This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip Myanmar • Burma (EN)


Mandalay, the former capital of Burma before the arrival of the British, has many palaces and pagodas. Some pagodas are made of wood, others have been moved from the old capital Amarapura. Still others are covered in gold, but the Kuthodaw Pagoda is certainly the most original of all.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

Mandalay was founded relatively recently, in the middle of the 19th century by King Mindon of the Konbaung dynasty. And the construction of an extraordinary pagoda is part of the construction work of the new capital.

This pagoda is made up of hundreds of small stupas. A priori nothing very prestigious. What gave Kuthodaw Pagoda all the prestige King Mindon wanted was their content. Here no hair or tooth of Buddha, but the text of the Buddhist canon in Pali, as approved by the Fifth Buddhist Council in 1871. Pali is an Indo-European language close to Sanskrit and is the official language of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. This text gives this extraordinary pagoda the influence hoped for by its designer.

The text is engraved on 729 marble slabs, each housed inside small limed stupas. Each stele has a hundred lines engraved on each side.

Dark times for Kuthodaw

The arrival of the British military in 1885 was not good news for any religious building in Burma. Most were requisitioned to serve as barracks or arsenal for Her Majesty's troops, and locals were prohibited from going there. Fortunately, Queen Victoria banned the desecration of religious buildings in 1890, but all the riches of the wonderfully decorated pagoda had been looted. Gold and silver were gone. Each stupa was adorned with 9 bells which all have also disappeared. That made a total of 6,570 ...! The marble slabs on the terraces had been stolen. All that was precious had disappeared, even the cover and the gold of the stelae which had been scraped off. The statues were beheaded.

It was a huge misfortune for the whole of Burma, considering the symbolic importance of this pagoda, which was in fact the largest book in the world.

Kuthodaw Restoration

The disaster was of such magnitude that a committee was formed in 1892 to rebuild the building. All the great wealthy families of the country, the state itself, the great monasteries were called upon for the restoration of Kuthodaw. The original gold letters of the stelae were replaced by black letters painted with ink based on shellac and soot.


Spoken comments in the film: 

This pagoda with its 729 white stupas each housing an engraved marble stele is in fact a large book. The biggest book in the world.

King Mindon had this building constructed in 1859 in preparation for the 5th Buddhist Council which took place in 1871. The king had the entire Buddhist canon (Tipikata) engraved on these stelae and the council validated the inscriptions.

Each of the 729 "inscription caves" sheltered by the white stupas contains a chapter from the Buddhist canon.

The beginning of the British occupation was synonymous with destruction and degradation of the places that were used for a time as barracks for the soldiers.

A restoration of the premises was ordered in 1892.

The golden stupa in the center was built on the model of Shwezigon Pagoda.



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• Disclaimer: As traditional music is often subject to copyright (claimed by major music distribution groups), the musical illustration of this film "Mandalay, pagode Kuthodaw • Myanmar (EN)" does not use typical music of Myanmar but is borrowed from a collection of royalty-free music. Despite the painstaking care given to the musical choices in this film, some people may regret this choice, but it is the price to pay for not incurring unnecessary lawsuits. This decision was difficult to take, but it's the only viable solution, unfortunately. •

about the place, Mandalay:

Located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay is Myanmar's second city after Yangon (Rangoon). Founded in 1857 by King Mindon, Mandalay became the capital of the Konbaung dynasty in place of Amarapura.

It was also the last royal capital of Burma before annexation by the British in 1885. However, it remained a leading commercial and cultural center during the British era.

The city was devastated during the conquest of Burma by Japan in World War II and it became part of the newly independent Union of Burma in 1948.

Kuthodaw pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar
entrance to Kuthodaw Pagoda, the largest book in the world., Mandalay • Myanmar
entrance to Kuthodaw Pagoda, the largest book in the world.
alignment of stupas containing the stelae, Kuthodaw pagoda, Mandalay • Myanmar
alignment of stupas containing the stelae, Kuthodaw pagoda
the bell of the Kuthodaw pagoda, Mandalay • Myanmar
the bell of the Kuthodaw pagoda
great stupa, Kuthodaw pagoda, Mandalay • Myanmar
great stupa, Kuthodaw pagoda

Mandalay, Myanmar