Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda is located about 160 km from Yangon. Rising 1100 meters above sea level at the top of Mt Kyaiktiyo, this small golden Stupa stands on the top of a huge gold-gilded boulder. According to legend, the Golden Rock sits precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha’s hair. The balancing rock seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. A glimpse of the “gravity defying” Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or Golden Rock is a popular pilgrimage site and now a popular tourist attraction. At the peak of the pilgrimage season, during November to March, an atmosphere of devotion is witnessed at Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda. As the golden rock gleams in different shades from dawn to dusk pilgrims’ chants reverberate in the precincts of the shrine. Lighting of candles, meditation 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. Women however are not allowed to touch the rock so cannot cross the bridge. Pilgrims visit the pagoda from all regions of Myanmar; and increasingly from the rest of the world. Even disabled people who are staunch devotees of Buddha visit the golden rock, walking up the track on crutches. Old people, who can not climb, are carried on stretchers by porters to the Pagoda to offer prayers to the Buddha.
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 lit with ninety thousand candles as reverential offering to the Lord Buddha. The devotees visiting the Pagoda also offer fruits, food and incense to the Buddha.
The open truck ride to the Golden Rock Pagoda is part of the thrill of visiting this venerated place.