Kyaung Dawyar and Shwesetdaw
Kyaung Dawyar and Shwesetdaw (Legend and Curiosity)
The most magical way to explore Burman culture and the deep devotion to Lord Gautama Buddha, is to follow the important pilgrimage routes. Most Burmans will, at least once during their lifetime, pay homage at the shrines of Kyaung Dawyar and at Buddha’s footprints at Shwesetdaw.
Legend tells us that Kyaung Dawyar was visited by Lord Gautama Buddha himself. He is said to have stayed there for a week, teaching the local people about his lives and Dhamma (Buddhist teachings or philosophy). The pagoda, which graces the Mon River bank, was built to commemorate His visit. On His return journey to northern India, he stopped at Shwesetdaw on the bank of the Mon River, in the domain of the ruthless hunter Bandaka. Bandaka is said to have been inspired by Buddha’s teachings to become a monk, and entreated Buddha to leave his footprint as a memento of his visit and a gift for the King of Naga.
Kyaung Dawyar Pagoda is an important pilgrimage site, not only for humans, but also for giant river catfish (rita rita)! They arrive to the Mon River during Buddhist lent – July to September – and stay for the duration. People genuinely believe that they come to pay homage to the Buddha. They appear on the full moon day of Waso (4th month of the Myanmar calendar) and vanish after the full moon day of Thidinkyut (7th month of the Myanmar calendar). Human pilgrims feed them popcorn, rice cakes and dried bread.
Although the fish pilgrimage legend is delightful, in fact, more research is needed into the reasons for their well-timed visit to coincide with lent. Zoologists from the University of Yangon theorized that during the rainy season the Mon River might contain more nutrients than the Irrawaddy River, which rises higher and flows faster. This would explain the migration from the Irrawaddy to the Mon River during the from during the monsoons, and the return when the water recedes. However, in recent years, sadly, the number of pilgrim fish has been reduced to almost zero. The pollution and overfishing are possible factors that lessen the giant river catfish le. To learn more please refer to https://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=51,4502,0,0,1,0.
Located between the Mon creek and the Irrawaddy River, 180 km south of Bagan, Kyaung Dawyar is an important rice growing region, greener than other parts of central Myanmar. Magnificent 18th and 19th centuries wooden monasteries are to be found there, run by honorable monks. Shwesetdaw Pagoda is a 3 hour drive from Kyaungdawyar, deep in the Chin Hills. The area is located in the midst of the natural habitat of the rare, endangered Eld’s deer, for which a wildlife sanctuary is maintained. The Shwesetdaw Pagoda festival takes place in February and March.
Curiously, there are many fossils in the mountain range that surrounds the pagoda. It’s just one more fascinating oddity that makes this area well worth exploring.
Shwesetdaw Buddha footprint
photo credit goes to ASEAN Youth Organization Facebook page