Novices, Nuns and the People of Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar
In the beautifully lit, covered south-entrance causeway leading to Shwezigon Pagoda, four young novices walk with their begging bowls.
Bagan, in Central Myanmar, is known for its temples.
Not all its temples, however, are ruined relics of the Pagan Empire (9th to 13th Century). Others – like the beautiful Shwezigon Pagoda – are still living, breathing places.
Shwezigon was Pagan’s first Buddhist temple. It was started by King Anawrahta after he took the throne by force in 1044, unified the country, and introduced Theravada Buddhism to the people. Most accounts agree he died in 1077 or 1078: before the elaborate pagoda was completed. One story says he was killed by a wild buffalo; others mention only the phase of the moon at the time of his death. The Shwezigon complex, somewhat modified from Anawrahta’s original plans, was completed in 1102, under his son, King Kyanzittha.
The symmetrical pagoda is 160 feet high and 160 feet square at the base. It sits in a square compound, where it is surrounded by smaller temples and shrines – and flanked by typical burmese markets, crowded full of people.
Women in the Market
Mother and Child
Everyone in the market is wearing their protective thanaka powder.
Children learn the “V” sign early.
Saleswoman in Pink
Mother and Baby
Baby in the Market
The prototypical circular Burmese stupa: the gold-leaf gilded Shwezigon Pagoda sits in at the centre of a square compound.
Stylised lions guard the pagoda.
Plaque in Marble and Gold
Richly decorated Burmese prayers punctuate the courtyard.
Brass Flower Trees, Stone Almes Bowls, and Incense Burners
In pavilions around the pagoda, there are plenty of peaceful places to sit.
Nun with a Book of Prayer
Book of Burmese Prayer
Pilgrims and visitors carry their shoes through the covered causeway leading to the pagoda.
Our photo-group leader Karl Grobl and local guide Mr MM have persuaded the Abbot to let us “borrow” a few novices –
– and we encourage them to engage in some un-novice-like behaviour.
The novices clearly enjoy the task that has been set for them –
– flying down the sedate, grand, covered causeway at Shwezigon’s South Entrance –
– with great enthusiasm.
With roots in Bagan’s rich history, Shwezigon is a beautiful temple to visit.
My visit was only made better by the novices, the nuns, and the other people who comprise the life within the compound perimeters.