Sule Pagoda

In the geographical and religious center of Yangon, Myanmar, is a site that holds importance for both religious and political groups. It is as ancient as it is important to the Myanmar people. The site is Sule Pagoda, a 2,500-year-old Burmese Stupa shrouded in legend.

According to Burmese legend, the site where Sule pagoda now stands was once the home of a powerful spirit named Sularata. The king of the spirits, Sakka, wished to help the legendary Burmese King Okkalap build a shrine for the Buddha’s sacred hair-relic on the same site where three previous Buddhas had buried sacred relics in past ages. Unfortunately, these events had happened so long ago that not even Sakka knew where they were buried. Sularata, however, was so old that he had witnessed the past events and was able to tell King Sakka where the three previous Buddha relics had been buried. Thus, instead of just housing one Buddha relic, the Sule Pagoda site houses four.

When we visited Sule Pagoda, we didn’t know what to expect. We arrived in Myanmar, stowed our stuff at the hotel and immediately set out to explore. We got in a taxi and asked the driver what he recommended and he brought us to Sule Pagoda. He said this was one of the most important pagodas to the Burmese people.

The first thing we saw when we arrived at the pagoda was a group of women sitting on the ground with baskets. Our taxi driver told us the birds symbolize the captivity of the Burmese people endured for centuries and that releasing them is a symbol of hope for the continued peace and freedom of the people. We all know things aren’t that great in Myanmar, but it has improve and things are continuing to improve, so there is hope for continued improvement and with that thought we purchased two birds.

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Troy got a little confused and thought the birds were a snack, but I quickly set him straight.

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After paying for our tickets we took our little birdies to the furthest corner of the complex and set them free. Yes, they are most likely trained to return to the bird women, but we like to imagine our birds flew far away and remain free.

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Once we’d set our birds free (where they flew far away and lived happily by a small river) we began wandering around.

One of the interesting features of Sule Pagoda is the pagoda itself. It is believed to have been built before the other famous pagoda in Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda, making it over 2,500 years old.

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The pagoda itself was constructed using the basic form utilized in Indian architecture, but the embellishments and final design are of a Mon-style Burmese influence.

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The main pagoda is octagonal in shape. Each side is 24 feet long and the pinnacle reaches 144 ft 9 l/2 in.

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While the pagoda itself is about 2,500 years old, none of the other structures in the complex is more than just over 100 years old.

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Several image houses surround the pagoda and house a variety of Buddha statues.

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There are also Buddha statues along the walls of the complex.

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A few of the covered prayer areas.

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There are several of these Buddha shrines surrounding the pagoda. I asked one of my students at the Myanmar Refugee School in Kuala Lumpur what the characters said and they told me that each of these shrines around the pagoda has a day of the week and a person washes the Buddha and prays to the Buddha that represents the day they were born.

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Next to the Buddha shrine is a bell. There are ten of these and each one is a different size, age and style in commemoration of large donations made to the upkeep of the pagoda complex. The grey box on the opposite side of the shrine is for people to make smaller donations.

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Someone saw us admiring this and told us that prayers go in the bird and are taken along the cable to the top of the pagoda where they are received and delivered to the Buddha.

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There were other things we saw around the complex that we don’t know what they mean or what they are used for, but they look neat.

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Interior of a covered pavilion

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We found a series of these along the wall surrounding the complex

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25 thoughts on “Sule Pagoda

  1. Pingback: Myanmar Travel Guide

  2. MrsTee

    What an amazing way to show their hope and belief for their continued freedom. The pagoda is absolutely breathtaking! The gold of the structures…I definitely feel likeI’m seeing it in real life.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie

    Wow! I’m loving your website! There are so many parts of the world that I’ve never even considered that you guys are traveling and speaking about. It’s amazing how much history and stories are out there that I know we didn’t discuss in world history. Great work!

    Reply
  4. frans

    the little boat attached to a cable is used to transport money offerings to the top of the pagoda. when reached the top somebody (i did not see who) will get the money and your wish will be granted

    Reply
  5. Jen Seligmann

    Beautiful photos! I love the contrast of the gold pagodas against that bright blue sky. Seeing pagodas similar to this was my highlight of visiting Bangkok. I’m definitely keen to have a similar experience to you guys when I visit Myanmar someday soon.

    Reply
  6. Franc Ramon

    I like the symbolism of releasing the bird for freedom and it gives way to hope. Myanmar is one of the heritage attraction I’d want to visit and it has been popular for a lot of people now.

    Reply
  7. Amanda Tempel

    Wow! Unbelievably, I hadn’t heard of this place. But it is so amazingly gorgeous! I would love to visit there. I just love seeing and learning about different cultures.

    Reply
  8. JoyceDuboise

    Wow. I love the history behind this. These photos are so powerful and moving. I love that you set the birds free. What an awesome experience. The pagoda in Sule Pagoda is absolutely breathtaking. The construction is gorgeous. I could go on forever about how incredible your experience was. Those photos really capture the beauty of your trip.

    Reply
  9. Amanda

    Your pictures did such a beautiful job capturing the beauty of the pagoda. Isn’t it interesting how locals come up with so many different ways to “entertain” tourists? Hope the birds weren’t harmed!

    Reply

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