“Evening falls on the Shwedagon Pagoda”
Yangon, Myanmar. November 2019. (12 photos)
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.”
“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.”
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.
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 Shwedagon Pagoda is an important meeting place for locals. It has also been the site of protests and bloodshed.
“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.’ ”
“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.