By Zaw Min Latt
Of the 615,940 foreign pilgrims to the Shwedagon Pagoda in 2016, Thai nationals were the most numerous, according to the office of the board of trusteeship of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
In 2017, 78,054 overseas pilgrims visited the pagoda in January, 77,062 in February, 64,005 in March, 40,789 in April and 36,674 in May.
An admission fee of Ks8000 is collected from each foreign visitor.
With the aim of allowing visitors to comfortably pay pilgrimage to the pagoda, terrazzo plates are being replaced on the platform around the pagoda, with shade trees planted for greening the Singuttara hillock.
For added security at the pagoda, it has been learnt that taking candid photos and film shooting by drones are strictly prohibited in the vicinity of Shwedagon Pagoda.
The Shwedagon Pagoda, which enshrines four sacred relics of Lord Buddha, was built by King Okkalapa on the Singuttara hillock some 2,600 years ago.
The staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and strands of hair from the head of Gautama Buddha were enshrined in the pagoda on the full moon day of Tabaung month 103 ME, by King Okkalapa, Taphussa & Bhallika two brothers and the people in a holy ceremony.
Later, consecutive kings of Okkalapa dynasty renovated the pagoda, which resulted in its present height of 326 feet, most of it gilded with gold leaf.
Religious ceremonies are held at the pagoda in their respective month, like Abhidhamma Holy Day and Lighting Festival in Thadingyut, the Tazaungdine Festival and the robe weaving festival in Tazaungmone, recitation by monks and the awarding ceremony for outstanding monks, Ovadapatimauk Holy Day and the competition for cooking the best delicious glutinous rice.