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Birma Rangoon - artelino

Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.Rangoon as the formerly official capital of Birma and largest city of Myanmar is relatively young. It gained its importance in 1885 when the British had occupied the Northern part of the kingdom of Birma with its capital Mandalay. The main attraction of Rangoon is the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Rangoon in 1980

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I visited Birma in 1980. Rangoon and the whole country of Birma then was the strangest place in the world, but in my view also one of the most fascinating countries for Western visitors. Isolated from the rest of the world by a military dictatorship that had even banned Coca Cola, the country and Rangoon gave the impression of a place of decay and quiet standstill. What has been devastating for the people of Birma for economic and political reasons, had transformed the country into a state that gave you as a tourist and foreigner the impression of a journey back into the past to the novels of Rudyard Kipling.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Rangoon's main attraction is the Shwedagon Pagoda. The origins are said to go back to circa 2,500 years ago. In 1769 it was rebuilt in its today's shape after it had been destroyed by an earthquake. The pagoda has the form of a Mandala. What makes it so unique are the large numbers of shrines, statues and small stupas that are centered around the pagoda. Everything is kept in strong colors. In combination with the all-over gold-plated pagoda (9 tons of gold), visitors enjoy a real festival of colors, especially on a sunny day with a blue sky.

Like all Buddhist monuments, also the Shwedagon Pagoda should be circled only clockwise.

Shwedagon Today

Unfortunately I have not been back to Birma since 1980. Since then the Shwedagon pagoda was renovated extensively. See the official web site on Shwedagon Pagoda. One entrance now even has an escalator. Seems odd to me. But one should not judge without having seen it. And secondly, it makes no sense to preserve the world exactly as it once was as a museum.

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From Rangoon to Yangon

Since my visit in 1980 also names have changed. First Burma, then Birma and now Myanmar. And Rangoon changed to Yangon. And Pagan went to Bagan. At least Mandalay remained Mandalay.

Dieter Wanczura, June 2010.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 November 2010 23:40  

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