Shwezigon Pagoda – Help! The Shimmering Gold Plated Stupa Has Blinded My Eyes!
March 18, 2018
There are thousands of pagodas in Bagan, and if you ask me which is the one that you must visit, I will tell you, “it’s the Shwezigon Pagoda” without a single moment of hesitation. With its gigantic gold plated stupa glimmering in the sun, the Shwezigon Pagoda will certainly capture your attention when you’re touring around Bagan. I don’t think I’ve been dazzled by so much gold in my entire life before.
Although the history of Bagan can be traced back to the 9th century, massive temple construction only began during the reign of King Anawrahta who founded the Bagan empire in 1044. The King converted to Theravada Buddhism and built some of the grandest temples in Bagan such as the Shwezigon Pagoda. More than four decades later, several shrines and temple buildings were added to the Shwezigon complex. The Shwezigon Pagoda is most populated in December when the Shwezigon Festival is held.
What fascinated me the most were the beautifully glazed terra-cotta plaques you can see from the three receding terraces on top of the base of the Shwezigon Pagoda. These plaques illustrate the stories about the previous lives of the Buddha.
As the Shwezigon complex is quite huge, allow me to provide you with a brief guide on how to get around. There are access gates located at all four sides of the complex. If you enter by the main entrance, you will notice an enormous white mythological lion standing guard. A long covered walkway with vendors selling a variety of souvenirs leads to the pagoda.
There are quite a number of Tazaungs, (Burmese-style open pavilions) around the complex. While some of the temple structures are topped with a Pyatthat, an intricately decorated Burmese roof, others are topped with a Sikhara, a tower like structure originating from North India. These Sikharas are not gilded unlike the one from Ananda Temple. The complex also contains a small whitewashed pagoda and several structures where Buddha images are enshrined.
The Shwezigon Pagoda already looks incredible in the day, but after it is illuminated by spotlights at night, the entire place exudes a mystical atmosphere. I think the Shwezigon Pagoda is my favourite pagoda in Bagan. Which pagoda were you most drawn to in Bagan? Do comment and let me know!