Shwedagon Paya - Filip Šubrt Photo

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Yangon

Myanmar

Shwedagon Paya

The Shwedagon Pagoda (Burmese: ရွှေတိဂုံဘုရား), officially named Shwedagon Zedi Daw (Burmese: ရွှေတိဂုံစေတီတော်) and also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda or simply the Golden Pagoda, is a gilded stupa located in Yangon. It is one of the most famous pagodas in the world and it is certainly the main attraction of Yangon.

According to some, the pagoda is 2,600 years old, making Shwedagon the oldest pagoda in the world. However, no official documents attesting its construction exist and its age is still a matter of debate.

The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing over 7,000 diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires, the whole giddy concoction offset by a massive emerald positioned to reflect the last rays of the setting sun. There is little wonder that the Shwedagon is referred to in Myanmar as "The crown of Burma."

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. The upper part of the walls at the entrances to the complex are decorated with beautiful Burmese style depictions of the Jataka tales, the stories about the previous lives of the Buddha.

The center of the large complex is formed by a large platform measuring 275 meters long with the main stupa and many smaller stupas surrounding it. The main stupa enshrines relics of the four previous Buddhas including sacred hair relics of the most recent Buddha.

At each corner of the octagonal pagoda is a shrine with a Buddha image (one for each day of the week, Wednesday is split into two). Every shrine has a planet and an animal sign associated with it in accordance with Eastern astrology. Burmese people pray to the shrine belonging to their day of birth burning candles, offering flowers and pouring water over the image.

The main stupa is the temple’s most impressive structure. It is visible at its hilltop location from much of Yangon. The stupa is surrounded by 64 small stupas. The 99 meters high main stupa is completely covered with gold plating and enshrines the sacred Buddha relics. Its core is solid and not open to the public. A seven spired hti, an ornament shaped as an umbrella with golden bells attached to it is placed at the top of the pagoda. The hti is decorated with thousands of diamonds and other precious stones. If you stand in the right spot of the pagoda platform, you will see the reflection of the rays of the sun from the huge diamond on top of the gold plated hti in various colors like red, purple and orange.