“Evening falls on the Shwedagon Pagoda”

Yangon, Myanmar. November 2019. (12 photos)

This is Part 6 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 8 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

The Shwedagon Pagoda (Burmese: ရွှေတိဂုံဘုရား), officially named Shwedagon Zedi Daw and also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, is a gold-gilded stupa and Yangon’s most famous landmark. It is a symbol of national identity for the Burmese.

“The Shwedagon Pagoda from The People’s Park”

About 2500 years ago, according to legend, two merchant brothers from Okkalapa (present day Yangon) met the Gautama 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. As a result, the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar, was built. In common with many other ancient zedi in earthquake-prone Myanmar, it has been rebuilt many times. It is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems.

Situated on Singuttara Hill, the 99m tall pagoda dominates the Yangon skyline. It can be seen from many places in Yangon, day and night.

“Evening stroll in Yangon”

“And now I found that in my recollections, so vague and uncertain, the Shwedagon rose superb as on that first morning it had risen, glistening with its gold, like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul of which the mystics write, glistening against the fog and smoke of the thriving city.”
…Somerset Maugham.

“The Shwedagon Pagoda”

“Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire.”
…Rudyard Kipling.

The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing over 7,000 diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires, and topped by a massive emerald positioned to reflect the last rays of the setting sun.

Edit: The Pagoda complex has been described as Myanmar’s Fort Knox. The main stupa is plated with nearly 22,000 solid gold bars. During British colonial times, it was said that Shwedagon contained more gold than the deposits of the Bank of England.

“Tuesday Corner”

The Shwedagon Pagoda is at the centre of a large complex. The main terrace is approached by four zaungdan (covered walkways), each of which is flanked at its entrance by a pair of 9m-tall chinthe (half-lion/half-dragon deities).

Emerging from any of the zaungdan one is instantly met by a visual feast of technicoloured glitter upon a marble-floored main terrace, strewn with pavilions and worship halls containing thousands of Buddha images and two giant cast-iron bells. At the centre of the terrace Shwedagon Pagoda rises above numerous smaller stupas.

Around the stupa’s base, eight planetary posts conform to the eight days of the week (in the Burmese calendar). Above, is the Tuesday Corner. Burmese people pray to the shrine belonging to their day of birth burning candles, offering flowers and pouring water over the statues.

“Nuns on parade”

The Shwedagon Pagoda is Burma’s most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site. Thousands of Burmese, including monks and nuns, visit to walk around the stupa and make offerings to the Buddha.

“Walking around the Shwedagon Pagoda”

I visited at different times on two different days. As a condition of entry, all visitors must remove their shoes/socks. I don’t recommend visiting after 10am or before about 4pm. Those marble tiles can become scaldingly hot and the glare of the midday sun upon glittering gold and stark white marble may be too much for your eyes. Wet wipes are a good idea for wiping down your feet at the end of your visit.

“A monk’s life”

A monk finds solitude away from the crowds.

“The gathering”

The Shwedagon Pagoda is an important meeting place for locals. It has also been the site of protests and bloodshed.

“Serenity now”

“Yangon sunset”

“Up till that sight my uninstructed eyes could not see that the land differed much in appearance from the Sunderbuns, but the golden dome said: ‘This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.’ ”
…Rudyard Kipling.

“Shwedagon, into the night”

I remember turning around whilst doing this set of long exposure photos to find a group of 3 monks standing silently behind me. I showed them my photos and they smiled.


This is Part 6 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 8 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

The Shwedagon Pagoda


48 thoughts on “The Shwedagon Pagoda

  1. Alexandra says:

    that’s a soulful exploration of a beautiful and unknown world, love the light trails leading to the golden lit pagoda in the last photo… lead the way, Lignum 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Alex. It’s an amazing complex to wander. Gold and Buddhas everywhere.
      I couldn’t resist the light trails but it took quite a while to get the right set of light trails. 🙂

      • Alexandra says:

        the light trails are absolutely perfect, that color contrast is mind-blowing!! do you need a tripod to capture these? how many days did you spent at that place? such a great variety of light and scenes… National Geographic better have a look at your page asap 🙂

        • Thanks. That particular photo was an 8 second exposure, so definitely on a tripod, waiting for the right lights to come along and hoping there was no wind. I visited the Pagoda twice in the 4 days I was in Yangon. I loved every moment there.

  2. It’s impressive, really. 7000 diamonds? Gee. It could feed so many mouths.
    I love your night photos, but the best one for me from this series is definitely the one with the kids. I love your pics of children and old people.

  3. J.D. Riso says:

    The quotes intermingle brilliantly with your photos and commentary. What an awe-inspiring structure. It glows like a sun against the night sky.

    • It’s very impressive in all light, though in bright sun it will hurt your eyes. It’s like a town square for the locals.

      I’m thankful for the words of Kipling and Maugham. The post would have been a bit dreary without them. 🙂

  4. Anne Fraser @theplatinumline.blog says:

    I love the picture of the nuns though they look very young. I hope they are happy.

    • I believe it is part of the passage of childhood to spend a minimum period of time as a nun or monk. For those from very poor backgrounds it may be the only chance they get to receive schooling of any sort.

  5. josypheen says:

    I didn’t visit your blog for a while, but it is lovely to come back and see you are still taking such stunning photos. Keep being awesome Draco!! 😀

  6. Lovely. I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I thought it was more focused on the inner journey than worldly things. I’m not sure I understand the tons of gold and thousands of jewels, pretty as it is.

    • I can’t really answer that. I understand that giving what you can is considered a way of atoning for one’s errors and potentially progressing to the “next” level. I read that’s why so many of those in the military junta made big donations to monks.

  7. I particularly love your night time photos. The contrast between the black night and gold of the pagoda is spectacular. I would have joined the monks quietly watching you while you were doing those long exposures. 🙂 Patience always gets rewarded – in this case clearly on both sides.

    The Shwedagon pagoda is one of the most interesting places for people watching. Your picture of the nuns dressed in pink is a great example of the lovely moments one encounters there. Just lovely.

    • Thank you very much, Jolandi. It was good to be able to enjoy the view and take photographs at night with no other tourists about. Even though the evening locations were so close to the Pagoda, it was only locals around.

      And as you know, the Pagoda is almost like a town square for locals who tend to congregate here. So much to see and experience, as a result. I would have loved to have lingered there longer. I’m sure you took plenty of photos, as well.

  8. Lovely photos again. I specially liked the one with the nuns.

    I spent half a day in the pagoda, including part of the time you advise against. It is possible to hop between shadowed spots so you don’t burn your feet too badly. I thought it was good to have some photos is full sunlight, and some after sunset. The look and feel of the place changes quite noticeably.

    • “…so you don’t burn your feet too badly” – it’s a risk but I did have other things to see/do, so I was prepared to be elsewhere during the heat of the day, but I can imagine how impressive it would have looked at midday. It was very impressive.

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