(Continued from 1-8-2015)
Over 2558 years of its establishment, the Shwedagon Pagoda had suffered from several natural disasters. In 1768, the earthquake struck and the body part of the bell shape body was totally destroyed. So, King Ahlaung Phayar, the Innwa King, son of U Aung Zeya and the Sinphyushin King renovated, repaired and rebuilt it. And the umbrella, the new Htidaw was hoisted and the height was extended to 326 ft., which can be seen to date. Moreover on the pagoda at northeast point, a pagoda with the height of about 150 feet was first established with small zedis, encircling bud-like ornament above the vane of Shwedagon Pagoda.
Development and improvement work of Shwedagon Pagoda has been continuing from time to time since its establishment 2558 years ago. The Shwedagon’s several points relating to the present day are also seen in the 1485 AD Shwedagon inscription of King Dhammaceti. These include the renovation of zedi, the propagation of the Såsanå, and the sustenance of the Sangha. The inscription also refers to the Mon heritage of Suvannabhummi. “With a break in the tradition of those knowing that the sacred hairs of the Lord Buddha were enshrined in the Shwedagon, men no longer worshipped there and the pagoda became overgrown with trees and shrubs.
Always be alert with vigilance and strive on with diligence to prevent, protect and preserve the Shwedagon Pagoda from dangers and damages. Two hundred and thirty-six years after the Parinibbana (Final Release) of the Lord Buddha (308 BC), the monks Sona and Uttara arrived in Suvvanabhumi (Thaton) to propagate the Religion. When the Religion was established and an Order of Monks set up, King Srimasoka requested the two Elders thus: ‘O Venerable Monks, we have received the Dhamma (Law) and the Sangha (Order). Can you not provide us with the Buddha to worship?’ The two Elders then showed the King the Shwedagon Pagoda in which the sacred hairs of the Lord Buddha were enshrined. King Srimasoka cleared the overgrowth and built a pagoda and an enclosing pavilion with a tiered pyramidal roof. From that time onwards the people of the Mon country went to worship there.” The Mon lands at that time included the area of present-day Yangon with the earliest recorded reconstruction at the Shwedagon Pagoda being the 1372 AD work of King Banya Oo of Hanthawaddy. Repairs and renovations have been carried out over the centuries and continue today. In recent years these have included refurbishment of the main four Ar-yon-khan Tazaung mentioned above, as well as other tazaungs and images on the platform. There has also been refurbishment of staircases, and installation of lifts and escalators.
Golden pagodas are seen all over Myanmar, that’s why Myanmar is called the land of Golden Pagodas by almost all visitors around the Globe. In the final waxing days of Tagu 1361ME before Thingyan, a new Htidaw was hoisted at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Although the zedi height of 43 feet remains the same, the use of stainless steel for the tiers and supports made the new structure heavier, with a total weight of approximately 5 tons. Of this, over half a ton is gold. An inscription is mounted on the Htidaw itself, with other inscribed donatory plaques placed on the zidi bell below the band. In the period surrounding the raising of new Htidaw, a Jade Image, a Gold Replica or likeness of the Shwedagon Pagoda, and a Htidaw zedi were installed on the platform. The pure gold (thant-sin-shwe) likeness of the Shwedagon Pagoda is currently housed in a tazaung on the southeast (Tuesday) corner of the platform.
Real amazing is the Jade Image which is 45 inches high, with a gold weight of 90 pounds and decorated with 242 diamonds, 1895 rubies, 701 jades and 400 sapphires. The image of the Buddha made of jade (Kyauk-sein) was consecrated shortly before the hoisting of the new Htidaw. Carved from a single piece of stone, it is 30 inches high, simply presented with a gold band of 18 ticals (10 oz) decorated with 9 diamonds and 91 rubies. The Jade Image took nine years to carve and weighs 750 kilograms. It was installed in the Chinese Merited Association Tazaung on the southwest (Saturday) corner of the platform. The Jade Image faces east, so that while paying homage, one’s back is never to the main stupa. The Htidaw Zedi is the only new zedi to be built on the platform in many years. It is located midway between the east (Monday) and northeast (Sunday) corners of the platform, close to the earlier Htidaw Zedi of King Mindon and the 1775 AD Htidaw of King Sin-Phyu-Shin.
Efforts of the Kings in the past and various Governments to maintain the Great Shwedagon Pagoda have been strenuous and concerted over 2558 years. Here The Shwe Dagon Pagoda: Design and Dimensions: is noteworthy. The height of the pagoda is 326 feet (or 99.4 meters), which includes the hti (umbrella, crown) and its highest point, the “diamond bud” (seinbu), which is a small sphere encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. The 7-tiered wrought iron hti contributed to the stupa by King Mindon in 1871 weighed 1.25 tons and was 33 feet high. It was joined to the brick stupa by an iron shaft and was supported by iron struts resting upon a brass capital on top of the “banana bud,” which is part of the stupa. In 1999, it was replaced by a new stainless steel hti, under the sponsorship of the State Peace and Development Council. Although of approximately the same dimensions as Mindon’s hti, it weighs four times as much, 5 tons, including a quarter ton of gold. (Details can be seen in the article about “The Shwedagon of Four Buddhas’ Relics” by Sao Htun Hmat Win, The Light of the Dhamma, Vol II No.2 (3.9.82) Department of Religious Affairs, Sirimangala KabaAye Hill, Rangoon, Burma)
All the designs of the Great Shwedagon Pagoda is unique and may be different from other parts of the world because the designs are based on genuine Myanmar Classical Ancient Architecture. The various levels or bands of the stupa have distinct names, starting from bottom to top: the plinth (elevation: 6.5 meters), 2 sets of terraces of square and octagonal shape (highest elevation: 27 meters), 5 round bands (highest elevation: 34 meters), the “bell” (kyi-gwe) which is decorated with floral motifs (highest elevation: 47 meters), the “twisted turban” mouldings (highest elevation: 61 meters), the “lotus” (highest elevation: 70 meters) and the “banana bud” (highest elevation, 86 meters). Both at its base and higher levels, the stupa is solid. It is covered by gold leaf and, on higher elevations, gold plates. Every four or five years, the gold covering the exterior of the pagoda is repaired and renewed. The plinth lies 21 feet (6.5 meters) above the platform of the pagoda, which is roughly rectangular in shape and 14.0 acres (5.6 hectares) in area. Major structures on the platform include the four tazaungs or devotional halls at the cardinal points of the compass containing images of the four Buddhas whose relics are stored in the stupa, the Naung Daw Gyi (Golden Elder) Pagoda, and a replica of India’s Mahabodhi Temple are also need to be observed. (See Moore, Elizabeth. “Text and New Contexts,” Moore, Elizabeth. et al. Shwedagon, and Win Pe, U. Shwe Dagon).
Three of the other figures date to the lifetime of the Buddha Gautama: Ashin Ananda who assisted Him; Ashin Anuruddha, said to have arrived in Suwannabhummi (Thaton) to initiate the Hair Relic Thathana (Sasana) tradition, and Ashin Gawunpati who requested the Buddha to visit Suwannabhummi and accompanied him on his journey. Chronologically, the next figure commemorates the start of the Pariyatti Såsanå by Maha Kassapa, convenor of the 1st Buddhist Synod in the year after the Buddha’s demise. There is then a gap until the 4th century BC with the depiction of images of Moggala Putta Tissa who convened the 3rd Buddhist Synod in 307 BC under the patronage of King Asoka as well as the figures of Ashin Sona and Uttara who traditionally came to Suwannabhummi to restore and revitalise the Buddhist Såsanå. Some six hundred years later, in the 4th Century AD, is the image of Ashin Buddhagosa who brought the three Pitakas (Baskets) to Myanmar.
(To be continued)
(Continued from 1-8-2015)