The Golden Pagoda: Shwedagon Stupa

The country of Myanmar has been rightly nicknamed as the ‘Land of Pagodas’. Out of the thousands of pagodas to which Myanmar is home, the oldest and most religious one in the region is considered to be Shwedagon Stupa. Estimated to be 2,500 years old, it happens to be the only stupa which was built during the life of Buddha.

The word Shwedagon is derived from two words, Shwe, which is the Burmese term for gold and Dagon, the previous name of the modern Yangon.The Shwedagon Stupa attracts a lot of tourists from all the world over, particularly Buddhists as it enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy Buddhist relics.

The Shwedagon Stupa has been justifiably nicknamed as the Golden Pagoda. This is because it is sheathed with golden plates from top to bottom. In fact, the residents of Myanmar contributed gold to the structure to ensure that it would be properly maintained. Queen Shinswabu herself even provided gold towards the construction of Shwedagon Stupa.

The main structure is covered with 8,688 solid gold blocks. Below the golden stupa are 7 more gold blocks, which are attached to 1,485 bells of gold and it doesn’t end there. The top of the stupa holds 5,448 diamonds and a combination of 2,317 sapphires, rubies and topaz. There is an emerald placed in the middle of the stupa, to capture the sun’s rays. This is why it is highly recommended that one visits Shwedagon Stupa at sunrise and sunset.

Tourists visiting Shwedagon Stupa should note that the opening hours of the Stupa are 04:00 – 22:00 hrs. Shwedagon Pagoda is open daily. It is important to note that, though the Shwedagon opens at 4AM, tickets for entrance are not sold to foreign visitors until 6AM. The last admission to the Stupa is at 21:45 hrs. The entrance fee is $5.00.

In order to access Shwedagon Stupa, the best option is to first take a flight to Yangon, which is connected to all major cities via flight. Once in Yangon, it is best to either opt for public transport or hire a taxi to Kandawgyi Lake, the area in which Shwedagon Stupa is located.

When visiting Shwedagon Stupa, there are certain guidelines which tourists should keep in mind so that the sanctity of the place and their religion is preserved:

• Ensure that you dress modestly. Avoid wearing revealing or skimpy clothes.

• Footwear should be removed before stepping onto any sacred ground in Shwedagon Stupa.

• Ladies should particularly ensure that they do not touch a monk in any way.

• There are one or two locations at Shwedagon that are off-limits to women.

• A woman should not touch a monk in any way.

As far as the climate in Yangon, where Shwedagon Stupa is concerned, the average temperature is in the range of 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Yangon experiences moderate precipitation, resulting in a fairly wet monsoon season. The stupa complex tends to heat up in summers, that is the only reason for avoiding visiting it during summer. Otheriwse, Shwedagon Stupa can be visited at any time of the year.

So for a glimpse of the rich Buddhist history, plan a trip to Shwedagon Stupa !!