I love to read. And I love books. Paperback, hardback, kindle, audio — I’m not fussy although if I had to choose I’d plump for the kindle, for its convenience, its accessibility.
But there’s another form I didn’t imagine I’d come across. It’s not particularly convenient: you have to go to Kuthodaw Paya in Mandalay, Myanmar, to read it, and you’ll need to be able to read Burmese script. On the up side, it’s a book more permanent than most.
It’s made of marble. 730 slabs, actually. 729 are inscribed with the teachings of Buddha, the 730th slab tells the story of the construction of the book.
Each slab is housed in a small stupa.
Construction of the book was ordered by King Mindon, who founded Mandalay in 1857. According to the Lonely Planet it took an editorial committee eight years to complete the project.
If you’re wondering how long it takes to read this book from beginning to end, I have the answer for that. Because it’s been done.
Worried about the future of Buddhism in his country King Mindon called a synod during which the book was read aloud from beginning to end. It took 2400 monks, six months of non-stop reading! What a marathon.
The slabs at Kuthodaw Paya together with another set at nearby Sandamuni Paya, these were completed in 1913 by a Buddhist hermit, are known as the largest book in the world.It’s easy to see why. The size of it meant that walking through it, it was a bit like being within the pages of the book.
These two temples are very sacred and it is essential to remove your footwear, no matter how hot the marble is on your bare feet.We quickly learned to avoid the black marble, and to seek refuge in the shade.
As we approached the shrine in Kuthodaw Paya young women, hawking their wares, clamoured for our attention. Not that you can tell from my photos. It all looks peaceful and devout here.
Once we were inside the complex proper, there were stalls displaying a range of wares but the stall holders left us alone.
Perhaps it was the heat and like us they wanted to stay in the shade.
If you’re in Mandalay these two temples are well worth a visit. They weren’t at all crowded when we visited. Just hot. (Oh, I mentioned that already … belabouring the point, maybe, but it was scorching that day!)