Shwedagon Pagoda History

The tradition concerning the founding of the Shwedagon, as contained in the Hmannan Mahayazawindawgyi (The Great Glass Palace Chronicle) which was compiled in the early 1830s by a Royal Commission composed of learned monks, brahmins and lay scholars, goes thus:

According to Buddhist history, over 2500 years ago, PrinceSiddartha had just attained Buddhahood, after the realization of the "Four Noble Truth" which are
1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

Tapussa and Bhallika, two merchant brothers of Asitanjana which was in the Mon country, went on a trading journey by ship and by 500 carts.

They arrived at the place where the Lord Buddha sat in the bliss of emancipation under the linlun tree. It was the 49th day after his Enlightenment and the two brothers offered him honey cakes.

A fter the Lord Buddha had eaten the cakes, the two brothers asked for a gift from him. The Lord Buddha passed his hand over his head and, obtaining eigth hairs, gave them to the brothers. The sacred hair were eight fingerbreadths long in the Majjhimadesa (Indian) measure.

The two brothers then returned as they had come, by carts and by ship, carrying the sacred hairs with them in a ruby casket. On the way, they met with the King of Ajjhatta, who requested and received from them two of the sacred hairs. As they travelled by ship and reached Cape Negraisat the southwestern extremity of Myanmar, a Naga(Serpent) King named Jayasena obtained two more sacred hairs from them and carried them to the naga country of Bhumintara.

The two brothers then placed the ruby casket containing the remaining four sacred hairs in a pile of pearls shaped like a pagoda and informed the King of Ukkalapa of the matter. The King came with the four arms of war - elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers - and, making a vow, paid reverence by making a clockwise circuit of the pagoda of pearls. Through his vow, the sacred hairs were restored to their original number of eight.

The King and the two brothers then brought the sacred hairs back to Asitanjana. At Asitanjana, Sakka, King of Devas, the King of Ukkalapa and the two brothers decided to enshrine the eight sacred hairs on Singuttara Hill to the east of Asitanjana where also were enshrined the relics of the three Buddhas previous to Gotama - the water filter of Kakusandha, the robe of Konagamana and the staff of Kassapa.

The enshrinement took place on the Full Moon day of Tabaung, a Wednesday. Sakka, the King of Ukkalapa and the two brothers made a relic chamber 44 cubits square and 44 cubits deep. The relic chamber was filled knee-deep with jewels of all kinds; on these was placed a jewelled ship, and on the jewelled ship, the relics of the four Buddhas.

A stone slab all covered with gold was placed over the relic chamber and on it was erected a golden pagoda 44 cubits high. The golden pagoda was encased in a silver pagoda, then in a pagoda of gold and copper alloy, then in bronze pagoda, then in iron pagoda, then in a marble pagoda, and finally in a brick pagoda.

A stone slab all covered with gold was placed over the relic chamber and on it was erected a golden pagoda 44 cubits high. The golden pagoda was encased in a silver pagoda, then in a pagoda of gold and copper alloy, then in bronze pagoda, then in iron pagoda, then in a marble pagoda, and finally in a brick pagoda.

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