The Shwedagon Pagoda is a monument that links the country to the Gotama Buddha and shows how a small episode from the life of Buddha can expand into an epic that encompasses the thoughts and prayers of millions of people, “like a seed carried to a distant land which took deep root.” The pagoda is a reliquary monument, or stupa, that houses eight hair relics gifted by the Buddha to two brothers, who were the first Buddhist converts in Burma. The myth first began among the Mon but its exaltation by the Burmese rulers of Lower Burma in the 16th century helped kick start the legends surrounding the site. Archaeologists believe that it was built by the Mon people in the 16th century. It went through a repair in the 14th century that increased its height to 18 m.
Myths surrounding the pagoda has continued to grow over the course of its long existence. Other monuments have been added to the legend such as a pagoda at Cape Negrais, the Sule Pagoda, and the Botataung, the last monument to join the myth. Although most Burmese are unfamiliar with the exact details of the myth, their belief in the relic’s sanctity is enough. In addition, the Shwedagon has also been the site of numerous important moments in Burma’s history, such as the demand for freedom in the colonial era. Thus, not only does the site have religious and cultural significance, it is also “a symbol of modern Burma.”