Myanmar Golden Stupa

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Shwedagon Golden Stupa, Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar is one of the most mysterious countries on the planet. It borders on India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand, and each of these places (except for Bangladesh) is already quite worn out by tourists. But Myanmar remains off the beaten path. It has no direct flight connection to Russia, a visa to Myanmar is not the easiest, and its advertising activity is close to zero. So this wonderful destination is not well known in the world.

To say “in vain” is nothing to say (however, you will see with our panoramas). This country with centuries of history has preserved so countless monuments, that it is rightfully called the “Golden Country” or “Land of gold pagodas,” which are about 2.5 thousand. In fact, the whole state is a huge archaeological reserve, which is well-preserved heritage of ancient civilizations.

Shwedagon Stupa at night

Of course, it is absolutely impossible to describe all thousands of pagodas and other sights of Myanmar in one article and one cycle of panoramas. Therefore, now we will discuss only one, but the most outstanding monument of the country – the Shwedagon Stupa (pagoda).

Stupas are dome-shaped constructions, symbolizing the Buddha’s teaching. They usually serve as repositories of Buddhist shrines and conceal sacred Buddhist texts. Some of the stupas contain vessels with fragments of the Buddha’s clothing or hair, for example. The stupas are crowned with a spire, shaped like an umbrella, a symbol of protection against the rays of ignorance. The bells hung on it are supposed to ward off evil demons.

The capital of Myanmar, Yangon (Rangoon), is famous for being the location of the most famous Shwedagon Stupa in the country and the temple complex around it. These structures are a couple of thousand years older than the city itself. The name comes from “Shwe” (from Burmese for “gold”) and “Dagon” (this settlement was located on the site of modern Yangon).

Shwedagon Stupa

According to a mystical legend, in ancient times this place was used to store relics associated with the three predecessors of Buddha: the staff of Kakusandha, Konagamana water filter and a part of Kassapa’s tunic, but few people remembered it.

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One day some brothers took some of the Buddha’s hair out of India, but on the way they were constantly attacked and had some of the sacred treasure taken away. Nevertheless, eight hairs of the founder of Buddhism were brought to Myanmar.

A great celebration unfolded in the country on this occasion, and assistance in choosing a worthy place to store the hair of Buddha was provided by the heavenly lord Sakka and four spirits who descended to earth. With their help, three neglected shrines were discovered, and as a result it was decided to keep all the sacred objects together and to surround them with proper honors.

Thus, Shwedagon is the only temple in the world that contains four Buddhist relics of this level at the same time. It is also one of the few structures built during the lifetime of the Buddha himself.

The ancient Burmese approached the construction with all thoroughness. On a hill near Dagon they dug a hole and erected a crypt, covering it with a golden slab. A golden stupa was erected above it, a silver one on top of it, then tin, copper, lead, marble, iron and, at last, a brick one.

Shwedagon Golden Stupa

The Shwedagon reached its present height only by 1774. Reconstructing the stupa once again, King Shinbushin raised it to 99 metres above the plate. At the same time Shwedagon acquired its current silhouette.

All the sixty-eight stupas surrounding the main one are only gilded, and the Shwedagon is clad in gold leaf for its entire nearly one hundred-meter height. To decorate the main pagoda 8 thousand golden plates, 5 thousand diamonds and 2 thousand precious and semi-precious stones were used.

It is not surprising that over the years the stupa has been repeatedly looted, and some details such as the three-hundred-ton bell encrusted with jewels are now lost. But on the whole the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar has survived in the grandeur in which it was conceived.

On the perimeter of the temple complex, almost above the ground, hang bells, and next to them lie wooden bells. It is believed that if you make a wish and strike one of the bells three times, it will come true. So you hear a muffled ringing here and there.

This attraction in Myanmar represents the country as the Moscow Kremlin represents Russia, or Mount Fuji represents Japan. The Shwedagon Temple complex is among the largest architectural ensembles not only in Myanmar but in all of Southeast Asia. Dozens of kilometers from Yangon, from the sea and from land, you can see the golden cone of its central stupa.

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Shwedagon

To get to the pagoda you have to climb a high hill. Modern technology has made this job easy – an escalator will take you to Shwedagon. And for those who are thousands of kilometers away, our panoramas give you a wonderful opportunity to admire it from on high.

Shwedagon Pagoda – Myanmar’s Amazing Architecture

Buddhism in Myanmar

Hello, dear readers, seekers of knowledge and truth!

Perhaps every country and even city has its own religious building. The mysterious and faraway Asian country of Myanmar also has such a structure. Its unique architectural symbol is, of course, the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Today we suggest you to go to this exotic country in your mind and learn everything about its main pagoda – where it is, when it appeared, what legends are connected with it, what it represents. At the end we have prepared some useful information for those who are already packing their bags to Myanmar.

Welcome to our next virtual trip!

About the main things

Shwedagon Pagoda is located in the capital of the state – in the ancient city of Yangon. It cannot be confused with any other Buddhist shrine, because it is almost completely covered with gold leaf. That is why Shwedagon is rightly called the golden heart of Myanmar.

It is located in the center of the city, at its highest point – Thein Gottara Hill. The hill rises more than 50 meters, and the stupa itself – another 98 meters. It is a structure of brick and stone in the form of a bell or inverted begging bowl, which is covered with plaster on top and then with a thick layer of real gold.

Buddhist structure

But that is not all – the pagoda is crowned by a thin spire, studded with jewels – diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, diamonds. During the day it glitters in the sun, and in the evening the illumination turns on, which makes the spectacle truly magical. You can see it in the photo below.

The pagoda looks different at different times of the day, which is why tourists try to look at the attraction at least twice: during the day and in the evening.

The difference between a pagoda and a temple is that it is not hollow inside, and it is impossible to go inside. Most often it is a kind of mound, holding the remains or burials underneath – so the Shwedagon hides the relics of Shakyamuni Buddha and the three preceding Buddhas.

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The pagoda’s name is composed of two roots:

  • “shwe”-translates to “gold.”
  • “dagon” – denotes the old name of Yangon.

This shrine is the place of pilgrimage of every inhabitant of the country, with each of the inhabitants striving at least once in their lives to donate money for a new plating of the stupa in gold.

The legend

With the appearance of the main shrine of the state is connected with a curious legend. According to it, about 2.5 thousand years ago, two merchants from Dagon headed to the Indian lands. There they met Shakyamuni Buddha and treated him to a honey cake.

statue

The great Guru, in gratitude, gave the men eight hairs from his head. But when they returned to their homeland of Burma (the former name of Myanmar), they had to give two hairs to the customs officials and two others were stolen by a vicious dragon.

However, when the merchants returned to their hometown, they saw that they had all the hairs intact. Wonderful things immediately began to happen in Dagon – the blind regained their sight, the deaf regained their hearing, the dumb regained their voice, and a shower of jewels fell on the city. It was then decided that a pagoda should be erected at this very spot and that precious relics should be hidden beneath it: eight hairs of Shakyamuni, the walking stick of the first Buddha Kakusandha, the cup of the second, Konagamana, and a flap from the shirt of the third, Kassapa.

History

There is no exact evidence as to whether this legend is true or fiction. However, scholars claim that Shwedagon appeared around the turn of the two eras. It was originally a small stupa covered in gilt.

Over time, due to periodic natural disasters, especially earthquakes, it began to deteriorate and a new layer of gold was applied to the shrine. In the fifteenth century, an empress named Shinsobu gave the local monks a hitherto unprecedented gift of pure gold. Interestingly, the gift weighed as much as the woman herself – forty kilograms.

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gold

Later, her daughter’s husband made an even more generous gift – he gave them four times his own weight in gold. That was when the Shwedagon got its familiar name. So the Golden Pagoda grew taller and taller, and by the end of the XVIII century it had reached its present size.

However, not only the main pagoda is of interest to treasure hunters, but also the bells. Once, at the beginning of the XVII century, a military man from Portugal and his army decided to steal the bell of Dhammazedi, weighing over three hundred tons and generously studded with precious stones.

The kidnappers failed – the jewel was too heavy and sank in the river. It has been missing ever since, although the inhabitants of Myanmar believed it would one day be found.

The other incident took place in the first half of the 19th century. This time, the kidnappers were the British who had decided to take the Singumin bell, weighing more than twenty tons, to the Indian territories. But the ship could not withstand such pressure, and the bell also sank.

Treasure Pagoda in Myanmar

Singumin’s Bell

The British assured the locals that they would leave the bell with them if they could retrieve the Singumin from the river bed. The Burmese showed ingenuity by simply slipping strong bamboo stems under the bell and it rose to the surface on its own.

The singumin can still be seen today in the ensemble of Shwedagon.

Architecture

One can enter the sacred complex through one of the four entrances, arranged strictly along the sides of the world. Inside is not only the Golden Stupa, but also other religious buildings: small pagodas, prayer rooms, bells, statues of various deities or mythical beings. Many of them are made of wood and covered with elaborate carvings, gilded plating, mosaic images and marble.

Myanmar

Shwedagon is located on a special pedestal about the height of a house of six stories. Up the pedestal lead four stairs. In the corners are sphinxes, and the main staircase is guarded by winged leogriffs – a mixture of griffins and lions.

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entrance

On the spire, inlaid with precious stones, you can see the bells made of gold and silver. And on a windy day you can even hear them – in the wind they overflow with a jingling trill.

spire

A description of the majestic shrine would not be complete without giving some figures:

  • Eight tons of gold were spent on the lining of the pagoda;
  • 433 meters is the perimeter of the shrine;
  • 64 small pagodas surround the main pagoda;
  • 4,350 diamond stones;
  • more than 1,000 diamond inlays;

pagoda decoration

  • nearly 1,400 emerald stones were spent;
  • 76 carats – the size of the largest diamond;
  • more than 40 tons, the weight of the largest Maha Tissad bell;
  • Eight temples were built in honor of the eight days of the week.

Shwedagon

In the tradition of Southern Buddhism, Wednesday is divided into the first and second half of the day as two different days, so the Burmese consider the week to have eight days.

Useful Information

There are several ways to get to the attraction: by cab, as part of a tour group, on your own by bus, and if you are staying in downtown Yangon, you can walk. Hours of operation depend on the season: from 4 or 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The sanctuary has its own website in English: http://www.shwedagonpagoda.com . A guide, who speaks good English, is available at the entrance by appointment.

Buddhist site

When visiting the pagoda is worth observing the dress code – shoulders and knees covered. Before entering you must remove your shoes, because it is believed that Buddha walked on this earth.

Conclusion

Shwedagon is the place to visit in Myanmar first and foremost. The majestic view of the Golden Pagoda makes a lasting impression on travelers and literally dazzles. Another plus is that the ticket is valid for the whole day, so you can visit the sanctuary both in the daytime and in the evening.

Thank you for your attention, dear readers! We hope you were able to feel the incredible atmosphere of the main Burmese attraction. If the article did not leave you indifferent, join us – share your impressions in comments, subscribe to the mailing list.

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