Kyaiktiyo Pagoda , also known as Golden Rock) is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar. It is a small pagoda (7.3 metres (24 ft)) built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees. According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is 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. The rock and the pagoda are at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. A glimpse of the “gravity defying” Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism.
The boulder, which gleams golden and popularly known as the Golden Rock on which the small Kyaiktiyo Pagoda has been built, is about 25 feet (7.6 m) in height and has a circumference of 50 feet (15 m). The Pagoda above the rock is about 7.3 metres (24 ft) in height. The boulder sits on a natural rock platform that appears to have been naturally formed to act as the base to build the pagoda. This granite boulder lies on an inclined plane and the area of contact is extremely small. The golden rock or boulder and the rock table on which it is resting are independent of each other; the golden rock has an overhang of half its length and is perched at the extreme end of the sloping surface of the rock. There is a sheer vertical drop in the rock face, into the valley below. A lotus shape is painted in gold leaf, encircling the base of the rock. It appears as though the boulder will crash down at any moment. A staircase leads to the pagoda complex that houses several viewing platforms, pagodas, Buddha shrines, and nats (spirits worshipped in Burma in conjunction with Buddhism shrines). However, the Golden Rock is the main attraction for the pilgrims who offer prayers and also stick golden leaves on the rock in reverence. A short distance away, there is a circle of gongs with four statues of nats and angels in the centre.
A main square close to the golden rock has many establishments that deal in religious paraphernalia for worship and offerings made by the pilgrims. Adjoining the plaza area is the Potemkin village where restaurants, gift shops, and guest houses are located. A new terrace has been built at a lower level from which visitors can get a good view of the rock and the pagoda.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or Golden Rock has become a popular pilgrimage and also 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 (the sight at dawn and at sunset are unique), 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 (square in shape) on the face of the Golden Rock, in deep veneration. However, women are not allowed to touch the rock so cannot cross the bridge. Pilgrims visit the pagoda, from all regions of Myanmar; a few foreign tourists also visit the pagoda. Even disabled persons who are staunch devotees of Buddha visit the pagoda, 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 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 lighted 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.