Friday, February 27: This morning I get up before dawn; I’ve arranged to take a taxi to see the famous Shwedagon Pagoda at sunrise. When I arrive, it’s already quite busy despite still being dark.
Even before sunrise, people are in the various shrines praying.
Around the base of the stupa, 12 planetary posts conform to the days of the week; locals pray at the station corresponding to the day they were born. Wednesday is divided into births in the morning and births in the afternoon.
According to Sacred Destinations, legend has it that the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2,500 years old, but archaeologists estimate it was first built by the Mon sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries (i.e. during the Bagan period).
The Shwedagon is referred to in Myanmar as “The crown of Burma.” As Myanmar’s most revered shrine it is customary for families, mendicants and followers of the Buddha to make the pilgrimage to the Shwedagon in much the same way that Muslims feel compelled to visit the Kaaba at Mecca at least once in their lifetime (The Shwedagon Pagoda).
Shwedagon Pagoda is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond (Shwedagon Pagoda). The pagoda is said to contain eight hairs of the Buddha along with other relics (The Schwedagon Pagoda).
Many monks and pilgrims are out this morning walking around the pagoda.
The Friday corner seems to be quite busy.
Every corner has a unique spot to be discovered.
I love the mirrored mosaics that seem to be a part of every temple in Myanmar.
I make a brief stop at the Htidaw Sacred Umbrella Pagoda.
I like the painted pagoda with scenes from Myanmar.
There are numerous shrines where devotees can stop to pay tribute to the Buddha.
According to Sacred Destinations, the main stupa is supported on a square plinth that stands 6.4m (20 feet) above the platform, setting it apart from the other stupas. On this raised platform are smaller stupas: large ones mark the four cardinal directions, medium ones mark the four corners, and 60 small ones run around the perimeter (Sacred Destinations: Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon)).
Because I was born on a Tuesday, I have a particular interest in the Tuesday corner.
It seems many people walk clockwise around the pagoda; I’m confused by those who walk counterclockwise. I’m not sure of the significance.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the focus of religious as well as community activities – devotees bustle about and monks wash the statues, offer flowers, worship, and meditate.
After spending nearly two hours exploring all the nooks and crannies of this sprawling pagoda, I head back to the Agga Youth Hotel for some breakfast.