I was born on a Thursday. Do you know on which day you were born?
Burmese Buddhists are strong believers of astrological influence on their life. In contrast to ‘regular’ Buddhism, they believe for example in the powerful influence of the particular day they were born. Burmese Buddhists will always try to do important things in life according to this day. There name is chosen according to this day, they choose the name of their business according to this day and they even get married to a person whose own day is friendly to their day!
Religious village called Shwedagon
I am honestly speaking not sure whether this idea is still strong with most of the Burmese Buddhists today, but we clearly noticed this way of thinking visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon: one of the must-visits in Myanmar…
The pagoda is at least 2,500 years old (oldest in the world!) and it is said to hold a couple (yes, you read this right: a couple) of Buddha relics. We were not really aware of this pagoda being one of the most famous ones in the world, but after visiting we clearly understood why… all that gold makes an impressive view for sure.
The great thing about Shwedagon is that it’s not only a pagoda. The whole area is a religious microcosmos on its own: a collection of dozens of temples, stupas and statues where people from all over Myanmar are drawn to. There are 4 stairways to enter the area (North, South, East and West). Move your way up and start enjoying places with fabulous names like Hall of Great Prosperity, Pagoda of the Eight Weekdays, Shrine of Sun and Moon, Victory Ground and Hall of Wizards. Do I need to say more…
What a day…
Coming back to the astrological influence of the day Burmese Buddhists were born. This day determines their planetary post. There are eight planetary posts, as Wednesday is split in two (am and pm). Hence the name of the Pagoda of the Eight Weekdays. These planetary posts are marked by animals that represent the day: tiger for Monday, lion for Tuesday, etc.
Here for me personal it is getting a bit confusing. According to Burmese Buddhism I am linked to the rat (for Thursday). But I was also born in the Chinese year of the rooster. Rooster and rat…hmm, what does that make me?
Anyway, at Shwedagon pagoda you can find these eight planetary posts surrounding the main stupa. Each planetary post has a Buddha image and people (who were born on that particular day) offer flowers and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish.
Yangon and the Shwedagon pagoda
We were not really enthusiastic about the city of Yangon itself….with the exception of the Shwedagon pagoda. That pagoda alone is almost worth a trip to Yangon!
Here are some highlights of the Shwedagon pagoda where actually just meeting or watching people is half of the fun!
Make sure to also visit the pagoda at night! Your entrance ticket is valid for a full day, so do return in the evening. The pagoda is covered with hundreds of gold plates and there are diamonds in top of the stupa; not to be missed in the evening…
Go and visit this monumental work of art and architecture! We really spend hours just watching the bustling of monks and devotees, walking from one temple to another, and of course returning in the evening. Take your time when you plan a visit. Again, other sites in Yangon are not even half that impressive.
We secretely took a picture of this yound woman in deep prayers. But after a while we accidentally bumped into her and we couldn’t resist showing her the pictures. She loved them!
This is our last post about Myanmar. Here is an overview of all our stories about this fascinating country:
1. Our Myanmar itinerary
2. Mandalay: start of our Myanmar trip
3. Crazy and surreal Monywa
4. Ode to Bagan
5. Surprising Inle Lake…but without jumping cats!
6. Three cool Buddhist places to visit in Myanmar (part 1+2)