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Myanmar (Burma): Shwedagon Pagoda

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Shwedagon Pagoda | Myanmar (Burma) | Asia

[Visited: March 2006]

You can see it from almost everywhere in the city, as the golden dome of Shwedagon Pagoda towers above almost anything else in the city, nearly 100 metres above its base. You probably pass it on your way from the airport to the city, and even without knowing anything about it, you feel admiration for this enormous building that imposes itself on the skyline of the city. Not only is it an inevitable sight for visitors, it is also considered the most sacred of Buddhist monuments in the country.

Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon: close-up of the base of the golden dome

Then, almost without planning to, you walk the city, and find yourself drawn to this colossal building. There are several more modest payas or pagodas in the neighbourhood, and then you end up at the base of the giant. When you are up, you realize how many local visitors there are, all devoted, all there with a mission. For many of them, this is not just a visit to an imposing pagoda, but a pilgrimage, a highly sacred place. According to legend, it is some 2500 years old, but in reality it is more likely to date from somewhere between the 6th and 10th century. Much later gilding of the stupa began.

Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Shwedagon Pagoda at dusk

The gold is overwhelming, not just the main stupa is gold, but the surrounding shrines, temples, and small pavillions. Some classical, but behind many a Buddha statue, you can see modern flashing lights to add to the overkill of sensations for your senses. A visit is best early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when the reflection of the light is less bright. Looking up at the stupa, and barely visible for the eye, are the thousands of diamonds that decorate the pinnacle of the impressive building. All around, on the marble floor, behind many of the small corners of this vast complex, you can see Buddhists, praying, admiring, meditating.

Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): The base of the Shwedagon Pagoda with people praying
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): One of the many temples of the Shwedagon Pagoda
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Lesser stupas at Shwedagon Pagoda
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Base of Shwedagon Pagoda before sunset
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Shwedagon Pagoda: some of the smaller pavillions at the base
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Shwedagon Pagoda: buddhists engaged in religious rituals
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Main stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda seen from below
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Monk walking past the main stupa of Shwedagon Pagoda
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Shwedagon Pagoda: Buddha with flashy lights behind his head
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Smaller stupa with illustrations at Shwedagon Pagoda
Picture of Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar (Burma)): Smaller stupas of Shwedagon Pagoda

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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