A pilgrim’s journey to the top
A precariously perched golden rock which defies gravity draws thousands of pilgrims every year.
A GIANT boulder known as the Golden Rock is perched precariously 1,100m above sea level and looks like it may tumble down the mountain any moment.
For Buddhist pilgrims, the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Myanmar is a sacred site because the monolith is balanced on a single strand of Buddha’s hair which prevents it from falling down.
I made a trip to the mysterious granite rock 210km from Yangon recently after its vision appeared several times in my dreams. Spiritual seekers interpret it as my spiritual calling.
After a short prayer in my hotel room in Yangon, I started out on a scenic four-hour drive accompanied by my tour guide Tun Lin. We headed to Kin Pun, the base town of Mount Kyaiktiyo.
Upon arrival, I boarded an open truck. There were monks on board too. It was a 45-minute drive up the steep mountain. I sat in the driver’s cabin rather than the back of the truck, to minimise the impact of jolts along the rough journey.
There were screams from the passengers at the back as the driver manoeuvred the sharp hairpin bends on the mountain path.
We reached the peak safely despite the rain, strong winds and reduced visibility caused by the fog and Cyclone Mora that hit Myanmar and Bangladesh early this month.
I rushed off to buy a raincoat as a porter stepped forward and offered to carry my luggage to the Mountain Top hotel, which was 20 minutes away.
It was off-peak season and there were over 50 visitors at the mountain-top. The Golden Rock was not easily visible due to the fog. The pilgrimage site attracts over 12,000 people daily between the months of November and March.
The following day, I woke up at 5am. It was 16 degrees Celsius. I tuned my mind, body and spirit with a silent prayer and climbed barefoot over 250 steps, stopping only to give alms to monks lining the route.
My journey was not smooth because it was cold, raining and visibility was down to 20m. I slipped and fell a few times.
The passage is supposed to be a reflection of the life of a pilgrim and how comfortable the journey is depends on the emotional baggage he or she is carrying.
Each step is also supposed to tell a story of the individual’s good or bad karma and his bid to seek mercy by making the climb.
As I approached the Golden Rock, I could hear chants from an enclosure nearby and goose pimples covered my body when I finally reached the rock, which measured seven meters in height. I stood in awe before the rock.
Later, I approached the counter and bought a gold leaf, a bronze bell and offerings of cooked rice to perform my ritual at the grounds.
However, due to the rain and strong winds, the small bridge which connects to the rock was closed.
Tun Lin reminded me to make a wish at the rock because it is highly likely to be fulfilled. Many people have shared stories of their experiences.
Since I could not fulfil my wish to add a gold leaf on the rock, I said a prayer and dropped it into a donation box. Hopefully, the site committee will do it on my behalf later.
I placed the offerings on a dais for good karma and wrote my wish on a bell and tied it to the fence. It is said that each time the bell chimes, the sound will carry my message to the Almighty.
My next challenge was to get a clear shot of the rock which was shrouded in thick mist.
I waited and waited for an opportune moment. There were precious seconds when the mist cleared, enabling me to take a few snaps of the glowing rock.
The story associated with the Golden Rock is that Buddha, on one of his many visits, gave a strand of his hair to a hermit known as Taik Tha, who then tucked it in a tuft of hair on his head.
The hermit later gave the strand to the king with a wish that the hair be enshrined in a boulder shaped like the hermit’s head. The king later found the rock at the bottom of the sea and placed it at Kyaiktiyo and built a stupa where the strand was preserved.
I spent hours gazing at the rock from several viewpoints. I feasted my eyes on its amazing and majestic glow which vibrated energy. It gave me strength and the message I got was: be strong and solid like the Golden Rock.
I returned home filled with renewed energy. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment in my soul.
I am determined to return to the holy site soon to show my appreciation.
T. Selva is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th-generation Vasthu Sastra master Yuvaraj Sowma from Chennai, India.
You can follow him on twitter at @tselvas and write to him at email@example.com. This column appears on the last Sunday of every month.
The Golden Rock is perched precariously on the edge of a cliff in Mount Kyaiktiyo, Myanmar. — Photos: T. SELVA/The Star
Pilgrims arriving at the grounds of the Golden Rock.
Monks lining the passage to the Golden Rock, seeking alms.