Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

The Shwedagon Pagoda in the south of Myanmar in the city of Yangon is the country's most important sanctuary. The magnificent golden stupa is almost 100 metres high and decorated all over with gilded bells and precious gemstones.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is located in the south of Myanmar in the city of Yangon and is the most important sanctuary and religious centre of the country. The landmark of Myanmar is one of the most famous stupas in the world.The almost 100-metre-high Shwedagon Pagoda is enthroned on the heavily fortified Pegu-Joma hill and shines over the former capital of Myanmar.


Built by the founder of Buddhism?

Allegedly, a golden casket containing eight of Buddha Gautama's head hairs was walled into its walls. According to legend, the pagoda was built before the death of the founder of Buddhism and would thus already be 2,500 years old.

However, there are neither plans nor records for the original construction of the precious sanctuary. Archaeologists date the magnificent building to the 6th to 10th centuries. The first credible accounts were not written until the 14th century under the reign of the Mon king Binnya U.

Stunning treasures of the Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda is surrounded by other small stupas, golden shrines and altars, pavilions and seated and reclining Budda statues, Myanmar - © D. Ott / Fotolia
© D. Ott / Fotolia

Until 1774, the pagoda was enlarged several times until it finally reached its present height of a massive 98 metres under King Hsinbyushin of Ava. His queen donated her body weight in gold to give the pagoda its radiant dress of pure gold.

In the centuries that followed, the pagoda's ornaments became more and more magnificent. The pagoda's gold ornaments are now estimated to weigh 60 tonnes and the bell-shaped tower itself is hung with bells all over.

The 10m high top of the pagoda, the traditional "Hti" ("hat") is decorated with golden rings and crowned by a 76-carat diamond. But that's not all: the weather vane, which is also attached to the top, is once again adorned with over 1,000 diamonds, sapphires and rubies. Around the pagoda, the area covers more than 5 hectares and is almost littered with other small stupas, golden shrines and altars, pavilions and seated and reclining Budda statues.

Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda

Golden statues in the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar - © dgfoto / Fotolia
© dgfoto / Fotolia

The Shwedagon Pagoda stands on a 60,000 square metre marble platform that can be reached via 4 long staircases in all directions. The eastern staircase is the traditional one and leads past the monasteries. The northern and southern ones are lined with colourful stalls selling incense, prayer flags, candles, lucky charms and souvenirs.

Around the pagoda, the ramparts built by the British after the conquest of Burma are still visible. Around the pagoda, the procession of believers moves in a clockwise direction. Whether poor rice farmer, university professor, old man or nanny with children, everyone, even the non-believers, feel safe in the protection of the pagoda.


The Shwedagon Pagoda is not only religiously, but also politically and historically an important place for Myanmar. It was at the centre of the student revolt in 1920 and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi gave her first public speech here.

The best way to enjoy the atmosphere of the Shwedagon Pagoda is to simply sit down on the sun-warmed marble slabs, watch the colourful hustle and bustle and listen to the devotional prayers and bare feet on the stone floor.

Curious: The bronze Maha Ganda bell was actually supposed to be brought to England by the British. However, the boat capsized and the bell sank. All attempts to salvage it failed. Only when the British promised to leave the bell in the country did the Burmese succeed in lifting it with bamboo sticks pushed underneath. However, it is not as huge as the Maha Tissada bell, which weighs 40 tonnes.

Shrines near the Shwedagon Pagoda

Other sacred sites in the vicinity of the Shwedagon Pagoda include the sacred Bodhi Tree, under which Buddha was enlightened in the southwest corner of the area.

In the direction of the north entrance is a temple with animal sculptures and eight Buddha statues assigned to the planets, animals and days of the week. Every believer worships the Buddha of the day of the week on which he was born.

In the Buddha Gautama Temple opposite the north entrance is a symbolic footprint of Buddha, guarded by a Naga snake.

Related links:

Official site of the Shwedagon Pagoda