The Golden Landmark of Myanmar : Shwe Dagon Pagoda
In the capital city of Yangon, you will find the beautifully majestic Shwedagon Pagoda, sits upon the holy Singuttara Hill. The pagoda is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. These relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama.
The massive 99-meter high gold plated pagoda with the diamond studded spire set on top of the hill in downtown Yangon dominates the area and is visible from much of the city. After dark there is a mystical atmosphere with the pagoda lit up by spotlights.
History of the Shwedagon Pagoda
According to legend the pagoda is more than 2,500 years old dating back to the lifetime of the Buddha, making it the oldest pagoda in Burma. Historical evidence suggests the pagoda was built by the Mon around the 6th century. Since then the Pagoda has been enlarged and renovated many times, and numerous smaller stupas and other structures have been added.
According to legend two merchant brothers from Okkalapa (present day Yangon) who lived about 2,500 years ago met the Buddha in India. The Buddha gave them eight of His hairs and told them to enshrine them in the same spot on a hill in Okkalapa where relics of the previous three reincarnations of the Buddha were buried.
The brothers returned to Okkalapa and presented the Buddha relics to their King, who started searching for the spot. After years of searching in vain a Nat spirit called Sularata decided to help the King. The Nat who was millions of years old hat witnessed the visits of the previous three Buddhas and remembered the spot on Singuttara hill where the relics were enshrined. It was at this spot that the Shwedagon Pagoda was built.
There are four entrances to the complex, all of which have either an escalator or an elevator. All are guarded by enormous Chinthes, Burmese mythological lions with a white body and golden colored head. The upper part of the walls at the entrances to the complex are decorated with beautiful Burmese style depictions of the Jataka tales, the stories about the previous lives of the Buddha.
The center of the large complex is formed by a large platform measuring 275 meters long with the main stupa and many smaller stupas surrounding it. The main stupa enshrines relics of the four previous Buddhas including sacred hair relics of the most recent Buddha.
It is evident that, over the centuries, the Shwedagon Pagoda has survived difficult times. Each disaster brought damage to the pagoda, but it has always withstood the onslaughts and endured the renovations. The fact that Shwedagon has survived these times of hardship and damage and still stood firm adds to its sense of majesty. It also adds to the sense of pride within the people of Myanmar, that nothing can truly leave lasting damage upon this beloved site.