Minor renovation work and the annual offering of gold leaf at Kyaik Khauk Pagoda in Thanlyin township Yangon Region got underway last week, a member of the pagoda’s board of trustees said.
U Myat Soe said scaffolding was set up around the pagoda in early February and trustees had purchased gold leaf valued at K90 million (about US$100,000). “We normally offer gold leaf at seven places on the pagoda but this year we will apply gold leaf at only five places” because trustees have decided to focus more on renovation works, he said.
“Unlike Shwedagon and Sule [pagodas] in Yangon, we can only afford to offer gold leaf to the places that are most in need of re-covering, not the whole pagoda.”
The value of the gold leaf offered depends on the amount of donations received: last year trustees bought K100 million worth of gold leaf. Most donations are pledged at the annual Kyaik Khauk Pagoda festival, held around the full moon of Tabodwe. This year Tabodwe fell on February 18, and the festival was held from February 11 to 19.
The board will restore and renovate several parts of the pagoda compound, including the four stairways – one of which was damaged by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008 – and rest houses on the platform. They will also repave the pagoda platform and strengthen retaining walls. “We can’t say exactly the cost or length of the restoration works because it’s a long term project. We plan to take as much time as we need,” U Myat Soe said.
Kyaik Khauk Pagoda was built on a hillock named Hlaing Pote Kone on the road from Thanlyin to Kyauktan. It features an imposing golden Mon-style stupa similar to Shwedagon Pagoda across the river.
The legend of the pagoda’s founding dates back 2300 years ago when it was built by King Sulathrima from Thaton, who also enshrined a replica of the Buddha’s hair inside its relic chamber.
The pagoda has been damaged by earthquakes five times, with rebuilding work beginning shortly after each disaster.