Giant Buddha and the temple with a diamond on top

Today really revolved around temples.

In the morning we went shopping at the markets to buy Jennifer an longyi so she’d be appropriately dressed for going to the temple in the afternoon. She ended up with a very nice purple one, although the range was limited because we were on a tight timeline that didn’t allow for waiting about to have things tailored by a little man on an ancient Singer sewing machine.

Shwegdon Temple.
Shwegdon Temple.

Our first temple visit was to the giant reclining Buddha that lies, literally, to the North East of Yangon city centre. At 70m long and appropriately proportioned this is one huge Buddha. Although it’s huge it’s not particularly pleasing to look at – other than the soles of its feet which are covered with inscriptions representing the multitude of worlds and states of being that Buddha rules over. We learnt at the temple about the signs that represent the days of the week and poured a water offering over the appropriate Buddha statue – mine’s an elephant, Declan a guinea-pig and the others a rat.

The highlight of the day, however, was a visit to the Shwedgon Temple – the most holy place in Myanmar as it houses eight of Buddha’s hairs.. The temple is a huge complex centered on an enormous gold stupa – and I mean both enormous and gold, much of the dome is made of solid gold. The whole is surmounted with an obscene number of precious stones including a 73 carat diamond. For a poor country the display of wealth is breath-taking. Even prayers involve gold – if you want a boy child you rub some gold leaf onto a little boy statue.

Regardless, the whole place is very beautiful especially as sunset approaches and incense drifts and bells echo around the complex.

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