The Shwedagon Pagoda, situated on Singuttara Hill in the center of Yangon (Rangoon), is the most sacred Buddhist stupa in Myanmar and one of the most important religious reliquary monuments in the world.
According to tradition, the Shwedagon Pagoda was constructed more than 2,600 years ago, which would make it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world.
According to local chronologies dating from the14th century CE, the Shwedagon is believed to enshrine the bodily relics of the historical Buddha, Gautama, as well as artifactual relics purported by long tradition to be associated with the three other most recent previous Buddhas of our present era (kalpa).
According to legend two Burmese brothers met the Buddha not long after he had reached enlightenment. The Buddha gave the brothers eight of his hairs and told them to enshrine the hair relics on Singuttara Hill, where relics of the three previous Buddhas had already been enshrined. The brothers returned to Burma and gave the Buddha’s hair relics to the King. The spot where the relics of previous Buddhas were enshrined was found. At that spot a relic chamber was built and a Pagoda was built over it.
The stupa’s plinth is made of bricks covered with genuine gold plates and the main stupa itself is entirely covered in gold, adorned with a crowning umbrella encrusted with diamonds and other jewels. Following a tradition began in the 15th century by the Queen Shin Sawbu (BinnyaThau), who donated her weight in gold to the pagoda, Buddhist devotees from all walks of life and all regions of Buddhist Asia, as well as monarchs throughout Burma’s history, have donated gold to the Shwedagon in order to maintain the monument, and in so-doing gain merit in this life and in future lives.
Buddhist devotees circumambulate the hill and its stupa in a clockwise direction, beginning at the eastern directional shrine, which houses a statue of Kakusandha, the first Buddha of the present era.