Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

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)

TemplesBoth 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…)

Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda

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23 thoughts on “Shwedagon Pagoda

  1. What has surprised me is how long ago it was initially built. Love that it has been added to and maintained so beautifully.

  2. It looks so fragile, ethereal, and from a distance, almost lacy. Yet it is strong enough to have stood the tests of time and man. Absolutely amazing!

    • Grace,
      Apparently, it has withstood earthquakes and lots of pillaging over the centuries. I think it’s the devotion of rulers and their people that have kept it growing, repaired and cared for.

  3. Love the history lesson. Amazing to think that the temple is 3000 years old. I like the bit about how it got bigger and bigger by being added to. It’s like each person wanted to make their own mark on history. I wonder if there are photos of the temples evolution…like a time lapse. Hmm, now I know what I’ll be google-ing today!

    • Tamara,
      That would be intriguing, wouldn’t it? Though most of the various stages would have to be drawings done at the time and/or descriptions. But it would be fascinating.

  4. Very interesting information. Other religions/regions have so much rich diversity! Thanks for giving me something to ponder.

    • The original photo of the temple really opened up a window into that part of the world. Adding a little more history, has only made me more curious, lol!

  5. It’s a beautiful workmanship. It goes to show you what man can do when he wants to be is truly devoted to it. I think the thing that surprised me the most was who all donated gold to be used on it and that with the way the world is anymore no one has tried to steal from it.

    • It’s been pillaged in the past. But then more people rise up to do the repairs including adding more gold. That is its own testament to how much the people value this pagoda.

  6. Thanks for the background and history. That’s amazing to think it was 3,000 years ago. When you think of the architecture. in Europe it makes you appreciate the workmanship from so long ago. They had no machinery or tools we have today.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  7. I love the first picture with the contrast of the gold and white. They are all beautiful and it’s amazing how they have stood the test of time. They are such a work of art, just amazing.

  8. I’m constantly amazed when I look at all the magnificent structures throughout the world.

    They truly are breathtaking.

    I realize cost is the main factor as to why the design of major and minor structures today look so sterile.

    I suppose a lack of master craftsmanship is one of the other major reasons even if price was no object.

    I often wonder how many skills have died out because there was no longer a demand for them?

    Carving, sculpting, painting, etc.
    Where today could you find another Rodin or Michaelangelo? Nevermind the craftsmanship that was present when the great mansions, such in Newport, RI, were built right here in America. The interiors leaves your mouth hanging open.

    I never tire of looking at these marvelous structures because we will never see the likes of them again.

  9. The Burmese Pagoda looks like it’s had many additions, like they couldn’t make up their mind, so added another spire because can you really have too many rooms. Thanks for the history tips.

    • Like it could have been a game of one-ups-man-ship. It would be very human to try to out-do the previous generations.

  10. The work on the pagoda is so intricate and beautiful. I miss that in today’s architecture. It is a dying art form.

  11. I can’t believe the size of the Buddha statue! That blew my mind lol. Of course I always think about the strangest things while looking at photos. As I stared at the enormous Buddha, I thought…”wow! That cloth covering the statue must have been a sight to see the dozens of women sewing their fingers to the bone on all of that detail!” Hahaha. The visions we see in our minds eyes while looking at new pictures of new subject matter.

  12. I love all of that gold! So beautiful! Definitely would make for gorgeous sight in person. That Buddha is massive! I couldn’t imagine trying to keep those statues dust free. Those ladies have their work cut out for them cleaning that place! I wonder if they have the Buddha hairs on display, or if that’s just an origination story.

  13. Liked the second photo with the lacy looking decorations hanging in the openings. Thought it was interesting that they built it over time and how the gold was donated. Sounds like a lot of different people donated. It is amazing that it hasn’t been stolen as I know down the road they had some sprinklers in the field that they took the copper wires from. Love the pictures.

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