World's Biggest Book

The World's Biggest Book or The Kuthodaw Pagoda
 
 
 
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Our first glimpse of the central stupa as we walked toward one of the side entrances.
 
 
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To our right some of the ‘pages’.
 
 

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Along the passageway at this entrance, we were met by countless sellers and stallholders.

 

 

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Each stall was of course filled with masksmy father made” and pieces of material that “my mother hand stitched the sequins”, things we have seen every day since we arrived. We did manage a quick look at the lovely engraving on one of the inner doors. Once we got to the next, locked entrance we were only accompanied by only a few stalwart young ladies with armfuls of “real jade necklaces Madam”. So pleased we cut our teeth in Morocco and managed to get thick skins when it comes to sellers and their persistence, especially with badly painted beads............

 

 

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The Kuthodaw Paya (Pagoda) or more formally Maha Lawka Marazein Paya is a large walled complex, set in thirteen acres and situated at the base of the southeast stairway to Mandalay Hill. It was built by King Mindon at the same time he was constructing the Royal Palace in 1857, its central stupa is modeled on the Shwezigon at Nyaung U near Bagan. An on-site carved tablet indicates that the pagoda’s height is 187 feet 9 inches high, it glistened brightly in the late afternoon sunshine showing off its completely gilded exterior.

 

 

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The world’s biggest book is the Kuthodaw Pagoda, that is, all the little stupas around the main pagoda IS the book. There are 729 Dama Cetis, pitaka pagodas, shrines or white stupas, each containing a double-sided ‘page’ and one containing the description. All together, the tablets make up the complete Theravāda or Tipitaka, Buddhism’s religious Pali Canon.Tipitaka (a phrase meaning three baskets), is a reference to the baskets in which the original Buddhist teachings were held. The thick Sagyin (Sagaing) Hill marble tablets each stand five feet three inches tall and five inches thick. The carvers began their work in October 1860 and completed their task in May 1869, originally the lettering had a gold veneer. The work was carried out in a special hall within King Mindon’s Royal Palace, if spread out horizontally, the slabs would cover a third of an acre; stacked vertically, the ‘pages’ would rise 340 feet.

King Mindon called the Fifth Buddhist Synod in 1872. This meeting of 2,400 monks from throughout the country (it is thought) authenticated the texts and began the construction of the encasing shrines.

Wiki says: After the annexation of Mandalay by the British in 1885, the walled city with Mandalay Palace became Fort Dufferin, and troops were billeted all around Mandalay Hill in the monasteries, temples and pagodas. They became off-limits to the public and Burmese were no longer allowed to visit their religious sites. One revenue surveyor called U Aung Ban then came up with the idea of appealing direct to Queen Victoria since she had promised to respect all religions practised by her subjects. To their amazement and great joy, the British queen promptly ordered the withdrawal of all her troops from religious precincts in 1890. This however turned to great sadness when they found that the pagoda had been looted from the hti (umbrella at the top of the pagoda), left lying on the ground stripped of its bells, gold, silver, diamonds, rubies and other precious stones, down to the Italian marble tiles from its terraces. The zayats (assembly place for religious occasions or rest stop for travellers) lay in utter ruin and the bricks had been used to build a road for the troops. All the brass bells from all the kyauksa gu stupas were gone, 9 on each making it 6570 in total. The gold ink from the letters as well as the sides and top of each marble slab had also disappeared. All the biloos (ogres) along the corridors had lost their heads, and the marble eyes and claws from the masonry chinthes (lions) gone.

Restoration began in 1892 with donations from the families of the original donors (according to custom) and also members of the public. The gold lettering on the ‘pages’ was replaced with black ink, making them easier to read, the pagoda was repaired and re-gilded with a donation from a wealthy rice trader and so on.....to the condition we saw the book in today.

 

 

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One of the zayats.

 

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Seven little Buddha images and ‘the modern world’ – a monk on his mobile......

 

 

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Bear on the bell.

 

 

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A final look at the central stupa before we went in search of the main Buddha image.

 

 

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We passed this chap along the way. Very brightly lit.

 

 

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The main Buddha surrounded by flashing lights and flowers.

 

 

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In the hallway we found a plan of the site................

 

 

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............below was a model of the site. Beyond, we could make out a photo shoot with models.

 

 

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Many couples come here to have wedding pictures taken, model shoots are popular too.

 

 

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Dusk as we made to leave.

 

 

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We left by the main exit, very grand.

 

 

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Outside, I was just taking this Buddha image when I spotted a group of children. The bigger girl was popping some food in the little boys mouth when I noticed his pet duck.

 

 

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The little chap was left with the scraps which he relished, duck sitting happily.

 

 

 

 

ALL IN ALL A JOY TO BIMBLE ONCE THE SELLERS LEFT US ALONE

                     SPECIAL AND UNIQUE

 

 

 

The Handy Religion Answer Book describes the Difference Between a Stupa and a Pagoda as: A stupa is an ancient Indian burial or reliquary monument. Its fundamental unit is a solid hemispherical earthen mound called the “egg” (anda) or “womb” (garbha). Atop the mound sits a solid square or rectangular shape, originally surrounded by a four-sided railing, called the harmika, which may be a remnant of the days when the village altar stood inside a fenced enclosure. Growing treelike from that is a pillar that pierces several circular discs of decreasing diameter, usually an odd number from three to eleven. The result looks like a multi-tiered parasol. The Buddha’s cremated remains are said to have been originally enshrined in a large number of stupas built all over India. Mahayana teaching developed the notion that the Buddha was a cosmic spiritual being, rather than a mere human teacher, and the architecture of the stupa evolved to reflect those changes. Stupa designers began to raise the mound off the ground by using several square bases, meanwhile stretching the mound itself upward much the way a potter turns a round lump of clay into a tall graceful vase. The “parasol” is also stretched heavenward, becoming more streamlined and adding disks.

When Mahayana Buddhism moved into China, architects transformed the upper portion of the stupa into an independent structure, turning the multiple discs into roofs. The earth-hugging funerary mound was replaced by the pagoda. The new structure was derived from the stupa and still contained relics, but the pagoda symbolized transcendence rather than earthly existence. Pagodas soon added their own sets of multiple discs, leaving the stupa, so to speak, in the dust. In the Theravada lands of southeast Asia, reminders of the stupa remain in the gently tapered monuments of Burma and Thailand. Mahayana Buddhist establishments all over East Asia identify themselves with their graceful, multi-roofed pagodas. Unlike the typical stupa, the pagoda actually has interior space, sometimes on several levels.