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Monthly Photos December 2012

Photos taken by ILCAA staff and associates are posted here once a month; most of them are taken during their field research in Asia and Africa.

(The copyright belongs to the photographers.)

“Shwedagon” in out-country

Whoever has visited Yangon must recognize the image as that of Shwedagon pagoda, an honor of the Buddhists in Myanmar located on Dagon hill, at first sight. But a second look must make the one feel anomalous in the color of the pagoda and its proportion to surrounding small pagodas. In fact the pagoda is not in Yangon but in a suburb of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state far from Yangon. (Compare with the “original” Shwedagon.)

When I was taking a long bike ride after the fieldwork of the day finished earlier than expected, the pagoda in the distance attracted my attention. It seemed a fine appearance, disproportionate in rural area. Guided by the somewhat familiar sight of the pagoda, I reached its entrance. Through the gate where was written the name “Ananda (immeasurable) Thukha (wealth) Shwedagon Datu (relic) Zedi (pagoda)-daw (sacred)”, I came to the pagoda which was just a miniature of Shwedagon. I stared at it incredulously.

According to the inscription describing the history of the pagoda, the parishioners of Khemathiwun monastery school proposed the headmaster Thaddanta Katthapa Wuntha to erect a pagoda in the school land in 1993, and began to collect donations. They continued their efforts to construct the pagoda even after the death of the headmaster, and successfully completed it in 2008. I couldn’t find any description suggesting that the relic of the pagoda was transferred from the original Shwedagon in the inscription.

There is another miniature of Shwedagon in Tachileik of eastern Shan State. That could mean, the farther the honor of the Buddhists are from them, the much stronger they long for being with it. I cannot help but be impressed in the Buddhist’s will which embodies the figure of Shwedagon in such an outlying land.

9 NOV 2011
Rampu ward, Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar
Photograph by Hideo SAWADA

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