Scholars opine that the name Shwezigon is derived from “Zeyabon”, In a poem on “Nine Wonders of Shwezigon” composed by Inwa Mingyi, Shwezigon Pagoda is mentioned as “Zeyakon”. In line 16 of the inscription on the bell which King Bayint Naung dedicated to Shwezigon Pagoda it is mentioned as “Zeyabon”. It was King Anawrahta who began building Shwezigon Pagoda. In the sakarit year 452 (ie. AD 1090) his son King Kyanzittha enclosed it with stone bricks hewn at the Tuyin Taung quarries. Some say that King Anawrahta left it unfinished and it was King Kyanzittha who completed it. There are 43 enclosed pagodas in Bagan of which Shwezigon Pagoda is one. A close study of Shwezigon structure will show us that from the base to the upper section of the bellshaped dome where the motifs of down-turned and up turned lotus petals adorn, the whole body is built of stone bricks, it is said that on the site of present Nan Gyi Kon, was set up a royal residence where King Kyanzittha stayed to supervise the transportation of stone bricks by hand from the Tu Yin Taung quarries to the construction site. Nan Gyi Kon is one of well known historical sites in Bagan on the south of Shwezigon Pagoda. In architecture Shwezigon is a prototype of Myanmar Zedi. There are several plaques adorning its terraces. They are glazed stone plaques on which scenes from 550 Jatakas (Buddha’s birth stories) are depicted. The colour of glaze is mostly green.
The Nine Wonders of Shwezigon Pagoda
- The Hti (umbrella) on the top has no iron buttresses,
- The shadows of the enclosure walls do not change position.
- Papers holding gold foils are dropped from the height of the Pagoda after gilding, but they never land outside the precinct.
- The precinct can accommodate any number of visitors and pilgrims.
- There is always an early morning offering of steamed rice to the Pagoda.
- The sound of the beating of a big drum on one side of the Pagoda cannot be heard on the other side.
- The Pagoda gives you an illusion of it being on a ridge.
- Regardless of heavy rainfall, no rain water remains in its compound, and
- The Khayey trees and Chayar trees in the precinct bloom all the year round.
There are four image houses called “Kyey Gu Taik,”each on one side of the Pagoda. In the eastern house is the statue of Konagamana Buddha, in the western house is the statue of Gotama Buddha, in the northern house is the statue of Kakusanda Buddha, and in the southern house is the statue of Kassapa Buddha. These Buddha statues were cast in alloy and heavily gilt. On either side of the eastern causeway is an inscribed stone slab recording the biography of King Kyanzittha and political,economic and cultureal conditions of the time. The inscription is composed in old Mon language. Originally there was an inner enclosure wall built of wooden posts and bars. There were four arched entrances in the inner enclosure wall, facing four cardinal directions. Two zedis at each entrance, big iron rings fixed on them and stone bars at the entrances survive till to day. On either side of the inner wall, leaning against the entrance zedis are two Dwarapala figures each on one side, representing the guardian deities. On either side of the arched entrance of the outer enclosure wall are a pair of Dwarapala devas figures and a pair of lion figures each sculpted out of a monolithic. On both sides of the southern arched entrance are found stone figures of ten handed deva, Naya and Lion. Orginally there were four Panet The Gus, each at one corner of the precinct. Now only two remain, one at the north east corner and the other at the north west corner. Panet The Gus are brick spires. There is a large wooden doorleaf on display in the Pagoda museum. It is one of the original 8 wooden door leaves from the entrances of the inner wooden enclosure wall. Fortunately at least one door leaf survives. It is over nine centuries old. On it are carvings of musicians, dancers, floral designs, and patterns artistically executed. Another art work of Bagan period is a wooden statue of Bodaw Thagya (Sakka deva) at the shrine of 37 Nat spirits in the southeast corner. On the sides of the eastern entrance are a bronze bell cast and dedicated by U Myat Baw the governor of Bagan and a big bronze bell of about 2000 viss and a smaller bronze bell cast in the sakarit year 919. (i.e A.D. 1557). The incriptions on these bells of 1557 tell us that they were cast and dedicated to Shwezigon Pagoda by King Bayint Nyuang of Hamthawaddy Kingdom and that he gilt Shwezigon Pagoda from the base to the top.