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Wonders Of The World:
St. Mark's Church
Tower Of London
Cathedral Of Antwerp
The Taj Mahal
Cathedral Of Notre Dame
Cathedral Of York
Mosque Of Omar
Cathedral Of Burgos
The Pyramids
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Cathedral Of Strasburg
The Shway Dagohn
Cathedral Of Siena
Town Hall Of Louvain
Cathedral Of Seville
Windsor Castle
Cathedral of Cologne
Palce Of Versailles
Cathedral Of Lincoln

The Shwedagon Pagoda

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

THE "Shway Dagohn" at Rangoon, or Golden Pagoda, is one of the most ancient and venerated shrines which exists, and it certainly should hold a high place among the beautiful and artistic monuments of the world, for it is exquisite in design and form. Its proportions and height are simply magnificent; wide at the base, it shoots up 370 feet, tapering gradually away until crowned by its airy golden Htee, or umbrella-shaped roof. This delicate little structure is studded profusely with precious stones and hung round with scores of tiny gold and jewelled bells, which, when swung lightly by the soft breeze, give out the tenderest and most mystic of melodies. The Htee was the gift of King Mindohn-Min, and it is said to have cost the enormous sum of fifty thousand pounds.

The great pagoda is believed by the faithful to have been erected in 588 B. C.; but for many centuries previous to that date the spot where the pagoda now stands was held sacred, as the relics of three preceding Buddhas were discovered there when the two Talaing brothers (the founders of the Great Pagoda) hrought the eight holy hairs of Buddha to the Thehngoothara Hill, the spot where the pagoda now stands. Shway Yoe (Mr. Scott) says that it also possesses in the Tapanahteik, or relic chamber, of the pagoda the drinking cup of Kaukkathan, the "thengan," or robe, of Uawnagohng, and the "toungway," or staff, of Kathapah. It is therefore so holy that pilgrims visit this shrine from far countries, such as Siam, and even the Corea. The height of the pagoda was originally only twenty-seven feet, but it has attained its present proportions by being constantly encased in bricks. It is a marvellously striking structure, raising up its delicate, glittering head from among a wondrous company of profusely carved shrines and small temples, whose colour and cunning workmanship make fit attendants to this stupendous moiiument.

It is always a delight to one's eyes to gaze upon its glittering spire, always a fairy study of artistic enchantment; but perhaps if it has a moment,when it seems clothed with peculiar and almost ethereal, mystic attraction, it is in the early morning light, when the air has been bathed by dewdrops and is of crystal clearness, and when that scorching Eastern sun has only just begun to send forth his burning rays. I would say go and gaze on the pagoda at the awakening hour, standing there on the last spur of the Pegu Hills, and framed by a luxuriant tropical bower of foliage. The light scintillates and glistens like a myriad of diamonds upon its golden surface, and the dreamy beauty of its glorious personality seems to strike one dumb with deep, unspoken reverence and admiration.

Nestling on one side of it are a number of Pohn-gyee Kyoung (monasteries) and rest-houses for pilgrims. All these are quaint, carved, and gilded edifices from which you see endless yellow-robed monks issuing. The monasteries situated at the foot of the great pagoda seem peculiarly harmonious, as if they would seek protection and shelter beneath the wing of their great mother church.

The pagoda itself is approached on four sides by long flights of steps, but the southern is the principal entrance and that most frequented. At the base of this stand two gigantic lions made of brick and plastered over, and also decorated with coloured paint; their office is to guard the sacred place from nats (evil spirits) and demons, the fear of which seems ever to haunt the Burman's mind and be a perpetual and endless torment to him. From this entrance the steps of the pagoda rise up and are enclosed by a seria of beautifully carved teak roofs, supported by wood and masonry pillars. There are several quaint frescoes of Buddha and saints depicted upon the ceiling of these roofs, but the steps which they cover are very rugged and irregular. It is, indeed, a pilgrimage to ascend them, although the foreigner is allowed to retain his shoes. The faithful, of course, leave theirs at the foot of the steps.

The entrance to the pagoda inspires one with a maze of conflicting emotions as one stands before it; joy, sorrow, pity, wonder, admiration follow so quickly upon each other that they mingle into an indescribable sense of bewilderment. The first sight of the entrance is gorgeous, full of Eastern colour and charm; and then sorrow and horror fill one's heart, as one's eyes fall suddenly upon the rows of lepers who line the way to the holy place. Each is a terrible, gruesome sight, a mass of ghastly corruption and disease, and each holds out with maimed. distorted hands a little tin vessel for your alms.

Why should Providence allow so awful an affliction as leprosy to fall upon His creatures? Could any crime, however heinous, be foul enough for such a punishment? These are the thoughts that flit through your brain; and then, as you pass on, wonder takes their place at the quaint beauty of the edifice, and lastly intense and wild admiration takes entire possession of you, and all is forgotten in the glorious nearness of the great Golden Pagoda.

On either side of the rugged steps there are rows of most picturesque little stalls, at which are sold endless offerings to be made to Buddha - flowers of every shade and hue, fruit, glowing bunches of yellow plantains and pepia, candles, wondrous little paper devices and flags, and, lastly, the gold leaf, which the faithful delight to place upon the beloved pagoda. It is looked upon as a great act of merit to expend money in thus decorating the much loved and venerated shrine...

As you mount slowly up the steep uneven steps of the pagoda, turn for a moment and glance back at the scene. It is a pagoda feast, and the place is crowded with the faithful from all parts, who have come from far and near to present offerings and perform their religious observances. It is an entrancing picture, a marvel of colour and picturesqueness-see, the stalls are laid out with their brightest wares, and the crowd is becoming greater every moment. Look at that group of laughing girls, they have donned their most brilliant tamehns, and dainty shawls, and the flowers in their hair are arranged with infinite coquettishness; behind them are coming a dazzling company of young men in pasohs of every indescribable shade; perchance they are the lovers of the girls whom they are following so eagerly, and they are bearing fruit and flowers to present to Buddha. Beyond them again are some yellow-robed Pohn-gyees; they are supposed to shade their eyes from looking upon women with their large lotus-shaped fans, but today they are gazing about them more than is permitted, and are casting covert glances of admiration on some of those dainty little maidens. Behind them again are a white-robed company, they are nuns, and their shroud-like garments flow around them in long graceful folds, Their hair is cut short, and they have not so joyous an expression upon their faces as the rest of the community, and they toil up the steep steps a trifle wearily. Behind them again are a little toddling group of children, with their little hands full of bright glowing flowers and fruits.

Shall we follow in the crowd and see where the steps lead? It is a wondrous study, the effects of light and shade; look at that sunbeam glinting in through the roof and laying golden fingers on the Pohn-gyees' yellow robes, and turning the soft-hued fluttering silks into brilliant luminous spots of iight.

At last we have arrived at the summit! Let us pause and take breath morally and physically before walking round the great open-paved space in the centre of which rises the great and glorious pagoda. There it stands towering up and up, as though it would .fain touch the blue heaven; it is surrounded by a galaxy of smaller pagodas, which seem to be clustering lovingly near their great high priest; around these again are large carved kneeling elephants, and deep urn-shaped vessels, which are placed there to receive the offerings of food brought to Buddha. The crows and the pariah dogs which haunt the place will soon demolish these devout offerings, and grow fat upon them as their appearance testifies; but this, curiously, does not seem in the least to annoy the giver. He has no objection to seeing a fat crow or a mangy dog gorging itself upon his offering, as the feeding of any animal is an act of merit, which is the one thing of importance to a Burman. The more acts of merit that he can accomplish in this life, the more rapid his incarnations will be in the next.

There are draped about the small golden pagodas and round the base of the large one endless quaint pieces of woven silk; these are offerings from women, and must be completed in one night without a break.

On the outer circle of this large paved space are a multitude of shrines, enclosing hundreds of images of Buddha. You behold Buddha standing, you behold him sitting, you behold him reclining; you see him large, you see him small, you see him medium size; you see him in brass, in wood, in stone, and in marble. Many of these statues are simply replicas of each other, but some differ slightly, though the cast of features is always the same, a placid, amiable, benign countenance, with very long lobes to the ears, which in Burmah are supposed to indicate the great truthfulness of the person who possesses them. Most of the images have suspended over them the royal white umbrella, which was one of the emblems of Burma, and only used in Thebaw's time to cover Buddha, the king, and the, lord white elephant.

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