Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Burmese: က်ဳိက္ထီးရိုး ဘုရား ;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 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 pagoda is located near Kyaikto in Mon State in the northern part of the Tenasserim coast. The Golden Rock is situated at an elevation of 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) above mean sea level, on top of the Kyaiktiyo hill (also known as Kelasa hills or Eastern Yoma mountains); it is on the Paung-laung ridge of the Eastern Yoma mountains. It is at a distance of 210 kilometres (130 mi) from Yangon. The Kinpun village 16 km (10 mi) is at the base of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. It is the closest to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. From Kyaiktiyo, the foot trail or road starts for the Golden rock. On this approach, there are numerous granite boulders on the mountain, perched in precarious condition. Near the top of the mountain, there are two large lions guarding the entrance to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda.
From this location, known as Yatetaung (the last point for vehicular traffic), pilgrims and visitors have to climb to the Golden Rock barefoot, after leaving their footwear behind, as per Burmese custom. The paved mountain track, built in 1999, from the bus terminal at Yatetaung, is along a dusty section with kiosks on both sides and the climb of 1.2 km up to the Golden Rock is stiff and takes about one hour to reach.From the base camp at Kinpun, the hiking trek to the pagoda is about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) and many devotees do this trek as part of the pilgrimage rites. There are also many temples and pagodas, which have been built recently on other hills in the vicinity of the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda that are visited by pilgrims and tourists by trekking along foot tracks.
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 Nat (spirit) (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.