Around Indawgyi

  • By Maung Tha
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Cane Buddha statue in Nammilaung village.  Photo: Maung Tha (archaeology)

As an ethnic Kachin family from Kachin State Mohnyin Township had invited me to a traditional new crop eating festival, I went to Hopin Township, Lon Sant Village Tract, Ywathit Village from Yangon by train and motorcycle. I bought a Yangon-Myitkyina train ticket and first took a train to Mandalay. In Mandalay, I changed to Myitkyina train and reached Hopin Town.
Everyday there were five trains from Mandalay to Myitkyina. I took the 4:45 pm train from Mandalay and reached Hopin around 7:30 am the next day. There Ma Lu Lu Aung was waiting for me with a motorcycle and I took a 2-hour motorcycle ride to Ywathit Village.
Hopin Town was 19 miles from Mohnyin Town while Ywathit Village in Lon Sant Village Tract was 30 miles away from Hopin Town. Ywathit Village only had about 300 houses and was the smallest village of the 19 villages around Myanmar’s biggest fresh water Indawgyi Lake. Red Shan, Bama and Kachin ethnic people lived in Ywathit Village and villagers are either Buddhists or Christians. The village had a Buddhist monastery and a Christian church.

Indawgyi Lake is Myanmar’s biggest freshwater lake. It is 10 miles from Hopin Town and the lake measures 8.1 miles east to west and 15 miles north to south. The lake is 65 ft. deep at the deepest part and is only 3 ft. deep in the shallowest part where the lake bottom can be seen.

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Shwe Myintzu Pagoda.  Photo: Maung Tha (archaeology)

Indawgyi can be reached via Hopin and Hopin Town is at the junction of the roads to Phakant, Htanmakhan, Sai Taung, Lonkin and Nantmon region. Hopin Town situated between Mogaung and Mohnyin towns can be reached from Mandalay and Myitkyina by rail or car. Hopin to Indawgyi is either by car or motorcycles. Pilgrims from various regions usually visit Indawgyi directly by cars.
Water flows into Indawgyi from the mouth of the creek at the north. The water in Indawgyi then flows through Kamine and Mogaung creeks and onto Ayeyawady River. Indawgyi is a lake with water flowing from north to south. Indawlay, a smaller lake 3 miles long and 2 miles wide, is situated in Sagaing Region Indaw Township.
11 village tracts with 38 villages were situated near Indawgyi and 19 villages were on its bank. Mostly Shans and Kachins lived in those villages I went around the lake by motorcycle to visit all of it. As Indawgyi region receives an average annual rainfall of 78 inches, most people in the region lived on agriculture.
Indawgyi region extends up to Kachin State Mogaung Township to the east, Kakyaw mountain pass between Hopin and Mohnyin to the southeast, Sagaing Region Homalin Township to the south, Sagaing Region Bamauk Township and Kachin State Kamine Township to the northwest covering 314.67 square miles.
Indawgyi region was surrounded by mountains rising up to 1,000 ft to more than 4,000 ft. 13 creeks flowing down from those mountains flow into Indawgyi. Although those creeks flow into Indawgyi from four directions, it was only through Mogaung creek that the water flows out from Indawgyi. Indawgyi was on an elevation of 546 ft. above sea level and Indawgyi Lake was the main part of seven miles (east to west) wide, fourteen miles (north to south) long wildlife conservation area.
Of the four major wetland area of Myanmar, the three others being Inle in Shan State, in Bago Region and Moeyungyi and Meinmahla Island in Ayeyawady Region, Indawgyi was the biggest.

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A flock of seagulls resting on the surface of the Indawgyi Lake.  Photo: Maung Tha (archaeology)

Pagodas around Indawgyi
A trip by motorcycle around the lake starting at Chaungwa Village took me first to Ngwe Myintzu pagoda in Lwe Mon Village. Lwe Mon Village was 33 miles from Hopin, Sai Taung and Phakant road junction. This pagoda was built 80 years after Shwe Myintzu pagoda and was smaller. So it was named Ngwe Myintzu pagoda as a younger brother pagoda to Shwe Myintzu pagoda. Near Ngwe Myintzu pagoda is Mote So Ma (widow) pagoda built right on the bank of Indawgyi Lake. Curiously there were many statues of women that were said to be widows. At Nammilaung Village was a cane Buddha image that was about 16 ft. high. From there, I went onto Shwe Myintzu Ye Le (ye le means in the middle of water).

Shwe Myintzu Ye Le pagoda
Of the many mountain top and in-water pagodas that Myanmar had, there were three famous in-water pagodas in southern Myanmar and three in northern Myanmar. The three southern in-water pagodas were Kyaik Ka Mi Ye Le Pagoda in Mon State Thanbyuzayat Township, Mawtinzun Pagoda in Ayeyawady Region Ngapudaw Township and Kyauktan Ye Le Pagoda or Kyakhmawwun Yele Pagoda in Yangon Region Kyauktan Townhip.
The three in northern Myanmar were Phaungdaw-Oo Pagoda in Shan State Nyaungshwe Township, A Nya Thihataw Pagoda in Sagaing Region KhinU Township and Indawgyi Shwe Myintzu pagoda.
Pagodas in Indawgyi can be visited by land or water. Pagoda festival of Shwe Myintzu Pagoda situated in the water about two furlongs from the west bank of the lake was held from 8th Waxing of Tabaung to 1st Waning of Tabaung. As the day for the festival approaches, water level in the lake fells and two pathways to the pagoda emerges. Locals term the 3 ft. wide southern pathway as a road for the Nats (celestial being) and the 9 ft. wide northern pathway as a road for the human beings.
Devotees took the northern pathway to walk over the lake to the pagoda and around the closing days of the pagoda festival, the pathways became submerged under water as rain fells. As the northern pathway, the road for the human beings, was now paved with concrete and had lamp poles along the way, people can easily visit the pagoda during the pagoda festival period.
However, before and after the pagoda festival period, the water level in the lake rises submerging the pathways. During such time, Shwe Myintzu pagoda surrounded by water can only be visited by boats. The boat ride cost K 1,000 per person and during the boat ride, many water dwelling birds or water birds can be seen.
Indawgyi Shwe Myintzu pagoda was said to be built in Konbaung era during the reign of King Mindon by Sayadaw U Thawbitaka and a pagoda festival was first held in the month of Tabaung during Myanmar Era 1235 (1873). Ever since the annual pagoda festival was held in the month of Tabaung.
Indawgyi Lake with its natural and scenic beauty was being visiting by rising numbers of visitors year by year. Indawgyi Lake is welcoming all visitors, environmentalists, local ethnic people, researchers and experts on culture and pilgrims.
(Translated by Handytips)

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