Aumism is a minor religious sect founded in 1969 by Gilbert Bourdin (1924-1998). Centered on the "holy city" of Mandarom, near Castellane in the French Alps, it has approximately 400 members, down from 1200 at its peak. It is a synthesis of a number of religions, notably buddhism. Its name derives from the mystical "aum" sound used in Hindu meditation.
Gilbert Bourdin (1924-1998), also known as Hamsah Manarah self-proclaimed "Cosmoplanetary Messiah of Synthesis" founded the movement in 1969 after immersing himself in many oriental religions.
The holy city of Mandarom Shambhasalem was founded in 1969, about 50 kilometres northwest of Cannes. Bourdin progressively built a number of temples and statues. Amongst these is a 22 metre statue of Buddha Maitreya, constructed in 1981, and a 21 metre statue of "Cosmic Christ" wielding a sword and shield, constructed in 1987. In 1990, a 33 metre statue of Bourdin was constructed at Mandarom. The legitimacy of the building permit was later challenged, and eventually, in June 2000, the statue was deemed illegal after a long legal dispute. As a result, it was demolished by the authorities on 6 September 2001. The sect denounced the demolition of Bourdin's statue, saying that it was comparable to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan by the Taliban in Afghanistan earlier in the year.
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