Shwemawdaw Paya and Shwethalyaung Buddha, Bago (Pegu), Myanmar

The golden Shwemawdaw Temple in afternoon light against fluffy white clouds. Bago (Pegu), Myanmar

Golden afternoon at Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar

Bago is a golden city, originally build during the Mon dynasty. Destroyed by the Burman in 1757 and partially restored in the early 19th century, the city lost prominence when the Bago River changed its course and cut the city off from the sea.

It must have really been something during its heyday, for even now, there is plenty to occupy tourists, Buddhist pilgrims and photographers. Travelling with Karl Grobl on a photography tour, I spend a mid-morning at a monastery and the middle of the day at the local market, before visiting Shwemawdaw and Shwethalyaung Temples in the early afternoon.

The Shwemawdaw Paya or Golden God Temple is a Mon temple originally built in the tenth century, but subsequently rebuilt several times – after major earthquakes. The current pagoda, at 375 feet, is the tallest in Myanmar; some 50 feet taller than Shwedagon.

The ornate entry to Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar

The ornate entry to Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar.

Close-up: Burmese script carved into a bronze bell, Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar

Burmese or Mon script on a Shwemawdaw Temple bell.

Burmese women walking with their heads covered against the sun, Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago.

Women heading for prayers, Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago.

Weathered curved walls of a small shrine area in Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar

Colours and Textures:
Small shrine area in Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar

Two marble burmese buddhas seated in Shwemawdaw Temple, Bago, Myanmar

The luminous marble and gold paint typical of Burmese Buddhas.

Marble seated buddha, draped in a purple cloth.

Touching the Earth
Shwemawdaw Buddha

Small green building advertising fortune telling services: Shwemawdaw Temple

Astrology and Palmistry
Shwemawdaw Fortune Teller

Burmese people with a glass case containing money in exchange for prayer papers.

Faithful and hopeful have prayers written on papers in exchange for “donations”.

Three seated burmese buddhas draped in gold robes, Shwemawdaw Temple

Three more Shwemawdaw Buddhas.

Tall red and gold pillars in an ornate entry hall, Shwemawdaw Temple.

Shwemawdaw Steps

Not far from the Shwemawdaw Temple, another temple complex houses a 55 metre- (180 ft) long reclining buddha. The Shwethalyaung Buddha was built by King Migadippa I in 994. After Bago was destroyed, the buddha was lost under regrown vegetation for over a hundred years. After it was rediscovered in 1881, the undergrowth was cleared, and in 1906 a tazaung (pavilion) was built over it to protect it from the elements.

Looking up a wide staircase to a huge reclining buddha, Shwethalyaung, Bago, Myanmar

Up the steps to the Shwethalyaung Buddha…

Brown burlap cloth on the temple stairs, Shwethalyaung Temple

Indigent’s bedroll: Shwethalyaung Temple steps.

Looking from feet up to the head of the Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha.

At the feet of the 55 metre Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha.

The gilded and jewelled feet of the Shwethalyaung Buddha.

Gilded and Jewelled:
At the feet of the Shwethalyaung Buddha.

Shwethalyaung Buddha Head resting on jewelled caskets.

Shwethalyaung Buddha Head

Back view of piled jewelled chests with Buddha head resting; jewelled deva watching over.

Buddha resting on jewelled chests; a jewelled deva watching over.

Young child with glass cases filed with paper fortunes, Shwethalyaung Buddha, Bago, Myanmar.

Toddler with Fortunes

Looking down along the reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha to the feet and golden toe nails.

Shwethalyaung Buddha Feet

Teak Seller in the temple surrounds

A teak seller shows her wares.

Carved Burmese teak ornaments: Shwethalyaung Buddha Temple

Carved Burmese teak ornaments for sale.

Portrait: Young Burmese woman, Shwethalyaung Buddha

Another Gift Seller

Colourfully painted little wooden dolls representing Burma

Myanmar’s ethnic groups in doll form.

Portrait: young burmese gift seller in the Shwethalyaung courtyard.

Gift seller in the Shwethalyaung Courtyard.

Portrait: Young burmese woman in the courtyard of Postcard Seller, Shwethalyaung

A postcard seller sends us off on our way…

Text: Keep smiling

We left Shwethalyaung for the two hour drive back to Yangon –

and the next instalment in the Burmese adventure.

‘Till then!

Photos: 12September2012

  • gabe - December 13, 2012 - 10:29 pm

    Golden temple & one large reclining Buddha. typical life around the temple. Very nice.ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - December 14, 2012 - 5:45 am

    Can’t even imagine what it must be like to stand amongst such history… jsut beautifulReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 16, 2012 - 6:25 am

      Thanks, Signe and Gabe! Indeed, it is a privilege standing amidst the history. 🙂ReplyCancel

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