The Shwedagon Pagoda lies in Yangon and is Myanmar’s most sacred religious monument. The pagoda stands proudly at the top of a hill in the former capital and shines brilliantly in the afternoon sun. This pagoda is not only a national icon, but it’s also a treasure. This amazing holy monument has witnessed Myanmar’s dynamic history of over 2500years. The pagoda has also endured many natural disasters, military occupation. The site also has been the site of historic public speeches and protests and still tells each century’s story in the faintest sounds of bells. The complex around the pagoda has many Buddha statues, relics, and historical artifacts dating back over 2,500 years. The bell-shaped stupa, referred to as a zedi in Burmese, is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas and four larger cardinal corner ones. In the base of the zedi, you will see 12 planetary posts representing days of the week and the moon’s ascension.
Here, we have made a guide for you to get the most out of experiencing this ancient wonder of the world.
You should always dress conservatively while visiting any temples in Southeast Asia. These rules are often not that strict in places like Thailand; however, that is not so at Shwedagon Pagoda. This pagoda is not just a tourist attraction; it is the major religious site in Myanmar. At the monument, you will see Scores of monks, pilgrims, and devotees mix among tourists.
Every man and woman should wear clothing that covers the knees and shoulders. You should avoid shirts with religious themes or offensive messages. Also, avoid tight or revealing clothing.
You should remove your shoes before entering the pagoda. However, you don’t have to worry about them getting lost; you can leave them at the entrance with a small fee, and they will look it at a proper counter. They will provide you a numbered claim check, so you don’t have to worry about them getting swapped either. You cannot wear socks or stockings either; you have to be barefooted.
The Shwedagon Pagoda lies on Sanguttara Hill in the Dagon Township of Yangon in Myanmar. Any taxi will gladly take you to this renowned monument. Always remember to negotiate, as taxis can slightly inflate prices for tourists visiting the pagoda.
In each of the four walkways, you will see the statue of massive lion-like creatures guarding the entrance. These statues are common in the perimeter of temples in Myanmar.
The main entrance to the Shwedagon is the southern gate. In each gate, except the western gate will be lively with the merchant selling flowers, incense, antiques, souvenirs, etc. The western gate is also the grandest of all, with its marble floors and majestic columns, creating the feeling of entering a heavenly palace. There is also an escalator if you like. If you need an elevator, you should opt for southern, northern, or eastern gates.
If you want to learn more about the Shwedagon Pagoda, you can always book a guided tour. Or, there might also be some locals in and around the pagoda who will gladly help you for some cash. You may find both licensed and unlicensed guides right after entering the pagoda. Before accepting any services from any kind of guide, make sure to agree on a established price.
If you want to see the most idyllic first impression of Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda in all its glory, enter from the northern covered walkway. The central stupa that rises about 325 feet above the terrace is perfectly framed from this angle.
Weekdays are mostly quiet at the Shwedagon Pagoda unless there are any Buddhist holidays based on the lunisolar calendar. If you visit the pagoda early in the morning, you will get to capture some great photographs. And, by noon, the temperature gets as hot as 100degrees, which makes the white marble floor very hot on barefoot. To see the Shwedagon Pagoda gilded in glorious golden light, it would be ideal for visiting around sunrise and sunset; however, this time is also the busiest. If you want to have some memorable experience, visit the pagoda during Buddhist holidays like Thingyan, Thadingyut, and Tazaungdaing.
It is hard to even accurately measure the amount of gold this magnificent monument has. The pagoda is made up of brick and covered with gold plating donated by monarchs and supporters from around the world. The umbrella crown, decorated on the top of the Shwedagon Pagoda, is 43 feet tall and covered in 500 kilograms of gold plates attached with rivets. There are a total of 4016 gold plated bells hanging from the structure, and more than 83850jewels are part of the pagoda that includes 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems. It is said that the very tip of the stupa contains a 76-carat diamond.
There are lots of interesting things to do at the pagoda, besides just marveling at its richness. Head to one of the numerous prayer pavilions from where you can watch people getting mesmerized by this magnificent monument. Here, you will be seeing local couples; you can also see Myanmar families praying together, and also many monks and nuns from all around the world.
If you wish to meditate, you can find a quieter worship hall, or follow a temple cat and roam around. While watching the colorful, swirling lights around many of the Shwedagon’s images of Buddha, you might forget the time pass by. Before leaving the pagoda, pour water over the Buddha statue at the station that represents the day of your birth. Also, ring the Tharrawaddy Min Bell, one of two unbelievably big cast-iron bells displayed at the Shwedagon.
Another worth mentioning site is The Naungdawagyi Paya that lies near the northern entrance. This site is believed to be the original site where eight Buddha hair relics were enshrined. Another place to visit would be a small museum located near the northwestern corner of the pagoda level. This museum opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm.