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The pagoda kyaikhtiyo:

An unsolved mystery

There are many beautiful pagodas in Myanmar but the Golden rock or the Pagoda of Kyaikhtiyo situated 20 km from Kyaikhtiyo town which is about 160 km from Yangon, the capital of Myanmar is really intriguing. Perhaps those of you who have not seen this pagoda are already fascinated by the pictures featured here because the pagoda is standing at a very precarious angle. The Pagoda of Kyaikhtiyo constructed around a massive boulder balanced precariously on a tabular rock is certainly a mystery to many. How is it possible that such an immense boulder can rest on another rock which is positioned at such a precarious angle? You and I may never find an answer but according to legend it is believed that the the balance of the boulder is maintained by a hair strand of the Buddha inside the pagoda.The Pagoda which is 50 feet in circumference and 18 feet in height is located on a 1100 metre hill between Thanlwin and Sittaung. The egg-shaped granite boulder perched on the tabular rock is gilded (covered with a thin layer of gold) and that is why it is called the Golden Rock.But how the name Kyaikhtiyo came about is also as intriguing as the pagoda. it is said that derived from Kyaik-ithi-yo where 'Kyaik' stands for pagoda, 'ithi' is hermit, and 'yo' represents 'to carry on head'.

Hence 'Kyaikhtiyo' literally means 'the pagoda carried on the hermit's head'. This glittering gold pagoda which is steeped in history and is believed to be about 2,500 years old is visited by a large number of devotees and enthusiasts throughout the year.

However, the best time to visit this place is between October and March which is the festival time and devotees throng by the thousands.It is said that on March Full Moon Day (Tabaung), ninety thousand candles are lit at the platform pagoda and worshippers in thousand offer fruits, and sweets to the Buddha.

If you ever decide to visit Myanmar do not miss out on seeing this bewildering pagoda. You can either trek up to the pagoda on foot along an 11 km path from the base of the hill or go in a vehicle.But if you feel that you may not be able to go on foot up the hill,rest easy because provisions have been made for children, the aged, and the physically underprivileged to make this trip with the help of bamboo carrier chairs.

As we said earlier there are many interesting legends entwined with the history of this unusual pagoda. According to the main one it begins with a hermit(there are many versions) bringing a hair of the Buddha to his king. The hermit instructed that his gift be enshrined under a rock shaped like the hermit's head. (The name Kyaik-htiyo means "Pagoda on a Hermit's Head.")

Fortunately the king was the son of a zagwi (a hermit reborn as a powerful, magical being) and a naga (sea dragon) so he was able to find and retrieve the rock from the bottom of the ocean.

The king built a ship to carry the rock to the mountain. After the rock was in place, balanced on the hair of the Buddha, the boat turned to stone.

A stone that looks a bit like a ship is enshrined in the complex.

Another legend explains that the rock actually hovers in the air above the cliff.

According to another legend it is believed that a hermit after listening to a sermon from Gautama Buddha obtained a hair strand from the Buddha himself and placed it within his hair.The hermit treasured the sacred hair in his hair knot until he found a boulder resembling his own head on which he could build a pagoda to enshrine it. While returning he discovered this granite rock which resembled his head. He subsequently built a pagoda on this 30 feet high rock to protect and preserve this relic.

No matter what is said no one will believe it is possible for such a huge boulder to be kept in balance at such an angle unless one sees it.

The pagoda is one of the most revered and celebrated in Myanmar. It could be qualified as one of the wonders of the world by virtue of the fact that it sits uniquely at the apex of a huge, almost egg shaped granite boulder.

The gilded boulder and the rock table are two separate pieces, the boulder actually balancing off the extreme verge of the sloping surface of the rock and overhanging it by nearly half its length. The slope drops down perpendicularly into a valley below.

What is amazing is that it is s possible to gently rock this egg-shaped boulder and push a thread between the boulder and the table.It is said that most visitors get the impression that this delicately balanced rock will topple any time by a strong wind or by adding just a few kilograms of weight. However, that is not to happen and therein lies the great mystery of the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda. It is not known what freakish law has kept the boulder in its precarious position for many centuries and despite several violent earthquakes.

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Facts file

* According to legend,the huge boulder is kept in balance by a single hair relic of the Buddha.

* The gilded boulder is about 25 feet high and its area of contact with the cliff is extremely small.

* The Golden Rock (Kyaik-htiyo or Kyaiktiyo),is perched atop a cliff near Yangon,and is one of the most sacred sites in Burma which is called Myanmar today.

* The great golden boulder which precariously balances on the edge of a cliff is topped by a small pagoda about 18 feet high.

* The endless stream of pilgrims who visit the sight add squares of gold leaf to its surface.

* The Kyaiktiyo shrine complex consists of several viewing platforms, pagodas, Buddha shrines and nat spirit shrines.

Worshipers gather in the area behind the rock to pray and make offerings, and nearly all apply a square of gold leaf to the rock as an offering and act of merit.

* Away from the main shrine complex is a circle of eight gongs with four statues of nats and angels in the centre. Facts and pix:Internet

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