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Sunday, 12 July 2015





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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 Shwedagon Pagoda.

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 national television.

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 continued.

Offering light to dispel darkness

A man with prayer beads


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