From Yangon to Mandalay

Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred and impressive Buddhist site for the people of the Union of Myanmar. From a humble beginning of 8.2 meters, the Shwedagon Pagoda today stands close to 110 meters. Shwedagon Pagoda is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond. the 325ft Zedi here is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, and is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former buddhas. It is clearly one of the wonders of the religious world. Shwedagon Pagoda is a repository of the best in Myanmar heritage – architecture, sculpture and arts. The Shwedagon Pagoda consists hundreds colorful temples, stupas, and statues that reflects the architectural era spanning almost 2,500 years.
Began is located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, and is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011.

The generals who ran the country suppressed almost all dissent - symbolised by the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi - and stood accused of gross human rights abuses, prompting international condemnation and sanctions.

A gradual liberalisation process has been under way since 2010. The country is expected to see a major shift after the government changed hands early in 2016. 

85% of Myanmar’s population practices Buddhism, but there are substantial numbers of Christians, Hindus, Muslims and animists throughout the country. It is therefore not unusual to see pagodas, churches, mosques and temples standing together in a single neighborhood. Spirit worship also exists side-by-side with Buddhism, as these minor gods are believed to be disciples of the Buddha’s teachings.

In a long-standing religious tradition, Myanmar’s Buddhist families celebrate their sons’ novice initiation into the Buddhist Order, and their daughters are fêted with equally lavish ear-piercing ceremonies. Visitors can observe novice initiations at monasteries throughout the country. For many years Myanmar disappeared behind a wall of self-isolation, and only recently reopened its doors to the outside world, revealing the country’s unique culture and stunning scenery to new generations of visitors.

 

Bagan at Sunrise.
Young girl selling postcards.

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