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Kuthodaw Pagoda

The Kuthodaw Pagoda or Maha Lawka Marazein Paya is often called the world’s largest book. It is a large walled complex situated at the base of the southeast stairway to Mandalay Hill and was built by King Mindon at the same time he was constructing the Royal Palace. Its central stupa is modeled on the Shwezigon at Nyaung U near Bagan.

Kuthodaw pagoda is situated at the base of the South East stairway (zaungdan) of Mandalay Hill, just to the east of Sandamuni (Sandamani) Pagoda. The pagoda is surrounded by high walls on all four sides, with the central structure being the Maha Lawkamarazein Paya (Stupa). The central stupa is 30 meter high (57 meters from the ground level), and is modeled after the famous Shwezigon Pagoda of Bagan, the merit of King Anawrahta. It has a compound of 13 acres. What make this pagoda so special is the 729 Pitaka Pagodas surrounding the central stupa. These Pitaka pagodas are called Dhammazedis (Pagodas that house the teaching of Gautama Buddha).

The Kuthodaw Pagoda and the Pitaka Pagodas were built in 1860. Each Dhammazedi houses a marble tablet with inscription of Buddhia’s teaching (Tripitaka or Tipitaka). It took 2,400 monks six months to recite the whole texts of Tripitaka (Tipitika) during the Fifth Buddhist Synod of 1872.

The marble slabs that record the Tripitika were carved from Sagyin Hill marble 12 miles north of Mandalay. This is the same Sagyin Quarry from which Kyauktawgyi Buddha image was carved. Each marble stone slab is 5 feet high, 3 feet 6 inches wide and 6 inches thick. The work of carving started in October 1860 and finished in May 1869, and took place in a special hall within King Mindon’s Royal Palace. Originally, the letters on the marble slabs were veneered with gold leaves. However, all the gold leaves are gone now.

The marble stone slabs of Tipitika are arranged within three enclosures around the central stupa. The first innermost enclosure contains 42 marble slabs, the second middle enclosure contains 168 marble slabs and the third outermost enclosure contains 519 stone slabs. There is one slab at the south east corner which records the history of Kuthodaw Pagoda. That makes up a total of 730 marble inscriptions (729 Tripitaka and one history inscription). These 729 stone inscriptions are often called “The World’s Largest Book”.

In addition to these 730 marble inscriptions of World’s Largest Book, there are 34 brick rest houses around the pagoda on three sides (except on the east side). Main entrance is in the south of the pagoda through the massive teak doors. These teak doors are ornately carved with floral designs, scrolls and guardian spirits (nats).
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