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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Profile: Shwedagon Pagoda
The full moon festival at the Shwedagon Pagoda on 2 March 2007
The golden stupa towers over Burma's main city, Rangoon
When Rudyard Kipling visited Shwedagon Pagoda in 1889, he described it as "a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun".

The Buddhist pagoda sits on a hilltop in Burma's main city, Rangoon. The stupa, a brick structure covered entirely in gold, rises almost 100 metres (330ft) into the sky.

Shwedagon Pagoda is one of Burma's holiest sites. It is believed to date back more than 2,000 years.

And for almost 100 years, it has been the focal point for protests in Burma.

In December 1920, students met there to plan their first ever demonstration, against the University Act introduced by British colonial rulers.

A memorial commemorates these student strikers, who gathered there several times as part of their campaign.

Detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits the pagoda in May 2002
Aung San Suu Kyi addressed 500,000 at the pagoda in 1988

Students camped out at the pagoda again in 1936 during a second university strike, triggered by the expulsion of two student leaders.

Ten years later, one of them, independence leader Aung San, gave a famed speech at the pagoda.

Standing in front of the stupa, he told a huge crowd that Burma wanted self-rule. A year later, after he was assassinated, a memorial was built for him at the base of the pagoda.

On 26 August 1988, his daughter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, stood in the same place to address another huge crowd.

About half a million people listened as she urged Burma's military rulers to give the people democratic government.

Now, amid the most serious protests in the country since the 1988 uprising, Shwedagon Pagoda is once again taking centre stage.


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