Even at 24 feet, this small pagoda is hard to miss. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also called the Golden Rock, is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar. Pilgrims from all over the world have flocked for centuries to meditate and give small offerings to the Buddha.

This golden pagoda is covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees and is located on top of a granite boulder on Mount Kyaiktiyo. What seems to amaze tourists and pilgrims alike is the fact that this balancing rock always looks like it is about to fall down because it is perched dangerously on the edge of a cliff. Some even say that as you take just one look at this gravity defying Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, you’ll have enough inspiration to turn you to Buddhism.

More specifically, this Golden Rock on top of Kyaiktiyo Hill is placed at an elevation of nearly four thousand feet above sea level. Sixteen kilometers away from the base of Mt. Kyaiktiyo, you will find the Kinpun village, which is the closest to the Golden Rock. Legend has it that pilgrims who trek from the Kinpun base all the way to the Golden Rock thrice in a year will be blessed with good wealth.

What does Kyaiktiyo mean?

Kyaik (Pagoda) + Ithi (Hermit) + Yo (Carry on the hermit’s head) = ‘Kyaik-htiyo’ so Kyaiktiyo basically means, “Pagoda upon a hermit’s head”

To understand further, it would be best to tell you the legend of this Golden Rock:

Legend has it that the Almighty Buddha was a frequent visitor of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. On one of his visits, he decided to give a strand of his own hair away. He gave this to Talk Tha, a hermit who then gave the strand ta a king in the hopes that the hair be enshrined in a boulder that would carry out the shape of the hermit’s head.

Now, this king was no ordinary king. He was the son of Zawgyi, a very famous alchemist and a serpent dragon princess. These three found a rock that would best fit the hermit’s wishes at the bottom of the sea. They then asked the king of Tawadeinth Heaven to find a perfect place in Kyaiktiyo, which he did! And soon enough, the strand was enshrined on the pagoda. It is also stated in the legend that this single Buddha hair strand prevents the rock from falling down the cliff.

The Golden Rock has become a very popular pilgrimage and tourist attraction in Myanmar. But pilgrimage is at its peak on March during the Full Moon day of Tabaung where devotion is clearly evident as people come and offer food, fruits and incense to the Buddha. But another tradition during this time is the lighting of 90,000 candles as offering to the Lord Buddha. The lit candles give a magnificent effect to the golden boulder, making it shine in the night sky. What a beautiful sight indeed!