Sunday, September 23, 2012

#931 Kyaiktyo (Golden Rock), Myanmar (Burma)

One of the most sacred pilgrimmage places in Burma is a place called Kyaiktyo, where a precariously perched rock which has been painted with gold-leaf and people travel across the country to spend time meditating there. An amazing journey in itself, the collective travel and sense of purpose that accompany it make it collegial and full of community. Likewise, while the majestic vision itself perched high above a valley is a sight to behold, the people you watch and the spectacle are equally unique.

The area is a marvel of magic and devotion, religious iconography, excessive commercial development, rosaries sold aside toy rifles, people meditating, sleeping, and touching the rock (affixing more gold-leaf). The walk up is several hours long, and in a wonder of contrasts, passes through villages, past stupas, statues, shops and souvenirs.

The gravity-defying rock iteslf, with a 7.3m high stupa on top, is one of Myanmar's most sacred sites, perched on the edge of Mt. Kyaiktiyo (pronounced chay ti tyo). Legend has it that the rock can sit thus because of Buddha's specially placed hair inside the stupa. King Tissa (11th century) was given the hair by a hermit who had secreted it in his own topknot. The king was instructed to find a boulder that resembled the hermit's head, which was found at the bottom of the ocean, and upon reaching the mountain top, the boat turned to stone (which can be seen nearby).

Source: Lonely Planet Myanmar (9th Edition)