The most important Buddhist shrine is the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon. Besides its religious?
The most important Buddhist shrine is the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon. Besides its religious importance, it is perhaps the most beautiful and exciting building in Burma. Located in the centre of the capital city, Shwe Dagon's golden dome rises 326 feet (96 metres) into the sky. The base of the central stupa (dome) is surrounded by a further 64 smaller pagodas and 72 shrines. Its site is some 168 feet (51 metres) higher than the surrounding land, and the Pagoda which is the focal point of Burmese religious life, dominates Rangoon.
According to tradition the golden stupa was built over 2,500 years ago to enshrine eight of Buddha's hairs. The original brick structure was only 25 feet (8 metres) high. Many additions have been made over the years, including major work in the 18th Century (A.D.).
In the 15th Century (A.D.), Queen Shinsawbu gilded the stupa's dome with gold equal to her own weight. Now, a resident team of craftsmen regild it every ten years. The Queen also embellished the dome with 4,350 precious stones.
The most important annual ceremony at the temple is the festival of Tabaung -- the anniversary of the enshrinement of Buddha's hairs -- and it takes place on the day of the full moon during the last month of the Burmese calendar.
Devout Buddhists sweep the floors of the pagoda as an act of merit, and thousands go there every year to pray and offer food to the monks. Plays and puppet shows are staged in the Temple's precincts and vendors, selling everything from incense to musical instruments, do a brisk trade.
The Shwe Dagon Pagoda, whose style contrasts with the geometric shapes of earlier Indian architecture, has survived eight earthquakes and a serious fire.