Read this article before you visit Myanmar, the land of Buddhists, humble monks, gold and gemstones.
1. Timeless Beauty
Built more than 2500 years ago, it is the oldest Pagoda in the world. It is also regarded as one of the wonders of the world. It has been the custodian of art, culture, history and architecture of Myanmar.
2. All that glitters is gold
The stupa is made out of hundreds of genuine gold plates and ornaments. These have been donated by the monarchs and the devotees. The tradition of donating gold started with the 15th century Queen Shin Sawbu. The queen even donated gold worth her own weight towards the construction of the stupa.
3. Buddha Relics
The most sacred pagoda in Myanmar has the relics of the 4 previous Buddhas of the present Kalpa.
- Eight strands of hair of Gautama Buddha.
- A piece of the robe of Kashyapa.
- Water filter of Konagamana.
- The Staff of Kakusandha.
4. Diamonds and rubies
The crown at the top of the spire is tipped with 4,531 diamonds, 2,317 rubies and a 72 carat (15 g) diamond embedded on the peak.
5. The Great Bell of Dhammazedi
The Portuguese adventurer Filipe de Britto e Nicote plundered the Shwedagon Pagoda. His men confiscated the 300 ton Bell of Dhammazedi to melt it down to make canons. But the bell fell into the Bago River and is yet to be recovered in spite of several attempts. There are several mysteries in and around the Bell of Dhammazedi.
It is customary to circumnavigate clockwise starting with the eastern directional shrine. It has the statue of Kakusandha the first Buddha of the present Kalpa. Followed by the Southern directional shrine with the statue of Konagamana. The western directional shrine has the statue of Kashyapa followed by Gautama Buddha in the north.
During the Anglo-Burmese wars, the British had occupied Shwedagon Pagoda and used it as a fortress. It also vandalised certain portions of the divine Paya. During the second Anglo-Burmese war, the military occupied the pagoda for 77 years. They not only looted the priceless artefacts but also sacked several precious treasures from the shrine.
8. Natural disasters
Shwedagon pagoda was affected by a series of earthquakes and other natural disasters. The worst being in 1768, leading to partial demolishment of its different facades. Every time it was destroyed, the rulers along with the devotees refurbished and erected an even bigger and stronger pagoda. The Myanmarese believes in silently forging ahead with a never say die attitude.
9. Call for Independence
Several landmark meetings and demonstrations were held in front of the Shwedagon pagoda. In 1946 General Aung San had addressed a mass meeting at the Stupa demanding, “Independence now” from the British. In 1988 his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi too had addressed a gathering of 5 lakh Burmese demanding democracy from the military regime.
10. Dress code
As a mark of reverence devotees are requested to be modestly dressed. It includes knee-length bottom wear and elbow-length top wear. Visitors are requested to enter the premises barefoot as a mark of reverence to the Buddha.
STD rating – 5/5
My several trips and long stays in Myanmar developed into a love for this country and its people. On delving deeper I found that Myanmar and India share deep ties with regards to religion, borders, people, politics and also emotion.