Pindaya Caves

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The Pindaya Caves, located next to the town of Pindaya, Shan State, Burma (Myanmar) are a Buddhist pilgrimage site and a tourist attraction located on a limestone ridge in the Myelat region. There are three "caves" on the ridge which runs north-south, but only the southern cave can be entered and explored. It is not known whether the other two penetrate for any extended distance into the hillside.

The southernmost Pindaya cave can be entered and extends for about 490 feet along a well-worn path. It is known for its interior which contains over 8,000 images of Buddha. Some of the older statues and images in the cave have inscriptions dating to the late 1700s, or early Konbaung period, and the earliest one dates from 1773. There may be some images without inscriptions that are older, but based on the style elements, Than Tun believes that none of them is older than the early 1700s and even suggests 1750 as the earliest possible date. Although most statues are of late 18th and early 19th century, many other statues and images have been placed there on an on-going basis by different donors throughout the cave's history up until the present time, from lay people to the ruling authorities. The collection as a whole forms an impressive display of Buddhist iconography and art from early Konbaung era to the modern period. No other place in Burma displays such a range of style, not only in the images, but also in the ornamental thrones and reredos which surround the images.

Within the cave, there are about seventy unique images of the Bhisakkaguru tradition dating to the late 1700's. They are unique in that the styling of hair, eyes, nose, ears, robe are different from most other images from Burma. The salient feature of this type of image is the holding of a seed in the upturned right palm. Than Tun reports that such images are found nowhere else in Burma, and based on Buddhist iconography, that these images are from the Mahayana tradition, and the conjecture is that the Pindaya cave at one time served the Mahayana Bhisakkaguru cult.