Over 2,000 years ago, hair relics of Buddha came from India to Myanmar and a mass of people headed by a thousand officers of guard received them with reverence. Thus the pagoda was named Botahtaung (thousand officers of the guard).
The pagoda was originally built by Mon people. “Kyaik Dae Up” is the pagoda’s Mon name. “Kyaik” means Pagoda and “Dae Up” means to deliver. The pagoda was renovated from time to time. Renovation by Crown prince Sin Phyu Shin of Hantharwady period and Yangon Governor U Khine of Konbaung period are recorded. During WWII, the bombing of royal airforce of Britain totally destroyed the pagoda and reconstructed in 1948 after independence. It has a height of 40 meters.
At one higher place of pagoda’s platform has a glamorous exhibition area occupied by the bronze Image of Buddha. In 1859, by the royal order of King Mindon of Konbaung Dynasty, the gilded bronze image of the Buddha was cast in the Mandalay Palace. The image was made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and lead in different proportions. Inside the Buddha’s image, King Mindon enshrined sacred relics, consecrated and kept the image in the royal glass palace to pay homage by the royal family. This image of Buddha later came to be known as the Royal Palace Bronze Image.
In 1885, the British won 3rd Anglo-Burmese war and captured the Mandalay Palace. King Thibaw, Queen Supayalat, and two infant daughters, the last Myanmar monarch, were exiled to Ratnagiri, India. The Image of Buddha was taken by the British and shipped to England. On 4th January 1948, Myanmar regained independence from the British and the Myanmar government requested for the return of all the royal possessions taken from the Mandalay royal palace.
In England, the bronze image was exhibited at the Victoria and the Albert Museum for almost 66 years. It was returned from Britain and finally reached Myanmar on the 17th June 1951. After residing in the temporary shrine, the royal palace bronze image was transferred to this newly built glass paneled shrine on the 16th of May 1981.
Myanmar; as the nation has been known throughout history, is one of the major countries following Buddhism. Meanwhile, some also believe and pray worship to God and Nats along together. The Botataung Pagoda is the religious place where incorporates those two religious beliefs. Both religious faith and worship of the gods.
Furthermore, inside the Botataung Pagoda, there is the Bo Bo Gyi; or Thep Than Jai (Speedy god) known to Thais, is the great grandfather spirit. The Nat pavilion holds an image of Bo Bo Gyi who is believed to be the Nat spirit guarding the pagoda. The Bo Bo Gyi Nat is believed to quickly fulfill everything you wish for. Nat worshipping still plays a great role until the recent day in some part of Myanmar.
Traditionally, the pilgrims will prepare for coconut and red banana; as first offering fruit, for being offering gifts to the Bo Bo Gyi. The pilgrims or the visitors can buy it from the vendors before entering the pavilion.
For more details related to Botahtaung pagoda, please visit the post “The many splendoured Botahtaung Pagoda by Khin Aung (English)“