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Myanmar marks 2600 anniversary of Shwedagon Pagoda

(Xinhua)

15:22, February 22, 2012

YANGON, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar held a grand religious ceremony to mark the 2600th anniversary of its world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon Wednesday, gathering thousands of Buddhist monks, nuns and lay persons as well as Buddhist devotees.

Myanmar Minister of Religious Affairs U Myint Maung and Yangon Region Chief Minister U Myint Swe and the region's Social Affairs Minister Dr. Myint Thein attended the ceremony.

Visiting Chinese Buddhist delegation comprising senior monks led by Master Ming Sheng, Vice-President of the Buddhist Association of China, and Deputy Director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs of China Zhang Lebin also joined the ceremony, representing the sole foreign Buddhist delegation which witnessed the major religious event.

The ceremony was inaugurated by lighting four large candles decorated with Myanmar traditional arts and crafts.

In accordance with Buddhist practice and national characteristics, the ceremony took place with procession of carrying 28 Buddha images, offering alms, cash and kinds to the Buddhist monks and nuns and reciting Buddha's teachings.

The pagoda, enshrined with Buddha hair relics, was first built in about 588 BC. It was only 20-meter high when it was first built and was maintained by successive Myanmar dynasties during the 2600 years, attaining the present height and shape by two major renovations in 1453 by Queen Shin Saw Pu and in 1774 by King Hsin Phyu Shin.

By the beginning of the 16th century the pagoda became the most famous place of pilgrimage in Myanmar.

According to the statistics of the Board of Trustees of the pagoda, a total of 136,579 tourists had visited the pagoda from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30 this year, up more than 40 percent correspondingly.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is not only the religious center of Yangon, but it is also the cultural and spiritual heart of Myanmar itself. Buddhists come on pilgrimages from all over the country to this historic site, to venerate the Buddha and to breathe in the meditative spirit of this sacred shrine, and visitors are enchanted by its shining golden beauty.

Of Myanmar's 60 million's population, over 80 percent believe in Buddhism, deeply influencing its politics, society and culture.

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