The SHWEDAGON PAGODA (Burmese :
ရွှေတိဂုံဘုရား, IPA: ), officially named
SHWEDAGON ZEDI DAW (Burmese :
ရွှေတိဂုံစေတီတော်, ) and also known
as the GREAT DAGON PAGODA and the GOLDEN PAGODA, is a gilded stupa
* 1 History * 2 Design * 3 Rituals * 4 Shwedagon in literature * 5 War and invasion
* 6 Political arena
* 6.1 September 2007 protests
* 7 Replicas * 8 Gallery * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Further reading * 12 External links
View of the Great Dagon Pagoda in 1825, from a print after Lieutenant Joseph Moore of Her Majesty’s 89th Regiment, published in a portfolio of 18 views in 1825-1826 lithography
Historians and archaeologists maintain that the pagoda was built by
“ There was a tumult among men and spirits ... rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell ... the blind beheld objects ... the deaf heard sounds ... the dumb spoke distinctly ... the earth quaked ... the winds of the ocean blew ... Mount Meru shook ... lightning flashed ... gems rained down until they were knee deep ... all trees of the Himalayas, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit. ”
Scene upon the terrace of the Great Dagon Pagoda, 1824-1826
The stupa fell into disrepair until the 14th century, when King
Binnya U (1323–1384) rebuilt it to a height of 18 m (59 ft). A
century later, Queen Binnya Thau (1453–1472) raised its height to 40
m (131 ft). She terraced the hill on which it stands, paved the top
terrace with flagstones, and assigned land and hereditary slaves for
its maintenance. Binnya Thau yielded up the throne to her son-in-law
Dhammazedi in 1472, retiring to Dagon . During her last illness she
had her bed placed so that she could look upon the gilded dome of the
stupa. The Mon face of the Shwedagon inscription catalogues a list of
repairs beginning in 1436 and finishing during Dhammazedi's reign. By
the beginning of the 16th century,
A series of earthquakes during the following centuries caused damage.
The worst damage was caused by a 1768 earthquake that brought down the
top of the stupa, but King
Hsinbyushin later raised it to its current
height of 99 m (325 ft). A new crown umbrella was donated by King
From 22 February 2012 to 7 March 2012, devotees celebrated the annual
The pagoda is listed on the
Diagram showing the various architectural features that comprise
the design of the
The base of the stupa is made of bricks covered with gold plates. Above the base are terraces that only monks and other males can access. Next is the bell-shaped part of the stupa. Above that is the turban, then the inverted almsbowl, inverted and upright lotus petals, the banana bud and then the umbrella crown . The crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Immediately before the diamond bud is a flag-shaped vane. The very top—the diamond bud—is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.
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
(Binnya Thau), who gave her weight in gold. Southern entrance in
1890s A pair of leogryphs guarding the entrance to the walkway
There are four entrances, each leading up a flight of steps to the platform on Singuttara Hill. A pair of giant leogryphs guards each entrance. The eastern and southern approaches have vendors selling books, good luck charms, images of the Buddha, candles, gold leaf, incense sticks, prayer flags, streamers, miniature umbrellas and flowers.
It is customary to circumnavigate Buddhist stupas in a clockwise direction. In accordance with this principle, one may begin at the eastern directional shrine, which houses a statue of Kakusandha , the first Buddha of the present kalpa . Next, at the southern directional shrine, is a statue of the second Buddha, Koṇāgamana . Next, at the western directional shrine, is that of the third Buddha, Kassapa . Finally, at the northern directional shrine, is that of the fourth Buddha, Gautama .
Most Burmese people are
It is important for Burmese Buddhists to know on which day of the week they were born, as this determines their planetary post . There are eight planetary posts, as Wednesday is split in two (a.m. and p.m. ). They are marked by animals that represent the day — garuda for Sunday, tiger for Monday, lion for Tuesday, tusked elephant for Wednesday morning, tuskless elephant for Wednesday afternoon, mouse for Thursday, guinea pig for Friday and nāga for Saturday. Each planetary post has a Buddha image and devotees offer flowers and prayer flags and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish. At the base of the post behind the image is a guardian angel, and underneath the image is the animal representing that particular day. The base of the stupa is octagonal and also surrounded by eight small shrines (one for each planetary post). It is customary to circumnavigate Buddhist stupas in a clockwise direction.
The pilgrim, on his way up the steps of the pagoda, buys flowers, candles, coloured flags and streamers. These are to be placed at the stupa in a symbolic act of giving , which is an important aspect of Buddhist teaching. There are donation boxes located in various places around the pagoda to receive voluntary offerings which may be given to the pagoda for general purposes. As of 2016 foreigners are charged an 8,000 Kyats (approx. 6 USD) entrance fee.
SHWEDAGON IN LITERATURE
“ Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire. It stood upon a green knoll, and below it were lines of warehouses, sheds, and mills. Under what new god, thought I, are we irrepressible English sitting now? ”
“ 'There's the old Shway Dagon' (pronounced Dagone, not like the god in the Scriptures), said my companion. 'Confound it!' But it was not a thing to be sworn at. It explained in the first place why we took Rangoon, and in the second why we pushed on to see what more of rich or rare the land held. Up till that sight my uninstructed eyes could not see that the land differed much in appearance from the Sundarbans ”
WAR AND INVASION
British soldiers remove their shoes while visiting Shwedagon Pagoda during World War II
In 1608 the Portuguese adventurer
Filipe de Brito e Nicote
Two centuries later, the British landed on May 11, 1824 during the
First Anglo-Burmese War
The Second Anglo-Burmese War saw the British re-occupation of the Shwedagon in April 1852, only this time the stupa was to remain under their military control for 77 years, until 1929, although the people were given access to the Paya.
During the British occupation and fortification of the Pagoda, Lord Maung Htaw Lay , the most prominent Mon-Burmese in British Burma, successfully prevented the British Army from looting of the treasures; he eventually restored the Pagoda its former glory and status with the financial help from the British rulers. This extract is from the book “A Twentieth Century Burmese Matriarch” written by his great-great-great grand daughter Khin Thida.
“ After retirement he moved back to Rangoon area still in Burmese hands but very soon destined for the next annexation. He was again caught up in war but this time he had a great fortune of supporting religious ventures and gaining tremendous merit. His good karma and leadership abilities led him to the task of saving the great Shwedagon Pagoda from imminent destruction and sacking of its treasures by British troops in the second Anglo-Burmese War.
The great Buddhist shrine had been fortified by the British troops in
the 1824 war and was again used as a fort in 1852. When he heard of
the fortification and sacking of the shrine, he sent a letter of
appeal directly to the British
He became the founding trustee of the
In 1920, students from Burma's only university met at a pavilion on
the southwest corner of the Shwedagon pagoda and planned a protest
strike against the new University Act which they believed would only
benefit the elite and perpetuate colonial rule. This place is now
commemorated by a memorial. The result of the ensuing University
Boycott was the establishment of "national schools" financed and run
by the Burmese people; this day has been commemorated as the Burmese
In 1938, oilfield workers on strike hiked all the way from the
The "shoe question" on the pagoda has always been a sensitive issue
to the Burmese people since colonial times. The Burmese people had
always removed shoes at all Buddhist pagodas. Hiram Cox, the British
envoy to the Burmese Court, in 1796, observed the tradition by not
visiting the pagoda rather than take off his shoes. However, after the
annexation of lower Burma, European visitors as well as troops posted
at the pagoda openly flouted the tradition.
In January 1946, General
SEPTEMBER 2007 PROTESTS
In September 2007, during nationwide demonstrations against the military regime and its recently enacted price increases, protesting monks were denied access to the pagoda for several days before the government finally relented and permitted them in.
On September 24, 2007, 20,000 bhikkhus and thilashins (the largest
protest in 20 years) marched at the Shwedagon Pagoda,
On September 26, 2007, clashes between security forces and thousands
of protesters led by Buddhist monks in
The web site reports that protesting "monks were beaten and bundled into waiting army trucks," adding about 50 monks were arrested and taken to undisclosed locations. In addition, the opposition said "soldiers with assault rifles have sealed off sacred Buddhist monasteries ... as well as other flashpoints of anti-government protests." It reports that the violent crackdown came as about 100 monks defied a ban by venturing into a cordoned-off area around the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's holiest Buddhist shrine.
It says that authorities ordered the crowd to disperse, but witnesses said the monks sat down and began praying, defying the military government's ban on public assembly. Security forces at the pagoda "struck out at demonstrators" and attacked "several hundred other monks and supporters," the opposition web site detailed. Monks were ushered away by authorities and loaded into waiting trucks while several hundred onlookers watched, witnesses said. Some managed to escape and headed towards the Sule Pagoda, a Buddhist monument and landmark located in Yangon's city centre.
Another replica of Shwedagon Pagoda, 46.8 m (154 ft) in height, was
Lumbini Natural Park in
Outside the gates *
Devotees paying homage to the
Jade Buddha *
The Tharrawaddy Min Bell *
A crowded day at Shwedagon *
Shwedagon, a forest of pagodas *
A mythical well, covered by a glass mosaic *
Eastern mote (cardinal point building) *
The Singu Min Bell *
Panoramic view *
Southern Entrance *
Second height pagoda *
Inner map *
A sunny day at Shwedagon *
Eastern gate path of
* ^ "
* Martin, Steve (2002). Lonely Planet
Wikimedia Commons has media related to SHWEDAGON PAGODA .
* Official website * Official