Botataung Pagoda, home to Buddha’s first sacred hair relic

Botataung Pagoda, home to Buddha’s first sacred hair relic

Per Buddhist beliefs, in the 6th century B.C, Buddha was enlightened at the foot of a Bodhi tree in India. On the 49th day after Buddha was enlightened, two trader brothers from what is now known as Yangon, Tapussa and Bhallika, met Buddha and offered honey cakes.

Buddha, knowing that in the future Buddhism would flourish in Myanmar, gave eight strands of his sacred hair to Tapussa and Bhallika. The strands of hair were sent to Yangon by ship, and King Okkalapa took possession of the sacred hair relics following a guard of honour to welcome them.

The hair relics were placed at the site where Botataung Pagoda stands today. The King gave one hair relic to each of the brothers. Tapussa, the elder brother, protected his hair relic and built a pagoda over it. The other hair relics were taken to Theinkothara Hill and enshrined. The famed Shwedagon Pagoda was later built over it.

Over time, Botataung Pagoda became home to three additional strands of Buddha’s hair relics and two body relics.

During World War II, Botataung Pagoda was bombed and ruined. After the war had finished, a rehabilitation committee decided to rebuild the pagoda. During the construction, a relic chamber with a stone case was found. Inside this cone was a tiny gold cylinder containing two small body relics, each the size of mustard seeds, and a sacred hair relic. The construction of the new pagoda was completed in 1953, with an internal cavity that shows the site of the ancient relic chamber.

We visited this pagoda during the Thadingyut Festival (the Lighting Festival of Myanmar), which is a celebration to welcome Buddha’s decent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven.

The pagoda was packed with mostly local tourists, wishing to pay homage to Buddha. Although the site is large, people mostly visit to see the sacred hair and body relics of Buddha. Given they were there to worship Buddha, it was surprising to have multiple people pushing in front of us as we were patiently lined up to visit the internal cavity of the pagoda.

I am glad that we visited Botataung Pagoda, however at a cost of 6,000kyats to enter, I would suggest visiting on a quieter day so you can have a peaceful trip.

Opening Hours Daily  from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Entry Fee 6,000kyat
Location Strand Road, Yangon