During any trip to the city of Yangon, it’s impossible to ignore the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda. Located to the west of the Royal Lake on Singuttara Hill, the pagoda (or stupa) dominates the Yangon skyline and is also one of the most holy sites found anywhere in Myanmar.
But before you visit, take a few minutes to read about the history of the pagoda, how it came to be and the reasons for its location on holy Singuttura Hill. <o:p></o:p>
What Are Stupas?
A stupa is a religious building/monument that is used to contain religious items of importance – in this case, relics of the Buddha or other Buddhist teachers. Although similar to pagodas in role/importance within Buddhist culture, they are very distinctive architecturally and are classified into five different types based on form and function
The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred stupa you’ll find in Myanmar and a must-visit whenever you find yourself in Yangon.
History of Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda is over 2,500 years old and is home to a variety of holy relics, including strands of Buddha’s hair.
But before we move onto the significance of the site upon Singaturra Hill, a quick history lesson – Legend has it that two brothers, having been given 8 hairs by Gautma Buddha, brought the gifts to the local ruler King Okkalapa, ruler of what is now known as Yangon. The king helped the two brothers to find Singaturra Hill, where relics from previous Buddhas had been enshrined.
Given the religious significance of the location, Singaturra Hill was the obvious choice to build a Buddhist monument.
More recent history has seen the Shwedagon Pagoda endure some difficult times. The area has been subject to 9 earthquakes since the 1500’s (the most recent of which occurred in 1970), and the pagoda has also been frequently damaged by invasions and pillaging. A fire in 1931 also destroyed many of the site’s ancient artifacts. As a result of this (and the aforementioned incidents), renovations on the pagoda were started in the 2000’s and completed just last year.
Covered with Golden Plates and Encrusted with Diamonds
The Shwedagon Pagoda’s construction consists of a solid brick base covered completely with gold - standing at 326 feet tall, the pagoda is covered with anything between 6 and 60 tonnes of the stuff.
The top of the tower is also inlaid with thousands of precious stones -
5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, sapphires and other precious stones to be exact. Highlight of them all? The stunning 72 carat diamond that decorates the very top of the pagoda.
Best in Myanmar Heritage
Shwedagon Pagoda is a sumptuous example of Buddhist culture and its heritage in Myanmar. With a dedicated museum now housed in the pagoda’s grounds – documenting Buddhist history, the story of Singuttura Hill and more – the pagoda looks set to dominate the skyline of Yangon for generations to come. <o:p></o:p>