The SHWEZIGON PAGODA or SHWEZIGON PAYA
(ရွှေစည်းခုံဘုရား) is a Buddhist
temple located in
Nyaung-U , a town near
Bagan , in Myanmar. A
prototype of Burmese stupas , it consists of a circular gold leaf
-gilded stupa surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. Construction
of the Shwezigon
Pagoda began during the reign of King
1044–77), who was the founder of the Pagan Dynasty , in 1059–1060
and was completed in 1102 AD, during the reign of his son King
Kyansittha . Over the centuries the pagoda had been damaged by many
earthquakes and other natural calamities, and has been refurbished
several times. In recent renovations it has been covered by more than
30,000 copper plates. However, the lowest level terraces have remained
as they were.
This pagoda , a
Buddhist religious place, is believed to enshrine a
bone and tooth of
Gautama Buddha . The pagoda is in the form of a cone
formed by five square terraces with a central solid core. There are
footprints below the four standing Buddha statues here. Jataka legends
are depicted on glazed terra-cotta tiles set into three rectangular
terraces. At the entrance of the pagoda there are large statues of
guardians of the temple. There are also four bronze standing statues
of Buddha which are stated to be of the current age Buddha. At the
outer limits of the pagoda there are 37 nats deified along with an
intricately carved wooden sculpture of
Thagyamin a Burmese version of
Indra . Within the compound of the Shwezigon
Pagoda there is
a stone pillar containing
Mon language inscriptions dedicated by
* 1 Location
* 2 History
* 3 Features
* 4 References
* 5 Bibliography
* 6 External links
The pagoda, a pilgrimage centre, is located close to
Bagan or Pagan
(known as "a land of thousand pagodas") in the plains in the Shwe
Zigon settlement at
Pagoda in 1855
Chronicles of the Kings of Burma have attributed that King Anawrahta
(r. 1044–77) (who was converted to the Theravada
Buddhism by monks
Thaton ) initiated its construction during 1059–1060. It is
believed that he was killed by a rampaging buffalo in 1077. :151,156
According to a legend Anawrahta, the first of the great builders of
Bagan, selected the site for building this pagoda by sending a white
elephant mounted with a frontal bone relic of the Buddha to roam
freely with the declaration that wherever the elephant stopped would
be the site for building the pagoda. The elephant finally stopped over
a dune which was chosen as the site for erecting the pagoda, and hence
the name Shewzigon pagoda meaning "pagoda on a dune" in Burmese .
Pagoda means "stupa" or "zedi."
The pagoda was then completed by his son King Kyansittha
(r.1084–1113). While its lower terraces were built by Anawrahta, the
balance structure is credited to Kyansittha. Its final completion date
is 1086 and the footprints below the four standing Buddha statues here
are also believed to be of the same period. The pagoda is a replica
of the pyramidal
Mahabodhi Temple at
Bodh Gaya , the location of
Buddha’s illuminating realisation in India.
Buddhist monks at
Pagoda in 1999
The pagoda has been damaged by earthquakes and other natural
calamities over the centuries, and has been refurbished from time to
time. A notable renovation was carried out by King Bayinnaung (r.
1551–1581) during late 16th century. In the 1975 earthquake there
was considerable damage to the spire and the dome necessitating large
renovation. It is now substantially strengthened with covering of more
than 30,000 copper plates, which were donated by local and
international devotees; gilding of the dome has been done during
1983–1984 and again in recent times. However, the pagoda's bottom
level terraces have remained mostly in their original form.
The pagoda, a prototype of Burmese stupas, is like a bell-shaped
stupa in traditional Mon architectural style , which became the
prototype architectural feature for many stupas built in the then
Burma (now Myanmar). It has features of staircases, gates, and a
richly ornamented spire fitted with a large golden umbrella type
finial embedded with gems. The relics that are believed to be
enshrined in the pagoda are Buddha's collar-bone and his frontal bone
Prome , and his tooth from
Ceylon . On the outer limits of the
pagoda there is a shrine where 37 nats are deified along with an
intricately carved wooden sculpture of
Śakra , king of the nats, which is believed to be 900 years old; it
is the Burmese version of the Indian god
Indra holding his weapon, the
thunderbolt. These shrines of 37 nat spirits have been built to
circumambulate as a homage to these relics.
The pagoda, which rises with five square terraces has a central solid
core. The terraces rise steeply in the form of a pyramid topped with
umbrellas or chatris. The entire edifice, from the base to the tip,
appears like a cone. From the four cardinal directions there are steps
from the base to the terraces at the centre to provide access to
devotees to go up for worship; these terraces are fitted with
instructions on slabs narrating events from the life of Buddha and
Buddhist scriptures. The interior, though conceived as a solid
body, has a maze of interconnected narrow passages, where devotees
affix dedicatory slabs on the walls by paying a donation, praying for
special blessings. Even though the relics have not been found in the
pagoda, believed to have been stolen, devotees still feel the sanctity
of the stupa and embed slabs hoping to attain nirvana from the "force
field" created by the embedded relics. Exterior decorations
At the entrance to the pagoda there are huge statues of guardians of
the temple, known as chinthes which are leoglyphs (lion shaped glyphs
). Out of the four entrances to the pagoda only the southern and
western ones are in use. There are 550 glazed terra-cotta tiles
inscribed with the
Jataka tales fixed on three of the five terraces of
the pagoda; the earlier count was 584 tiles of which some are not
found now. The four flights of steps which provide access to the
terraces leading to an octagonal platform over which the gilded stupa
has been built. At the four corners of the top most terrace, smaller
replicas of the main pagoda are affixed at their back side, fitted
with four gilded kalashas or vases; similar replicas are also fixed at
the corners in the lower terraces. At the base of the pagoda there are
containers fitted closely and set in series, which have gilded bronze
castings of plants and flowers, with alms bowls carved in stone in
between. Around the exterior periphery of the pagoda there are several
temples and wooden pavilions decorated with the pyatthat (multi-tiered
and spired roofs).
The pagoda houses footprints of Buddha. There are four bronze
standing statues of Buddha which are 12 to 13 feet (3.7 to 4.0 m) in
height, which are stated to be of the current age Buddha deified on
the four sides of the temple; these four are Kakusandha in the
northern face, Konagamana in the eastern wall, Kassapa in the southern
wall and the
Gautama Buddha to the west wall. All of these Buddhas are
cast in beaten bronze and seen with their right hand in a posture of
abayamudra , meaning "the fear not gesture" and left hand holding the
monk's robe. Below the Buddha Kassapa statue there are a pair of
footprints intricately carved on sandstone slab; these were carved
from a large "Bodhi-leaf-shaped" slab. They have engravings of a
chakra at the centre, which is considered an auspicious symbol.
Devotees offer oblations to the footprints through a rectangular wedge
created at the rear of the stone slab. The placing of the footprints
gives the viewers an impression of Buddha walking towards them.
On one of the outer walls surrounding the Shwezigon
Pagoda there is a
stone pillar with
Mon language inscriptions dedicated by King
* ^ A B SK 2011 , p. 147.
* ^ A B C D "Shwezigon
Pagoda at Pagan". British Library On Line
gallery. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
* ^ A B C D E Gärtner 1994 , p. 286.
* ^ A B Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella, ed. The Indianized
States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of
Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1 .
* ^ A B C D "Shwezigon Paya Temple (built late 11th century)".
Asian Historical Architecture. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
* ^ A B "No. 25. Pugahm Myo , Carved doorway". British Library On
Line gallery. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
* ^ A B Jarzombek & Prakash 2011 , p. 91.
* ^ A B C "Pagan (Myanmar)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 8
* ^ Inc. 2008 , p. 835.
* ^ A B Harvey 2000 , p. 33.
* ^ A B Köllner, Bruns & 1998 124 .
* ^ "No. 24. Pugahm Myo : Entrance to the Shwe Zeegong Pagoda".
British Library On Line gallery. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
* ^ Köllner & Bruns 1998 , p. 123.
* ^ Gärtner 1994 , p. 279.
* ^ "History of Shwezigon Pagoda". Retrieved 7 December 2015.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to SHWEZIGON .
* Gärtner, Uta (1994). Tradition and Modernity in Myanmar:
Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Berlin from May 7th
to May 9th, 1993. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 978-3-8258-2186-9 .
* Harvey, G.E. (1 July 2000). History of Burma. Asian Educational
Services. ISBN 978-81-206-1365-2 .
* Inc., Encyclopædia Britannica, (1 May 2008). Encyclopedia of
World Religions. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. ISBN 978-1-59339-491-2
* Jarzombek, Mark M.; Prakash, Vikramaditya (4 October 2011). A
Global History of Architecture. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN
* Köllner, Helmut; Bruns, Axel (1998).
Myanmar (Burma). Nelles.
ISBN 978-3-88618-415-6 .
* SK, Lim (1 November 2011). Asia Civilizations: Ancient to 1800 AD.
Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. ISBN 978-981-229-594-1 .
Myanmar Tourist Attractions