The Shwedagon Pagoda is probably the most important and famous structure in all of Myanmar. The temple casts a golden glow over Yangon at night, and is viewable from throughout the city.
So here are a few factors, figures and interesting little tit bits.
It is Built on a Hill
As you arrive in Yangon, whether by flight or bus, you can’t help but notice Shwedagon Pagoda. It is built on a hill that makes it noticeable from quite a distance as you move around the city. This is especially the case a night time when the temple is lit up from all angles. The hill and the height of the structure make it the tallest in Yangon.
The legend and a little bit of history
Legend says that it was built more than 2,600 years ago, and is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. Underneath the Pagoda, there are 4 of the most important holy relics, which include strands of hair of Gautama Buddha, water filter of Konagamana, a cut of cloth from Kassapa and the staff of Kakusandha.
A fable states that two brothers, who were originally from Afghanistan, met the Gautama Buddha and received 8 of his hairs. They then travelled to Myanmar and, with the help of King Okkalapa, built the Shwedagon Pagoda on Singuttara Hill, burying the hairs underneath the structure.
Shwedagon Pagoda over the Years
Several kings and queens of Burma had a role to play in raising the height of the pagoda. It has survived a fair few earthquakes along the way too, but the biggest was in 1786, when an earthquake brought down the top of the pagoda.
Following this, King Hsinbyushin raised the pagoda and stupa even higher to its current height of 99 meters.
All About the Gold
The 99 meter stupa is plated with 8688 sheets of gold and is also studded with over 7000 diamonds and precious gems like rubies and sapphires. There is also an emerald that is said to bounce the last rays of the sun as it set.
A Few Practical Tips
The best way to reach the Shwedagon Pagoda is either by taxi or walking. Everyone will know where it is so don’t be shy about asking for directions.
Don’t forget when turning up, that what you wear is important. Shorts are definitely not allowed, and women must be dressed conservatively, covering their shoulders.
At the entry point, is the security notice that a visitor is underdressed they’ll ask you to probably buy a longyi and re-dress. You’ll also need to leave your shoes at the bottom of the stairs, so socks are probably not a good idea for today.
Opening Hours and Best Time to Visit
The opening hours are 6 am to 10 pm. If you’re an early riser, then do visit when it’s still dark so that you can see the sunrise while at the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The entry charge for this pagoda has recently been raised to 10,000 MMK, or just under $10.