Beside the shimmering waters of Inle Lake, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda unfurls its grandeur. A sacred sentinel, it has overseen the expansive waters for centuries, whispering tales of devotion and festivity. Within its golden walls lie five Buddha statues, once svelte, but now, over time, believers have blanketed them in gold leaves, rendering them round and enigmatic.
Yearly, during the festival bearing its name, these revered figures embark on a golden barge, navigating the peripheries of the lake in a water procession. These rituals, binding tradition with spirituality, sketch a dance of boats, prayers, and tunes.
The pagoda, more than a mere monument, stands as a living emblem of Burmese faith and tradition, a beacon casting light upon the cultural and spiritual heritage of Inle Lake's dwellers. In its radiance, it mirrors the hopes and dreams of a nation, standing as a silent testament to Myanmar's deep-rooted history.
Inle Lake • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda: monks arriving by canoe
Inle Lake • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda: Buddha covered in gold
Inle Lake • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda: Prow (representing the Karaweik bird) of a sacred boat
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda: A Gem of Inle Lake
Origins and Establishment
Located on the southwestern shores of Inle Lake in the Shan State of Myanmar, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda stands as one of the country's most revered temples. While its exact date of construction remains shrouded in mystery, legends suggest that this architectural marvel might date back to the 12th century. History narrates tales of King Alaungsithu, who during his travels across the realm, is believed to have visited this place and extended his support for the pagoda's establishment.
The Legend of the Five Buddhas
At the core of this spiritual sanctuary reside five small golden Buddha statues, each symbolizing its sanctity. As per legend, these statues were brought from Bagan by a Shan monk nearly a millennium ago. Over the centuries, devotees have continually adorned them with gold leaves, causing the statues to lose their original shape, now appearing as mysterious rounded forms.
A fascinating anecdote from 1965 speaks of one of these statues being lost in the lake during a transport mishap. After several fruitless days of search, it was miraculously recovered, further amplifying beliefs in its sacred power.
The Phaung Daw Oo Festival
One of the most significant events tied to the pagoda is the Phaung Daw Oo festival, an annual affair held during the month of Thadingyut (typically around September or October). During this event, four out of the five Buddha statues are placed upon a golden barge and taken on a ceremonial tour around the lake. The fifth remains stationed at the pagoda. Another tale associated with this tradition recounts that during one such tour, a storm brewed when all five statues were aboard. Since then, out of caution, only four statues undertake this ritualistic voyage.
Conservation and Modern-Day Significance
As years have progressed, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda has emerged as an indispensable pilgrimage site for Buddhists and travelers alike visiting Myanmar. It commands a pivotal role in the spiritual lives of the local community. Numerous efforts have been invested in preserving and safeguarding this national treasure, ensuring its legacy inspires future generations.
With its tapestry of stories, legends, and cultural traditions, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda remains an invaluable testament to Myanmar's rich spiritual and cultural fabric. Its commanding presence on Inle Lake continues to captivate and draw those seeking to unearth the profound essence of this nation.
Architectural Features of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda embodies the traditional Burmese architectural style, predominantly marked by multiple tiered roofs known as "Pyatthat". These cascading roofs grant the monument a lofty and majestic appearance, typical of the Buddhist structures in the region.
Inside the pagoda, one finds five Buddha statues, layered with gold leaves. Over time, and with countless gold leaf offerings, these statues have lost their original form, appearing now as rounded shapes. They stand as the sacred jewels of the pagoda, revered by devotees.
Ornamentations and Decor
The pagoda is adorned with finely carved details, including wood sculptures and floral patterns, showcasing Myanmar's rich artisanal tradition. Additionally, motifs depicting animals, such as birds and dragons, are abundant, symbolizing protection and sanctity.
The Main Shrine
At the heart of the pagoda lies the main shrine, a sacred space dedicated to prayer and meditation. Surrounding this central shrine are several smaller secondary altars, each devoted to a specific deity or aspect of Buddhism.
Location on Inle Lake
A distinguishing feature of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is its prime location on Inle Lake. Accessible by boat, the pagoda is built on stilts, an architectural adaptation to the lake's aquatic environment. This design not only safeguards the monument from potential floods but also offers a unique experience for visitors who approach the pagoda over water.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda stands as a masterpiece of Burmese architecture, reflecting the religious devotion, art, and traditions of the Myanmar people. Its distinctive design, combined with its position on Inle Lake, makes it one of the country's most iconic and revered sites.