Queen Shin Saw Pu
Among Queen Shin Saw Pu’s offerings was a gold statue of her likeness in her own weight, 90 pounds. This petite woman, daughter of the Mon warrior King Rajadarit, is one of the most colorful and overpowering personalities in our history.
She chose to spend her last days within sight of the great pagoda. She had a stockaded residence erected nearby. The remains of an earthwork stockade can be seen today on the open grounds on the west of the pagoda between U Wisara Road and Pyay Road. The place commands a very good view of the great pagoda. It is essentially a reflection of the Buddhist spirit that Queen Shin Saw Pu should choose to end her days near the Great Pagoda. Her eventful life, which included political alliances that made her queen consort four times over, and her being Queen in her own right by sheer historical necessity, ended in peace and tranquility with the Hair Relics glowing and glistening in her dying vision.
So, the great Shwedagon Pagoda stands today looking down on the country’s turbulent history. Like a lotus blossom, it rises above the swamp and mire drinking in the cool crystal waters. It is never apart from human activities and its glory never tarnishes even though once trod by sacrilegious foreign boots and pillaged by thieving hands. It is a source of spiritual strength and it has shared the joys and sorrows of the people throughout centuries.
The 1970 earthquake
It is at the Shwedagon that the best side of human nature manifests itself. When the earthquake of 1970 caused some damage to the hti, the iron spire at the top, people from all corners of the country came forth with voluntary donations so that the necessary repairs could be made. People put pieces of personal jewelry into the receptacle without so much as asking for a receipt – most of the gifts were made anonymously. Most donors were by no means rich, but they gave with incredible generosity, moved by a sense of wonder and of the sublime.
Episodes of the past that live on to this day on the stage and in songs old and new were recalled; many spoke of the time when nats and men filled the Relic chamber with gems when the great pagoda was first built. With the color pictures of the gem-studded hti, the vane, and the orb, in view for the public, the story of the gem-filled Relic Chamber of 2500 years ago was no longer a fantasy. What people now saw with their own eyes left no doubt of what it must have been like in the ancient days, when nats and other beings manifested themselves among men to participate in the good deeds.
Many devotees had stories of their own to tell. A lady who offered her ruby ring told her friends that she was one of the original donors of gifts for the Relic Chamber; she was in her past life, 25 centuries ago, a lady of King Ukkalapa’s court; she had her statue in gold enshrined under the great pagoda, she said.
A man and his wife said that in their past births 2,500 years ago, they were a pair of eloping lovers who had come upon the building of the Relic Chamber. They had nothing to offer except a single ornament, a diadem set with diamonds and done in the figure of a crested lion encircled within the semicircle of a naga serpent figure. Even though it was all they had between them, they were so moved by the sight of the Hair Relics that they offered it to the Relic Chamber. Now in the present life, they offered some pieces of jewelry for the repair of the hti. They said that their idyllic marriage, happiness, and success in life, were the fruit of that deed done in the past.
No-one questions the truth of such stories; because in a society that accepts the cycle of rebirths and the fruits of Karmic deeds, the probability is there. These stories add more sense of wonder and most important all give spiritual strength. There is always hope that one’s good karmic deeds will bear fruit. It is only a matter of patience.