The main attraction in Yangon is the 110m high Shwedagon
Pagoda, looking down onto the city from a hill. The surface
is plaited with over 30 tons of gold that were brought since
hundreds of years by millions of pilgrims.
The Pagoda was reputed to have been built by King Okkalapa
some 2500 years ago to enshrine eight hairs from the fourth
Buddha, Gautama, along with relics from the three previous
Buddhas. The sacred hairs were given to the King by two
merchant brothers, Tapussa and Phallika and were enshrined
in a jewel-filled chamber which was covered by a gold pagoda,
and subsequently encased in layers of silver, bronze, copper,
lead, marble, clay and iron brick.
Although the Pagoda has been rebuilt and enlarged seven
times by various kings, its design has largely remained
the same. The design of the Pagoda was greatly influenced
by the Meander's monarchy, though it is Queen Shinsawbu
(1453-1472) who gave it its present style and who started
the tradition of gilding the Pagoda by donating her own
body weight in gold. Various kings have also left their
mark through donating pagodas, legendary bells and the umbrellas
at the top of the Pagoda. But it is the Myanmar people's
reverence for and their continual donations to the Shwedagon
Pagoda which has made it what it is today. Entrance fee
is about USD 5 - 7.