Kuthodaw Pagoda Home to the Worlds Largest Book

Kuthodaw Pagoda Home to the Worlds Largest Book, each page inscribed on large marble slabs. 2503 marble slabs at Sandamuni Paya and Kuthodaw Paya in Mandalay record all of the Pali Tipitaka and its commentaries (64 volumes in modern printed edition). Orchestrated on the orders of King Mindon Min (1808-1878). Each marble slab is approximately three and a half feet wide, five feet tall and five inches thick, 5000 masons spent 8 years (1860-1868) copying the Tripitaka from palm-leaf manuscripts onto 729 polished marble slabs at Kuthodaw Paya alone. The lettering was then embellished with gold leaf. Each stone has 80 to 100 lines on each side, written in Burmese script.

Of the 2503 slabs that were cut and polished 729 were set up vertically and housed in their own small chedis in the grounds surrounding Kuthodaw Paya located at the foot of Mandalay Hill close to  Sandamuni Paya and not far from what was then the site of the new royal palace complex in Mandalay. One extra slab was inscribed detailing how it was all planned. Transporting this large volume of marble from the quarry at Sagyin hill located 32 miles north of Mandalay down the river must have been a mammoth task.

Although Burma has a well established history of stone inscriptions dating to the first Millennium this was the first endeavor at recording the full Buddhist teachings in the Burmese language for all to see.

It took a scribe three days to copy both the obverse and the reverse sides, and a stonemason could only finish up to 16 lines a day. All the stones were completed and open for the public to see on the 4th May, 1868.

Four presiding monks referred to as ‘Sayadaws’ were in charge of ensuring the texts were correctly inscribed. One of these monks was in the Supreme Head of the Religion known as Thathanabine.

All Sayadaws had titles conferred upon them by the King as the most learned men in the land in matters of religion. Next to them were thirty senior monks acting as senior editors, then fifty monks as editors and another fifty more as sub-editors. There are eighty-four thousand sections in the  Pitaka and these editors were severally and separately held responsible to make each section correct before it was handed over to the copyists numbering up to 100 with their own group leaders, all under the command of the Keeper of the Library.

The supervision of Scribes:

 Sayadaw of Dakkhinarama, Sayadaw of Sidawmyinwun Taik and Sayadaw of Zibani were in constant attendance to answer any questions as to the spelling or grammar of the text to be inscribed into the marble. The scribe’s work was also checked by clerks of the Hluttaw and other courts.

 Even before the copying of the Pitaka from palm-leaves was complete the King ordered another to be copied on stone. Senior monks assigned to supervise the making of the stone copy were:

Sayadaw of Queen Taungsaungda, Sayadaw of Myadaung Myosa Thaynat Wungyi, and  Sayadaw of Sidawmyinwun Tike, as well as six lay supervisors.

The Kuthodaw inscriptions survived unscathed from the bombings by both the Japanese and British during the second World War. The survival of these monuments is probably a miracle seeing as Mandalay Hill nearby became a battlefield when the British, Gurkha and Punjabi soldiers fought the Japanese to take the Hill with both sides using a mix of heavy mortar, grenades, anti-tanks and machine guns.

To read more about Kuthodaw Pagoda this website is one of the best I have come across with wonderful images related to many different Buddhist sites in India and South East Asia.

KUTHODAW PAGODA