My trip to this 2,500-year-old Buddhist Pagoda was a long-awaited one. Considered to be the oldest pagoda in the world. It is nestled quaintly over the Singuttara hills. With not many high-rises in the city of Yangon, the golden spire of the pagoda can be seen from far off places of the city. It creates a golden halo in the skyline during the evening. Fully armed with a camera, maps, travel documents, history of the pagoda and an open conscience I was all set to soak in.
About Shwedagon Pagoda
The Pagoda has 8 strands of Buddha’s hair and many other holy relics. All of these have been preserved with the utmost care. It is considered to be the most sacred place for the people of Myanmar and worldwide following Theravada Buddhism.
Built by the Mon dynasty, currently, the Shwedagon pagoda stands at 110 meters on a 114acre hill. There are several gates for entry, each intricately crafted. The pagoda has been gilded with gold plates while the tip of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds. Studded with thousands of other precious stones, no wonder why it finds its place in the list of “wonders of the world”. There are several stupas, shrines and statues within the premises. Devotees visit the pagoda from distant places worldwide to worship the Buddha in his various forms. The most captivating sight is in the evening, with the sun setting in the background and colouring the sky a crimson red. Post the sunset, devotees offer prayers along with incense sticks and flowers in front of the main shrine. With the fascinating hues of the sky, Shwedagon Pagoda glitters like a jewel in the night sky. It is indeed a photographer’s delight.
Shinbyu (novitiation ceremony), a tradition with Theravada Buddhism is followed at the pagoda. Monks of the pagoda offer a saffron robe along with several other objects guides a person enter monkhood. During my trip to the Pagoda, I could see quite a few Shinbyu processions. Little children and young boys were carried by their friends and family with elan. A decorated umbrella with embellishments was used to offer a princely status to the boy entering monkhood. I was also fortunate enough to witness a few marriage ceremonies, where couples along with their families had come to offer prayers for a prosperous and happy married life.
How to reach
Myanmar can be reached directly by flight. Yangon international airport is now well connected. I took a direct flight from Kolkata to Yangon.
Entry fee – $8 for foreign visitors, locals pay less.
Timing – 2.00 pm to 10.00 pm
Best time to visit – Avoid summers, as summer in Myanmar is pretty harsh. Though, evenings are quite pleasant.
Dress code – Visitors are expected to wear knee-length bottom wear and elbow-length tops/shirts. Incase one ain’t dressed appropriately, one may use the Longyi, the traditional dress of Myanmar available within the premises.