Myanmar country follows the Eastern cultural tradition, that’s why it’s deeply influenced by Buddhist beliefs. There are hundreds of thousands of temples in this country, among them, Phaung Daw oo Pagoda on Inle Lake is really a prominent destination that you should not miss.
1/ Where is Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda?
Phaung Daw Oo Temple is located in the center of Inle Lake – one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Myanmar.
Inle Lake is located in the center of Shan State, about 40 km south of Taung-kyi City. It’s also the capital of Shan State. The lake is located at an elevation of about 889 m above sea level, surrounded by high mountains, and has an area of about 220 km2. The deepest place is about 6 m, the water level changes about 1.2 m between the dry season (May), and the full water season (August).
Coming to Inle, Phaung Daw Oo is the place that you can’t ignore with 5 golden Buddha statues and the famous Phaung Daw Oo pagoda’s festival. To move to this temple, tourists must move by boat along the canals to the west of Inle, cross the villages, temples, and floating gardens on the water. This pagoda is located between the Ywa and Nampan market.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is located in the center of Inle Lake
2/ The history of Phaung Daw Oo Temple
According to the legend, in the 12th century, King Alaungsithu of Bagan empire, who was a devout Buddhist, spent a lot of time to travel around his kingdom and built many Buddhist works. Among them, there is Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. King Alaungsithu is the one who brought to the area of Inle Lake the five images of Buddha. They still exist until now.
When Phaung Daw Oo temple was formed in the eighteenth century near the western end of Inle Lake, five images of Buddha was brought to peace at this temple. Although around the area of Inle Lake, there are many temples or monasteries, with the presence of the five legendary Buddha images, Phaung Daw Oo has become the most famous one. The king Alaungsithu is also the one who named this temple.
Around the temple area, many ancient items have been found – evidence of ancient Burma history and culture. In 1980, people found a finely carved boat. In 2013 and 2017, two other boats were found. They were displayed in the stupa area.
3/ 5 famous Buddha images in Phaung Daw Oo Temple
The pagoda houses 5 small gilded statues of Buddha. They have been here since the temple was built and become its symbol. Each statue is covered with thousands of thin gold leaves. So the fact is, until now, no one knows exactly the primitive form of five figures of Phaung Daw Oo Buddha. They may be just symbolic stones, are believed to bring good luck and peace for residents around the lake. With a height of 12-16 inches (about 30 – 40cm), these images were devoured by gold devotees, over time had grown so thick that they lost the original artifact details. According to the old photos in the monastery, before, 5 statues were much more primitive and smaller than they are now. Today, people can see only shapes of plump golden blocks. Some gold leaves have been removed to reduce its weight.
5 famous Buddha images in Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
Although the pagoda is opened for everyone to honor, only men are allowed to put gold leaves on the image. In addition, pilgrims can also place their object or cloak around the images, then place it on their altar to pray for peace and show respect in the Buddha.
4/ The Phaung Daw Oo festival
Phaung Daw Oo Festival is one of the most famous festivals of Myanmar. If you have the chance to visit this country, you should participate in this festival to feel the unique culture of the Golden Temple country and this year-round festival.
The fascinating Phauung Daw OO Pagoda Festival takes place on the full moon of Thaidingyut month (lunar July of Myanmar). This is the most important and typical festival of Shan state in particular and Myanmar in general, occurs within 18 days. Phaung Daw Oo Festival is organized with the aim of admiring the Buddhas. This festival is organized with two main activities: the procession of Buddhas around villages and farms floating in the Inle Lake area, the traditional boat racing, and others special cultural activities.
4.1. The procession of Buddhas
When participating in the festival, you can witness a lively procession of the Buddha. They move through the villages around the Inle Lake. All create a colorful parade. Prominent in the procession, there is a splendid royal boat that symbol the royal presence of ancient Karaweik. The boat is elaborately gilded, the head and tail are decorated with the image of the mythical bird Hintha in Myanmar, in the middle of the sanctuary, there are 5 images of Buddha. The boat has three towers on the roof in Pyatthat style of ancient Myanmar.
The royal boat moves gently on the water by hundreds of boatmen in traditional colorful costumes. Following the main boat, there are the boats of indigenous peoples. It forms an impressive procession on Inle water. You can go to many places in the world but you will not be able to find this image anywhere else.
The famous Phaung Daw Oo festival of Inle Lake, Myanmar
4.2. The boat racing festival
Phaung Daw Oo festival becomes jubilant in drum music, cheering sound of residents along the lake. The boatmen in the traditional costume try to steer the boat over the water to quickly return to the destination. This dramatic race will make you excited and can’t take the eyes off. Not only men’s boat races, there is also the hand-crafted boat races of women in this area.
4.3. Other activities
In addition to 2 main activities, visitors can admire the traditional dances of indigenous people. Women in traditional red and green costumes create a fun atmosphere. You will feel a different Myanmar than the normal and peaceful days. You can also attend the fair, which showcases the traditional products of the Shan people. Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs for your friends and relatives.
The Phaung Daw Oo festival takes place in the late summer season, cool weather is ideal for festival activities. At that time, many people throughout the country, from the plains to the hills, from the coastal areas to the remote midlands moved here to build merit and immerse themselves in the festival. They are also passionate about dance, immersed in the traditional music space of the Shan people, participate in the fair here and cheer for the exotic boatmen on the funky Inle Lake. Surely, if once visitors participate in the festival space of Phaung Daw Oo pagoda, you will never forget those impressive and spectacular images.
The Phaung Daw Oo’s Boat racing competition attracts the attention of visitors
5. Some notes when visiting Phaung Daw Oo
Around August – October is the best time to travel to Inle Lake. At this time, the weather is cool, less rainy, suitable for visiting and exploring. In particular, you should choose the time of the Phaung Daw Oo festival – one of the biggest festivals in Myanmar to experience the unique culture here.
During the festive season, tourists at the Inle Lake are very crowded, if you intend to travel at this time, you should contact the travel company early to book flights, hotels to have the best experiences.
When visiting the temple, you should dress politely, put on sandals outside the door, avoid talking loudly and laughing excessively.
After visiting the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda, you should also visit some other places on the Inle Lake such as 17 ancient villages, the cat-jumps monastery, Ywama floating market,…
Phaung Daw Oo pagoda is one of the destinations that you can’t miss of Inle Lake in particular and Myanmar in general. Especially, once you experience the festival atmosphere here, surely you can’t forget the impression about this destination as well as this country.