Rangoon. The South Entrance to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda
Photographer: Bourne and Shepherd
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the south entrance to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Rangoon, taken by Bourne & Shepherd in the 1870s. This is the main entrance to the Shwe Dagon, Burma's most revered Buddhist shrine, and is located on top of Singuttara Hill in north Rangoon. The earliest shrine on this spot dates to somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries, but in this earthquake prone area, the pagoda has been rebuilt numerous times and the complex in its current form dates to 1769. Steps lead up to a wide archway crowned by three spires known as pyat-thats. The arch is decorated with foliate carving and is surrounded by a heavenly landscape populated by figures from the Burmese pantheon of territorial spirits known as nats. Two bilus or ogres guard the entrance on either side of the steps. The two outer spires have niches containing statues of the Buddha, and the central spire is decorated with peacocks, which are symbolic of the sun. Beyond the archway a covered flight of steps leads up to the pagoda platform on Singuttara Hill.