A Holy Limestone Cave in Karen State

A Buddhist monk pays respect to a Buddha statue at the entrance of the cave. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

Lush green paddy fields and limestone cliffs create a beautiful landscape in southeastern Burma’s Karen State, home to the ethnic Karen people.

The Kawgun cave, a natural limestone cavern, is about two miles from the state capital Pa-an, and can be reached by motorbike on a cement road. Along the way, a bridge crosses over the Salween River, where police and military officers once checked the IDs of anyone who passed, though the checkpoint has been removed since the political reforms of 2011.

Many visitors, including foreign tourists, stop at the Kawgun cave, which is filled with Buddha statues and Buddhist artifacts dating back to the seventh century. Ethnic Mon people also travel to worship there, driving cars and motorbikes from Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, which borders Karen State.

During a visit by The Irrawaddy, Karen monks were taking care of cave grounds. Some monks

said the cave had been damaged by a government-owned cement factory that is situated on the west bank of the Salween River. They said the cement company routinely blasts the mountains of the Kawgun area to extract limestone. Buddha images in the cave have been cracked as a result.

At a swimming pond near the cave, local people and youths splash and play in the water.

2 Responses to A Holy Limestone Cave in Karen State

  1. The beautiful and historically important site at Kawgun has been greatly damaged by blasts from the nearby cement factory, and by years of looting. This can be easily seen by comparing black-and-white photographs from the pre-independence period with the condition of the site today.

  2. Mon gave civilization to Bama ethnic because Bama did not have civilization before King Anawrathar, because at early age they are Barbarian. Now they want to monopolize religion as if Buddhist culture came from them to Burma ( Myanmar ). Very shameful to the society. They destroyed Mon culture now they do not allow Mon language to be teach at schools in Mon State, very much regretful. Burma ethnic group especially political power holding peoples made whole Mon Sate Burmanization policy and destroyed Mon culture during the time of dictator Ne Win till now. It is totally unfair and un civilized manner.

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