Nestled at the base of the southeast stairways to Mandalay Hill, about 274.2 m from the foot of the hill, the Kuthodaw Pagoda or Maha Maha Lawka Marazein Paya is figuratively called the world’s largest book. It is the large walled complex, includes a stone umbrella to shelter each standing inscription slab and protect them from inscriptions though time and changes.
History of Kuthodaw Pagoda
For the Burmese, Kuthodaw Pagoda is also known as Maha Maha Lawka Marazein Paya which was built by King Mondon Min at the same time the Royal Palace was built. It was started constructing in a short period of time, after the founding of Mandalay in 1857.
The King tent to build this fabulous structure as a heritage for their offprings and their people. Kuthodaw pagoda seems to be similar to the near Sandamuni Pagoda, which also has large zedi and a great number of inscribed marble slabs.
The stupa itself, connected to the outside entry by means of a long corridor, is set in the middle of a thirteen acre field of 729 pitaka pagodas or shrines (Dama Cetis). Each shrine contains a marble slab, inscribed on both sides with the Pali script text of a portion the Tipitaka (Pali spelling, or Tripitaka, in Sanskrit), Theravada Buddhism’s sacred texts. Taken together, they contain the entire text of the Tipitaka and thus form “the world’s largest book.” The slabs were carved from white Sagyin Hill marble found just a few miles north of Mandalay. The work of carving began in October 1860 and was carried out in a special hall within King Mindon’s Royal Palace. Each slab is 5 ft ((1.5 m) by 3.5 ft (1.1 m) wide and 5-6 in. (12.7 – 15 cm) thick. The Buddhist scholar/carvers completed their task in May 1869. If spread out horizontally, the slabs would cover a third of an acre (.1 ha); stacked vertically, the ‘pages’ would rise 340 ft (103 m). Originally the lettering also had a gold leaf veneer. The statistics given here are those given by U Tun Aung Chain, retired Professor of History, Yangon University.