Shwedagon Pagoda – Inside a World of Gold

Prelude

I only had 5 hours in my hand in Yangon. I landed in the Airport at 3 in the evening. My bus to Bagan was 8 at night. So, I took a taxi from the airport which will directly take me to the Shwedagon Pagoda and drop me to the bus terminus for going to Bagan.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Shwedagon Pagoda. I read that this is one of the major attractions in Yangon and I should not miss it. When I completed my visit there, the sheerness of the Pagoda absolutely blew me away. I don’t think I have been to any other single pagoda in the world which is as beautiful as Shwedagon Pagoda.

What is Shwedagon Pagoda?

This is a Buddhist pagoda. The dominant structure is a bell-shaped stupa made of gold. They built this 112 meters tall pagoda on 51 meters high Singuttara Hill. Thus, it stands about 170 meters from the sea level. This dominates the skyline of Yangon and you can see this pagoda from almost anywhere in Yangon.

Entrance

I could feel that royalty from right outside of the entrance. A lion was guarding the gate. It’s a mythological character named Chinthe. In fact, these lions are guarding all the four gates of the pagoda.

You can see the dominance of the golden color in the gate, too. Along with the blue sky of Yangon, those intricately designed entryways gave me a warm welcome.

Once I got through the gate, I could see a series of stairs followed by passageways made of marbles to march forward. People, mostly locals, were paying visits in number. There were golden columns on both sides of the passageway.

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

In about 5 minutes, I entered a unique world. It was a world of gold. The entire complex was literary, glittering with the gold.

It’s basically an enormous complex of 114 acres. The central attraction is the largest stupa which is trying to touch the sky. It’s pure gold! When I said pure gold; I didn’t use it metaphorically. They made this of genuine gold. People all over the country and monarchs donated the gold for the Pagodas. In the 15th century, a queen of Burma named Shin Sawbu donated gold equivalent to her weight. With the bright sunshine, the stupa was shining. The top of the stupa contains over seven thousand diamonds, rubies, topaz, and sapphires. There are over sixty-four small stupas surrounded by the big stupa.

A circular pathway and other complexes are centered on this big stupa. The worshippers come in barefoot and offer their prayers in front of them. The norm is to circumnavigate the stupa in a clockwise direction. The authority always puts water on the ground, I don’t know why! Maybe, to keep this complex clean? They put mats in some places, but; it was not pleasant to walk on them.

While circumnavigating keeping the main stupa to the right, you will find many small complexes to your left. In terms of design, those are intricate. In the perspective of religions, those are temples where worshippers offer their prayer.

If you go inside one of them, you will find the statue of the Lord Buddha. You can see one such of them in this photo, a reclining Buddha in resting pose.

You will see a unique statue in distinct places. Take this as an example. Here, you can see all of them sitting there and none in sleeping posture. Some of them have clothes made of silk. I later learned that those statues denote atypical days of the week. There are eight temples containing eight types of Buddhas – one for each day and two for Wednesday.

The monks with the orange-colored robe and bald heads were offering their prayers by reading books. I think there are predetermined hours for offering them. Many of the visitors joined there alongside the monks. They brought flowers, incense sticks, prayers flags, candles, and some other offerings with them. You can also ignite a candle in some specific places.

Like the hieroglyphics in Egypt, they wrote some histories of the temple on different structures. I tried to understand it with the utmost sincerity and could find nothing. Maybe some other time?

Another interesting aspect of the temple was to unveil unique aspects of it from fresh angles. When you will start thinking you have seen most of them, a turn will surprise you with a beautiful architectural design.

Sadly, I could not read the message written in the Burmese language above and could not risk ringing this giant bell! Like the hidden message there, this piece of the pagoda is a hidden gem. Although it is a national treasure of Myanmar, few people in the world know about it.

I still carry the image of this pagoda after so many years. I saw many visitors in the temple of Chiang Mai in Thailand, or in some other temples. Comparing to that, I saw only a few tourists in the Shwedagon Pagoda.

This is undoubtedly the most beautiful pagoda I have ever visited in my life. Who knows, maybe this is the most beautiful in the entire world?

Opening Hours

From 4 in the morning to 10 at night

Entrance Fee

  • 10,000 Myanmar Kyats or around US$7.5
  • Free for the locals

Trivia

  • Although there is no historical evidence, Burmese people believe this pagoda to be 2500 years old
  • The official name of this pagoda is Shwedagon Zedi Daw. This is also known as Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda.
  • There goes a legend that two merchant brothers from present-day Yangon met the Buddha in India. The Buddha gave eight Hairs to them and asked to enshrine them. They came back from India, met the King in Burma, and presented the hairs to him. After a series of incidents, the Burmese erected this temple.
  • The main Stupa keeps the hairs of Buddha inside
  • It’s difficult to estimate the amount of gold available in the temple. The estimation is 27 Metric tons of gold leaf and it’s growing. This amount of gold is more than the reserve of many countries. Interestingly, the official gold reserve of Myanmar is less than the amount of gold in Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • Locals make heavy donations to this temple
  • The temple has survived several natural disasters like earthquake
  • This will remain the highest structure in Yangon as one cannot build a higher structure than this in Myanmar
  • If you want to avoid the crowd, go there early
  • Shwedagon Pagoda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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