Asian art

Buddhist Pilgrimage site in Myanmar: Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Buddhist Pilgrimage site in Myanmar: Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also famously known as Golden Rock, is a well-known Buddhist Pilgrimage site in Mon state, Myanmar. The pagoda measures 7.3 m in height which is built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by its male devotees. The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is situated at an elevation of 1100 m above the sea level, on the top of the Kyaiktiyo hill. It is 210 km apart from Yangon and 140 km apart from north of Mawlamyine, the capital of Mon State. It is the third important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Myanmar after Shwedagon pagoda and Mahamuni Pagoda.

Legend behind Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, a Buddhist Pilgrimage site

Legends say that once a Buddhist priest maintains his asceticism. When celestial king notices the priest's asceticism, he was very impressed. He chooses the rock that resemblance to that of priest's head and then used his supernatural power to place the rock in the Mt. Kyaiktiyo. Later above the rock, a pagoda was built.

Another legend mentions that once a monk named Taik Tha received a strand of Buddha's hair after numerous visit to Gautama Buddha. He then gave the strand of hair to the king (son of Zawgyi, a proficient alchemist and a naga serpent dragon princess) and requested him to enshrine the strand in a boulder that shaped like the monk's head. The king found the boulder at the bottom of the sea that looks like monk's head. Later with the help of the Thagyamin, the king of Tawadeintha Heaven in Buddhist cosmology found the perfect place at Kyaiktiyo for locating that boulder. They transfer the boulder in the boat to Kyaiktiyo. They built pagoda above the boulder where the strand of Buddha's hair enshrined. It is believed that due to the strand of Buddha's hair which prevents the rock from falling down the hill.

The boat was also turned into a stone which is located about 300 m from the golden rock. It is known as the Kyaukthanban Pagoda or stupa.

Nature of the Golden Rock

We can observe that the pagoda stands above the golden rock which is about 7.3 m in height. The golden rock itself is about 7.6 m in height and has a circumference of 15 m. even though golden rock and pagoda are two separate things, the names are used interchangeably.

The amazing thing about this golden rock is even though the rock's half area is in open space, this rock comfortably sits on a natural rock platform, and are independent of each other. The base of the rock has a painting of lotus shape painted in gold leaf.

The Pilgrimage

The journey to the Kyaiktiyo pagoda starts with the foot trail from kyaiktiyo. On the way, there are numerous rocks on the mountains. Near the top of the mountain, there are two large lions at the entrance to the pagoda. This place is known as Yatetaung and from this point, the pilgrims have to walk barefoot, as per Burmese custom.

As the pilgrims reach the Kyaiktiyo pagoda, they will be able to see different shades of golden rock from dawn to dusk, especially the sight at dawn and sunset are unique. At those moments, pilgrims' chants reverberate in the precincts of the shrine. Throughout the night, a lighting of candles, meditation, and offerings to the Buddha continues. Men cross over a bridge to stick golden leaves, which is square in shape, on the face of the Golden Rock. However, women are barred to touch the rock but they are allowed to roam around the outer balcony and lower courtyard of the rock. This was due to the practice of women forbidden to make physical contact with the male monk and golden rock resembles monk's head.

The Full Moon day in March s marked as a special occasion. On this day, the platform of the pagoda is lighted with ninety thousand candles as offering to the Buddha. The devotees also offer fruits, food, and incense to the Buddha.

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