Shwezigon Pagoda was built as the most important reliquary shrine in Bagan, a centre of prayer and reflection for the new Theravada faith King Anawarahta had established in Bagan.
The pagoda is standing between the village of Wetkyi-in and Nyaung U. It is a beautiful pagoda and was commenced by King Anawrahta but not completed until the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084-1113). King Kyanzittha was thought to have built his palace nearby.
It was known that, the Shwezigon was built to enshrine one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it was to mark the northern edge of the city. The other three tooth replicas were enshrined in other three more pagodas. The second tooth replica went to Lawkananda Pagoda, a smaller pagoda to the south end of the city.
Then the third replica went to Tan Kyi Taung (Tant Kyi Hill) Pagoda, a pagoda on the western bank of the Ayeyarwady River.
The last one was enshrined into Tu Yuan Taung (Tu Yuan Hill), a pagoda on the summit of a hill 32 km to the east.
Note : Nowadays, there is a legend saying that if one visit those all four tooth replicas in a day, it can bring one prosperity and luck.
The pagoda’s graceful bell shape became a prototype for virtually all later pagodas all over Myanmar. The gilded pagoda sits on three rising terraces. Enameled plaques in panels around the base of the pagoda illustrate scenes from the previous lives of the Buddha, also known as the 550 Jatakas.
At the cardinal points, facing the terrace stairways, are four shrines, each of which houses a four-meter-high bronze standing Buddha. These bronze Buddha images are known to be the last survived images of the ancient time. Their left hands exhibit the vitarka or ‘exposition’ mudra while the right hands are held palm outward, fingers straight up, portraying the gesture of abhaya or ‘no fear’.
A10-cm circular indention in a stone slab near the eastern side of the pagoda was filled with water to allow former Myanmar monarchs to look at the reflection of the hti (or the tope umbrella of the pagoda) without tipping their heads backward (which might have caused them to lose their crowns).
In addition to ranking as one of the oldest pagodas in Bagan, Shwezigon is known as the site where the 37 pre-Buddhist nats (the spirits) were first officially endorsed by the Myanmar monarchy.
Images of the 37 nats can be seen in a shed to the southeast of the platform. At the eastern end of the shed stands an original stone statue of Thagyamin (Sakra), king of the nats and a direct appropriation of the Hindu god Indra. This is the oldest known free-standing Thagyamin figure in Myanmar. Flanked by tigers representing her forest home, another small shrine in the south-eastern corner of the grounds is reserved for Mae Wunna, the guardian nat of medicinal roots and herbs, near the region.