Friday, March 22, 2013

Schwedagon Pagoda

The Schwedagon Pagoda is the biggest pagoda in Burma.  It is also the oldest pagoda in the world.  It is estimated to be at least 2600 years old.  As we pulled up to this amazing sight, I was unsure about how I would feel about it.  The park and area around it was huge.  It took up many city blocks and you could see it from miles and miles away.  Once we got near it the landscape changes drastically.  The neighborhood surrounding it had houses bigger than I had seen in some areas of the Quad Cities.  We even passed Aung San Suu Kyi's palace on the way there.  She is the political leader in Burma and the leading face for pro-democracy in Burma.  Her father founded the modern Burmese army, but after he was killed she was put on many house arrests from the Junta Army.  She has done many great things for the Burmese people and has recently been released from her detention.  Driving by her house was how I imagined driving by the White House.
Aung San Suu Kyi's palace ( above)

A mansion less than a mile from the Pagoda ( above)

Once we walked inside to the entrance I did not know what to think.  The floors were made of marble. They had 2 big cases of shelves were you removed your shoes.  Shoes were not allowed inside of the pagoda.  The marble floors felt so good on our feet in the heat of the day.  I have never seen anything like it.  There is nothing here in the US that would even compare to this!  When we walked over a bridge to a very big ravine I already had a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was sure what it was.  I thought that it was the sight of all this gold and riches when we had just left the orphanage where they pray to be able to have enough food to feed everyone.  The area opened up to a huge tree and a Buddha Statue.  Im not sure the significance of the gum tree.  It was at least 2 stories high.  I was in awe of this.  There were many Buddhist monks walking around going about their business.  Some of the local people would look up at our group I'm guessing because of the number of white people.  I was literally speechless.  As we quietly walked around I would occasionally ask Morris and Sonia questions I had about this place.  I was never really interested in Buddhism so I did not know much about it.  All around us were enormous temples with roofs of gold.  From what I gathered there were different stations depending on what day of the week you were born.  Near each station was a cup and and well of water.  People would pour water on the Buddha statue near that station or make a donation of money when they wanted to be blessed or when making a decision about a new house or car. Like I said, I do not know much so this may or may not be accurate! I think the icky feeling in my stomach had to do with seeing all of these people idolize these statues and other things.  It made me think of how as Americans how we do the same thing.  We idolize our cars, houses, jobs and so on.  I walked around praying for each person that I passed or made eye contact with.  This feeling I had was something that is very hard to explain.   I had never been to a temple or gathering place of a religion different than mine before.  I was afraid to speak, walk and take pictures.  Even though it was allowed, it still felt wrong but I knew it was something that I would want to share with everyone at home.

We walked around there praying for at least an hour.  As we went to leave they had a staircase that was so big and each step was full of trinkets, statues, and gifts you could buy. All I could think of was " I would not want one of those in my house!"  It was just very weird, but I'm so glad I was able to experience it!   These pictures are amazing but do not do any justice to the size of this place!

     Entrance into the parking lot

       This is the main temple.  It was so tall I felt dizzy looking at the top!

 Base of the gum tree

 Monk praying

 This beautiful wall was around the base of one of the temples

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