`THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BOOK’: THE KUTHODAW PAGODA M A R B L E – S T E L A E I N S C R I P T I O N S , M A N D A L AY, M YA N M A R – TAASA Review December 2016
Mark Allon I t the foot of Mandalay Hill in the town of Mandalay, upper Myanmar, lies the impressive Kuthodaw Pagoda, a 5.2 hectare site containing the entire Pali Buddhist canon, the primary scriptures of Theravda Buddhism, carved on 729 marble stelae, the Pagoda of Royal Merit’, around which are arranged the 729 stelae in seven concentric squares.
The stelae vary in size–a typical one being 1.3 metres high, a metre wide, with around 75 lines of text inscribed on each side–and are housed in separate open-sided whitewashed mini-pagodas around three metres in height. Following the practice of previous Theravda kings, Mindon had earlier commissioned the copying of a new set of the Pali canon onto palm leaves as part of his religious duties to preserve the Buddha’s teachings, the Dhamma, but the carving of the entire canon on stone was unprecedented in the Theravda world.
This act may well have been stimulated by the annexation in 1852 of lower Myanmar by the British who clearly had territorial ambitions over upper Myanmar as well, resulting in his desire to preserve the Dhamma in a more durable form...