Sule Pagoda is a shrine unlike any other in Yangon. You could say it represents today’s Burma, continuing on with tradition yet slowly accepting in today’s modernization. In other words, it is located in the heart of Yangon in one of the city’s busiest intersections. Its domed shape, topped with a golden spire, extends into the skyline, marking the cityscape. Perhaps it is overshadowed by its more glamorous cousin, the Shwedagon, but that doesn’t mean this urbanite streetwise pagoda doesn’t deserve a visit.
Why is Sule Pagoda where it is today? Part of it (and possibly owing to its ease of a landmark) was in the 1880’s. During that time, the British used the shrine as the exact center when they were rebuilding Yangon and gridding the city and its streets. Now, it is the city.
You can always count on Burmese legend for some astonishing facts. Accordingly, this pagoda outdates Shwedagon and enshrined within its golden exterior is a strand of Buddha’s hair. Sule Pagoda went through numerous restorations but the only change to the actual look of it came in the mid-15th century when it was enlarged to its present size by Queen Shin Shawbu in the mid 1400’s.
You are more than free to choose your point of entry; there is one in each of the four cardinal directions. The complex itself consists of the main attraction 48 meters high and octagonal in shape, itself an unusual architectural style for the Burmese. Surrounding the pagoda are ten bronze bells of different sizes, with inscriptions of the temple’s donors and the dates of their dedications. And within the complex are several smaller shrines, each dedicated to a different spirit, who in turn are represented by a different astrological sign. And you guessed it; people will go to their respective signs and pray there.
If you want another site to see regular Burmese and Yangon citizens during worship, then this is certainly the place for you to be. Sure, Shwedagon is nice and definitely worth your visit, but don’t forget the Sule; historical significance in abundance yet striving to be accepted as part of today’s rapidly modernizing world.
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