The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, is a colossal religious complex that defies human scale. The temple is centered around a golden stupa that reaches 326 feet into the sky. It is estimated that up to 60 tons of gold comprise the spire, the top of which is inlaid with about 5000 diamonds, over 2000 rubies, sapphires and other precious stones, 1,065 golden bells, and a single 72-carat diamond. Around the pagoda are hundreds of buddha statues in various shapes and sizes and dozens of ornate pavilions and sub-temples, many of which would be worth a visit on their own.
Taking photos at the sprawling Shwedagon Pagoda can be overwhelming. Not only is it massive, but it is also buzzes with activity – worshipers pour water over Buddha statues and light candles as a blessing, throngs of tourists walk around awestruck, and processions of pilgrims parade around the complex.
After being at the pagoda for about an hour, I stopped trying to capture the activity and the scale, and instead focused on the details. Away from the main activity, I found monks meditating in Buddha niches, locals praying in pavilions, and people singing in quiet corners.
At first, I wondered if it were okay to take a photo of a person praying or pouring water on a statue, then I’d see them whip out a cell phone mid-prayer and fire off 27 selfies, adjusting hair and pose with each shot to get it right. I then realized that even though this holy site is thousands of years old, we are in the modern world where things are a little less reverent.
Shwedagon Pagoda Photo Gallery
Have you been to the Shwedagon Pagoda or any other major religious site?