The Botataung Pagoda on the banks of the river in downtown Yangon is one of the city’s most highly revered temples. The 40 meter high golden pagoda enshrines a sacred hair relic of the Buddha.
The Botataung Pagoda, also spelled Botahtaung Pagoda was built some 2,500 years ago by the Mon people. In the second World War the pagoda was destroyed during an airforce bombing mission aimed at the nearby docks. Rebuilding started in 1948 following the original design.
In the center of the tiled platform stands the main stupa surrounded by a a number of smaller stupas. The main stupa is the unique feature of the Botataung monastery; it enshrines the sacred Buddha relic and it is hollow and open to the public.
Seated on a high pedestal in a very ornate pavilion is the Royal Palace Bronze Buddha image. The image that was cast in 1859 by order of King Mindon was taken to Britain during the colonial years and returned to Burma a few years after gaining independence.
Name of the Botataung Pagoda
Botataung means 1,000 military leaders. This name was derived from an event that took place more than 2,000 years ago when eight hair relics from the Buddha were brought over to Yangon from India.
When the relics arrived, a guard of honour of 1,000 military leaders was formed to pay respect to the relics. The eight hair relics were enshrined in the pagoda, later to be distributed to other pagodas, with only one remaining in the Botataung Pagoda.
The main stupa with the Buddha relic
The main stupa is the most unique feature of the Botataung Pagoda. While almost all stupas are solid and closed to the public, this stupa is hollow and people can walk through it. Following a walkway with glass mosaic walls the visitors will see several chambers that contain glass showcases containing ancient artifacts including some very old Buddha images that were discovered in the stupa after it was destroyed in 1943.
One chamber of which all walls and the ceiling are covered with gold contains the sacred Buddha relic. The relic is enshrined and exhibited in an ivory shrine studded and decorated with gold, diamonds and precious jewels.
Discovery of the ancient relic chamber
In 1943 the Botataung Pagoda was mostly destroyed by air force bombings. During the rebuilding that started in 1948 a relic chamber was discovered. Inside the chamber was a stone casket encircled by Nat (spirit) figures standing guard. When the casket was opened, a wealth of ancient artifacts was found within it, including images of gold and silver, precious stones and plaques with Buddhist depictions. On the back of one of the plaques depicting the Buddha is a text inscribed in Mon language.
A miniature pagoda made of pure gold was found within a second casket. Under the gold pagoda was a very small cylindrical shaped gold object that contained one hair and two tiny body relics, believed to be from the Buddha.
The Nat pavilion
The Nat pavilion holds an almost life size image of Bo Bo Gyi, who is believed to be the Nat spirit guarding the pagoda. Bo Bo Gyi is depicted as an old man wearing very colorful clothing.
Nat worshipping still plays an important role in present day Burma and has over the course of the centuries merged with Buddhism. The Nat pavilion is located at the end of an intricately decorated bridge crossing a pond. The pond is full of turtles and fish waiting to be fed.
How to get to the Botataung Pagoda
The pagoda is located in the Southern part of Yangon on Strand road in Botataung township. It faces the Yangon river with the Botataung Jetty.
A taxi from downtown Yangon to the Botataung Pagoda should cost between US$ 3 and 5.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The pagoda opens daily from 6 am until 10 pm. Entrance fee is US$ 2 per person, camera fee is US$ 1. As in any Burmese temple, please remove shoes and socks before entering the temple.