DAY 1 (3/9): SULE PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23
After lunch at 999 Shan Noodle House, we walked over to the City Hall. Across the street from the City Hall stood Sule Pagoda, the iconic octagonal stupa that marked the heart of Yangon. We decided to pay a quick visit to this wonderful monument before venturing further south.
Built in the 5th century BC, the 2600 year old was said to even predate the famous Shwedagon. The stupa was built in the style of Mon pagoda architecture, back in the era when the Mon people was a dominant ethnic group in the region. The Mon people was also responsible for spreading Theravada Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia. The Mon name of Sule Pagoda is “kyaik athok ceti”, meaning “stupa with a sacred hair enshrined”. Legend has it that the Sule Pagoda contains one of Buddha’s hairs given to merchant Tapussa and Bhallika. The rest of the same strand of Buddha’s hairs were said to be kept at the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Before the British set out to develop Yangon and its port area, Sule Pagoda was situated on an island surrounded by a swamp at the banks of Yangon River. The British drained the area, constructed a prominent roundabout centred at the Pagoda and defined Sule as the heart of Downtown Rangoon (now Yangon). Today, Sule pagoda remains as an iconic spot of the city, and has served as the centre stage of civilian rallies and demonstrations throughout the years.
We crossed the street from the City Hall to the east entrance of the Sule Pagoda.
At the entrance, we followed the rules and took off our shoes and socks, left them with one of the staff, purchased admission tickets and then climbed up the stairs to the main worshiping area. This was our first experience of walking barefoot in Myanmar.
The first thing we saw beyond the stair was a cosy and golden altar with many pilgrims.
Outside of the covered altar was a series of small golden shrine surrounding the base of the octagonal pagoda. It’s important for the Burmese to know which day of the week they were born in order to find the right shrine to worship. There are eight planetary shrines around the pagoda, each represents a planet as well as a particular day of the week, with Wednesday split into two (am and pm).
Water and food can be found at the pagoda complex, usually donated by Buddhist worshipers, who believe good deeds are one of the basis for path of enlightenment.
Soon we reached another entrance of the Sule Pagoda. Entrances of the pagoda are arranged at the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west.
The corresponded altar of this entrance looked somewhat different than the one we first arrived at.
Like all shrines in Myanmar, gold is the single dominant colour of the octagonal Sule Pagoda.
At the Saturday shrine, another two worshipers were busy performing rituals and cleaning the altar with water.
Under the scorching sun, many worshipers stayed at the shaded area to mediate. It was interesting to see many young people were among the devoted worshipers.
When looking closely, the fine details and craftsmanship of the golden ornaments were overwhelmingly impressive.
At another entrance altar, colourful fresco depicted a number of Buddhist stories high up near the ceiling.
Each of the four altars has a distinct set of ornaments.
Other than the devoted worshippers, some locals were just hanging around in the pagoda area as if the space was a public park. In fact, Buddhist shrines in Myanmar do serve as community spaces that welcome everyone.
It was relaxing to walk on bare feet around the Sule Pagoda. Surprising we didn’t feel uncomfortable without our shoes and socks.
Near the entrance where we arrived, there was a group of people gathered at a pulley wire, waiting for the staff to send their prayer cards up to the pagoda by the golden prayer boat.
Via a wire pulley system, the golden prayer boat sends prayer cards of worshippers up to the pagoda.
A staff at the base worked the pulley to send up the prayer boat while a group of worshipers gathered to witness the process.
After one loop, we repeated the clockwise stroll around the Sule Pagoda for a second time.
After two loops around the pagoda, we walked down the stair where we first arrived, put on our shoes, and moved on to further explore Downtown Yangon.
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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR