Shwedagon by night
World's most ancient Buddhist stupa
The Shwedagon pagoda, officially named Shwedagon Zedi Daw - also
known as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda - is an iconic
gilded stupa located in Yangon, Myanmar. This 99 metre- tall
architectural wonder situated atop the Singuttara Hill, close to
Kandawgyi Lake is, in the eyes of many, Myanmar's very symbol.
It is not only the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in the country but
also has historical significance. It is believed that the stupa contains
relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present Kalpa.
The relics are said to include the staff of Kakusandha Buddha, the
water filter of Koagamana Buddha, a piece of the robe of Kassapa Buddha
and eight strands of hair from Gautama Buddha.
Historians and archaeologists maintain that the pagoda was built by
the Mon people between the 6- 10 Centuries CE. Legend has it that the
fabled pagoda was constructed over 2700 years ago, making it the oldest
Buddhist stupa in the world.
A monk in prayer
According to tradition, Tapassu and Bhalluka - two merchant brothers
from the city of Balkh (in what is currently known as Afghanistan) paid
homage to Gautama Buddha and received eight of the Buddha's hairs. The
brothers travelled to Burma and, with the help of the local ruler, King
Okkalapa, and enshrined the sacred relics in a stupa on Singuttara Hill.
While thousands daily thronging the county's most famous place of
Buddhist worship, much has begun to alter, in the temple background.
With Myanmar opening itself in 2012, there is an influx of investment
and the country is undergoing transformation. With that, there is a lot
of construction activity in Myanmar including the sacred area where the
famous stupa is situated.
Amidst strong protests by the Buddhist clergy, a powerful segment of
Burmese society, the Government of Myanmar on July 6 announced the
suspension of five controversial property developments near the
Buddhist clergy have been agitating against the ongoing construction
work, with protesters alleging there was great risk of damaging the
fabled golden pagoda.
For weeks, it has been argued that there was a serious need for an
urgent review of the ongoing construction and the plans made for the
development of the area.
Protesters threatened to bring the city to a standstill last week if
construction work continued disregarding Buddhist sentiments, the
country's majority religious community.
Shwedagon, though not declared a UNESCO heritage site is world famous
and remains Myanmar's key tourist attraction.
The five property developments were originally suspended in January
for a month by the Myanmar Investment Commission, following complaints
over their proximity to Shwedagon and concerns over their height.
"There were growing concerns among the people, monks, scholars and
experts about the dangers of these projects to the Shwedagon Pagoda,"
government official, Zaw Than Thin, said in a statement broadcast on
The most prominent nationalist group of monks, the Committee for the
Protection of Nationality and Religion - better known by its acronym Ma
Ba Tha - recently decided to lend its support to the campaign to halt
the Shwedagon projects and threatened nationwide protests, if they
Offering light to dispel darkness
A man with prayer beads