Myanmar (Burma) is one of the most interesting places on earth, we know, we’ve been there several times and we are looking forward to introducing new guests to this enchanting land during our winter season. One place we must always visit is the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is an absolute marvel and given its religious and historical importance, we’re dedicating our entire blog to it today with a short history.
The Shwedagon Pagoda, official name Shwedagon Zedi Daw, is a gilded stupa right in the very heart of Yangon, west of the beautiful Kandawgyi Lake. It is the most scared Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar and one that is believed to contain relics of four previous Buddhas of the present Kalpa: the water filter of Koṇāgamana, eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama, the staff of Kakusandha and a piece of the robe of Kassapa.
Historians believe that the pagoda was built by the Mon people between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, however, legend has it that the pagoda was in fact constructed more than 2,600 years ago – making it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. It is said that two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the north of Singuttara Hill (Yangon) met Lord Gautama Buddha during his lifetime and he gifted them eight strands of his hair. The brothers returned to Burma and with the help of a local ruler, King Okkalapa, found Singuttara Hill where relics of other Buddhas had been enshrined.
The stupa fell into disrepair several times and suffered damage due to earthquakes, but it was lovingly rebuilt and restored throughout the years and what we have today is one of the most breath-taking religious sites on earth.
The stupa’s plinth is made of bricks that are covered with gold plates. Above the base are terraces that only monks and other males may 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. The diamond bud at the very top is also tipped with a 76-carat diamond. The gold you see on the stupa is real. They are genuine gold plates and people all over the country, and monarchs in history, have donated gold to the pagoda to maintain it. This practice continues to this day and was originally started in the 15th century by Queen Shin Sawbu who gave her weight in gold.
During your own visit here, look out for the days of the week. Burmese astrology recognizes and eight-day week, with Wednesday being divided into two days. Until 6:00 pm it is Wednesday, but after 6:00 pm and until midnight it is Rahu’s day. At the Shwedagon Pagoda there are eight planetary posts which are marked by animals that represent the day. It is good luck to find your day and pour water over your Buddha while making a wish.
Sunday – Garuda
Monday – Tiger
Tuesday – Lion
Wednesday Morning – Tusked Elephant
Wednesday Afternoon – Elephant (no tusks)
Thursday – Mouse
Friday – Guinea Pig
Saturday – Nāga
We’re visiting Myanmar this winter on several sailings that currently still have availability. You can browse them all on our website. Our entire winter season is filled with some incredible destinations and we even have a 129-day ‘Grand Odyssey‘ sailing – our longest EVER itinerary. You can view the full South Africa, India and Southeast Asia collection on our website.