Shwedagon: More Than Just Another Pagoda

Asia, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda Compound

You cannot say you have visited Yangon if you haven’t gone to Shwedagon Pagoda. I mean it.

For most people, Southeast Asia is a wonderful place with so many beautiful temples scattered throughout the region. But after traveling around for a while, some might frown when anyone suggests another temple for them to visit. That should not be the case for Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. This 2,500 year-old shrine has been the heart of Myanmar’s religious life from the very first time of its construction.

Gleaming Gilded Ornaments

Very Intricate Carvings

Zedis (or Chedis) with Different Styles at The Inner Courtyard

A Monk Walking by The Planetary Posts

A View of The Inner Courtyard

Shwedagon Pagoda

The Umbrella, The Vane and The Diamond Bud All Adorned with Diamonds and Precious Stones

Legend has it that when Prince Siddharta from India just attained Buddhahood, he was visited by two brothers: Tapussa and Bhallika, both were merchants from Myanmar who offered a gift of honey cakes. In return, Buddha himself removed eight pieces of his hair and handed them to the two brothers for enshrinement in their town of Okkalapa, present day Yangon. Upon their return, the two brothers presented Buddha’s hair to the King of Okkalapa who later erected a pagoda and enshrined the eight pieces of hair together with the relics of previous three Buddhas. The original height of the pagoda was 66 feet (around 20 meters). From the 14th century onward, successive merchants rebuilt or regilded the pagoda until it reached its present height of 326 feet (almost 100 meters). It has ten unique different sections, which are: the base, the three terraces called Pyisayan, the bell-shaped section called Khaung Laung, the Baung Yit with its distinct embossed bands, the Thabeik which looks like a monk’s food bowl, The Kya-Ian which resembles a lotus flower, the Hngnet Pyaw-Bu which looks like a banana bud, the Umbrella called Hti, the Hngetmana (the flag-shaped vane which revolves to the direction of wind), and the Seinbu (diamond bud). The Hti, Hngetmana and Seinbu are decorated with 3,154 gold bells, 79,569 diamonds and other precious stones. (Most of the information mentioned above was taken from what is written on the rear side of entrance ticket to Shwedagon Pagoda).

The East Entrance

Men Dressed in Longyi

Two Women Moping The Courtyard

A Devout Woman Watering A Small Buddha Statue

Beautifully Decorated Ceilings

Stairway to The Pagoda

To get inside the main courtyard, visitors can go from four different entrances. But for a more dramatic scene (albeit a little longer) I suggest you to take the Eastern entrance like I did. Take your time to slowly absorb the beauty around the stairway to the main pagoda, while undemanding vendors sit neatly in their stalls on both sides of the stairway and watch you and other visitors/pilgrims pass by. Once you have reached the entrance to the main compound, prepare yourself for a wonder which made me whisper to myself “This is even better than The Thai Grand Palace”.

Related Post: Yangon: A City-Sized Time Capsule

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

48 thoughts on “Shwedagon: More Than Just Another Pagoda”

  1. Pingback: Yangon: A City-Sized Time Capsule « What an Amazing World!

  2. WOW. It really resembles Wat Phra Kaew. I have seen Wat Phra Kaew and it’s certainly very picturesque. And if you say that this place is better, I can imagine the awe I’m gonna feel if I witness this place directly.


    • It does remind me of Wat Phra Kaew in so many ways. But Shwedagon still has the charm which the Thai Wat has lost (in a way), largely thanks to the lack of foreign tourists, I believe.


  3. Wow, wonderful post. I think the temple looks absolutely amazing. I will be putting this on my list for next year. Thanks and great writeup and photos!


    • Hi Adam! I do hope you can make it to Myanmar next year to take great photographs of the country and everything it has. Looking forward to other cool photographs of yours!


  4. Looks like the weather was amazing when you were there… I would love to experience Shwedagon firsthand, it’s pure magic how the gilded stupas shine brightly in the sun!


    • It really was and I took the liberty to walk everywhere I went. Pretty exhausting actually, but so much fun.
      Come to Shwedagon before it is flocked with too many tourists (which I believe will happen in the near future given Myanmar’s current improvements).


  5. Awesome pictures Bama, I liked them all 🙂

    Can’t help but comment that I share Buddha’s first name, and it was great to read it right in the first line of the post 😀


    • Thanks Sid! (or you prefer to be called Joshi?)
      Haha you’re right! Btw I’ve been longing to visit India. I hope I can do it one day.


    • Thanks! I hope you’ll have more time to explore the country than I did. It’s such a fascinating place.


  6. I’ve been here 4 times and for good reason – it’s incredible! You really captured this well in your photo essay. I especially like the detailed shots – like the women mopping the courtyard.


    • 4 times??? Wow, you must be a huge fan of it. If one day I return to Myanmar I really want to go to Bagan and Kyaikto.


  7. Photo Media says:

    Nice shots here…brings back lovely memories of this beautiful place. Btw if you happen to be in Jakarta this month check out Majalah Dewi May issue. You can see my article on Myanmar, travel section (unless they decide to slot it for next month) Happy reading !


    • Thanks! Actually this May I’ll be traveling to some other Asian countries. But I will surely check that article out when I see Majalah Dewi around.


    • It is indeed! Make sure you put Shwedagon in your list of places to visit in the future. 🙂


    • The good thing is they have started to open themselves to the world. So I believe in the near future traveling to Myanmar will be much more easier. Don’t forget to visit Bagan! (which I didn’t but really want to go one day).


  8. Hi Bama, I would like to read more of your posts about Myanmar. Is it just me who not able to find or you have written only two posts?


    • Yes Mabaydar. I only wrote two posts. That is why I want to go back to Myanmar in the future to explore more wonderful places the country has to offer.


  9. PS In case you’re interested I’ve written 11 posts on Myanmar – perhaps you’ll find something there to inspire you to get back to this amazing country 🙂
    Go to Inle Lake! And Bagan!


    • Myanmar is indeed an amazing place and I was lucky enough to go there when the country was starting to open up to the world. Actually James and I are pondering on visiting Myanmar in the near future, but we’re still discussing on when is the best time to visit the country. There are a few other countries that we’re thinking of going so now we’re collecting all the information we need on each place. Definitely I will use your posts on Myanmar as very valuable resources. Thanks again Alison! I’m really glad that I found your blog and we get to know each other better.


  10. Bama, this post makes me want to go to Myannmar even more! I’ve still not traveled there although I’ve been on many border hops from Thailand on visa runs. Those don’t count! Maybe next year I’ll make it there. If you get back there first I look forward to seeing more of your photos and hearing recommendations!


    • Hi Lucy! Since opening up to the world, Myanmar has seen a significant increase of tourist influx. I was there during the first few months after the government released Aung San Suu-kyi. Actually I’m planning to go back probably in a few years’ time but we’ll see about that. 🙂 You should go now before more tourists flock the country.


      • Wow, Bama you were in Myannmar during a very interesting time then! It’s a country I want to investigate with my camera for sure!


      • You won’t regret it, not even a bit. It’s a very fascinating and beautiful country and hopefully it won’t turn into another Thailand which is now pretty much overrun by tourists.


      • Ahh, maybe if one day I decide to go back to Thailand I should drop you a message and ask for your recommendation of such unspoiled places in the country. 🙂


      • The unspoiled places are generally the normal places that tourists aren’t interested in or that are too difficult to get to! 🙂


  11. naveen pillay says:

    wow.i seem to be following each and every post of your’s.
    Fantastic photographs.informative as well as artistic.


  12. Pingback: In Search of Spices | What an Amazing World!

    • Visiting a religious site during special occasion/festival would certainly mean a jam-packed place. But that provides us with people photo-ops, right? 🙂


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