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Shwedagon Pagoda

July, 2004

Burma photo.
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
Burma photo.
2. Bhuddist monk
Burma photo.
3. Bhudda images
Burma photo.
4. Decorative panel
nul. nul.

The Shwedagon Pagoda (see photo #1, at left), is at least a thousand years old, and a religious site has existed here for as much as 2,500 years. This is the most revered place in Myanmar. All Burmese Buddhists make a pilgrimage to Shwedagon at least once in their life, if they can. The stupa itself is huge and imposing. It is about 100 meters tall and covered in over 50 tons of gold leaf. The top of the spire is encrusted with thousands of diamonds and other gems, including one giant diamond of 76 carats.

Even more impressive than the stupa itself are the scores of other structures that surround it. Everything is beautifully fashioned and heavily decorated. It was also all perfectly clean and neat, far different from our experiences everywhere else we went in Myanmar. We were visiting during the SW monsoon (the rainy season) and had dark skies and intermittent rain during our tour of the Shwedagon Pagoda. It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to visit this wonderful place during different hours of the day and different seasons of the year. The changing light reflected from all the gold and mirrors would be truly magical.

Throughout the pagoda site, we saw Buddhist monks walking, chanting, and meditating (photo #2). And, of course, every little temple and hall contained Buddha images (photo #3). There were also people praying or meditating in places throughout the pagoda grounds, both very public places, and more private ones.

It is hard to convey our feelings as we wandered through this very impressive site. The beauty of the place is amazing. The floors of the terrace are of marble and other stones, perfectly laid and wonderfully maintained. All of the people are quiet and respectful. This is no archaeological remnant of an ancient religion but a living part of real people's lives. It was strange to experience the level of devotion and faith that so many people have in beliefs that we do not share. I imagine they would feel that same way visiting an American church — except that no church we have seen could match the physical grandness of this place.

The level of detail in the construction and decoration of the ancillary buildings is quite stunning (photo #4). Every surface is elaborately decorated. Here are a few other examples:

It is impossible to convey the magnificence of this place with photos. It is a truly awe inspiring sight, as it was surely meant to be. Here are some pictures that will give you a very brief guided tour of a tiny fraction of the sights at the Shwedagon Pagoda:

stupa  | shrines  | shrines  | terrace  | statues
monk  | Buddha  | rain  | prayer  | bell  | shrine  | stupa

The Shwedagon Pagoda was truly magnificent. We wanted to return on a sunny day, but it remained cloudy for the time we were in Yangon (Rangoon). If we ever return to Myanmar, which is not likely, we well certainly visit Shwedagon Pagoda again. (There are more pictures in the Photo Gallery)


— return to the 2004 Journal Archive


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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
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Created 7/2004. All text & photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.