99 Meter tall gold plated stupa topped with diamond studded hti
The elegant Shwedagon Pagoda is Yangon’s most famous landmark. The massive 99 meter high gold plated pagoda with the diamond studded spire set on top of a small hill in downtown Yangon dominates the area and is visible from much of the city. After dark there is a mystical atmosphere with the pagoda lit up by spotlights.
The very impressive pagoda, also known as the Golden Pagoda, is Burma’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The main stupa enshrines sacred relics of the Gautama Buddha as well as the three previous Buddhas.
History of the Shwedagon Pagoda
According to legend the pagoda is more than 2,500 years old dating back to the lifetime of the Buddha, making it the oldest pagoda in Burma. Historical evidence suggests the pagoda was built by the Mon around the 6th century. Since then the Pagoda has been enlarged and renovated many times, and numerous smaller stupas and other structures have been added.
The Sularata Nat that found the spot to build the pagoda
According to legend two merchant brothers from Okkalapa (present day Yangon) who lived about 2,500 years ago met the Buddha in India. The Buddha gave them eight of His hairs and told them to enshrine them in the same spot on a hill in Okkalapa where relics of the previous three reincarnations of the Buddha were buried.
The brothers returned to Okkalapa and presented the Buddha relics to their King, who started searching for the spot. After years of searching in vain a Nat spirit called Sularata decided to help the King. The Nat who was millions of years old hat witnessed the visits of the previous three Buddhas and remembered the spot on Singuttara hill where the relics were enshrined. It was at this spot that the Shwedagon pagoda was built.
Four entrances guarded by Chinthes
There are four entrances to the complex, all of which except the Eastern one have either an escalator or an elevator. All are guarded by enormous Chinthes, Burmese mythological lions with a white body and golden colored head.