The Shwedagon Pagoda (ရွှေတိဂုံစေတီတော်, IPA: [ʃwèdəɡòʊɴ pʰəjá]); Mon: ကျာ် လ္ဂုၚ်, [tɕaɪʔ təkɜ̀ŋ], officially named Shwedagon Zedi Daw ([ʃwèdəɡòʊɴ zèdìdɔ̀]) and also known in English as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, is a gilded pagoda and stupa 99 metres (325 ft) in height that is located in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on Singuttara Hill, thus dominating the skyline of the city.
It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of four past Buddhas enshrined within: the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight strands of hair from Gautama. Uppatasanti Pagoda is an exact replica of Shwedagon Pagoda in Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma.
According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the World. According to tradition, two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the land of Ramanya, met the Lord Gautama Buddha during his lifetime and received eight of the Buddha's hairs in 588 BC. The brothers traveled back to their homeland in Burma and, with the help of the local ruler, King Okkalapa of Burma, found Singuttara Hill, where relics of other Buddhas preceding Gautama Buddha had been enshrined.
Diagram showing the various architectural features that comprise the design of the Shwedagon Pagoda
There are four entrances (မုခ္ mouk) to the Paya that lead up a flight of steps to the platform (ရင္ျပင္ yin byin) on Singuttara Hill. The eastern and southern approaches have vendors selling books, good luck charms, Buddha images, candles, gold leaf, incense sticks, prayer flags, streamers, miniature umbrellas and flowers.
A pair of giant leogryphs called chinthe (ျခေသၤ့ mythical lions) guard the entrances and the image in the shrine at the top of the steps from the south is that of the second Buddha, Konagamana. The base or plinth of the stupa is made of bricks covered with gold plates. Above the base are terraces (ပစ္စယာ pyissaya) that only monks and men can access. Next is the bell-shaped part (ေခါင္းေလာင္းပံု khaung laung bon) of the stupa.
Above that is the turban (ေဖာင္းရစ္ baung yit), then the inverted almsbowl (သပိတ္ thabeik), inverted and upright lotus petals (ၾကာေမွာက္ၾကာလွန္ kya hmauk kya hlan), the banana bud (ငွက္ေျပာဖူး nga pyaw bu) and then the crown. The crown or umbrella (ထီး hti) is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Immediately before the diamond bud is a flag-shaped vane (ငွက္ျမတ္နား nga myat na). The very top, the diamond bud (စိန္ဖူး sein bu) is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.