Burma: Buddhists visit precarious mountaintop monument
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock, is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar. It sits on top of the Kyaiktiyo hill (also known as Kelasa hills or Eastern Yoma mountains), and is on the Paung-laung ridge of the Eastern Yoma mountains. Shrouded in clouds, its origins and story offer visitors and pilgrims a tantalising taste of mystery and mythology.
The rock itself is 25 feet, balancing precariously on the edge of an abyss.
To the human eye, it appears baffling, almost impossible, but to the devoted it is proof of the divine.
Its worshippers believe that the rock stays in balance because of Buddha’s miraculous powers.
Between the rock and the hill it sits on top of, a strand of the Buddha’s hair is, in fact, believed to be placed, helping it keep its balance.
Archaeology: Researchers have been stunned by the precariously balance rock for years
Ancient history: An artist’s impression of the rock in 1920
Few Burmese question the engineering behind the construction, and are instead devoted to the mythology of it.
The more that a site is shrouded in myth and miracles, the more important it is to pray there.
Its story and history was explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Wonders of Burma: Shrines of Gold’, in which the narrator noted its “gravity defying” nature.
They said: “It’s a natural wonder made sacred by stories.”
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Buddhists: The pilgrims revere the rock as a holy site
The legend begins with a kingdom a thousand years ago deep in a region called ‘Upper Mon’.
One day, the king encountered a buddhist hermit who held a strand of hair inside his hat said to be the Buddha’s, and offered it to the king.
In return, the hermit insisted the hair should be enshrined in a pagoda built on a rock the shape of his head.
The king had inherited supernatural powers from his father Zawgyi, a proficient alchemist, and his mother, a naga serpent dragon princess.
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Journey: A pilgrim on his way to the pagoda
Golden Rock: It sits apparently unaware of its precarious position
He enlisted the help of Sakra, the Thagyamin, who found the perfect rock at the bottom of the ocean.
Pulling it from the seafloor, he used a boat to transport the rock and eventually lifted it to the top of the mountain.
After balancing the rock on the mountain, the king built a pagoda on top and enshrined the buddhist’s hair inside.
The boat that was used to transport the rock has also been turned into a stone, also worshipped by pilgrims at a location about 300 metres from the Golden Rock.
Mythology: The rock is shrouded in mystery and mythology
It is known as the Kyaukthanban Pagoda or stupa — it’s literal meaning translates to “the stone boat”.
Another version of the story states that the rock was placed on top of the hair, and that the hair helps prevent the rock from sliding down the mountain.
And, another states that the Buddhist prides impressed the king with his asceticism and so used his own powers to carry the rock to its current place himself.
On the brink: Many legends claim to give the reason as to why the rock has not yet fallen
The subsequent shrine, and the story behind it, has made Mount Kyaiktiyo and the Golden Rock one of the most famous and popular spots in the entire country.
While the Golden Rock has become a tourist attraction, between November to March, an atmosphere of devotion is observed.
It is here that pilgrims come from all over Myanmar and chant, light candles, meditate and bring offerings to the Buddha.