Supposedly first established 2,600 years ago and featuring thousands upon thousands of precious gemstones and plenty of gold, the Shwedagon Pagoda is awesome.
It is built on a hill, named Singuttara Hill.
Shwedagon Pagoda is called the pride of Myanmar and totally deserves that title. As you arrive in Yangon, you can’t help but notice the magnificence of this pagoda as it glimmers in the backdrop in the heart of the city.
The legend and a little bit of history
Legend has it that it was built more than 2600 years back and is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. The Pagoda stores significant holy relics of four previous Buddhas. The relics contain the eight strands of hair of Gautama Buddha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and the staff of Kakusandha.
Destruction, Damages and Restoration
Several kings and queens of Burma had a role to play in raising the height of the stupa. The pagoda survived many earthquakes but the biggest damage was caused by an earthquake in 1768 that brought down the top of the pagoda. King Hsinbyushin later raised it to its current height of 99 m (325 ft).
About All that glitters
Standing taller than 100 meters, the Shwedagon Pagoda is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with more than 4,500 diamonds, 2,300+ rubies, sapphires, and other stones and 1,000+ golden bells. If that wasn’t enough, at the very tip is a 72-carat diamond.
There are four entrances with stairs that lead to Singuttara Hill. Two giant mythical lion like creatures (leogryphs) guard each entrance. These stair cases are full of vendors that sell Buddha idols, tiny paper umbrellas, flowers, good luck charms and many other souvenirs.
Planetary Posts and Day Shrines
This octagonal base of this Pagoda has a post on each corner depicting the day of the week. Wednesday is divided into two shrines for am and pm. Most of the visitors pray at the shrine that represents the day of their birth.
There are 1485 bells inside this pagoda – ranging from different sizes and weights. It’s beautiful when so many of them chime together in the evening as the sun begins to set. Shwedagon once had the Great Bell of Dhammazedi – the largest bell to have existed in the recorded history. However, it was stolen by a Portuguese warlord. However, his ship sank due to the weight of the bell.
There is a 150-year old Bodhi tree which is said to be a descendant from a seedling from the original Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment. The original one was in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India.
The pagoda is the most significant Buddhist site in Myanmar, and much of Southeast Asia for that matter, thanks to its long history, art and architecture, and belief that enclosed in the pagoda are strands of Gautama Buddha’s hair along with other holy relics from other Buddhas.