Growing up as a small child in Thailand, I routinely visited Thai Buddhist Temples wherever my family and I went. This tradition remains with me to this day. Whenever and wherever I travel to a place that practices Buddhism, I make an effort to explore the spiritual sanctuaries of the area.
Myanmar is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia. However, I did not realize to what extent until my most recent trip there. Because of this devotion, it is not surprising that Pagodas in Myanmar are everywhere. There are around 2,200 that exists today from the kingdom’s height of over 10,000 Pagodas between the 11th and 13th centuries. During my travels throughout Myanmar, I also learned that the Thais (also a country with devout followers of Buddhism) are one of largest populations that travel to Myanmar for their Buddhist pilgrimage. This is made quite easy with a number of frequent and inexpensive flights available from Bangkok and Chiang Mai to Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay.
Below are some of the most notable Pagodas of Myanmar I visited that denotes “The Land of Pagodas”.
Pagodas of Yangon
- This pagoda is an unusual 131-foot-tall hollow stupa which allows visitors the opportunity to walk around inside. The original pagoda was destroyed in 1943 when it took a direct hit from an Allied bomb. During the clean-up, a fantastic discovery was uncovered. A golden casket containing a hair and two other relics of Buddha were allegedly found and can now be seen on display inside the stupa.
Reclining Buddha Pagoda
- Not actually a true pagoda, this impressive open-sided pavilion houses a 230-foot reclining Buddha statue. Also within the pagoda enclosure is a center devoted to the study of sacred Buddhist manuscripts. In the Buddha Shrine Hall, a collection of Buddha effigies is on display showing how the image of Buddha differed throughout the 16-17th centuries.
- During my travels throughout Myanmar, I visited a lot of Pagodas and this one is my favorite. Be sure to be there at the end of the day as it transitions into the night for the loveliest light enveloping the complex. This place, which is believed to be over 2,500 years old, a golden dream of gilded stupas, serene statues of Buddha and mythical beasts. According to legend, eight hairs of the last Buddha are enshrined within the gleaming golden stupa. On the outside, the stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold slabs and the tip of the stupa is set with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, sapphires and topaz stones. A huge emerald sits in the middle to catch the first and last rays of the sun. It is literally the jewel in the crowning glory of Burmese architecture.
Pagodas of Inle Lake
- Inle Lake is one of my favorite locales in Myanmar. During my visit to the area, I was able to visit this elegant wooden monastery. It is built on stilts over the lake and has an impressive collection of Buddha images in the Shan, Tibetan, Bagan, and Innwa styles on a highly ornate wood and mosaic pedestal.
Pagodas of Bagan
- This is the perfect starting point to understand how Bagan was built over several centuries and how the architectural style has evolved. Visiting this Pagoda allowed me to see an example of a different architecture of the stupas first-hand.
- This golden Pagoda is said to contain important relics of the Gautama Buddha: two bones and a copy of a tooth along with 8 strands of Buddha’s hair. It was built during the Pagan Dynasty.
- It is regarded by folklore as one of the most beautiful temples in Myanmar. Built-in 1105 AD during the Pagan Dynasty, its’ architectural structure is a fusion of Mon and Indian styles, and it is perfect in dimension. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1975 but has since been fully restored.
Pagodas of Mandalay
Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda
- On the top of the Sagaing Hill. It is said to be one of the oldest and richest on Sagaing Hill. It was built in 1312 by Minister Pon Nya.
- This is an important religious and monastic center and home to 554 monasteries and 6,000 monks and nuns. Located along the Irrawaddy River, 20 km southwest of Mandalay, Sagaing was the capital of the Sagaing Kingdom, one of the minor dynasties in the 14th century, after the fall of the Pagan Dynasty. It is now a popular destination for day-trippers.
- Shwenandaw Monastery was built in the style of classical Burmese architecture and was originally part of the Royal Palace at Amaranpura. In 1878, King Thibaw Min dismantled and relocated the building to its current location in Mandalay because he believed it to be haunted by his father’s spirit.
- Kuthodaw Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa containing “the world’s largest book”. It was modeled after Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan and completed in 1868.
- The Maha Muni Pagoda is considered the second most significant pagoda in the country due to the four-meter bronze Buddha statue enshrined within it. Some even believe the Buddha himself resides in the statue.
Other Notable Pagodas
Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock Pagoda – Mon state, in Southern Myanmar, about 160 km from Yangon
- The site is well-known for its iconic gravity-defying golden rock delicately balancing on the edge of the 1100-meter high mountain, with a golden pagoda on top.
My visit to Myanmar was truly eye-opening. I learned so much about the country and its’ people. The extensive amount of exploring I did really make me appreciate Myanmar and helped me better understand its’ history and culture.
Myanmar is a country newly opened to visitors. This means that travel is definitely possible, but can still pose a challenge due to a newly emerging tourism infrastructure. A religious/spiritual/cultural pilgrimage to Myanmar to visit the many beautiful pagodas/temples can be daunting. Take the time to choose the region and specific pagodas that you would like to visit. Plan carefully and talk to a knowledgeable advisor. Having just recently returned from an in-depth exploration of Myanmar, I understand the area and can help you plan an incredible trip based on your interests. Contact us and find out how we can help!