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To North-east is one of largest bells in world, King Tharwaddy’s Min bell. Cast in 1841, Maha Titthaganda (three-toned bell) weighs 42 tonnes and is housed in an elegant pavilion with a lacquer ceiling.
The eastern shrine hall is considered by many to be most beautiful in complex and is dedicated to Kakusandha, first Buddha. It was renovated in 1869 but almost totally destroyed by great fire of 1931 and had to be completely rebuilt. Nearby is U Nyo pavilion, which houses a series of carved wooden panels depicting life of Gautama Buddha.
In south-eastern corner is a banyan tree, reputed to have grown from a branch of original tree under which Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment.
There is a small museum of curios beside southern entrance. The south-western corner has a prayer pavilion with 28 images representing 28 previous incarnations of Buddha.
By western entrance is prayer hall guarded by figures of Mai Lamu and King of Nats. Legend has it this pair were parents of King Ukkalapa who brought hairs of Buddha to Shwedagon.
In all, there are over 50 glittering zedis (stupas) and pavilions in Shwedagon complex. The main stupa is world’s largest building covered with gold. In 1900, Shwedagon trustees decided to renovate main spire, and used 9,272 gold plates measuring one foot square (30.5 cm by 30.5 cm) for a total of 5,004 ounces of gold. King George V (then Prince of Wales) and Queen Mary donated four plates upon their state visit in 1906. A total of 4,350 diamonds were also used in construction.
There are four sealed entrances to main stupa, but no one knows what is inside. Legend has it flying swords protect interior from unwelcome intruders. Others say there are tunnels leading all way to Pagan and even Thailand.
Sunrise and sunset are best times to visit Shwedagon, but any time you go, a visit is sure to leave memories which last a lifetime. As English visitor Ralph Fitch wrote in 1586:
“It is called Dogonne, and is of a wonderful bignesse, and all gilded from foot to toppe….it is fairest place, as I suppose, that is in world.”
Note: Burmese not changed to Myanmar national to keep original context
BY: David McGarry For more interesting articles on Myanmar. Please see our web site www.explore-myanmar.com