If you recall from last week, I did a post on Temples that featured Buddhist religious sites and customs of Myanmar (Burma). One of the temples was so incredible, I decided to continue the topic here. Several of us were intrigued by the Shwedagon Pagoda because of its complexity and size. I couldn’t help but wonder how it was built, when and how many years or decades it took to finish.
First, a pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, common in various parts of Asia. (Source.) The Shwedagon Zedi Daw Pagoda is also known as the Golden Pagoda or the Great Dagon Pagoda. It is considered the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar and is located in Yangon, a city with seven million inhabitants. (Source)
Both historians and archaeologists believe the pagoda was built between the 6th and 10th centuries BC, or somewhere between 2600 and 3000 years ago, if I’ve done the math right. The legend, however, is a bit different. Two merchant brothers met Lord Gautama Buddha some time in 400 BC and were given 8 of the Buddha’s hairs. They took their prize possession back to Burma. The king, Okkalapa, had been hoping for the arrival of an enlightened Buddha. When the brothers brought the treasure of the Buddha’s 8 hairs to the king, all kinds of miracles occurred, giving the king confidence that a new age was on the horizon. (Source.)
Okkalapa took the 8 hairs to Singuttara hill where relics of three earlier, holy Buddhas were kept in a shrine. The king then built a pagoda around the shrine to protect and honor these relics, including the Buddha’s 8 hairs. This pagoda is the earliest reference to what is now known as the Shwedagon Pagoda (Source.)
History seems a bit sketchy as to when building began on the pagoda but it was fully visible and well known by the 11th Century. Over the years, various kings and queens renovated and enlarged the pagoda. From Wikipedia, here is an excerpt concerning the ‘gold’ of the pagoda. “The gold seen on the stupa is made of genuine gold plates, covering the brick structure and attached by traditional rivets. People all over the country, as well as monarchs in its history, have donated gold to the pagoda to maintain it. The practice continues to this day after being started in the 15th century by the Queen Shin Sawbu, who gave her weight in gold.”
The pagoda is said to have been originally only 8 meters in height and now stands at over 110 meters (360 feet). (Source.)
Originally, I thought the pagoda might have been built all at one time, like the great European cathedrals. But from what I’ve read, it began as a small building and increased over the centuries in size and grandeur.
I hope you found this as intriguing as I did.
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And now, here are more photos of Shwendagon Pagoda! Enjoy! (Photos from Pixabay…)
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