The following report was written by Zoya Imran, granddaughter of Engr. Iqbal Ahmed Khan of Karachi, Pakistan, and is also a translation of the original report on Shwedagon Pagoda written in Urdu by SAEEA Finance Secretary, Muhammad Salim Hamid, who visited Myanmar (Rangoon) where his son Saad is working. He stayed there for four months and he has written the article "Shwedagon Pagoda" at the request of all SAEEA Office Holders. Muhammad Salim Hamid, Badge No. 73199, worked for the Fixed Assets Accounting Department in Dhahran from 1976 to 1987.
Mrs. Bano Salim and Muhammad Salim Hamid standing in front of Shwedagon Pagoda Golden Temple in Rangoon the capital city of Myanmar.
A nice view of the Shwedagon Pagoda Golden Temple in Myanmar it is considered the oldest pagoda in the world and is 99 meters high and gold plated.
Mrs. Bano Salim, Muhammad Salim Hamid, Saad Salim, Mrs Iffat Saad and the grandson of Salim Hamid Ibrahim standing in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda Golden Temple in Yangon capital city of Myanmar.
Myanmar, previously known as Burma, is a country located in Southeast Asia. It is a diverse nation with over 100 ethnic groups and shares borders with India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand. The largest city in Myanmar is Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, which features vibrant markets, a variety of parks and lakes, and the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda.
Myanmar has a long and complex history, with civilizations dating back to at least the 2nd century BCE. It has seen various kingdoms and empires rise and fall, including the Pyu, Mon, and Bagan empires. British colonization began in the 19th century and lasted until independence in 1948. It also has a diverse geography, ranging from mountainous regions in the north and east, including the Himalayan foothills, to the fertile Irrawaddy River valley and the coastal regions along the Bay of Bengal.
The country is known for its natural beauty, with attractions such as Bagan's ancient temples and the picturesque Inle Lake. Myanmar's economy is diverse, with agriculture, manufacturing, natural resources, and tourism being major sectors. The country is rich in natural resources such as jade, timber, natural gas, and minerals. Since opening up to the global economy, Myanmar has seen increased foreign investment and trade. The country has a vibrant cultural heritage with traditional music, dance, art, and literature. Festivals play an important role in Myanmar's culture, with events such as Thingyan (Water Festival) and the Tazaungdaing Festival attracting locals and tourists alike.
Muhammad Salim Hamid, Finance Secretary, SAEEA.
Mrs. Bano Salim and Muhammad Salim Hamid reviewing the breakfast menu at the restaurant in Rangoon.
Muhammad Salim Hamid after placing the order trying to understand the Burmese Food.
The Shwedagon is the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present Kalpa. This golden pagoda, dating back to the 6th century, holds Buddhist artifacts and stands as a prominent symbol in the country. It is said that its construction began 2,500 years ago, and gradually over time, it has become a magnificent complex of small and large golden and white buildings in one place. The notable feature of this pagoda is its dome-like spire, which is 367 feet tall and entirely made of pure gold bricks. As it has been constructed over different periods, an approximate weight of the gold can be estimated, which is around 6 tons of pure gold. The minaret is also adorned with countless precious gems and jewels. Additionally, there are various Buddha statues made of gold that are separate from the main structure. There are also gold stalls where devout followers purchase gold to offer as a symbol of fulfillment of their desires or to seek blessings. As a result, the amount of gold in this sacred pagoda continues to increase continuously. It is worth noting that there are gold mines here, and similar to the Middle East, there is a vast flow of buyers at the gold shops. This pure gold structure is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Muhammad Salim Hamid along with his grandson inside the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Muhammad Salim Hamid with two monks outside the Golden Temple.
Muhammad Salim Hamid holding a pineapple, the most readily available fruit in Yangon.
Buddhism plays a significant role in Myanmar's culture and daily life. The majority of the population practices Theravada Buddhism, and numerous pagodas, temples, and monasteries can be found throughout the country. Monks hold a revered position in society, and many people participate in religious activities, including almsgiving and attending ceremonies.
The Buddhist religion is different from other religions. It does not worship a specific deity or god. It holds reverence for Gautama Buddha and the elders of this religion, and it appears that worship and devotion to Gautama Buddha are the primary focus here. They have a firm belief in reincarnation, meaning that after death, one takes multiple births, and this is considered their heaven or hell. In this religion, it is forbidden to harm any living being, and consuming meat is considered undesirable. However, seafood is considered acceptable, and one can often see a wide variety of seafood available in the market. Externally, this religion appears to be peace-loving, but some past events involving violence have given it a bad reputation. Local people attribute those incidents to the incitement of extremist elements and claim that it was done to eliminate all evil-minded individuals.
Muhammad Salim Hamid and family at the Pakistan Embassy in Yangon on the evening of the 75th Independence Anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The people of this religion are extremely honest. They do not covet anyone's possessions. Despite poverty, there are no major crimes or street crimes. It is a clean and tidy city. Myanmar's traditional attire varies among ethnic groups. The national dress for men is the longyi, a sarong-like garment worn around the waist. Women typically wear a blouse called the htamein, paired with a shawl-like garment.
Alcohol is sold openly, and betel nut is widely consumed. The weather is humid due to the monsoon rains. Power outages occasionally occur, but it is not as severe as in Pakistan. The Muslims here enjoy religious freedom. There are mosques scattered around, and Muslims are seen working freely in this city. Street crimes are rare, and people focus on their work. Myanmar cuisine is influenced by its neighboring countries, such as India, China, and Thailand, while also having unique flavors. Rice is a staple food, and dishes are often accompanied by curries, stir-fries, and various condiments. Mohinga, a popular dish made with rice noodles in fish soup, is considered Myanmar's national dish. They do not eat roti (bread) as their staple food, so it is not commonly available. Locally produced rice serves as a substitute for bread.
Muhammad Salim Hamid along with his son Saad Salim outside the Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Emperor of the Mughal Dynasty.
Sitting, Mrs. Bano Salim, Muhammad Salim Hamid, Standing, Saad Salim, Iffat Saad.
Zoya Imran author of the English version of the article.
Myanmar is known for its exquisite craftsmanship and traditional arts. Lacquerware, weaving, wood carving, and silverwork are prominent crafts. Skilled artisans create intricate designs and patterns, often inspired by Buddhist motifs and nature. Myanmar people are known for their warm hospitality and respect for others. Visitors are often greeted with kindness and generosity. It is customary to show respect to elders and monks by bowing slightly and using formal language.
A big cake was made for the occasion at the Pakistan Embassy in Yangon.
Inside view of Bahadur Shah Zafar Tomb.
The courtyard of Bahadur Shah Zafar Tomb in Yangon.
Lastly, Myanmar is significant for Muslims in relation to the Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last emperor of the Mughal Dynasty who was subjected to brutal violence by the British colonial government in India. In 1858, he was exiled and imprisoned in the city of Rangoon, Burma, along with his family, where he endured extremely harsh conditions during his captivity. He passed away in 1862 in a pitiful state. The British government callously buried him in an undisclosed location.
In 1991, his grave was accidentally discovered, and in 1994, a mausoleum was built there through the collaboration of the local government and the Muslim community. Apart from being a skilled Urdu poet, Bahadur Shah Zafar's verses were inscribed on the walls there in Urdu. The interior and exterior architecture of the mausoleum is appropriate, and proper attention is given to its maintenance. Muslim locals from Burma often visit this mausoleum. This mausoleum is a historical reality that encompasses the tale of the initial oppression and tyranny of the British colonial government in India.