Pagodas were Buddhist buildings originally built for the purpose of preserving the relics of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. After Buddha Sakyamuni’s death, his disciples had his remains cremated, and the crystals left behind after the cremation is referred to as “sarira”. In the Buddhist ideas and concepts, the Buddha sarira are considered to be symbols of attaining consummation and becoming a Buddha. To pay homage to the sarira is the same as paying homage to Buddha Sakyamuni himself.
The ancient Indians built the stupa(pogoda) to burry the sarira. This was the oldest stupa and its shape was similar to a flipped monk’s alms bowl. It is said that this form of the stupa came from a story: One day, Sakyamuni’s disciples asked him how they would truly express their devotion to him. Buddha Sakyamuni thought for a moment, but did not answer. He simply spread his robe on the ground, then turned the handheld alms bowl upside down on the robe, at the end he had the Buddhist monk’s staff standing on the bowl. Later, Buddha Sakyamuni passedaway. This disciples began to construct a tomb in order to place his relics. According to Sakyamuni’s hint before his death, his tomb was built upturned-bowl shape with a square base at the bottom and a pinnacle on the top. The square base symbolized the Buddha’s robe; the upturned alms bowl-shape tomb in the middle symbolized the bowl; the pinnacle at the top symbolized the monk’s staff.
Since then, a great number of pagodas had been built, but the number of sarira was limited, so people had Sakyamuni’s relics or symbols such as hair, clothing and other items as substitutes placed in the pagoda for worship.