Maha Saddhamma Jotika dhaja,
Sithu, Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
Myanmar, the land of pagodas, has several sites and places where pagodas are located usually and unusually-they are found on the ground, on hillock, on summit, on islet, in lake, on island, in mid stream, on rock, in sea, on river bank, on sand bank, in cave, in tunnel and underground. But the most unusual among them is a pagoda built on a rocking boulder on the precipice of a mountain summit. It is a world renowned pagoda named ‘’Kyaik-hti-yoe’’.
The Kyaik-hti-yoe Pagoda stands on a literally rocking monolith of quite a huge size on the top of a mountain called Paung Laung with an altitude of 3615 feet above sea-level, situated in Kyaikhto township, Thaton district, Mon State in Myanmar. Because of this strange phenomenon, Kyaik-hti-yoe lures pilgrims and visitors from all direction of the world.
Legends woven around the Pagoda and associated religious edifices are beyond scientific explanation. The history of the pagoda on the rocking rock goes far back to the life time of Gotama Buddha [B.C 588-543]. In the Maha Sakarit year 111 [B.C.581] when Gotama Buddha had obtained the 8th year of his Buddhahood, a saint monk named Gavampati, one of the Buddha’s disciples, requested the Buddha to visit his native place Suvanna-bhumi [Thaton] to deliver a sermon. The Buddha with his disciples came and preached the Dhamma [His teachings]. Two hermit brothers Tissa and Siha, the Mon King of Thaton Tissadhamma Siha Raja and his people listened to the Buddha’s sermon and they became Buddhists. They entreated the Buddha to leave his representative to worship. The Buddha offered strands of his hair to them. One of the recipients of the sacred hair relics was the hermit Tissa. Though other recipients had enshrined their share of the sacred relics in the stupas, the hermit Tissa kept his in his hair knot. When he reached a ripe age and was about to die, he wished to enshrine the sacred relic in a stone which looked like his head. Sakka Deva [the Thunder god] tried to help him by bringing up from the bottom of the ocean, stones that might look like his head and showed them to the hermit. Finally, the hermit chose the one which he thought was shaped exactly like his head. Sakka Deva placed the chosen stone on a high precipitous rock mountain. A hole was drilled in the centre of the stone to a depth of over 3 cubits and a diameter of 6 inches. The scared relics of the Buddha’s hair taken out from the hair knot of the hermit was placed in an emerald-studded gold casket which was enshrined in the hole. In the Maha Sakarit year [Buddhist Era] 114 [B.C. 574] the king of Thaton built a stupa on the enshrined hole. The stupa came to be known as ‘’Kyaik-hti-yoe’’ which is corrupted from the original Mon word ‘’Kyaik-i-si-yoe’’ meaning a pagoda on the rock shaped like the head of a i-shi [hermit].
According to this legend, Kyaik-hti-yoe is now 2750 years old. Over these long years the Pagoda fell into oblivion and was swallowed up by wild vegetation. In Kawza Sakarit 1185 [Myanmar Era] A.D. 1823, the governor of Sittaung town Minhla Thin Kha Thu discovered the Pagoda. Since then the Pagoda has attracted pilgrims and visitors from far and near to venerate it and to marvel at it as well as to enjoy the thrill of reaching the destination after a long arduous journey of hiking and mountaineering 33 forested hills. Starting with King Bayint- naung of Hamsavadi, successive Myanmar kings had put a new hti [umbrella] on the stupa. The original stupa was 13 feet 8 inches high and the hti 18 feet. In the Kawza Sakarit 1362 [A.D. 2003] on 19 March a new hti of gold weighing 9 viss and 32 ticals, and 10 feet 9 inches high was put the stupa. The stupa was raised to a height of 22 feet and 5 inches and was also strengthened. The three relic chambers were enshrined with 3708 pieces of jewelleries and 1279 pieces of gold ornaments weighing 10 viss and 41 ticals. They were donated by pious devotees.
The boulder is a granite monolith, 26.75 feet high, 84 feet wide, weighing 611.75 tonnes. It rests precariously on the top of a cliff of 83 cubits high and over 55 cubits wide with a deep precipice down below. The rocky floor of the cliff is not even. It is high inward and it slides down outward. The boulder juts out 5 feet. The area where the boulder and the top of the cliff meet is also uneven and limited. It is only 7.69 square feet. The boulder and the cliff are separate. They are of two different types of rock. Besides, the cliff and the main mountain are separated by a deep gap which is crossed over by a man-made bridge.
You can rock the boulder. Under the untouched space between the boulder and the cliff a hen can go in and rest comfortably. To test that the boulder and the cliff top are separate, you may put a string under the boulder from one side and pull it out from the other side, or two persons, each holding one end of the string can swing it under the boulder.
Out in the open, on the top of a cliff in the remote forest, weathering all climates, storms and rain and withstanding all natural disasters, this rocking boulder has remained in its original position through centuries.
Questions are raised to explain this strange phenomenon scientifically. Is it a piece from a falling meteor? It it a piece thrown out from the depth of earth by a volcanic eruption? Is it a piece left on the edge of this cliff by the tide when the sea receded? Is it a stone placed there for worship by prehistoric men as in the case of Stonehenge in England? Why does lightening not strike it? Why does not forest fire consume it? Why does it not fall down from rain and storm or earthquake?
The above questions crop up as you gaze at this shaky monolith on this precipitious cliff at any time of the day or night in any month of the year. There are strange rock formations in the vicinity but nothing of this sort.
All-round developments have provided many facilities to visit this Pagoda. Motor roads, hotels, rest houses and restaurants as well as residences for the monks and nuns. There is a helicopter pad on a range nearby.
The festive period to visit Kyaik-hti-yoe Pagoda begins on the full moon of Thadingyut (October) and ends on the full moon of Kason (May) a long period of 7 months covering the cold and warm seasons of the country.
Kyaik-hto, a town where rail and road running between Yangon and Mawlamyine meet, is the starting point to go up to Kyaik-hti-yoe. The distance by car from Kyaik-hto to Kin-pun Station is 9 miles [144 km]. From Kin-pun Station to Yathe Taung Station is 7 miles 4 furlongs and from there to the Pagoda platform is 1 mile and 4 furlongs, totaling 9 miles.
It is an exciting and hair raising uphill car road with many U-twists and U-turns. Only specially trained drivers driving special
cars run the ferry service. No other cars are allowed on this uphill journey.
For hikers, mountaineers and adventure-lovers a 7.4 mile [12 km] uphill foot path awaits them. From Kin-Pun Station to the Pagoda platform they have to climb 33 steep mountains and pass 17 Stations. There are wayside inns where you may stay a night. For this arduous uphill journey, get on to a makeshift litter of bamboo borne on the shoulders by two stout local men, one at the front, one at the rear who will take you to the Pagoda platform and you pay liberally for their hard labour.