Shwesandaw Paya

The most obvious attraction in Pyay itself is the hilltop Shwesandaw Paya, which has a stupa built on the same scale as Yangon’s Shwedagon. Said to contain strands of the Buddha’s hair and also a tooth (the latter is in a golden bell, revealed just once a year for the November full moon festival), it’s a major destination for pilgrims. Bagan’s most famous sunset-viewing spot, the Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to the circular stupa top, with good 360-degree views. It’s located roughly midway between Thatbyinnyu and Dhammayangyi. Its top terrace is roomy, which is just as well, considering the numbers of camera-toting travellers coming by taxi or bus before sunset. If you go during the day, you’ll likely be alone, making it a good spot for temple panoramas. Shwesandaw means ‘golden holy hair’: legend has it that the stupa enshrines a Buddha hair relic presented to King Anawrahta by the King of Ussa Bago (Pegu) in thanks for his assistance in repelling an invasion by the Khmers. The terraces once bore terracotta plaques showing scenes from the Jataka but traces of these, and of other sculptures, were covered by rather heavy-handed renovations. The now-gilded zedi bell rises from two octagonal bases, which top the five square terraces. This was the first Bagan monument to feature stairways leading from the square terraces to the round base of the stupa. The hti , which was toppled by the 1975 earthquake, can still be seen lying on the south side of the paya compound. A new one was fitted soon after the quake. About 500 feet north stands Lawkahteikpan Pahto, a small but interesting middle-period gu containing excellent frescoes and inscriptions in both Burmese and Mon.

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