Destinations in Myanmar

Yangon
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon City
The City of Yangon was once the cleanest city in Asia, some even exaggerated as the Queen of the Cities. Singapore, in fact, was designed after studying how Yangon was built. more>>
Mandalay
The old fortress in Mandalay city
Mandalay is the historical old capital, a capital of Myanmar culture, Buddhist Sasana and Myanmar traditional arts and crafts, with the life span of one hundred and forty two years. more>>
Bagan
Old temples in Bagan city
The main tourist destination in Myanmar is Bagan, capital of the first Myanmar Empire; one of the richest archaeo-ogical sites in South-east Asia. more>>
Inle
Leg rowers from Inle Lake
Inle Lake is about 900 metres above sea-level and 22 km long and 10 km wide. Inle Lake, natural and unpolluted, is famous for its scenic beauty. more>>
Kyaikhtiyo
the Golden rock pagoda from Kyaikhtiyo
The Kyaikhtiyo pagoda is one of the most ancient and celebrated of all pagodas in Myanmar. It is situated in the vicinity of Kyaikhto township, Thaton district. more>>
Mrauk U
the old ruines of Mrauk U
A new tourist site, which is becoming increasingly more popular in recent years, is the old capital of Rakhine (Arakan) called Mrauk U. more>>
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Yangon

Age: 2500 years
Population: 5 million
Location: Latitude: 16° 47' N, Longitude: 96° 08' E
Temperature: Min 16 'C - Max 34 'C

Environment

Yangon, the capital city, is the main gateway to Myanmar. Evergreen and cool with lush tropical trees, shady parks and beautiful lakes, Yangon has earned the name of "The Garden City of the East". Yangon was founded by King Alaungpaya on the site of a small settlement called Dagon when he conquered Lower Myanmar in 1755. The name Yangon means "End of Strife" which was anglicized as Rangoon by the British. The name of this city has changed along the history: first Dagon, then Yangon, and Okalapa Aung Myae Yan Hnin, then finally back to Yangon. The present day Yangon covers 400 sq m and has a population of over 5 million.

History

The history of Yangon is intertwined with the history of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Wherever one may be in Yangon, in the busy town center, in the new towns of the east, in the industrial zone of the west, in the paddy fields of the north, the golden form of the Shwedagon will be seen on the skyline rising above the foliage of the tropical trees, and the top of high rises.

The Marvelous Shwedagon

The founding story of Shwedagon reaches back to the days of the Enlightenment of Gaudama Buddha when He discovered the cause of universal suffering and the way to its elimination. It was on the 49th day after the Enlightenment when two brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, merchants from Ukkalapa in the land of Mon people in Lower Myanmar, came before Buddha. A nat (spirit) who had been the mother of the two brothers in a previous existence had guided them to the Buddha. The brothers offered honey cakes. After Buddha had eaten the cakes, the brothers asked for gift. Buddha passed His hand over His head and, obtaining eight Hairs, gave them to the brothers. Buddha, perceiving that the three previous Buddhas had caused their possessions to be enshrined in a pagoda on Singuttara hill in the country of the two brothers, bade them to do likewise with the Sacred Hairs.

The brothers returned home and made landfall at Pagoda Point in the south-west coast of Myanmar. They sent word to king Ukkalapa of their arrival with the sacred Hairs. The King welcomed the Hairs with great ceremony at Asitanzana, north-west of present Yangon.

The king and the brothers next sought for a man who could tell them the location of Singuttara Hill. No human knew the location but Sakka, King of the nats did, and guided them to the Hill. Singuttara Hill is known by seven names of which one is Trikhumba, meaning 'three pots' and signifying three pot-shaped hills. Tikhumba became Tikun and Dagon and later Changed to Lagun in Mon.

When the brothers asked Sakka where the Hairs should be shrined, Sakka could not tell them where the earlier relics were enshrined because they were of such antiquity and he was not that old. However, Sule Nat knew where Kakusandha Buddha's staff was enshrined, Yawhani Nat knew where Konagamana Buddha's water-dipper was enshrined. Hmawbi Nat revealed that he had been assigned to guard the sacred objects. Finally, Gautama Buddha's Hairs were enshrined and stupa consecrated on the full moon day of Tabaung (March 6,c.588 B.C.)

Along time after that, there that, there being no one to worship at the Lagun shrine, it fell into ruin and was covered with jungle.Tradition states that 200 years after Buddha's Parinirvana in 543 BC. Sona and Uttara, two monks from Sri Lanka brought King Asoka to the Pagoda. The King had the jungle cleared and the Pagoda repaired. In the fifth century A.D. King Duttabaung paid homage at the Pagoda. In the 11th century, King Anawratha of Bagan offered gold and silver umbrellas and built a pagoda near the town of Twante across the Yangon River. Dalla, which is now a town on the bank opposite Yangon, was then located on the Twante Ridge and was more important than Dagon. Dagon at that time lay in low lying often water-logged land. Sule Pagoda, now in downtown Yangon, stood on a small island in the swamp, to the west down to he Hlaing River and Yangon /River to the south .The Shwedagon (then called Kyak Lagun in Mon) was reached across a causeway.

The discovery of a votive of the Bagan period at Tadagale to the north of Yangon shows that the laterite ridge at the end of which Shwedagon lay was a scene of activity in the Bagan period and the ridge may have provided a road southwards to the Shwedagon Pagoda and Dagon Village beyond.
The Capital Yangon

After the collapse of Bagan in the 13th century and the rise of Mon power in the 14th with the capital at Bago, Dagon became a place of some importance, though not as a commercial port but as a centre of religious life. At onetime Dagon was reported to contain thirty-two ordination halls Binnya U (1348-83), Mon king of Bago created a pagoda of height 18 m. (60'). Dagon was also a place of refuge for princes who did not find Bago safe. Binnya U's son, Binnya Nwe, later King Rajadarit, who had a chronicle to himself, fled to Dagon when he ran away with his half-sister Talamidaw. Dagon at that time was not a walled city but a fort of logs.

Successive Mon King of the 15th century raised the height of Pagoda by encasing earlier pagoda and embellishing the new. King Binnyayan (1426-46)cut down the hill and enlarged the base to five terraces to sustain the height but before he could finish the work he died. The work was continued by his successor, Binnyawaru (1446-50) who was helped by his mother, Queen Shin Saw Bu, the only regnant queen of Myanmar. She was ably assisted by the commander of the army, soldiers, attendants and the common people. They raised the height of the Pagoda to 90.6 m(302').

Queen Shin Saw Bu was the first to gild the Pagoda. She went on the scales and let them take her weight which was a bout 40 kg.(90 lbs). She donated that weight in gold. She dedicated a vast expanse of glebe lands which virtually covered the whole of modern Yangon. Her successor King Dhammazedi created the stone inscriptions standing on Pagoda Hill. He also donated a huge bell which a Portugese adventurer took away but which fell into the river and has not been recovered.

In 1539, Tabinshwehti, who had conquered Bago, placed a jewelled finial on the Pagoda.

Foreigners' Opinion

Casper de Cruz, a Dominican priest, who was in the country between 1550-60 said that "the Brames (Burmese) were a great people, very rich of gold and precious stones, chiefly of rubies; a proud nation and valiant. They have very rich and gallant shippings garnished with gold which they sail in the rivers; they use vessels of gold silver; their houses are of timber and well wrought. The kingdom is very great."

In 1572, Bayinnaung rebuilt the Pagoda to 360' and had it reguilded. The shrine had been reduced to rubble during an earthquake in 1564.Bayinnaung embarked from Bago in a golden barge in the form of the mythical hintha bird, surmountedby a golden spire. The barge was escorted by a large fleet of 300 golden canoes and 1000 war boats which filled the Bago River as far as the eye could see. The grand fleet floated down to Dagon. Bayinnaung repeated the trip in 1581.

By the end of the 16th century the Shwedagon Fair was attracting people not only from Myanmar but also from distance lands such as Laos and Cambodia. The Dagon Fair was one of the chief markets for overseas trade rivalling Bago and Thanlyin. The Delta was effecting yet another change. The Bago River too was silting up off Thanlyin, and sea-going vessels were finding it difficult to navigate the reaches opposite the town. Thus, Dagon was becoming the port of choice.

After the founding of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Alaungpaya's conquest of lower Myanmar is the second most important event in the history of Dagon. May 1775 marks the beginning of the modern town when Alaungpaya, to commemorate his victory, changed its name from Dagon to Yangon, "Enmity Exhausted."

 

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