Processions, devotion, traditional costumes, music and even boat races. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is one of the biggest annual events in Asia, occurring every year around the month of October. Let’s discover more about it!
FOLLOWING A KARAWEIK: A MYTHICAL BIRD, THE SYMBOL OF THE FESTIVAL
Everyone interested in Myanmar probably already know that Inle Lake, declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, is a magical world. A world of stilt villages, floating gardens and crumbling stupas which have kept its unique and hundred-years-old traditional lifestyle. A world where one can relax feeling its tranquillity, enjoy the breath-taking landscape and learn about the Intha people’s interesting activities, such as leg-rowing fishing, extracting the threads from the lotus plant, weaving, manufacturing cheroots or silversmithing.
Fishermen and Floating Gardens
Leg Rowing Fishing
What fewer people may know is that during the month of October one of Myanmar’s biggest events takes place annually on the waters of this magical world: the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, occurring from the first waxing day to the third waning day of the lunar month of Thadingyut.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, located on the western end of Inle Lake, is the holiest Buddhist site in southern Shan state. In the middle of the Pagoda’s main room, a group of five oddly shaped relics covered in gold leaf are displayed.
These relics, cast during the reign of Bagan’s King Alanghsithu (1112-1167 CE) and once with human form, have been changing its shape after years and years of receiving the gold leaf donations from thousands of pilgrims visiting this holy site.
Five Golden Relics
These golden statues are precisely the focal point of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival. During the festival, four of the five statues are placed on a decorative barge shaped like a karaweik (mythical bird) and taken on an 18 days tour around the lake, stopping at each village for a night or longer so residents can pay homage.
In this procession from village to village, the barge is propelled by Inle Lake’s famous leg rowers, who dressed in traditional costumes row in unison to the beat of a huge drum, while other ceremonial boats escorting the barge carry dancers and martial artists showcasing their sills.
Visiting Inle Lake during the festival provides a great opportunity to see the different ethnic groups, including Shan, Intha, Danu, Palaung, Pa-O and Taung Yo, gathering and celebrating the festival together, giving to the lake a combined devotion and carnival-like atmosphere.
Ceremonial Boats in the Pagoda Festival
One of the highlights of the festival and best time for visitors to engage with the festival celebration are undoubtedly the impressive boat races, in which different teams of leg rowers representing villages around the lake compete aboard narrow boats over ten metres long.
Every year, the Festival occurs from the first waxing day to the third waning day of the lunar month of Thadingyut – this year from October 10 to October 27.
See you there very soon!
By Lwin Lwin Kyaw
An experience created by Myanmar Voyages