Burma, Especially Its Children – Post 10: The Center of Buddhist Life in Yangon: The Shwedagon Pagoda

 

Yangon is the capital city and there is a wealth of sites to see. Speaking of wealth, some of the temples are covered in gold leaf. Yes, real gold is beaten into thin sheets and pressed onto the towers. These towers can be seen throughout the city. However, the most important structure in the city skyline is the Shwedagon Pagoda.

 

The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the three holiest places in Buddhism. It is the top cultural symbol of Burma to the Burmese people and is also the site most visited by tourists. It is grand, indeed, yet filled with human liveliness.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

The Shwedagon is 2,500 years old, and has been added to over the centuries. Gold is still being applied to its magnificent main dome. Here is a description from the official Shwedagon website (http://shwedagonpagoda.com) of the precious metal and gems applied to the stupa at the top of the pagoda):

 

“The lower stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold bars, an upper part with another 13,153. The perimeter of the base of the Pagoda is 1,420 feet and its height 326 feet above the platform.

 

The tip of the stupa, far too high for the human eye to discern in any detail, is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, 1065 golden bells and, at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond.”

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

The area below the stupa includes wide terraces for visitors, monks, and nuns. On these terraces are numerous small shrines, worship spaces, and “planetary posts”, where visitors offer a prayer and a wish as they pour water on small Buddha statues.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

Everyone here is barefoot, as you cannot enter this temple (or any other Buddhist temple, actually) without removing your shoes.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

The mood here is joyful and active. Unlike hushed American churches, ritual and devout prayer happens alongside children playing and people being together.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

 

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

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