Travels

Visiting Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar

A light breeze blow the bells that adorn the umbrellas of the different stupas. The sunset has brought with it the fresh relief that is needed to survive in Yangon, a city where the humidity is so high that you start to sweat almost even before the sun rises.

Around the octagonal floor of the Shwedagon Pagoda, hundreds of local visitors walk without following a common pattern. Each one goes at his own pace. Some talk, others take pictures, and those from beyond walk wrapped in reverential silence as they direct their gaze to the sky, where the 76 carat diamond that crowns the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar (and third most important in Buddhism) points.

Shwedagon Pagoda © David Escribano

A monumental pagoda in downtown Yangon

While I join the meek river of people who go around that man-made treasure more than 2,500 years agoIt seems incredible to me that just a few minutes ago I was on a bus that could barely advance in the heavy traffic of Yangon, a city that grows without looking back and asking no one.

There, however, in the heart of that city of 7 million inhabitants, the song of the birds only mixes with the murmur of the people and the mantras of the devotees who have come to pray.

Around the pagoda, in addition, a large garden area appears very careful. In it, some couples walk hand in hand and avid athletes run before my stunned look: with such heat and humidity, I would not be able to sprint 100 meters without feeling pure drowning.

A jewel of the times of Buddha

Legend has it that the Shwedagon Pagoda was built in the times when Buddha was still alive and he went around the world helping people find their way to Nirvana.

In the beginning, it was not the immense and prodigious mole that you can admire today. The pagoda was extended by different kings and leaders throughout the centuries, reaching its current height - 94 meters - in 1755.

From 1758, they would begin to cover it with gold leaf. It shudders to think that this religious monument has an outer skin of 80 tons of gold. Knowing this, I cannot help thinking about the strange paradox of religions in countries with such precarious economies. What social benefits could they implement in Yangon with 80 tons of gold? Well, that ... Complicated being so practical in a country so fervently religious.

To complete the work, the top of the pagoda shows an umbrella adorned with a myriad of precious stones, the most striking being the diamond that shines on the tip.

Inside the massive stupa, the Buddha's relics further magnify a work that leaves you dumbfounded. To say that you feel small is to soften things a lot