment Stupa’ – while its carefully composed shape symbolises the elements which Buddhists believe come together to form the universe: namely, earth, water, fire, air and conciousness.
Consecrated through rituals performed by only the most senior Lamas,stupas are usually completely sealed structures. However, the Benalmádena Stupa is one of a very few exceptions that incorporates a 100m2 meditation room – with murals depicting the life of Buddha – and another room for cultural exhibitions.
Even for those who don’t follow any particular religion, it’s a stunning place to visit and marvel at the construction – not to mention the views along the coast!
Learn to meditate
Visitors can join in guided meditation sessions on Tuesdays and Friday at 7pm and public lectures featuring an introduction to Buddhist philosophy are also offered on Sundays at 7pm. Everyone is welcome.
There is a shop where visitors can buy literature about Buddhism along with artefacts from Himalayan countries, and also a small café offering breakfast, lunch and light snacks, with those incredibly photogenic views of the coastline. Car parking is available on site and, for a totally different end to a holiday outing filled with culture and contemplation, the Butterfly Park is right next door!