The Sule Paya is a small pagoda located in the center of Yangon. The pagoda, known in Burmese as the Kyaik Athok Zedi, is surrounded by busy streets, a market and colonial era buildings like the Supreme court building and Yangon city hall.
According to legend the pagoda was built during the lifetime of the Gautama Buddha, about 2,500 years ago. The pagoda was much smaller at the time. It has been renovated and enlarged several times by later Kings. The paya reached its present height when it was renovated halfway the 15th century.
Named after the Sule Nat
The Sule pagoda is named after Sularata, the Sule Nat (spirit) who lived at the spot where the pagoda now stands. According to legend Sularata, a Nat millions of years old found the spot where relics of the three reincarnations of the Buddha were buried, and the location where the Shwedagon pagoda was to be build some 2,500 years ago. Nat spirits have been worshipped for centuries in Burma, even before the arrival of Buddhism.
The Sule is much less visited than the better known Shwedagon.
Octagonal golden pagoda
The Sule’s golden Mon style pagoda measures 44 meters high. Unusual in its design is its octagonal shape, that continues all the way up to the spire. The pagoda is topped with a hti, a multi tiered ornamental element shaped as an umbrella. The Sule Paya is highly revered because it enshrines a hair relic of the Buddha. A steady flow of Burmese devotees make merit and bring offerings.
Other structures on the grounds
Around the pagoda is a circular structure housing small shops where services as astrology and palmistry are offered. Four entrances topped with multi tiered Pyatthat roofs provide access to the Sule grounds. Shrines around the pagoda house images of the Buddha, bronze bells are rung by Buddhist devotees making merit.
Several depictions of a Hintha bird, the symbol of Bago, can be found on the temple grounds. One of the mythological birds with a miniature pagoda on its back sits on top of a pole in a lotus flower, another one with a shrine on its back hangs down from a steel cable. Several images of Nat spirits are found on the Sule grounds. Nat spirits have been worshipped in Burma for centuries, the most important ones live on Mount Popa.
How to get to the Sule Pagoda
The pagoda is located in the center of Yangon about halfway between the central railway station and the Yangon river. It is found in the center of a roundabout on the junction of Sule road and Maha Bandula road.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The Sule Paya opens daily from 6 am until 10 pm. Entrance fee is US$ 3 per person. Near the pagoda’s entrance visitors shoes are put on shelves before entering the grounds. Foreign visitors are requested to make a donation in the range of 500 to 1,000 Kyat. A guide can be hired who explains about the pagoda’s history and Buddhist belief and rituals. The rate is about US$ 5 to US$ 10 depending on bargaining efforts.