Shwemawdaw pagoda, Bago, Myanmar.

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Shwemawdaw Paya

Top choice in Myanmar (Burma)

A zedi (stupa) of washed-out gold in the midday haze and glittering perfection in the evening, the 374ft-high Shwemawdaw Paya lords it over Bago. At the northeast corner of Myanmar's tallest stupa is a huge section of the hti (pinnacle) toppled by an earthquake in 1917.

According to murky legend, the original stupa was a small, ramshackle object, built by two brothers, Kullasala and Mahasala, to enshrine two hairs given to them by the Gautama Buddha. In AD 982 a sacred tooth was added to the collection; in 1385 another tooth was added and the stupa was rebuilt to a towering 277ft. In 1492 strong winds blew over the hti and a new one was raised.

The stupa has collapsed and been rebuilt many times over the last 600 years; each time it has grown a little taller and the treasures mounted in it have become a little more abundant. A massive earthquake in 1930 completely levelled it, and for the next 20 years only the huge earthen mound of the base remained.

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