Bawbawgyi Pagoda is one of the earliest existing examples of a Burmese pagoda.

Burmese pagodas are stupas that typically house Buddhist relics, including relics associated with Buddha.[1] Pagodas feature prominently in Myanmar's landscape, earning the country the moniker "land of pagodas."[2] According to 2016 statistics compiled by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, Myanmar is home to 1,479 pagodas exceeding 27 feet (8.2 m) in height, a quarter of which are located in Sagaing Region.[3] Several cities in the country, including Mandalay and Bagan, are known for their abundance of pagodas. Pagodas are the site of seasonal pagoda festivals.[4]

Burmese pagodas are enclosed in a compound known as the aran (အာရာမ်, from Pali ārāma), with gateways called mok (မုခ်, from Pali mukha) at the four cardinal directions. The platform surrounding a Burmese pagoda is called a yinbyin (ရင်ပြင်).


Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is Myanmar's most prominent zedi.
Ananda Temple in Bagan is a classic example of a pahto.

In the Burmese language, pagodas are known by a number of various terms. The umbrella term phaya (ဘုရား, pronounced [pʰəjá]), which derives from Sanskrit vara,[5] refers to pagodas, images of the Buddha, as well as royal and religious personages, including the Buddha, kings, and monks.[6] Zedi or jedi[7] (စေတီ), which derives from Pali cetiya, specifically refers to typically solid, bell-shaped stupas that may house relics.[8] Pahto (ပုထိုး) refers to hollow square or rectangular buildings built to resemble caves, with chambers that house images of the Buddha.[1][8] Burmese pagodas are distinguished from kyaungs in that the latter are monasteries that house Buddhist monks.


Burmese zedis are classified into four prevalent types:

  1. Datu zedi (ဓာတုစေတီ, from Pali dhātucetiya) or datdaw zedi (ဓာတ်တော်စေတီ) - zedis enshrining relics of the Buddha or arhats[9]
  2. Paribawga zedi (ပရိဘောဂစေတီ, from Pali paribhogacetiya) - zedis enshrining garments and other items (alms bowls, robes, etc.) that belonged to the Buddha or sacred personages[9]
  3. Dhamma zedi (ဓမ္မစေတီ, from Pali dhammacetiya) - zedis enshrining sacred texts and manuscripts, along with jewels and precious metals[9]
  4. Odeiktha zedi (ဥဒ္ဒိဿစေတီ, from Pali uddissacetiya) - zedis built from motives of piety, containing statues of the Buddha, models of sacred images[9]

Of the four classes, dhammazedis and udeikthazedis are the most prevalent, since they are routinely erected by donors as a work of merit.[9] Burmese zedis are typically constructed with bricks, covered with whitewashed stucco.[9] Prominent zedis are gilded with gold.[9] Burmese zedis are crowned with a spired final ornament known as the hti, which is hoisted in a traditional ceremony (ထီးတော်တင်ပွဲ, htidaw tin pwe) that dates to the pre-colonial era.[10][11]

See also


  1. ^ a b Seekins, Donald M. (2006). Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810864863.
  2. ^ Thurber, Robert Bruce (1921). In the Land of Pagodas. Southern Pub. Association.
  3. ^ "The Account of Pagodas and Stupas which are over 27 feet height". The State Samgha Maha Nayaka Committee. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  4. ^ Thurber, Robert Bruce (1921). In the Land of Pagodas. Southern Pub. Association.
  5. ^ Myanmar-English Dictionary. Myanmar Language Commission. 1993. ISBN 1-881265-47-1.
  6. ^ Suan, Pau, Cope (2015). "Reflecting the Missio - Logoi of the First Overseas American Missionary". Papers. 1.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Robert E. Buswell and Donald S. Lopez, eds., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 2014), s.v. "jedi (zedi)".
  8. ^ a b Reid, Robert; Grosberg, Michael (2005). Myanmar (Burma). Lonely Planet. ISBN 9781740596954.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Hardiman, John Percy (1900). Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States. Superintendent, Government printing, Burma.
  10. ^ Scott, James George (1910). The Burman, his life and notions. London Macmillan.
  11. ^ Langfield, Michele; Logan, William; Craith, Mairead Nic (2009). Cultural Diversity, Heritage and Human Rights: Intersections in Theory and Practice. Routledge. ISBN 9781135190705.