Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the top highlight in Yangon or even in whole Myanmar. The Golden pagoda has over 2600 years old history and also the biggest in Myanmar. The precious wonder of Myanmar is a 99 m gold stupa that dominates Yangon’s skyline. Shwedagon Pagoda is a huge complex and you need at least 2 hours to explore. Here are the top tips to look out when you are in Shwedagon Pagoda.
There are four entrances (south, west, north and east). Elevators are available at the some of the entrance of the pagoda. Do remember which entrance you are coming from if you have hired a whole day taxi with you.
The Bodhi Tree here is over 100 years old, it is super huge and many local visitors are sitting under the big Bodhi Tree. Bodhi Tree is where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating underneath. The original Bodhi Tree is Bihar, India.
The meaning of Shwedagon
Shwe means gold, dagon means the ancient name of Yangon. You see the whole temple is painted with gold-plated. Myanmar’s tradition of purchasing gold leaf dates to the 15th century when the Mon Queen Shin Sawbu gave her weight in gold to Shwedagon. The contributions have been continuing ever since.
Praying Corners according to weekdays
The people are, for the most part, deeply engaged in spiritual practice. You will see moments of prayers, meditation and “bathing of the Buddha” by day of the week. There are labels with the days of the week surround the stupa. There are Monday corner, Tuesday corner, Wednesday corner (split into am and pm) and so on for up to 7 days. Depending on which day you were born and you will be praying at that particular corner. I don’t know which day of the week I was born so I was not able to do the offering of “bathing of the Buddha”. Every praying corner has a planet and an animal sign associated with it in accordance with astrology.
Bathing the Buddha
Bathing the Buddha at the corner of the day you were born will bring in good karma, so you see pilgrims queue to bathe the Buddha. Just use the cup provided and pour the water down the head and body of the baby Buddha statue multiple times.
No Shoes Allowed
The temple is so huge to walk around but no shoes is allowed. The floor may get very hot during the day and some part of the floor may be a little wet if there is rainfall earlier. There are plastic mat for walking to prevent slippery but it is quite uncomfortable as it is quite painful to step on the mat. Please be prepared to walk on bare foot for few hours. 🙂
Each temple here has their own unique style
There are many temples surrounding the Shwedagon Pagoda. Each temple has their own unique design.
Some uses more gold and some adapt the Indian arts.
The pillar here uses jade.
Monk praying aloud in a small corner
Pavilions at the temple complex
Some of the roof was done by fine wood carving, hundred years ago.
Reclining Buddha in Shwedagon Pagoda
There is a Reclining Buddha in Shwedagon Pagoda but is quite small compare to Chaukhtatgyi Buddha.
Ringing the Bell
Ringing the bell three times with the wood stick after you have done the donation, such as flower or money to the Buddha. It let the Buddha and people around you to know you have done good deeds and also bring in good karma and luck to them.
Clothing should cover knees and elbows. Women usually wear long skirt/sarong. Men too wear sarong. Strictly no shorts and tank tops.
Check out the72-Carat Diamond at the top!
People say this is the most expensive temple Pagoda in the world. It has the 72 carat diamond at the tip of the stupa! You can’t see it with your naked eyes and you may need to use a binocular to see it.
This is how it looks like, a giant 72 carat diamond accompanying with thousands of smaller diamonds.
Historical Singu Min Bell
At one glance the bell look pretty old and the bottom of the bell look chipped off. This giant bell weighs 25 tones and the British attempted to take it from the pagoda during the Anglo-Burmese War but it was too heavy and sank in Yangon River. After several years, Burmese people successfully raised the bell from the riverbed and restored to it original position at the pagoda. At the top of the bell, there are several hand painted pictures showing the history of the bell. Remeber to look up at these pictures.
Best time to visit
For me the best time to visit is early morning as people are lesser and easier for photography. But in the evening it would be very interesting as you get to see changes of lights but fill with people. It is up to you.
Final thoughts :
There are too many things to see in Shwedagon Pagoda. I have hired a tour guide which cost Myanmar Kyat 5000 per person, about USD3.5 (SGD 5). There are many tour guides at the entrance and I am pretty sure they will come to you in no time. Burmese people speak good English as it was used to be colonised by the British.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the number one top attractions in Myanmar!