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Shwedagon Pagoda

Yangon’s Sacred Destination

Any trip to the city of Yangon is incomplete without a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a national landmark with a gleaming 99-metre stupa, considered to be one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites.

Shrine pagoda yangon

A beautiful and important monument of Buddhism, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a true marvel sat atop the Singuttara Hill, overlooking the city of Yangon , Myanmar. Comprising one main gold stupa and smaller stupas surrounding it, the sacred site dates back to more than an estimated 2,500 years - a testament to Myanmar’s resilience amid its ever-changing history -and can be seen from much of the city.

Here’s what you need to know before planning a trip to this stunning site.

What Are Stupas?

A stupa is a cone-shaped shrine that usually houses sacred relics associated with Buddhism — in this case, relics of the Buddha and Buddhist teachers. Although similar to pagodas in role and importance within Buddhist culture, stupas have a uniquely different architecture and are classified into five types based on their functions.

Type of Stupa & Function

  1. Relic stupa - A burial place for Buddha and his disciples
  2. Object stupa - A shrine that houses sacred Buddhist objects belonging to Buddha or his disciples
  3. Commemorative stupa - A shrine built to commemorate important events in Buddha’s or his disciples’ lives
  4. Symbolic stupa - A monument that reflects components of Buddhism theology 
  5. Votive stupa - Structures built where the most-visited stupas sit

History of Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda is possibly the most sacred site in Myanmar and is said to house a variety of holy relics, including strands of Buddha’s hair, making it a must-visit whenever you find yourself in Yangon.
Legend has it that two brothers from Yangon were gifted with eight strands of Buddha’s hair. Buddha instructed them to enshrine them at the same site where relics of three previous reincarnations of Buddha were buried. The brothers presented the Buddha relics to their king, who helped the brothers to search for the exact site — where the Shwedagon Pagoda now sits.
Located on a 114 Singuttara Hill in Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda has endured some difficult times. The area has been subjected to nine earthquakes since the 1500s. It has also been damaged by invasions and pillaging, and was caught in a fire in 1931, which destroyed many of the site’s ancient artefacts

The Gold-Plated Stupa with a Giant Jewel

As you enter the sacred site, you’ll pass colossal lion-like structures, known as chinthes , which stand guard at the entrances of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Usually found in pairs, these majestic statues are worth a second look as well. 
The Shwedagon Pagoda’s main stupa is its most impressive structure. Surrounded by 64 smaller stupas, the main stupa stands at 99 metres tall and is gilded almost entirely in gold. Its spired top is inlaid with thousands of gems, including 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, sapphires and other precious stones , with a massive 76-carat diamond at the very top of the pagoda.Twelve planetary posts sit at the base of the stupa, representing the days of the week and the lunar cycle.

A Symbol of Myanmar’s Heritage

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a shining example of Myanmar’s long spiritual tradition. With a dedicated museum on-site documenting Buddhist history, the story of Singuttura Hill and more, the monument dominates the skyline of Yangon.

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