At sunset the white Shwesandaw Pagoda is a bit crowded as visitors gather to take advantage of the fantastic view over the temples and the river. This pagoda of the 'golden relic' was one of the first to be built by Anawrahta. He is said to have constructed it in 1057, following his successful campaign against Thaton, in order to enshrine a hair relic of the Buddha that had been given to him by the ruler of Bago (Pegu).
Following an ancient Pyu tradition, the stupa is situated outside the city walls, where along with four other pagodas, including the Shwezigon, it provides spiritual protection for Bagan. Four separate square terraces give the Shwesandaw a pyramidal form, and formerly there were figures of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha in all fours.