National Geographic : 1971 Mar
Devotion embellishes Burma's golden glory M AJESTIC Shwe Dagon thrusts its gilded spire 326 feet above a cluster of smaller shrines. Tiny human figures at far right show the scale of Rangoon's mammoth pagoda. Reputedly begun during Buddha's lifetime 2,500 years ago to enshrine eight hairs of his head, Shwe Dagon grew with the efforts of successive Burmese monarchs. In 1900 a cam paign began to sheathe it with solid gold. As pilgrims bring offerings, Shwe Dagon smiths form them in to foot-square 1/16-inch-thick plates; already the armor envelops the 33 foot section patterned after a lotus flower (right). Gaining merit, a girl washes one of Shwe Dagon's many Buddhas with water purchased for the ritual.