July 7, 2012
Shwedagon Paya is one of the most amazing sights that we have seen. I think it should be considered one of the seven wonders of the world. A paya (or stupa or pagoda) is a dome-shaped structure that often contains Buddhist relics and is used as a place of worship. There are many payas scattered all throughout Myanmar, but Shwedagon Paya is one of the most sacred and impressive. Shwedagon Paya is 2,500 years old, but due to earthquakes it has been rebuilt many times. Around the main stupa are smaller stupas, statues, temples, shrines, images and pavilions. Many of the Buddha images are lit with halos of LED lights, which I find to be a bit out of place.
The dome of Shwedagon Paya is covered in gold leaf and topped with a hti made of iron and plated with gold. The top of the hti is decorated with gold and silver bells and other jewels. The top most vane is studded with 1100 diamonds totalling 278 carats, as well as 1383 other stones. At the very top of the vane rests the diamond orb – a hollow golden sphere studded with 4351 diamonds, weighing 1800 carats in total. The very top of the orb is tipped with a single 76-carat diamond. Too bad you cannot see all that glitter from the ground.
We were charged 5,000 Kyat per person admission fee, but if you have the option of paying in USD, $5 per person would be a better deal. As soon as we deposited our shoes and paid we were led to the elevator. We would have preferred to take one of the stairways, and if you like you can pay and then go outside and take the stairs up.
We arrived in the late afternoon and stayed a few hours, in order to see Shwedagon Paya at sunset.
As soon as we started marveling at the giant golden paya we were greeted by two monks with “Hello. Where are you from?” We talked a while and they showed us how to pray by pouring water on a sculpture of Buddha and a sculpture of an elephant. There are different spots around the paya to pray at, depending upon which day of the week you were born. First I prayed at the spot for those born on a Wednesday and then George prayed at the spot for those born on a Friday.
Then we continued around the paya, as the monks pointed out various types of Buddha’s along the way. One thing that stood out were how few foreign tourist there were. Most people were Burmese who were there to pay respects to the religious sight. Many were praying, offering flowers, or chanting.
As the sunlight dwindled and the lights came on we could see the hti at the top of the stupa glittering. I don’t think I could quite see the diamond at the very top, but somewhere around the middle of the hti I could see something sparkling. Shwedagon Paya is quite a sight in the evening, and it is well worth sticking around until dark.
We lingered a bit more to take in the beauty before finding a taxi back to May Shan Hotel for 2,000 Kyat.