About the Kuthodaw Pagoda

Mandalay was founded in upper Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 1857 and the Kuthodaw Pagoda is one of the city’s earliest structures. This 5.2 hectare site contains 729 marble stelae upon which is inscribed an authorised mid-nineteenth century Myanmar recension of the Pali canon, the primary scriptures of Theravāda Buddhism. Each of these stelae varies in size (a typical one being 1.3 metres high, a metre wide, with around 75 lines inscribed on each side) and is housed in a separate open-sided mini-pagoda around three metres in height. The version of Buddhist scriptures on these stelae is the result of a large editing project commissioned in the mid-nineteenth century by Myanmar’s penultimate king Mindon (reigned 1853–1878). This recension was later orally recited by 2,400 monks in the “Fifth Buddhist Council” in 1871. It is highly likely that Mindon initiated these projects as part of his attempt to consolidate Buddhism as the state religion and ensure its centrality to the identity of the Myanmar people in the face of the threat of British territorial ambitions in Myanmar. The Kuthodaw Pagoda continues to be an iconic place of devotion for Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. The status and international significance of this site was recognised publically in 2013 with its acceptance on UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” register.