Myanmar Pagodas and Temples

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Myanmar Pagoda & Myanmar Temples


Myanmar Pagodas and Buddhist temples are more or less a synonym of the country, 'The Land of Pagodas'. They are present everywhere; in cities and towns, villages and hamlets, on the banks and sometimes right in rivers and seas. A oriental structure like this represents the deep dedication to Buddhism as you can see at the pictures below and elsewhere in our website. Sometimes people create one for the garden but this is mainly for decorative purposes.

The most beautiful Myanmar style pagoda abroad is at Penang Georgetown in Malaysia.

Perched atop hills and mountains, in forests and glades, beside highways and byways, gleaming golden or glinting white in the sunlight and symbolizing the firm faith in Theravada Buddhism of 80% of its inhabitants. It is almost always a golden, yellow or white shrine.

A Burmese pagoda is built and renovated

to gain merit and / or it needs a repair, in particular after the heavy monsoon floods. Sometimes a building collapses, but this don't happen often since the architecture is in a way that there is no hollow space inside. A zedi is a solid structure, this is similar with big and small, actually always look more or less in the same

way, it wont matter which country it is. The main difference is mostly the environ, sometimes a whole small village is built around, as it is with the Shwedagon Pagoda and sometimes the structure is isolated on top of a hill. They are even built into the river, a example is the Kyauktan Pagoda on the way from Yangon to Syriam.

Ancient Pagodas, are plenty not only in Bagan. They are in various forms and conditions, some are renovated, some are in decay, some await a donor to get them up again. Only in recent years people are spending a bit more money to get this beautiful monuments in a better shape.

But only the vary famous are getting covered by gold leaves. But the times where people spend lavishly on donations and valuables to be enshrined are over or at least on a lesser level as some hundred years ago.


Famous shrines are throughout the country, either they are highly venerated on a local or national level. Some of the most venerated are the Kyaiktiyo, the Mahamuni, Shwedagon, Shwemawdaw, Thambuddhe, Shite-thaung pagoda and temples and more. On top of this individual people have their own favorite and special ones are those who are said to be able to perform miracles under certain conditions. Yes this is no yoke, one of the very special on this subject is on the Shwedagon Platform, the so called "wish fulfilling" shrine and another smaller one is at the Kyaiktiyo platform.


Yangon has probably the most popular Buddha shrine in the country, that's the Shwedagon. This massive structure dominated the skyline of the city and is the destination for thousands of pilgrims who come from all over the world to pray.

On festival days it gets very busy ever year when thousand of peoples come to the platform dressed in their best clothes show their dedication to Buddhism. The place is also often used for novitiation ceremonies throughout the year when the boys get their first official encounter with the religion, read more.


Bagan is for sure the top pagoda and temple city in the world with over around 2000 monuments still standing is this ancient city a incredible monument of the past glory.

Very interesting is the combination with the Irrawaddy which creates beautiful panoramas nowhere else to be found, here is how and why the monuments are built

This is in the "Dry Zone" of the country right in the center. The term dry zone is somehow strange since there is enough water because of the river but nobody use it, read more.


Mandalay is the second biggest city and has plenty of religious monuments notable the Mahamuni and the shrines at the other side of the river. This is a rather new city, this was the place where the last kings of Burma resided.

The last one was exiled by the British colonialists into India, lots of history happen happen here and its is still very visible since that time. Only a few important structures where destroyed during WW2, the most important was the Mandalay Palace, the last residence of the king.


Sagaing at the opposite side of the Irrawaddy is a real sanctuary of Buddhism. There are dozens of pretty and spectacular pagodas and temples, at the riverbanks, on the hills, in the valleys and wherever often placed on particular places to make them and the surrounding optically very attractive.

This is also the area with most of the meditation centers, some in monasteries. Actually the here and at Mandalay together is probably the highest density of monasteries in the world. They still have a important function in every day life. 

  Mingun is a bit to the north and is usually approached by the ferry boat. There is one of the most famous structure the "Mingun Pagoda" which was never finished and finally destroyed by an earthquake.

It was planed to built a unique monument but the king run out of cash because he was to busy with his warfare to subdue other rules.

The only where he was really productive and brought things to an end was in making children, he had over 120 produced with his harem. Must have been a very busy guy with plenty of primary and lesser wives.


Monywa is west of Saging and home of one of the most remarkable sacral structure in the country, the Thambuddhe. This Buddha shrine is remarkable in size and unique in architecture, it reminds a bit to Borobudur in Indonesia. Close by are the Powintaung cave temples a unique assembly of caves with thousands of Buddha statues.

Not far away is Alaungdaw Kathapa the most popular wildlife resort and National Park in the country. This whole area is ideal for some daytrips from Mandalay since it is only about 120km away, but the road is not so good.


Pyay or Pyu, this is one of the oldest civilization of the country and several culture peaks over the hundreds of years. The city is also at the banks of the Irrawaddy and behind. A great daytrip from Yangon because the road is quite good which is not usual in the country. There are several very old and rather new pagodas made from brick. A very interesting museum with plenty of old artifacts show what was on in the past.

If you ever make a trip there take a guide with since everything is difficult to find and it's highly invested by snakes such as cobras, banded craft and other extremely poisonous reptiles.


Around Inle Lake are myriads of Buddha shrines probably the most interesting are at Sagar at the southern outflow of the lake.

There is a real old "Pagoda Field" with myriads of smaller structures. What makes this place also unique are the statues and reliefs, they are very artistically crated. Most are overgrown by the tropical vegetation which gives the whole a mysterious aura.

Shan people come here to pray and groups of women even come from further away on a prilgrim tour.


Bago is only a bit over 100km east of Yangon and some remarkable shines are in the city and vicinity. Here is the tallest pagoda in the country and some Buddha monuments of large size.

The tallest is the Shwemawdaw and the Buddha statues are Shwethalyaung and Kyaikpun they are a bit set off the road just before arriving to the city.

Actually this are precincts with their own infrastructure, plenty of people and a mystic aura. It's always amazing what the Myanmar build over the centuries to gain merit for the next life because this is what it is about.


Mrauk U is one of the three remarkable monument cities in the country. The building technique, materials and shapes are a bit different but they are genuine.

Really amazing are two of them, this is the  Shite-thaung which look a bit similar to Borobudur and Htukkant Thein which is also a huge ordination hall. This whole area close to Bangladesh also has a beautiful landscape but in recent years it gets a bit unpleasant because  virtual tsunami of illegal immigrants from across the border steer up trouble in the the border area. They run away from the natural disaster they have crated because of overpopulation.


Stupas and pagodas symbolize the faith and compassion of the Burmese people in Buddhism, it’s the way of life, the philosophy, culture and influencing strongly the everyday life.

This sacral buildings are prominent points everywhere in the country, religious buildings were created to replicate parts of the Hindu Buddhist cosmos to support harmony between the gods and people.

At the centre of the Buddhist Universe is Mount Meru, Myinmo in Myanmar language. At different heights of Mount Meru heavens are interpreted where celestials dwell. Sun, moon, stars, and planets are also abode of celestials.

at Bagan
Burmese Pagoda modeled after Mount Meru at Mingun
modeled after Mount Meru at Mingun

Around Mount Meru

are seven concentric mountain chains separated by seven seas. Beyond the mountains is the ocean with four continents facing the cardinal points of Mount Meru.

Most structural and decorative parts of religious architecture has symbolic meaning. The main ones can be considered a symbol of Mount Meru, home of the gods and centre of the Universe. Covered walkways and stairs leading to the pagoda platform also serve to remind the devotee that they are leaving the earth for a higher plane. Enclosures and passageways skirting the main Buddhist shrine represent the 

encircling ranges of Mount Meru. At the very top is the umbrella (hti) the symbol of royalty and the pagoda orb containing donations in form of jewelry and precious stones plus gold.

Atop is a vane, along with small tinkling bells, at the platform are strange animals plus guardians and other sculptures, they protect and welcome the faithful by terrifying evil doers and repelling bad forces. Planetary posts surmounted by animals representing the days of the week and a person may worship according to the day on which he or she was born.

At larger platforms such as the Shwedagon there are many additional shrines at the cardinal directions with incense, flowers, some rest-houses, praying halls etc. for the convenience of worshippers. Bells and gongs of all sizes, umbrellas, flowers, and

Shwedagon pagoda orb

prayer posts are set around the pagodas by the faithful to gain merit. The top reward to gain merit is the construction of a pagoda or temple.

A Buddhist shrine is regular visited, this is part of local living.

This are also centers of social and cultural activities and in the walkways to the platforms are plenty of shops selling flowers and various souvenirs. For many people the annual festival is the top event in the year, accompanied with merriment and simply to have fun and a good time. It is an opportunity for people to meet and buy goods at the market which is held at every festival, presents are given to monks and money to repair.

Buddhist Shrine
Buddhist Shrine in the north
Buddhist Shrine
Buddhist Shrine in the south
at Yangon
At Yangon's creekside
at Sagar Inle Lake
At Sagar in Inle Lake Shan State

Temple Cross Section Myanmar - Burma
Temple Cross Section and Layout

Temple Layout

The temple layout has its origins in the caves used by Buddhists of the very early days in India, the local word is  gu, or cave.

The hollow structure of a temple allows the visitor to enter. With the time and the emergence of different building techniques the layout grew more sophisticated spreading out into chambers and passageways.


Pagoda or Stupa Cross Section
Pagoda or Stupa Cross Section and Layout 
Pagoda or Stupa Layout

The layout are solid structures, the layout is usually square or five sided. Enshrined are sacred relics or a particular potent image or figure, scriptures and / or precious items.

The structure is terraced, three or five times, with a bell shaped top. This indicate the slopes of the cosmic mountain Mt. Meru, the abode of Hindu gods.

The stupa is a symbol of the Buddha and naturally functions as a protective structure for the relicts.

Opposite the northern entrance on the banks of a small lake is the world peace pagoda, a very idyllic picture,
Myanmar pagodas and temples are always
eye catching because of their dominant shape.

The Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon is probably the most famous Buddhist Shrine in the country.

Shwedagon Pagoda Platform

  Shwedagon Pagoda

The structure is around 2000 years old. What is visible today is the result of a 2000 evolution process of expanding, destruction (earthquake) and renovation.

The purpose was to build a home to enshrine eight hairs of the Buddha brought to Myanmar by two merchant brothers long time ago. Today this sacred structure is 107m high and covered with more than 70 tons of gold in form of plates and leafs. The very top or hti houses the “diamond orb” with donations.

Buddha Shrine
Shwedagon Pagoda Diamond Orb Pagoda Diamond Orb Sitting Buddha Washing Buddha Sculpture      
Enshrined Donations
Enshrined donations
old picture showing the place in 19th. Century
Old picture showing the place in 19th. Century
The pagoda platform today
and the platform today
Shwedagon Pagoda Platform Shwedagon Pagoda Platform Shwedagon Pagoda Platform  
Shwedagon Top
The top
The Hti
the Hti
Pagoda Festival
and the Festival

The zedi is the rudiment

of the original four-square temples, it consists of a pyramidal or polygonal base (panat-chi), with niches (hlaing-gu) for images of the Buddha. It is represented in all stages of its decrement.

Above the base come tapering courses (pyissagan), after these the bell-shaped body of the upper pagoda (kaunglaung separated by three mouldings (kyo-waing) from the thabeit-hmauk (inverted alms-bowl).

Then follow seven heavy bead-rolls (pung kun-hnillon) surmounted by the lotus (kyd-lan, salaung-bon), out of which issues the bulb (ngapyaw-bu, pein-hne-daung). Several Buddha sculptures and images are always there.

The canopy (umbrella) oft a Burmese pagoda is a metal construction of graduated bands one above the other, richly embossed and ornamented. To the lower edges of these bands small bells are hung, which have vanes to their clappers to make them tinkle in the wind. This terminates in a long finial bearing a vane (hngemmana) and at the apex a silver orb studded with, jewels (seimbu).

On a lesser Buddhist shrine a glass ball or bottle caps the finial.

The tic is always gilt, the cone generally whitewashed. In wealthy towns the cone of the Paya-dyi is gilt from crown to platform (tamanthalin).

Unlike the ancient temples with their stairs and corridors,  the later zedi - pagoda- is a solid mass of brick and earth, plastered over.

The summit is inaccessible, except by means of scaffolding. Zedi arc commonly spoken of as Paya, in the same way as are the images of the Buddha, for which the distinctive term is sindu. kyaung.

In addition to the zedi there are three other classes of religious edifices the tazaung, wut, and zayat. All these may be decorated in the palatial style and are mostly of wood. But a public well or a roadside water-stand, the portal of a bridge or a wharf, may likewise be surmounted by the royal pyatthat in virtue of the religious distinction which attaches to every work dedicated to public use by private bounty.

The temple zayat is intended for sojourners in the precincts on duty days. The wut differs from the zayat in having a dais for images of the Buddha. The tazaung is only for the reception of images.

  Here are various Myanmar pagodas and temples

At Yangon

At Mandalay

Lawka Manaung Sutaungpyi Pagoda Myitkyina

Mya Myinzu Pagoda Myitkyina

Mya Zedidaw Pagoda Sagaing

Shinbin Wambeka Pagoda Sagaing

Mashi Khana Pagoda Sagaing

Sintok or Thinzok Pagoda Sagaing

Mount Meru Pagoda Sagaing

Burmese Cave Pagodas at Powintaung











Gubyaukgyi Pagoda Bagan Stone WindowBagan Temple Buddha
Bagan Gubyaukgyi Stone Window                                       at
Buddha temple

Myanmar Temples are in almost every town

Balloons over Bagan
Balloons over Bagans Panorama
Ananda Tempel in the Morning Mist
Ananda Temple in the Morning Mist
Burmese Temple
The Dhammayangyi is a massive structure and one of the most impressive temple.
Bagan Ayeyarwady River Boat and Pagoda
Ayeyarwady River Boat
Burmese Temples Bagan
Oxcart, temple and Pagodas
Monk Commuter
Monk Commuter

Burmese Temples are a unique showcase of the country, real eye candy, they visible everywhere, from mountain tops to in the river and more.
Burmese pagoda
At Mingun Mandalay
Related pages

Buddhist Shrines are everywhere in the country as here at the Mount Popa Monastery
Thambuddhe Temple
Thambuddhe Temple at Monywa






































Bagan Thatbyinnyu Temple
Bagan Temples
with the Thatbyinnyu
Burmese Pagoda and Temple Bagan Shrine Golden Dome
Bagan Pagoda
and the golden Dome

When visiting the country there are a couple
of must see, this is: Mount Popa, Pindaya Caves,
Kyaiktiyo, Bagan, Thambuddhe Temple at Monywa,
Mandalay, Inle Lake and Yangon.

Mount Popa is in central Myanmar close to Bagan,
this is an extinct volcano, a monastery and Buddhist
Shrine was built on the top. To get up to the location
at 1500 meters should be included in any Popa trip
but dont start if you are not in a very good physical
condition since the thousands of steep steps are
really challenging.


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