The Golden Rock, Kyaikhtiyo, Burma

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The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as Golden Rock, is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar/Burma. It is a small pagoda (7,3 metres (24 ft)) built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees. According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha’s hair. The rock seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. The rock and the pagoda are at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangoon) and the Mahamuni Pagoda (Mandalay). A glimpse of the “gravity defying” Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism.

We approached the place by truck, together with numerous Burmese pilgrims. From the base of the mountain, we walked up along a paved road. The slope is quite steep at some point and I was quite happy to arrive. First thing was to register with the local authorities and pay my tourist due. I stayed in one of the hotels near the Golden Rock and this enabled me to easily attend the morning ceremony at dawn.

The golden rock, Kyaikhtiyo, Burma, Feb 2009

The Legend

The legend associated with the pagoda is that the Buddha, on one of his many visits, gave a strand of his hair to Taik Tha, a hermit. The hermit, who had tucked it in the tuft of his hair, in turn gave the strand to the King, with the wish that the hair be enshrined in a boulder shaped like the hermit’s head. This rock, found at the bottom of the sea was then lifted at the perfect place, at Kyaiktiyo, by angels. It is this strand of hair which, according to the legend, prevents the rock from rolling down the hill.

The legend also mentions that pilgrims undertaking the pilgrimage by trekking from the Kinpun base camp, three times consecutively in a year will be blessed with wealth and recognition.

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