Myanmar / Burma Travel Update
Since I was there, the situation in Myanmar/Burma has changed a lot. In February 2021, a military coup sparked widespread civil unrest and armed conflict.
The U.S. State Department currently advises: "Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict." You can find their full travel advisory and security alerts here. And you can find the British Foreign Office's travel advice for Myanmar / Burma here.
It’s known as the world’s largest book. But it doesn’t look much like any book you’ve seen before.
Each of the 729 “pages” is a large marble tablet inscribed with text from the Tipitaka (some of the Buddhist scriptures). The text was originally in gold, but it has long since weathered away. Each page is housed in its own individual white stupa. They radiate out in concentric squares from a central golden stupa. From the air, it looks like a remarkably uniform above-ground cemetery.
The earliest dated example of the written Burmese language (dated to 1112 or 1113) is on a stone slab at Myazedi Stupa near Old Bagan.
The main stupa is modeled after the 11th-century Shwezigon Pagoda in Nyaung-U, near Bagan. But this one is much newer, dating back to the 1860s during the reign of King Mindon.
Photos of Kuthodaw Pagoda
What To Know Before You Go
- Kuthodaw Pagoda is located at the foot of Mandalay Hill and not far from Shwenandaw Golden Palace Monastery.
- It’s the site of a major festival in the October full moon as people gather and light candles within the grounds.
- Yep, you guessed it: you’ll have to take your shoes off, as with any Buddhist holy site.
More About Kuthodaw Pagoda
- The construction of Kuthodaw Pagoda began in 1857 under King Mindon and was completed in 1868.
- Each marble slab is 5 feet tall, 3.5 feet wide, and 5 inches thick, and is housed in its own small stupa.
- The 729 marble slabs cover the entire Pali Canon, which is divided into three Pitakas: Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka, and Abhidhamma Pitaka.
- King Mindon convened the Fifth Buddhist Synod in 1871 at Kuthodaw Pagoda, where 2,400 monks recited the Pali Canon from memory to ensure its accuracy.
- The site was looted during the British invasion, and some of the original marble slabs were taken away but later returned.
The Kuthodaw Pagoda, an important religious and cultural landmark in Mandalay, Myanmar, is a complex of pagodas that houses the world’s largest book. The pagoda was built by King Mindon in the 19th century and features a central golden stupa surrounded by 729 smaller pagodas, each containing a marble slab inscribed with Buddhist scriptures in the ancient Pali language. Collectively, these scriptures are known as the Tripitaka or Pali Canon and are considered the most sacred text in Theravada Buddhism.
Visitors to the Kuthodaw Pagoda can explore the expansive grounds, which include numerous pathways and gardens, offering a peaceful environment for reflection and meditation. The pagoda is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists, who come to pay their respects, participate in religious activities, and learn more about the sacred texts. The site also showcases traditional Burmese architecture, with its multi-tiered roofs, intricate carvings, and gilded ornamentation.
What’s Nearby to Kuthodaw Pagoda
- Mandalay Hill: A prominent hill featuring a pagoda at its summit, offering panoramic views of the city.
- Shwenandaw Monastery: A historic wooden monastery known for its exquisite teak carvings and traditional Burmese architecture.
- Sandamuni Pagoda: A pagoda complex featuring the world’s largest iron Buddha statue and numerous white stupas.
- Atumashi Monastery: A reconstructed Buddhist monastery that was once one of the largest in Myanmar.
- Mandalay Palace: The last royal palace of the Burmese monarchy, now a museum showcasing royal artifacts and architecture.
How to Get to Kuthodaw Pagoda
Kuthodaw Pagoda is located in Mandalay, the second-largest city in Myanmar. The nearest major airport is Mandalay International Airport (MDL), which offers domestic and international flights.
Kuthodaw Pagoda FAQs
Why is Kuthodaw Pagoda known as the ‘World’s Largest Book’?
Kuthodaw Pagoda is known as the ‘World’s Largest Book’ because it houses 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings, each slab housed in a small white stupa. The teachings, taken from the Tipitaka, are inscribed on both sides of each slab, making it a vast repository of sacred texts.
How large is the area of Kuthodaw Pagoda?
Kuthodaw Pagoda covers an area of approximately 13 acres (5.26 hectares). The central stupa, modeled after the Shwezigon Pagoda, stands 188 feet (57 meters) tall and is surrounded by 729 small white stupas, each containing a marble slab.