Brooms lay ready on the temple floor of Shwedagon Paya, Yangon, for the daily temple sweeping event, a partly symbolic action that realises Buddhist teaching of giving, and partly accumulation of kutho (merit) being carried over into next lives.

 

Being the most sacred place for the Myanmar Buddhists, the Shwedagon Paya is ornamented with tons of gold, thousands of diamonds, rubies and other gem stones. Even the colonists were deeply impressed by this quintessence of the Burmese Buddhist architecture, as Rudyard Kipling described in his 1889 Letter from the East: "Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon - a beautiful, winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu Temple spire... The golden dome said, 'This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land that one knows about...". And Somerset Maugham expressed similar impression in his 1930 The Gentlemen in the Parlour: "The Shwedagon rose superb, glistening with its gold, like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul of which the mystics write, glistening against the fog and smoke of the thriving city...".

 

With ninety percent Buddhist population, Myanmar is perhaps the most devout Buddhist country remaining in the world. Worshipping in payas regularly is an integral part of daily life. Here, a group of women pilgrims from the outer province finally reached the top of the Mandalay Hill and was ready for their worship.

 

Also at the top of the Mandalay Hill, as part of the ritual during the visit of a paya, a young woman poured water over a Buddha figurine at her own astrological post determined by the day of the week of her birthday. Her age was revealed by the number of cup she poured.

 

At a deserted ruin in Innwa, a Buddha statue receives a small bouquet of fresh flowers from an unknown devotee.

 

Offerings of paper flowers at a shrine in Shwedagon Paya.