Shwe Zi Gon Pagoda
Under the auspices of Venerable Sayadaw Dr. Ashin Nyanissara (Sitagu Sayadaw) of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy in Myanmar, the construction of Sitagu Shwezigon Pagoda and Dhamma Hall was made possible with the financial generosity and benevolence of many devoted donors from Burma, America and all over the world. Renowned turmese raditional architect U Win Maung traveled to Austin and lived here for several months, along with several skilled craftsmen, to oversee the construction
U Win Maung
Today, at the heart of TDSA and Sitagu Vihara stand a majestic Sitagu Shwezigon Pagoda, Grand Dhamma Hall, Dhamma library, sangha lodges, yogi cottages, stand-alone meditation cottages, and dining hall with full public amenities. Sitagu Shwezigon Pagoda is a close replica of the magnificent and majestic original Shwezigon Pagoda, established by the Burmese King Anuruddha in the ancient city of Bagan, enshrined with Buddha relics and consecrated as a worship center and a seed for the many future generations of Theravada Buddhism to come.
Burma is well-known as a land of pagodas, many of which are world-renowned. Sitagu Sayadaw chose to build Shwezigon Pagoda, rather than of the best-known Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon (Rangoon). The reasons have to do with the historic significance of the Shwezigon:
- Shwezigon Pagoda was an historic milestone in the propagation of Theravada Buddhism initiated by the Burmese King Anuruddha.
- Shwezigon Pagoda is an emblem of the perpetual advancement of Theravada Buddhism and an everlasting edifice of great architectural grandeur.
- The integrity of the original construction has been meticulously preserved and maintained over the passage time and through multiple restorations, nearly 1,000 years, through the Bagan, Pinya, Ava and Konbaung periods to the present time.
- Shwezigon Pagoda is one of the wonders of the 11th Century Bagan Civilization from the era of King Anuruddha and of his son King Kyansitthar that exhibits an amazing interior brickwork foundation, and an exquisite exterior décor of Tuyin Mountain sandstone.
By late spring, 2012 the following will await you: Sitagu Shwezigon Pagoda is a one-third-scaled replica of the original Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan – with dimensions of 56 feet wide and 54 feet high to the lotus bud finial, and 65 feet high to the diamond top of the metal umbrella. Whereas the original Shwezigon Pagoda is a closed solid dome, Sitagu Shwezigon Pagoda maintains the original exterior look but it has a hollow dome so that pilgrims can take refuge in the tranquility of its interior. There are also four decorated grand entrances which replace the stone-stepped stairs leading up to the third terrace of the original. At the non-functional east grand entrance resides a white marble statue.
The top of the 4-foot-thick and 81-foot-square foundation slab is reached by means of four entry stairs with handrails each headed by a mango-shaped ornament reproduced from the Bagan era. All around the apron, are 3.5-foot-high handrails, depicting the birth, enlightenment, first discourse, and final passing into Nibbana, that is, the four great events of Buddha's life, together with its Bagan style floral designs.
At the very top of the junctions of the entry stairs and leaf-shaped handrails sit natural-looking Asoka-style lions. In the same manner, there will be an 18-foot-high Asoka stone column at each of the four corners, each capped by lotus flowers on top of which sit four lions facing in the cardinal directions, surmounted by a Dhamma Wheel.
In the interior walls, are niches in which 28 Buddha statues (each two-foot high) are sanctified, each carrying a name within the lineage of Buddhas beginning with Dipinkara and ending with Sakyamuni. Twenty-four of these are placed on the south, west and north walls. The main statue, five-feet high and carved out of pure white marble, is positioned on the east wall and flanked on one side by Kakusandha Buddha and Konagamana Buddha and on the other by Kassapa Buddha and Gotama Buddha, completing the set of 28 small Buddha statues with the four Buddhas enlightened in the present Bhadda eon. The marble statue and lacquer statues on the east wall were brought from Burma, but the remaining 24 statues were carefully hand-crafted at the Sitagu Vihara under the close supervision of Burmese Traditional Architect Tampawaddy U Win Maung and his team. Read more about the Gallery of Buddhas here.
Adjoining and just south of Sitagu Shwezigon stands tall the Grand Dhamma Hall, with its traditional Burmese three-stepped Zetawun roof. Read more about the Dhamma Hall here. Especially striking in both the pagoda and dhamma hall is the exterior and interior decor furnished with many early Bagan-era paintings, carvings, hollowed lacquer wares, jewelry, banisters, masonry arts, detailed cultural artworks from eras spanning from the father-to-son succession of kings Anuruddha – Kyansitthar - Alaung Sithu - Narapati Sithu. At the very peak of the Pagoda stand the gold umbrella, jewel-crowned-bird vane, and crystal diamond, all of which were meticulously hand-crafted in Burma and until completion of the pagoda are elegantly displayed in the Sitagu Vihara's Reception Hall for all of us to admire and worship.
In anticipation of future natural disasters, deterioration, and
neglect, it is important to preserve evidence of the ancient Bagan
Buddhist civilization for future generations at more than one location.
Therefore, with foresight, our ever-visionary Sitagu Sayadaw has
undertaken to bring Burmese history, culture and Bagan Buddhist
civilization to this distant land where ethic Burmese and friends of
Burma alike can admire and gain deeper understanding of Burmese culture
and civilization in the serene monastic setting of Sitagu Vihara.