Step into the golden light of Shwedagon Pagoda and the heart & soul of Yangon – see why it’s easily one of the most underrated Wonders of the World.
According to folklore, Shwedagon Pagoda was erected during the time of the Buddha, from which ancient and modern Yangon has been developed around. Archaeologists, on the other hand, believe that it was built by the Mon kingdom between the 6th and 10th centuries.
Fact or fiction, Shwedagon is, nevertheless, truly the centerpiece of the city.
Around this geographic and spiritual beating heart, the everyday lives of locals carries on in a hectic and dynamic fashion.
Longyi-wearing men and women in local buses and pick-ups make their way across this sizeable town, for business and pleasure, both oblivious and conscious of the towering holy monument that watches over city and citizens.
As with Niagara Falls, Sydney Opera House, Christ the Redeemer, Table Mountain and Hagia Sofia, Shwedagon Pagoda – the country’s leading landmark – lives up to elevated expectations.
Situated on the top of Singuttara Hill, it is visible from almost all points in the city, with the main golden dome rising 99m high.
The whole stupa is covered with gold, hundreds upon hundreds, tons on tons, of gold leaf with the upper vane encrusted with thousands of diamonds and gems, topped by a single 76-carat diamond orbed sphere.
These glittering jewels can most clearly be seen from a few select positions in the complex, known to guides and locals alike. At night, they shine like the brightest stars in the sky, emerging from its brilliant fusion with the gilded stupa, invisible in the heat of the day.
Beginning with the first rays of the sun as its sets on a soft yellow cupola, post-twilight is indeed the finest time to witness the wonder and enchantment of Shwedagon.
Sparrows take leave, powder blue skies and wispy white clouds turn into an electric blue galaxy, streaked with pink and orange hues. The lights come on, the night sky darkens, the dazzling lights brighten.
The entrance to Shwedagon is a grand and diverse one – choose from stairs, escalators or elevators.
Flanked by colossal sculptures of mythical Burmese lions, the peddled and pious walkways from the four cardinal directions lead to the vast marble floor of the main terrace.
The mighty paya in the centre is imposing but Shwedagon is much more than a one-trick pony – a string of smaller shrines and stupas surround the superstructure, swelling the size of the site, spreading the spotlight, supplementing the spiritual stock, stressing the sublime score of the scene.
Shwedagon is not only a site of worship and prayer, but also a place of art, history and architecture.
Moving clockwise around the complex, in accordance with Buddhist tradition, one passes inside, around and through a maze-like assortment of:
- Buddha statues
- Planetary posts
- Hallowed banyan trees
- Adoration halls
Yet, it remains the most sacred of all Buddhist pagodas for it enshrines the holy relics of four past Buddhas: a piece of robe, staff, water filter and, most consecrated, eight strands of hair from the Gautama Buddha himself.
Amidst this deep religious ambiance is also an air of normality, reflecting the domestication and familiarity of Shwedagon’s position in the city’s skyline and soul, beyond the temple grounds.
Here, children run and play, adolescents toy and flirt, women gossip and giggle, men stroll and saunter, tourists pose and snap, reflecting the wider world outside. It is spiritual and secular, formal and informal, ancient and modern, casual and proper, epitomizing the all-encompassing nature of Buddhist practice in Myanmar.
Shwedagon is truly a religious marvel, a golden wonder of the world and deservedly, one of Buddhism’s greatest and holiest, most sacred of sites.
In a Nutshell
Entrance Fee: 8,000 kyat for foreigners
Opening Hours: 4:000am to 10:00pm
- Trousers or knee-length shorts or skirt
- T-shirts with elbow-length sleeves
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*** The Final Word – Shwedagon Pagoda is simply incomparable! Visit at twilight! ***
Do you agree with us? Or what do you think is the most beautiful temple in the world?
Super easy DIY travel around city centres
Visited in June 2014