The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the most significant and famous festival celebrated in Myanmar, earlier known as Burma.
This is an annual festival that continues for eighteen days at a stretch and is held at the Inle Lake. People from all over the world along with the locals gather in front of the lake to witness the grandeur of this festival.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is the most esteemed monastery in that region. The monastery has five images of Buddha which are fully covered in leaf of gold and cannot be seen by the visitors.
Murals depicting Buddhist folklores and stories are done on the walls of this temple and right in the centre of the building lays a golden stupa which has a decorative hti on the top of it.
It is an eighteen days festival and is held every year on the Inle Lake. This festival is celebrated usually between the months of September and October which falls during the month of Thadingyut, which is the seventh Burmese month. The date of Phaung Daw Oo Festival depends upon the Burmese lunar calendar and it is the most significant festival in Shan state. This annual eighteen day festival begins on the first day on which the waxing of the moon starts and ends three days after the full moon appears in the month of Thadingyut. As the festival dates are determined from the Lunar calendar, its corresponding dates on the Georgian calendar might differ every year.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is a procession of boats in which the four ancient Buddha images out of the five are moved from their shrine which is located in Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and put on Royal Karaweik barge, which is a type of a flat-bottomed long boat. This barge is pulled by other long boats which have about a hundred leg rowers who are dressed in exotic costumes.
The Royal Karaweik barge stops at all the fourteen villages which surround the Inle Lake and the four Buddha images are kept at the main monastery of each village for a night as a part of the ritual. Each of the village welcomes the images and celebrates its one night stop with pomp. The mesmerizing sight of the images being rowed around on the shimmering barge pulled by boats manned by rowers dressed in colorful clothes against the backdrop of the Lake is absolutely stunning.
Till the middle of 1960’s all the five ancient images of Lord Buddha were carried around in the boat procession on the Inle Lake. However, in the year of 1965, the boat overturned and all the five images fell into the water. The onlookers dived into the lake to recover the images but could find only four of them. They kept on searching for the fifth one but it was nowhere to be found. With heavy hearts they returned back to the Pagoda only to find the lost Buddha image magically placed on the shrine.
From that incident, only the four images of Lord Buddha are carried around on the barge during this festival while the fifth one remains at the Pagoda. Long boat races are one of the main highlights of this festival. The rowers’ row with an oar attached to one of their legs while standing upright. Martial arts and special Shan dances takes place on the ceremonial boats to entertain the onlookers.