The Localist

Shwedagon Pagoda

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If you ask a local about places to visit in Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda is most likely to top the list. The golden pagoda is one of the most famous landmarks in the country and it never fails to impress.

Beyond its spectacular and grand beauty, and the deep feeling of serenity that comes with each visit, the history of the pagoda and the meaning it has for the locals are what makes it one of the most beautiful places in my city.

The first thing you should know about Myanmar is that it’s a Buddhist country. If you type just ‘Myanmar’ into Google, the majority of images that come up are of pagodas. For locals, the pagoda is not a place to go and see; it’s where you pay your respect to the Buddha, show gratitude, and find peace. It’s a reminder of the wisdom the Buddha has imparted.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is more than 2,500 years old and is one of the wonders of the Buddhist world. Strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics are enshrined in this pagoda, making it one of the most sacred sites for the people of Myanmar.

There are a lot of articles and books detailing the history and impressive facts of the pagoda, and visitors who have done their research probably know a lot more about it than we do. In fact, what I have just mentioned above is the extent of my knowledge about the ‘facts’ of the pagoda.

That’s because what we know is mostly passed on from our parents and learned during childhood visits. The pagoda brings back the familiar comforting feeling and memories of being with family.

Like so many other traditions, there are certain things locals do without knowing the meaning behind them. For example, we circle the pagoda from right to left, and to this day, I have yet to find out why it has to be from right to left.

Because the city is crowded and the weather is hot and humid, the vast platform at the base of the stupa is a happy place for a lot of kids. It’s certainly not a place to play and run around, but, it’s a rare, massive and open space in the city that benefits from the cool breeze passing over the hill, and knowing that they are doing a good karmic deed makes the pagoda a perfect place for families to go and spend time together.

Going to the pagoda in the evening with my family is one of the most treasured memories from my childhood. Looking back, I didn’t really look forward to going there, but I didn’t mind going either. It’s one of those moments you take for granted, that now hold a special place in your heart.

MEET THE LOCAL: HAYMON SOE

Image. Photo by Beauty Places.

 

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