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Thứ Sáu, tháng 1 21, 2005

No. 0005


The Shwedagon is the greatest pagoda of its kind in the world, comparable in size and grandeur to the Angkor Wat of Cambodia and the Boro Budur of Indonesia. "Shwe" means gold and Dagon is a former name of Yangon. Hence, Shwedagon means the golden pagoda at the city of Dagon, It is believed to have been built nearly 2600 years ago, that is, during the Buddha's life time. According to the legend of the pagoda, two trader brothers from Myanmar, by the names of Tapussa and Bhallika, led a caravan of bullock-carts to India and there they came across the Buddha who had recently attained His Enlightenment or Buddhahood.The two brothers offered honey balls and another kind of cake called Kywet kyit cake to the Buddha and received in return eight strands of the latter's hair. The two brothers and their followers joyfully returned to their native town Okkalapa which was an even older names of Yangon.The Ruler of Okkalapa who had received the wonderful news in advance welcomed the sacred hairs with great pomp and ceremony. Then the hairs were enshrined in a zedi or pagoda which was specially erected for the purpose, amidst . The sacred relics of three other Buddhas of this world are also said to be enshrined in the pagoda .So you can imagine how profoundly Buddhists all over the world revere this pagoda. According to traditional Buddhist cosmology, there are innumerable kalpas or worlds in the universe only some of which are blessed with the appearance of Buddhas.One to five Buddhas may appear in some worlds while none may appear at all in others. Such Buddhaless worlds are known as zero worlds. Those where five Buddhas arise are called Badda Worlds (kalpas) and our world is one of them. So far, four Buddhas have visited our world the last of whom was Siddhartha Gautama of Kapilavastu in India.One Buddha is yet to appear in our world and devout Buddhists are preparing themselves for His Advent. A Buddha means an enlightened one -- a human being who attains Buddha: hood by means of His discovery of the Four Noble Truths. Of course, His realization of ~e Four Noble Truths is at a much higher level than that of ordinary human beings. Buddhas appear in some worlds at certain times to guide erring creatures- to their liberation. D. According to one oft-quoted saying, as many Buddhas as the number of grains of sand in the Ganges River have appeared so far. The pagoda was only 66 feet high when it WAS first built. It attained its present height and shape only in the 14th and 15th centuries when it was overbuilt and enlarged by a succession of Mon Kings and a queen who were rulers of Lower Myanmar in some periods of our ancient history. Of course various Myanmar Kings also made major improvements upon it and around it, installing new "htees" or umbrellas and great bells, gilding it and building rest-houses and "tazaungs " or prayer halls .Today, the pagoda has a height of 326 feet and a circumference of 1420 feet at the base. At first the pagoda was only gilded from top to bottom. But the upper part of the pagoda-- from the "banana bud" at first and later, from the "baung yit" upwards -has been covered with plates of gold each measuring one square foot and weighing five-later six-ticals since 1900.As to the umbrella, it is covered with gold and encrusted with numerous gems so that its value will be very hard to calculate indeed. You are probably aware that the Myanmars are very generous and charitable by nature.Hence, they offer only the very best to the pagodas especially the great Shwedagon -- which are symbols of the Lord Buddha. The result is that the Shwedagon has become a repository of the best in Myanmar culture - architecture, sculpture, arts, crafts and all. In other words, it is a unique museum of Myanmar arts and crafts. That's why the Shwedagon complex has become our chief tourist attraction. From the covered stairways to the numerous structures and the pagoda itself, everything about the Shwedagon is permeated with beauty and art born of loving veneration. The Shwedagon is the holiest place of worship to Buddhists all over the world and practically the whole complex is a work of art. Most of the buildings around the pagoda are decorated with the best specimens of Myanmar painting and sculpture so that a few hours' study of the pagoda and its environs can give you a fairly good idea of Myanmar arts and crafts. Various parts of the pagoda are known by different names describing their shapes. The highest part of the pagoda is the "seinbu" or diamond bud which is a spherical globe of gold 10 inches in diameter and inlaid with 4,350 diamonds and 93 other precious stones. Just below the seinbu is the "hngetmanar" ( meaning where birds do not perch) or vane which is a flag-shaped metal frame.)Some people also call it "hngetmyatnar" meaning a perch for the holy bird.Next come the htee and the "hngetpyawbu",the banana bud. Below the banana bud come the "kyalan" (the up-turned lotus), the "thabeik" (the alms - receiving bowl), the "kya-hmauk" (the downturned lotus), the "baungyit" (the turbanwrapper), the "panswe" (the hanging flower) and the "khaung laung" (the. bell) in that order. The lower part of the pagoda comprises three pyitsayas or platforms namely the first, the second and the third pyitsayas.At the bottom lies the main platform measuring 900 feet from north tc south and 700 feet from east to west. The pagoda is known to have suffered from no less than eight earthquakes since 1564 A.D. and a big fire in 1931.i. One intriguing event in the recent history of the pagoda was the "visit" of a tigress that was found crouching at the lower edge of the bell shaped part in 1904. i. At last, it was shot dead by British soldiers.'. Another interesting development was the long fight waged by Myanmar Buddhists against Europeans wearing shoes at the pagoda. ,.The fight was. won by the Buddhists in the end and no one has been allowed to wear shoes,. socks and the like at the pagoda ever since. The Shwedagon Pagoda is of the utmost interest to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.To foreign visitors, the pagoda represents the best in Myanmar culture - her piety, arts and crafts and so on. The pagoda and its environs constitute a veritable museum of everything Myanmar. In other words, they present Myanmar Naing-ngan -- the land of Myanmar-in a nutshell. There are three symbolic footprints of the Buddha at the Shwedagon, one in a shrine near the northern prayer hall and two in a shrine in the Tuesday Corner. Two big bells of special interest can also be seen at the Shwedagon.One cast in 1778 and donated by King Singumin weighs about 24 tons. It was taken away as a trophy by the British during the First Anglo Myanmar War (1824-26), but sank in the Hlaing River. It was salvaged and replaced in the Rahu Corner of the pagoda in 1926, after a lot of Buddhists. The largest bell at the pagoda is the one donated by King Tharrawaddy in 1841. It weighs about 42 tons and can be seen in the Sunday Corner. This bell has a very pleasant sound which is said to have three tones at least; its name in Pali is Maha Tisadda Ghanta meaning the great three toned bell.