ImageThe popular term ‘pagoda’ is neither from Pali or Sanskrit nor from Hindi or any other language. It is not from the Sri Lankan, Myanamar, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Chinese or Japanese language. Let us see how it originated.

The thupa in which the relics of the Budha or any arhant is enshrined was called dhatu-gabbha (dhatu-relics, gabbha- cavern, cavity, womb, interior). With the passage of time, all thupas, began to be called dhatugabbha. Later this became corrupted to dhagabbha or dhagoba or dagoba. A few centuries ago, when Portugese sailors came to the east, they did not see any thupas in India but they saw thupas  in many places in Sri Lanka. They asked the local people and were told that these were dagoba. They found it difficult to pronounce this new word and they started to call dagoba as pagoda.  As time passed, the thupas  that were earlier called cetiya, cedigo or thupa were called pagoda. Later on, the term pagoda became popular not just among foreigners but also among the local inhabitants.