Shwedagon Pagoda which is also termed as the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, is located in Yangon in Myanmar. It is said to be built around 2500 years old, estimated to have built between 6th and 10th centuries. The Pagoda has inscription dating 1485 written in three languages Pali, Mon and Burmese specify these dates and the gold plating done due to the donation of gold by the King. The pagoda has been affected by natural calamities like earthquake, many times and have been rebuilt. Today the pagoda remains to be a spectacular example of Burmese architecture.
Myth of Shwedagon Pagoda
As per the legend there were two brothers who were Burmese merchant who met Buddha himself. It is said that Buddha gave them eight of his hairs to be enshrined in Burma. These two brothers discovered the hill where the relics of previous Buddha is kept, with the help of King of the region. On this sacred spot a chamber was built to house the relics.
After the relics were safely placed in this new shrine a golden slab was laid above and golden stupa was built above. Further, there was a silver stupa built above this golden stupa followed by tin stupa, a copper stupa, a stupa made of lead, marble and above all iron-brick stupa to safeguard the relics.
Image Credit@ Martin Sojka
Emperor Ashoka the powerful king from India who had become Buddhist later repaired the stupa as in the course of time the stupa was in ruins and covered by jungle. The Shwedagon pagoda is therefore such a holy place as it is built on the site where the relics of previous Buddha as well as the most recent Buddha is housed so also the stupa had received royal patronage.
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The mammoth Pagoda stands on a platform which covers more than 5 hectares on the hill at Yangon at a height of 58 meters above sea level. There are four covered walkways, the southern and northern have the option of both elevators and stairs while the eastern entrance has escalators which is free from any vendors. The eastern stairway passes monasteries, the southern entrance is the closest to the main entrance to the shrine and is guarded by two 18 foot tall lion dragons, the visitors need to remove their shoes and socks prior to entry.
There are shops selling flowers all along the stairs, both real and paper flowers for the offering. The visitors can also purchase Buddha images, incense and antiques, in spite of the presence of so many shops and vendors the walkway is quite cool and quiet.
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The stupa is totally covered with gold, every inch, while the upper part are studded with diamonds which totals to more than 2000 carats. The great bell of stupa is the one which is covered in gold leaf and this bell is regilded every year. The shoulder of the bell is having decorative flower shapes 16 in number.
In the northwest of the stupa is the bell pavilion, which has 23 ton Maha Ganda Bell which was cast in the period of 1775 to 1779. In the north of the bell pavilion is a large 9 meters Buddha, behind this there is a small shrine housing wonder working Buddha image covered in gold leaf. There are two banyan trees at the northwest corner one of which is said to have been grown from a cutting from the original Bodhi tree. Bodhi tree is that famous tree under which Buddha was enlightened.
Next to the eastern entrance is the graceful U Nyo pavilion which contains series of wood carved panels depicting scenes from the life of Gautam Buddha.