A Unique Pagoda Festival- The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival

A Unique Pagoda Festival- The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival

A Unique Pagoda Festival

When in Myanmar, one never loses sight of a Buddhist pagoda: atop a steep mountain, in the depths of a cave, on the seashore, even in the middle of a lake. On an ordinary day one visits a pagoda seeking tranquility, and never fails to come away with a sense of wellbeing. But once a year, the serenity is transformed, as worshippers flock to join in the merriment and pageantry of an annual festival.

 

The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is, by far, the most captivating. It takes place during the first two weeks of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (round about end of September or beginning of October), and owes its singular quality to the unique setting. From pristine waters to mist-shrouded mountains to lush floating gardens, Inlay Lake, in southern Shan State, is a stunning narration of Myanmar’s diverse natural beauty.  Combine the breathtaking vistas with charming villages, timeless traditions and ever-present Buddhist spirituality, and Inlay gives the impression of a magical world afloat.

Aerial View of Inlay Lake and The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

According to legend, in the 12th century, King Alaung Sithu of the Bagan Dynasty visited the Shan plateau. Because of his fame and benevolence, crowds congregated to greet him. Among the admirers standing at the edge of the lake to meet the great king, were an ogress and her baby.

When the royal barge passed, the crowd, in their fervor and excitement, accidentally knocked the baby into the lake. The mother ogress frantically screamed out for help, but nobody dared to jump into the lake to rescue the baby. They feared becoming entangled in the mass of seaweed, and pulled to the bottom. The King heard the commotion, turned the royal barge around, entreated the celestial beings to help, and the baby ogre was saved.

In profound gratitude, the ogress presented some rare and special Himalayan sandalwood to the King. As the wood is very auspicious, the King decided to make four Buddha statues from it. The sculptors did not want to throw away the small, leftover pieces of this special wood, so they decided to make a fifth Buddha image. They burnt the wood and mixed the ash with the clay, then sculpted and lacquered the statue. King Alaung Sithu had a shrine built near the lake to safeguard the precious images. A group of people from the south of present-day Myanmar (near Tavoy) volunteered to become the caretakers of the shrine. After all, they were quite adaptable, and could learn to live harmoniously in any environment.

And indeed they did, transforming the lake into an idyllic home, the only place in the world where flower and vegetable gardens float.  Ingeniously crafted beds of water hyacinth and flotsam are secured to the bottom of the shallow lake with bamboo poles, to form rich, fertile plots for cultivating a wide variety of market and subsistence crops.

 

Because of the dense mass of hyacinth they could not employ traditional fishing methods, so they invented and perfected a technique using a conical-shaped trap and harpoon. The process requires them to propel the boat while standing, with one leg firmly planted on the stern and the other leg extended to power the oar. They row with such mesmerizing grace, they appear to dance to a timeless tune.

 

This ingenious rowing adaptation would eventually become one of the most unique and dramatic aspects of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival.

 

At some point the treasured icons disappeared, and remained missing for centuries. Miraculously, in the 19th century, they reappeared in the forest, during a hunting expedition by Yawnghwe Saopha (Duke of Yawnghwe Town). A new shrine was built on the lake, and the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival tradition began.

For 18 days, the venerated images are carried up and down the lake on a lavishly decorated barge in order for worshippers to pay homage.  The festivities include processions of dozens of canoes, each containing no fewer than twenty, and often dozens, of  perfectly aligned, perfectly balanced leg rowers.  They propel themselves forward in unison with such steady, graceful, fluid rhythm, that they might be performing an exotic, highly stylized ballet.

 

All was well until 1968, when the barge overturned and sank, plunging the Buddhas into the lake. Rescuers managed to recover only 4 of them, and after an exhaustive, fruitless search for the fifth, the disconsolate worshippers gloomily returned to the pagoda.  Inexplicably, the missing statue was there, covered in mud and seaweed.  To this day, there is no explanation for the miracle.

 

It was presumed that the lost image, the smallest one, did not wish to join the procession, so only four images make the visit around the lake. The fifth one has not moved from the shrine since 1968.

 

In spite of the legend, the provenance, carving style and age of the Buddha statues remain uncertain and may never be known, because they are completely misshapen from gold leaf offerings that worshippers have burnished onto the bodies.  They look less like Buddha statues and more like gold balls.

Whether your interest is cultural festivals, local hospitality or stepping back in time, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is for you.

Feast on steamed sticky rice, fried fermented bean paste with ginger, crispy tofu, Inlay fish curry and hot green tea. Marvel at the boat races. Move to the beat of the traditional Shan drums. Gild the Buddha statues. Feed the seagulls that follow your boat. Join the villagers in their merriment.

 

The physical attractions of Inlay Lake and the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival captivate, but like any place that holds special regard, it is largely about intangibles.  Incredible is this lake, a world unto itself, where every custom holds meaning and importance, where every life way is defined by ancient practices, religious beliefs & local traditions.  Inlay is a world of pagodas, picturesque villages, floating gardens and leg rowers.  But even more, it is a society of gentle graciousness, a reflection of the Intha, Pa’o and Shan, their joys and faith, wisdom and values.  Indeed, the beauty of the setting and the immensity of the cultures come together and stand as one in this exotic land, this refuge of dreamers, this journey through the very soul of Myanmar.

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415 thoughts on “A Unique Pagoda Festival- The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival

  1. The villagers are famous for a one-legged boat rowing technique that can only be seen at Inle Lake.
    A boat ride is a perfect activity. It would be the perfect destination for you.

  2. It was so much fun out there!! The air is fresh, people are nice and the lake itself is incredible, unbelievable and there was no doubt that shan food are ”yummy yummy!!”

  3. I love big lakes …
    But I scare to see down and guess the depth.. when I see through green algae (I’m not sure botanic name), I’m frightened. But still wanna touch the water.
    .

  4. I had been there once when I was 7. I can’t remember details. I wish I have a chance to go there again.

  5. Whether your interest is cultural festivals, local hospitality or stepping back in time, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is for you.

  6. I never get bored this place though i ve been there for many times.The lovely scenery & Shan’s tribe savory food always attract me to do more visits.

  7. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there with my family

  8. I’ve been arrive Phaung Daw Oo pagoda in Inlay lake for 3 times. But never arrive in festival season. Next time, I have to go there in festival season because of this sharing information. I wanna see festival amazing views. Thanks.

  9. I’ve been the Paung Daw Oo pagoda in Inlay lake for 3 times. But never arrive in festival seadon. Next time, I have to go there in festival season because of this sharing post. I wanna see the festival amizing views. Thanks.

  10. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there with my family every year

  11. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go this festival

  12. Our Shan State..🌸🌸🌸
    A Unique Pagoda Festival-🌸
    The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival.🌸🌸🌸

  13. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go this festival with my family every year. Thanks

  14. A Unique Pagoda Festival- The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival..🌹
    Our Shan State , Inle Lake🌸🌸🌸🌹

  15. I have never been to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival, I wanna visit that festival. I love a lot of Myanmar Festivals.

  16. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go this festival with my family every year. Thanks for sharing

  17. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.

  18. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar

  19. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  20. Date-15/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  21. Date-16/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  22. Date-17/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  23. Date-18/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  24. Date-19/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  25. Date-20/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  26. Date-24/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  27. Date-25/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  28. Date-27/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  29. Date-28/01/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  30. Date-06/02/2022

    Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. Wanna to go there every year.
    It is amazing in Myanmar. A Unique Pagoda Festival.

  31. beautiful place with warm heart people. yummy street foods. i like to visit there during rainy season.

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