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Every year on the night of December 31, the Kyaikhtiyo platform glows with the light of 9000 lamps and is fragrant with 9000 flowers offered by pilgrims.

The jewel in the crown of Mon State is Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, also known as Golden Rock and considered a miracle by Buddhist devotees. The famous rock lies within a one-day drive of Yangon, at the peak of the forested Mt Kyaikhtiyo.

Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda is only 5.5 meters high, said to be enshrined with the Buddha’s hair relic and resting on top of a huge boulder that balances on the edge of a cliff. The gold-covered rock is roughly in the shape of a man’s head, and it is believed to represent the head of a hermit who had carried the Buddha’s hair wrapped in his own topknot before he died. He had left instructions that such a boulder was to be found and the precious hair enshrined in a pagoda on its crest after his death.

Golden Rock, which seems to be constantly on the verge of plunging down the mountainside, seems a miracle in itself and devotees are firm in their belief that a pilgrimage here will bring them good health and fortune. The route to the pagoda winds up through pretty scenery and is lined with many sites playing one part or another in the legend of the pagoda. Every year on the night of December 31, the Kyaikhtiyo platform glows with the light of 9000 lamps and is fragrant with 9000 flowers offered by pilgrims.

There are two ways to get to the top of Mt Kyaikhtiyo: by truck along a winding road, or by foot on an 11-kilometre hiking path through thick forests and past numerous mysterious shrines to the Buddha and to local spirits. In either case, the last section to the top must be covered by foot as the trucks stop at a parking lot about an hour’s hike short of the peak. However, those suffering from a lack of energy can hire porters to carry them up to Golden Rock in a canvas litter.

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