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Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon History
The sources of the Shwedagon historical events are mainly the Glass Palace Chronicles
To get reliable data of the Shwedagon Pagoda History they were written in the early 1830's by a Burmese Royal Commission and start with some well-known legends such as:

Tapussa and Bhallika, two brothers of Asitanjana in Mon state went on a shopping trip to India just as it was in Burmese Days. Coincidentally they met Lord Buddha who sat under a tree. They offered him a honey cake, after he ate the two asked for a gift from him, he took eight hairs and gave them to the brothers.

They then returned to ox carts and ships, carrying the sacred hairs with them in a casket decorated with precious stones. On the way, they met the King ofAjjhatta, who requested two of the sacred hairs. As they traveled by ship and reached Cape Negrais at the southwestern point of the country a Naga (mythical serpent) King named Jayasena asked for two more sacred hairs from them and brought them to Bhumintara.

They then placed them into the ruby casket and informed the King of Ukkalapa about it. The King came with an army of elephants, horses, chariots, and soldier, he paid reverence and with some sacred activities the hairs were brought to their original number of eight.

They came back to Asitanjana and the hairs were enshrined on Singuttara Hill where relics from the previous Buddhas, a water filter of Kakusandha, the robe of Konagamana and an item which belonged to Kassapa were already placed.

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Pagoda Platform Stupa Photos
The two brothers had a relict chamber made and this chamber was filled with various donated jewelry diamonds and other precious stones.

The eight sacred hairs of Gautama were washed in water and placed in a ruby casket before being placed in tiered receptacles like the others.

A stone slab all covered with gold was placed over the relic chamber and on it was erected a golden pagoda 44 cubits high. The golden pagoda was encased in a silver one, a copper, and a bronze, then in an iron one, a marble and finally into a big brick stupa.

These are the legends around the founding of the stupa, here is more about the architecture of the monument. This story of Tapussa and Bhallika occurs in few historic texts. Nothing is known what happen after until some texts appeared in 1485 during the reign of King Dhammazedi (1472-1492).

People worshiped the holy pagoda

After many years the shrine was overgrown with shrubs. About 350 years later two monks Sona and Uttara came to Suvannabhumi or today Thaton to propagate Buddhism and miraculous the pagoda was found again. When Banya-U (1353-1385) came to the throne of Hanthawaddy (Bago) he removed the enclosing pavilion and enlarged the pagoda, raising it to a height of 40 cubits which is about 18 meters.

Subsequent Mon kings renovated and enlarged the structure. The biggest enlargement was done under Shinsawbu (1453-1472). She was the Granddaughter of Banya-U, founder of the new dynasty of Hanthawaddy, and daughter of Rajadhiraj (1385-1423), a Mon hero.
  1. Shwedagon Pagoda cleaning squad
  2. two chinthe at the north entrance
  3. shwedagon pagoda stupa during colonial times
  4. approaching the shwedagon pagoda in the 18. century
around the big shwedagon stupa
She had the shrine in Yangon enlarged and ordered the first gold layer through a donation
of her weight in gold. For funds to handle the maintenance of the pagoda she donated 9,000 hectares of land. Towards the end of her life, Shinsawbu came to the Shwedagon and established her residence nearby.

Dhammazedi, who succeeded Shinsawbu, was also a great patron of Buddhism and continued the good works at the Shwedagon. Among other things he contributed gold of a combined weight of him and the queen for more gilding and had a huge bell cast with around 3 meters wide and 5.5m tall.

The feudal dynasties of old Burma competed not only in the field of construction of capitals to each other but also In the construction of new and already existing temple complexes stupas and giant Buddha sculptures everyone tried to build something special to gain merit. Special attention was devoted to decorating them especially those who had relics of Gautama Buddha in it.

A special position among them occupies the Shwedagon. There are many thousands of stupas in Myanmar, this is the most famous - a monument of national importance. It shows the standard of an architectural ensemble not only here, but in all South East Asia.

The next pieces of information are from the late 14th Century 


From palace chronicles, we know that the king of Hanthawaddy ( Pegu or today Bago), Byinnya U, renovated a stupa located near the fishing village of Dagon, from which also the name of the stupa is derived with the meaning " Golden Dagon. The reconstructed stupa had a height of about 20 m.


After this, some more information about repairs and renovations were issued over time. Probably all these works had something to do with earthquakes which are frequent in this area. Since the mid-16th to the beginning of the 20 Century are no less than eight earthquakes have been registered, under which the monument had suffered. An effect of this repairs was that it grew more and more.

Towards the end of the 15 century The temple already reached a height of about 90 m and still during the lifetime of Queen Shinsawbu a platform was built around in the years 1455 to 1462 which was surrounded by a balustrade and walls and this way they put the “cornerstone " of the still existing ensemble on the platform.

As described by Ralph Fitch in 1586: "Two or three days' journey away from Pegu raises ... a pagoda they called it Dagon with an admirable height and is gilded from bottom to top. There is also a house where the monks pray with a length of 55 steps long, inside are gilded columns flanking corridors. It is open to alien sides, and you can see many smaller columns, which are also gilded, the house itself sparkles inside and outside of gold.

Also around are beautiful buildings in which the pilgrims can rest, these houses are full of statues, both men, and female, and they are all gilded. He mentioned, I mean, it's the most beautiful place in the world.

The description of the English traveler is interesting in every detail

They confirmed the composition of the Shwedagon towards the end of the 16th Century. Even then there were four entrances; around the stupa stood buildings for various purposes, among them, the ordination hall can be recognized easily. There the ceremonies of Monk ordinations were held, pilgrims can rest in Zayats which are hall-like open building, a post supporting the roof, and the houses are full of statues. Plenty of believers prays and meditate in front of the Buddha sculptures.

By the 17th Century to ensemble not yet got the final shape since it was repeatedly repaired and enlarged. The stupa reached the current height during the Konbaung dynasty in 1774. When the King of Ava, Hsinyushin, rebuild the shrine again and the present height of 99.5 m was finalized including the silhouette. It was the overall shape which was completed by the end of the 18th century, but in the details, it has undergone changes to our days.
The study of the place led to the conclusion

that it is not as old as always claimed. The central stupa and some of its main parts were rebuilt in the 19th and 20th Century. The earliest buildings on the platform are from the 19th Century.

The temple ensembles grow larger but the characteristics of the composition of their floor plans remained unchanged. Outdated and damaged parts are replaced over time with new ones. The exchange of details had no significant effect on the iconographic basics of the complexes. No small role in preserving the stable composition of the temple complexes played the conservative nature of the Buddhist cult architecture whose main principle was to copy older models exactly.Also, the surrounding area which over the centuries remained substantially unchanged contributed significantly help that the ensemble kept their individuality.

As a result of all these circumstances, the dating is very difficult; it has a lot to do with legends, wishful thinking and myths in the 4th to 5 Century since there is inadequate archaeological evidence.

The canonical form of the round stupa with traditional details was predominant, but by far not the only one in Burma. In the south half of the country, for example, rectangular stupas are visible. This form most likely followed the traditions of Mon Architecture, it was closely connected with the religious symbolism. At that time were war and the British colonial troop's killed thousands of Burmese people.