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The magic of Schwedagon
Yangon (Myanmar), November 30th 2002
An absolute highlight of every visit to Myanmar (former Burma) is a visit to the Schwedagon pagoda. This pagoda is situated on the top of the Singuttara hill, in an outskirt of Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar. When you visit Schwedagon you really feel as if you entered the world of a fairytale. It is the combination magic, serene rest, and super friendly monks. It is indescribable; you have to feel it to believe. What makes the pagoda even more special is the mystic around the origination of Schwedagon.

The legend about the origination of Schwedagon begins in the very past, at the beginning of the era of mankind. On the Singuttra hill 5 lotus flowers open up, in which 5 saffron coloured garments are hided. Each garment symbolises one of the five Buddha’s, each representing a period of 5000 years. Each of them would leave a relic on the top of the Singuttra hill, making this hill a holy hill. And in conformance to the story, the first three Buddha’s left a relic.

At the end of the third period of 5000 years, people started becoming worried. The third period almost ended and the fourth Buddha did not arrive yet. If he would not arrive, the Singuttra hill would lose here holiness. The king at that moment, king Okkalapa, spend many hours on the hill praying and mediating, for the appearance of a new relic to keep the holiness of the hill for the next 5000 years.

Fairy tale like looks of Schwedagon
At the same time, in northern India, a man called Gautama was close to reaching the enlightment. Gautama Buddha mediated for 49 days under the Bodhi tree. At that moment, two Burmese tradesmen arrive at the tree who offered Gautama Buddha a honey cake. Gautama Buddha accepted the cake as his first offering and gave the two tradesmen 8 of his hairs as gratitude. The two Burmese tradesmen travelled back to Burma. However, the journey was difficult. During the first part of the journey, the two tradesmen were robbed from 2 of the 8 hairs. Also during the second part of the journey, the crossing of the Bengal Sea, they lost another two hairs.

In spite of the fact that they lost 4 of the 8 hairs, the two Burmese tradesmen were welcomed with great happiness. King Okkalape organised a big feast to celebrate their homecoming. The legend tells that also the gods and nats (spirits) were present. Together they decided on what spot they would build the pagoda to display the new relics. They decided for the place were the Schwedagon pagoda is located. When they opened the box in where the hairs were transported, everybody was surprised to see that all 8 hairs were present. At that moment it started raining flowers, the deaf could hear again, the blind could see and the limped could walk again. At that place, the first Schwedagon pagoda was build, whose first height was only 9 meters.

People praying in Schwedagon
There are unconfirmed rumours that even the great India emperor Ashok made a pilgrimage to Schwedagon. However, there are no direct indications for this. What is known is that thousands of small and big dictators from those years did see Schwedagon as a pilgrimage site. During the rise of Bagan in the Mon-period, Schwedagon started to get its pomp and circumstance. From that moment on the tradition started that kings and dictators gave a gift to Schwedagon during their pilgrimage. The gifts were substantial. Mon-queen Shin-Saw-Bu for example, gave her weight in gold to the pagoda. Her successor was even more extreme, he gave four times his weight in gold. Thanks to the presents, the Schwedagon pagoda rise in height. The present height of 98 meters was reached in 1774. During all the years, a forest of small pagodas and temples are arisen around the Schwedagon pagoda giving this place its special feeling. Like the big Schwedagon pagoda, also the small pagodas and temples became more and more beautiful during the years, especially after a natural disaster when rebuilding the site became necessary. As far as known, the site is rebuilt 8 times due to earthquakes.

A visit to Schwedagon is especially worthwhile if you take some time to explore the site. During the day, the looks of the Schwedagon site changes with the position of the sun. During the evening, the looks become even more spectacular when thousands of lights light up the hundreds of pagoda’s and temples. Take also some time for a chat with one of the many monks who want to practise their English language skills. It is also a nice way to get more insight information about Schwedagon pagoda and the live of Burmese people. Again, Schwedagon is an absolute highlight not to be missed.


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