Kyaik Kha Mi Yele Pagoda
Myanmar is known as the land of pagodas because there are pagodas all over the country. Each famous pagodas has its own festival which is celebrated annually on a particular day of the year. On that festive day, many pilgrims from near and far come to pay respect to the pagoda. They offer food, lights, and flowers to the Buddha and money to the pagoda-fund for maintaining the pagoda.
As part of the festival, Myanmar dramas called Zat-pwes, free cinema shows and stage-shows are put up to entertain visitors. Food stalls and special shops selling various kinds of goods are set up. Some amusements for children such as a merry-go-round and Ferris-wheel are also set up. So a pagoda festival means the time for making a holy pilgrimage, for performing meritorious deeds and getting some amusement.
Of the many pagoda festivals I have visited, the one I can never forget is the Kyaik-kha-mi pagoda festival. Kyaik-kha-mi pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in Myanmar. Its unique feature is that it is built on rocks in the sea in Kyaik-kha-mi, Than-byu-zayat township, Mon State.
A long pavement has to be made to join the pagoda with the shore to serve as the passage. As this old brick pavement is flooded at high tides, a new concrete passage was built over the old pavement. Pilgrims can conveniently walk along this passage, climb up a flight of stairs to the upper level where sacred Buddha statues stand. Women are not allowed to climb up to this level. There were records that storms and high tides immediately arose if women went up to the upper level. So an extension was built for them at the lower level so that they could pay homage to the Buddha with a good view of the statues.
Pilgrims from all over the country can come to the Kyaik-kha-mi pagoda either by car or by boat. This pagoda festival is celebrated annually for a whole month in October from the fifth waxing day to the fifth waning day of Thadingyut with the climax on the last day. The earlier days of the festival are reserved for monks. As many people visit the pagoda every day, the festival is alive with teeming crowds throughout the festival period.
I went to the Kyaik-kha-mi pagoda festival last year with my friends and relatives by boat. We sat out at 4 a.m. from my native village, Kamawet, which is about thirty miles north of Kyaik-kha-mi. We took turns to row the boat. We also competed with other boats on the way. We sang merrily and teased the people in other boats. They, in order not to be outdone, also teased us back. So we had a lot of fun. We arrived at Kyaik-kha-mi at 8 a.m.
We went to the magnificent temple in the sea and paid homage to the sacred, sublime statues of the Buddha to our hearts’ content. We offered flowers, incense and lights to the Buddha and money to the pagoda fund. Then we went out to the verandah of the temple to have a breath-taking view of the wide sea. There are big rocks and islands near the temple and a light-house stands on one of the islands. The scenes along the sea-beach are very beautiful.
We went down to one of the rest-houses in the sea near the temple to take our morning meal we have brought with us. We enjoyed our meals very much because we felt like having a picnic. Soon big tides came rolling up one after another, and we took a delightful swim at the beach. After that, we took a walk along the food stalls and the make-up shops selling various interesting things. We were particularly interested in necklaces and other ornaments made of seashells. We bought some as souvenirs. We took some delicious Myanmar delicacies offered at a pavilion. We listened to songs and music at a stage-show for a while.
Then came the time to say farewell. At 2 p.m., we got into our boat and set out for home. This delightful and eventful visit to a pagoda festival will remain for a long time in my memory as one of my happiest days.