Myanmar is known as the land of the golden Pagodas. Everywhere you go whether big cities or small villages the land is dotted with pagodas. They come in all shapes and sizes, from very simple to very ostentatious and elaborate.
Being a Buddhist country all pagodas have images of the Buddha. Buddha images again are of various sizes and postures. There is the Buddha sitting in different mudras and then there are standing Buddha also in different positions.
There are also reclining Buddha’s of different sizes and moods. But the world’s largest reclining Buddha is the Win Sein Taw Ya reclining Buddha in the Mon state near Mawlamyine
Kyauktalon Taung (Reclining Buddha)
Known locally as Win Sein Taw Ya, and 25 kilometers south of Mawlamyine it is.
The largest reclining Buddha in the world, it is 30 meters high and 180 meters in length. It can be seen for miles and is located opposite the Buddhist shrine of Kyauktalon Taung.
As you enter Win Sein Taw Ya there are a line of hundreds of large monk statues holding alms bowls lining the road. Inside the Giant head are hundreds of chambers depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha as well as scenes from Buddhist hell.
After almost 15 years of construction, the reclining Buddha is still not complete. In 2012 construction started on a second reclining Buddha opposite the original with the aim of being built to stand the test of time.
The poor concrete construction of the first has left the original with an uncertain future.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock)
The pagoda is located near Kyaikto in Mon State in the northern part of the Tenasserim coast. The golden rock is situated at an elevation of 1,100 meters (3,600ft) above mean sea level, on top of the Kyaiktiyo hill (also known as Kelasa hills or Eastern Yoma mountains).
It is a distance of 210 kilometers (130miles) from Yangon. The Kinpun village 16km (10 miles) is at the base of Mt Kyaiktiyo.
Kyaiktiyo is a well known Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Mon State.
It is a small pagoda, 7.3 meters built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees. The Golden Rock is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddhas hair.
The balancing 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 Myanmar after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda.
There is a legend associated with the pagoda. The Buddha on one of his many visits gave a strand of his hair to Taik Tha, a hermit.
The hermit, tucked it safely in the tuft of his hair, and gave it to the king with the wish that the hair be enshrined in a boulder shaped like the hermit’s head.
The king had inherited supernatural powers from his father Zawgyi (a proficient alchemist) and his mother, a naga serpent dragon princess. They found the rock at the bottom of the sea.
With the help of Thagamin, the king of Tawadeintha(heaven in Buddhist cosmology), found the perfect place at Kyaiktiyo for locating the golden rock and built a pagoda, where the strand was enshrined.
It is this strand of hair that, according to the legend, prevents the rock from tumbling down the hill. The boat which was used to transport the rock, turned into a stone. Pilgrims at a location about 300 meters from the golden rock also worship this. It is known as Kyaukthanban Pagoda or stupa (literal meaning: stone boat stupa).
Legend also says 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.
Kyaiktiyo has become a popular pilgrimage and also a tourist attraction. At the peak of the pilgrimage season, during November to March, an atmosphere of devotion is seen at the pagoda.
As the golden rock gleams in different shades from dawn to dusk, pilgrims chants vibrate in the recants of the shrine.
There are hundred of people lighting candles, meditating and offerings to the Buddha continues throughout the night. Men cross over a bridge across an abyss to affix golden leaves on the face of the Golden Rock in deep veneration. However women are not allowed to touch the rock so cannot cross the bridge.
Pilgrims visit the Pagoda from all regions of Myanmar. Even disabled persons who are staunch devotees visit the Pagoda walking up the tracks on crutches.
Porters carry old and sick people who cannot climb on stretchers.
The full moon day of Tabaung in March is a special occasion for pilgrims who visit the shrine. On this day, the platform of the pagoda is lighted with ninety thousand candles as offering to the lord Buddha.
The devotees visiting the pagoda also offer fruits, food and incense to the Buddha. It is quite a spectacular sight to behold.