Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. Temple in Burma, Asia

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Temple in Burma, Asia

Golden Rock Pagoda at sunset, Kyaiktiyo, Myanmar - ကျိုက်ထီးရိုးဘုရား, မြန်မာ Photo © Romain Pontida

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Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

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Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. Photo by Jason Eppink
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, situated in the Mon State (Wikipedia Article) of Burma, is one of the three most prominent, religious sites of the country. Mon State is famous for the huge Golden Rock perched at the summit of the hill where the tiny pagoda is placed in a precarious manner

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda measures about 7.3 meters and is constructed above a boulder of granite on which golden leaves has been pasted over several centuries by Buddhist devotees from all over the world. The boulder along with the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda stands atop Mount Kyaiktiyo. The granite boulder is a balancing rock which supposedly defies the gravitational pull of the Earth, since it always appears to be on the verge of rolling down from the hill.

There is a common saying in Burma that even a glimpse of this gravity-defying Golden Rock is enough to persuade any man to convert to Buddhism.

Etymology

The word ‘Kyaik’ in Mon language signifies a “Pagoda”, and the term ‘Yo’ means to “Carry on the head of a hermit”, while the term ‘Ithi’ denotes a “Hermit”. Therefore the name ‘Kyaiktiyo Pagoda‘ can be translated to English as ‘The pagoda on the hermit’s head’.

Location

Located on the coast of Tenasserim (Wikipedia Article), the Golden Rock lies on top of the Kayaiktiyo Hill, which has an elevation of 1,100 meters. The Kayaiktiyo Hills form a part of the Eastern Yoma Mountains or the Kelasa Hills. The hill is situated at a distance of 210 km from the city of Yangon. The village of Kinpun is the nearest residential area from the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, from where one has to travel uphill to reach the shrine. Yatetaung is the last point where cars can reach and one has to climb up to the Golden Rock on foot to reach the holy location.

Legends and History

Legend has it, that Lord Buddha himself once presented the hermit called ‘Taik Tha‘ with a few strands of his hair. Taik Tha safely tucked the strands within the tuft of his own hair and later made a gift of those strands to the king. It was his wish that the Buddha’s hair must remain enshrined in a boulder which has the shape of the head of a hermit.

The king was said to possess supernatural powers which he acquired from his alchemist father, Zawgyi, and his mother who was a serpent dragon princess. So the king, along with his parents, located the circular rock at a seabed. Then afterwards, with the aid of Thagyamin (who according to Buddhist Cosmology is the king who rules the Tawadeintha Heaven), they were able to find the perfect spot to place the boulder and for the construction of the pagoda where the strand was to be enshrined. It is said that the strands of hair from Lord Buddha prevents the rock from rolling off the hill.

The boat which shifted the Golden Rock has been supposedly transformed into a stone which lies about 300 meters from Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. The stone is also worshiped by the devotees and is known as the Kyaukthanban Stupa which means the “Stone boat stupa”.

As per historical records, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda was built by King Teikthadhamma Siharaja in 581 B.C, however, yet another account says that an itinerant monk brought three strands of hair of Lord Buddha to King Tissa in the 11th century and told him to place the hair in a stupa, built on a rock in the shape of the monk’s head.

According to popular beliefs, pilgrims who undertake their pilgrimage by hiking from the base camp at Kinpun to the shrine, thrice a year, are blessed with fame and prosperity in their life.

What to Expect

The Golden Rock which dazzles with brilliance on top of the mountain is about 7.6 meters in height and has a circumference of about 15 meters. The pagoda itself rises up to a height of 7.3 meters. The Golden Boulder stands on a rocky platform which seems to be naturally formed to support the Golden Rock. However, the rocky platform and the Golden Rock are detached from one another, with a very small area of contact. Therefore it gives the visitor the impression that the boulder is very precariously situated which might fall off at the slightest touch. The rock platform, on which the boulder lies, has an inclined plane, the edge of which leads to a sheer drop into the valley below, and the Golden Rock stands at the very edge of this inclined rock platform.

The base of the rock consists of a shape of a lotus painted in gold leaves which encircles the rock. A flight of stairs will take the visitor to the complex of the pagoda where one can enjoy a spectacular view from the viewing verandas of the shrine. The pagoda compound also has a number of smaller shrines and pagodas where Nats or spirits are worshipped in the temple. Devotees attach small golden leaves on the surface of the rock as part of a ritual during their visit to the shrine.

A few yards from the Golden Rock, one can also see the circle of gongs where there are four statues of angels and Nat spirits near the edifice.

Close to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, there is a town square with many shops selling religious paraphernalia and one can also find many eateries, gift shops, and hotels in the Potemkin village close to the town square.

Festivals

The pilgrimage season continues from November to March, when the visitors can experience a calm and inspiring atmosphere in Kyaiktiyo Pagoda and the surrounding region around the shrine.

One can see the Golden Rock shining with all its glory from dawn to dusk while the chants of the worshipers reverberate all over the mountains, creating a unique, spiritual ambiance during the festivals around the place.

During the festival seasons, the process of lighting incense sticks and candles and chanting meditations continues throughout the night and thousands of pilgrims hike all the way up to take part in the holy rituals and to paste golden leaves on the rock's walls.
Handicapped people or old people can also pay a visit to the pagoda by hiring the services of porters who carry them on makeshift stretchers to the holy shrine.

In March, on the full moon day of Tabaung (Wikipedia Article), the rock platform of the pagoda is illuminated with 90,000 candles, which is indeed a sight to behold.
Pilgrims coming to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda generally carry some fruits, candles and incense as an offering to Lord Buddha.

Where to Stay

Though there are a few accommodations on the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, it is advisable that you rent a hotel at its base camp on Kinpun.
Kinpun is a lively place which has many decent guesthouses and restaurants. Ideally, the visitor should try to reach Kinpun during the afternoon or evening and stay there for a night and start the trek to the pagoda on the following morning.
The Golden Rock Hotel, the Pann Myo Thu; the Mountain Top Hotel, and the Sea Sar Guesthouse are some of the good hotels in Kinpun.
The Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse is also another good, budget hotel located on this mountain top.

How to Reach

From the base camp, one can either hire an overcrowded vehicle which will take them to the top of the mountain through a beautiful mountain track. Or one can even choose to hike up 11 km from the base camp along a nice and shady track which offers a cascade of beautiful panoramic views. The route to the temple is well paved and it takes about 4-5 hours to reach the top of the mountain track.
One can catch a train from Yangon to reach the town of Kyaiktiyo and Kinpun. There are regular buses which leave from Yangon to Kinpun which takes about 5 hours. The train journey from Yangon is more comfortable as it will also offer the visitors a glimpse of the Burmese countryside.
One can reach Kinpun from Yangon within 4 hours by train.

Similar Landmarks

Other tourist attractions of similar religious significance and interest in Burma include the Mahamuni Pagoda of Mandalay and the Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon, which are the other two most important pagodas.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Sep 11, 2014

Pictures of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. Photo by Luc V. de Zeeuw

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Photo by Top Koaysomboon

The golden rock - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
The golden rock - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. Photo by Marina & Enrique

Golden Rock - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Golden Rock - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Photo by Staffan Scherz

Kyaiktiyo - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo - Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. Photo by Arian Zwegers

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