Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

high-definition creative commons photographs from Myanmar, showing the architecture, statues and various scenes from one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world, together with further information.

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Overhead view of Shwedagon showing the approach roads
Overhead view of Shwedagon
showing the approach roads

The Shwedagon Pagoda, also known as the Golden Pagoda, is a 98-metre gilded stupa located in Yangon. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on the Singuttara Hill and dominates the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within, namely the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight hairs of Gotama, the historical Buddha.

According to the legendary records the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2500 years old, and was built before Lord Buddha died in 486 BC. The story of Shwedagon Pagoda began when two merchant brothers, Tapussa and Bhallika met the Lord Buddha and received eight of his hairs. The two brothers then made their way to Burma and with the help of the local king, King Okkalapa, found Singuttara Hill, where relics of other Buddhas preceding Gotama Buddha had been enshrined and placed them there.

Archaeologists, however, believe the stupa was actually built sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries by the Mon. The stupa fell into disrepair until the 14th century when the Mon king Binnya U of Bago had the stupa rebuilt to a height of 18 meters (60 ft). It was rebuilt several times and reached its current height of 98 meters by King Hsinbyushin in the 18th century, following the 1768 earthquake that brought down the top of the stupa.

There are four entrances to the Pagoda that lead up a flight of steps to the platform on Singuttara Hill. The eastern and southern approaches have vendors selling books, good luck charms, Buddha images, candles, gold leaf, incense sticks, prayer flags, streamers, miniature umbrellas and flowers. A pair of giant leogryphs called chinthe guard the entrances and the image in the shrine at the top of the steps from the south is that of the second Buddha, Konagamana.

The base or plinth of the stupa is made of bricks covered with gold plates. Above the base are terraces that only monks and men can access. Next is the bell-shaped part of the stupa. Above that is the turban, then the inverted almsbowl, inverted and upright lotus petals, the banana bud and then the crown. The crown or umbrella (hti) is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Immediately before the diamond bud is a flag-shaped vane. The very top, the diamond bud is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.

Text adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, December 18th 2010)

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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