Right in front of the Shwenandaw Monastery stood a golden decorated arch that led to the University and a little farther to the right the Kuthodaw pagoda which we accessed to by means of a shiny corridor which opened up to the whitewashed pagodas, said to be 729 in total.
The pagodas were erected in 1872 during the Fifth Buddhist Synod to individually house the marble tablets upon which the entire Tripitaka (the Burmese Buddhist scripture) was engraved in the Pali language and veneered with gold leaf, thus being the reason why this site is often referred to as the world's largest book. It is said that when it was first unveiled it took 2,400 monks six months to recite the text.
The Kuthodaw Pagoda was plundered during the annexation period, more precisely in 1885 and British looters are said to have stripped the hti of its precious stones, peeled the gold leaf from the pagoda, carried off 6,570 brass bells from the subsidiary stupas, disfigured statues and even used the stone slabs of the Tripitaka to build a military road. It has taken over a decade to repair the damage.
We were surrounded by several young vendors of flowers, whose faces were decorated with amazingly beautiful thanaka patterns. It was almost impossibe to resist them and although Westerners are not commonly used to buying garlands to worship the Deities with I ended up buying some to help and please them.
The central structure of the Pagoda ensemble - a 30 metre high Maha Lawka Marazein stupa was quite impressive.