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March 30, 2020

Over 70 elephants ferrying pilgrims to Alaungdaw Kathapa cave

Pilgrims take elephant ride to Alaungdaw Kathapa cave at the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park.  Photo: Than Htay Aung (Kani)
Pilgrims take elephant ride to Alaungdaw Kathapa cave at the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park.  Photo: Than Htay Aung (Kani)

Seventy-seven elephants are helping carry pilgrims to the Alaungdaw Kathapa sacred cave at the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in Kani Township of Sagaing Region, said U Aung Maung, a park official.
To allow smooth transportation for pilgrims, elephant rides have been organized at the national park. Each trip from the bus terminal to the cave shrine on elephants is priced at K8,000 per howdah. An elephant trek to the pagoda, located two miles from the shrine, costs another K16,000. The elephant rides are available between 6 am and 10:30 am in the morning and 3 pm to 6:30 pm in the evening. Of the total elephants, 35 are owned by the park and 42 by Myanma Timber Enterprise.
“An elephant trek accommodates four people per round. Some elephant rides take three people. An elephant ride costs K8,000 for the mile-long trip from the bus terminal to the shrine. This year, the number of pilgrims has decreased. Therefore, there are no queues for the transportation service, unlike earlier. Pilgrims opting for elephant treks can experience the scenic beauty of the national park along the route,” said U Aung Maung.
Pilgrims thronged the Alaungdaw Kathapa cave shrine after the road to the shrine was opened on 24 December, 2019.
Every year, the Tabodwe full moon is the high season of pilgrimage to Alaungdaw Kathapa.
Hundreds of pilgrims could be seen at the pagoda on 7 February, the day before the full moon of Tabodwe, and on the night of the full moon on 8 February.
Alaungdaw Kathapa, an enlightened monk, passed away on the Tabodwe full moon day. So, to mark this day, local visitors flock to the cave where the remains of Alaungdaw Kathapa have been preserved.
The Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park is an ASEAN heritage site and aims to preserve the natural forest, ecosystem, and archaeological remains. It is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, gaurs, barking deer, jungle goats, mountain goats, bears, wild boars, jungle cats, and many species of birds. However, it is more well-known as a religious site. —Than Htay Aung (Kani)  (Translated by Ei Myat Mon)

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