Inlay Lake, the heart and landmark of the southern Shan State, and Buddha’s statues of PhaungdawU Pagoda cannot be omitted when we utter the story of the southern Shan State.
Nyaungshwe Saopha and Buddha’s statues of PhaungdawU
Nyaungshwe is known as Yawnghwe in the Shan Language. It is Nyaungshwe Valley of Shan’s plateau nestled between two mountains. It is noted that Nyaungshwe is named after Myanmar misheard Shan’s Yawnghwe.
The Nyaungshwe was built in 721 ME under the rule of Saopha Si Hseng Hpa. Locals found the beam of light radiating from sacred relics inside the cave which was covered by bushes and shrubs in the Thanhtaung pagoda precinct 644 years ago. Saopha was informed and he was delighted to hear that. He left for the Thanhtaung area, accompanied by his cabinet members (generals, relatives), instructed his fellows to clear the shrubs and discovered the five sacred statues inside the cave, with the presence of thousands of people. Two of them are believed to be sacred Buddhist monks’ statues.
The Saopha took five statues to Haw Palace in Nyaungshwe for obeisance. The statues were taken to a pavilion from the spire of the Haw so that a paying homage ceremony was held on a grand scale every 7th Waxing of Thadingyut month. That event was called to be “Buddha descending to Earth” (Sao Phaya Lon Sai). PhaungdawU village was located in the west of Sawma Village in the Nyaungshwe area. It was believed to be the land of low-ranked comrades. Starting from this event, those statues are called PhaungdawU Pagoda. The pagoda festival with Buddha’s effigies journeying around the town was held for public obeisance during the month of Thadingyut.
Tradition of Buddha’s effigies transported at Pagoda Festival
The Buddha’s effigies will be transported to 21 sacred monasteries traditionally for public obeisance between 1 and 15 October during the pagoda festival, the Pagoda’s trustees board notified. The PhaungdawU Pagoda Festival drew the attention of tourists. They mostly visit the PhaungdawU at the time of the pagoda festival. The journey of Buddha’s effigies includes 21 sacred monasteries; Indein, Heya Ywama, Ngaphechaung, Kyaesar, Pwesarkon, Linkin, Nyaungshwe, Nanthe, Mongthauk, ThaleU, Kaylar, Zayatgyi, South Alodawpauk, Nampang, Magyeeseik, Kyaikkham, Mongpyo, Nauktaw, Inpawkon and Yetha. After stopping over at those monasteries, the statues are transported to PhaungdawU monastery. That pagoda festival is crowded with religious and fun activities, attracting tourists and homegrown visitors. The area is congested with vehicles and boats every year as hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the festival.
Extraordinary leg-rowing tradition in Inlay Lake
The Buddha’s images are towed over a Karaweik barge from village to village, with the traditional long-tail boat parade (15 boats) at front and accompanying other 15-boat parade behind for Buddhist chanting. The unique feature of the pagoda festival is that only four images can be transported