he fragrance of star flowers, the sound of the wind, and peacefulness.. That’s what I felt when I arrived. I looked at my watch. It was 2:36 pm. The sun was burning in the sky. Even though the wind was blowing, I felt hot. I kind of regretted that I came here at this hour. I had no intention of coming. But my friend told me to meet him there at 2:30 pm but he was not here yet. I was a little bit angry at that time.

Here I was in front of Kuthodaw pagoda which is located in the eastern part of Mandalay near Mandalay Hill, Royal Palace, and Atumashi Monastery. Inside, there are white marble slabs of the world's largest book which cannot be placed in a conventional library. These slabs were placed in Kuthodaw pagoda. Kuthodaw Pagoda was built by King Mindon in 1875 on the model of Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan. 729 marble slabs were set up within the pagoda compound, 42 within the first enclosure, 168 in the second and 519 in the third. The Tripitaka(three baskets of Buddha’s pali canon) were inscribed on both sides of these marble slabs. Each marble slab is 5ft in height, 3.5 ft in width and 5 inches in thickness.These slabs were respectively housed in the white shrines.

Met A Girl with Star Flowers and Thanakha

So I decided to look around the pagoda until my friend came.

Kuthodaw Pagoda has four entrances. I walked through the one on the south which is the main entrance decorated with gold and red colors. And then I walked on a long pathway that takes me to Maha Lawka Marazein gold stupa which is located in the center of the pagoda. I sat, paid homage and I walked around the stupa. I saw a big shady star flower tree. When  I sat under that tree, I felt cool and I was thinking how wonderful this place is. My anger was gradually fading away. From a near distance, I saw a young teenage girl holding some flowers like star flower and jasmine in her right hand and a ready-made tiny thanakha(Burmese traditional make-up) box in her left hand.. And then, on her right shoulder were a series of postcards. She was asking a few visitors, ``Would you like to buy some flowers or postcards?” and also she was saying “If you buy some from me, I will apply beautiful shapes of thanakha on your cheeks''. I saw one or two visitors were buying some postcards from her and she was applying thanakha on their cheeks.

Myanmar Girl with Thanakha

Got to Know Interesting Facts of the Pagoda

Later, she saw me and she came to me and asked the same question she had asked other visitors. I looked at her and I could clearly see she was wearing thanakha on her whole face, even on her neck and her clothes looked old but neat and tidy. And then I replied I would buy some if you could tell me about this pagoda and the book. She said “yes, I can '' and started telling me the interesting facts of the pagoda that I hadn’t known. She told me “This pagoda is one of the Kingmindon’s seven major projects; the royal palace, the moat, Atumashi monastery, the orientation hall, the Sudamar rest house, the pitakat library and this kuthodaw pagoda.” I interrupted “ it makes sense. That might be the reason why these places are close to each other”. She said “might be’’ and continued

“To complete the world's largest book, it would take 450 days by reading 8 hr per day. So, it would take 3600 hrs which is about 6 months. And if you put the marble slabs on each other, they would rise up to 340 ft, as high as a 28-storey- building.”

 I was surprised by her knowledge and I asked her “ how do  you know these things?” . She frankly answered “Sometimes I follow tour groups and listen to what the tour guide explains to visitors and I also read books.” I told her that it was amazing and as I promised I bought some flowers and gave her some pocket money. She said “thank you” with a lovely smile and she told me that she is selling these only on the weekend because she is still a student and she is busy with school work on the weekdays. She said she is doing this because she doesn't want to ask for pocket money from her parents and wants to earn it herself in order to understand the value of money. She also enjoys communicating with people as her dream is to become a great tourist guide when she grows up. I encouraged her “I can bet you will be a good tourist guide one day” and said “goodbye” to her. And then I strolled around the white shrines which were arranged in neat rows. I saw some local families having a picnic under some other star flower trees and some children playing along the white shrines or under the tree. I kept walking and wondering for a moment. 

How I Felt Convinced by the Uniqueness of the Architecture

After that, I looked at my watch.It was 3:35 pm. It was still a bit hot.But the sun is slowly dropping into the west. Probably around 4 pm would be a great time to look around this place as it might be a bit cooler in another 30 minutes

I realized that I had been here for one hour. My friend didn’t show up.He didn’t even call me. 

But, I was fascinated by the unique architecture of the place while thinking about the history of this place. And then I took a deep breath and the fragrance of star flowers came into my nose. I felt no anger and I was satisfied.

My Local Passion’s Recommendation

How to get there

The pagoda is located just East of the Mandalay Royal Palace in the North part of Mandalay, very near the Sandamuni pagoda, Atumashi monastery and Shwenandaw Monastery. You can easily get there by tuktuk, taxi and motorcycle. It would take about 20 minutes from the city center. The pagoda opens daily from 8 am until 8 pm. Entrance fee is US$ 5 per person.

March 1, 2022