Phaung Daw U Pagoda is the most famous pagoda in Inle lake region. The pagoda houses five small gilded images of Buddha, which have been covered in gold leaf to the point that their original forms cannot be seen. The five Buddha Images represents the Kakkusandra, Kaunagamana, Kasatpa, Gautama and Arainmareya Buddhas of this world.
Gold-covered Buddha Images
The five Buddha images are totally covered with gold which makes the visitors not to be able to see the original form. So, there is an old photograph of the five original Buddha Images. Only men are allowed to offer the gold-foil onto the Buddha Images. Another part of the ritual for pilgrims is to place a small robe or thingan around the images, and to take the robe back to their houses and place it on their own altar as a token of respect for the Buddha and his teachings.
The five Buddha Images differ in sizes, the smallest making nine inches tall to the largest eighteen inches tall. The solid gold mass makes the images extremely heavy.
History of Phaung Daw U Pagoda
The Buddha images were believed to have been brought by King Alaungsithu of Bagan. King Alaungsithu or Mani Sithu reigned from A.D 1112-1167, one of the longest rulers of Bagan Dynasty. The King was a great builder and donator of pagodas and monasteries. He was also a very enthusiastic traveler. King Alaungsithu spent much of his time on water journeys both inland and abroad. Legend has it that the Barge he used was built of the wood that contained a philosopher’s stone. This stone gave the Barge the supernatural power of turning into water any place the king pointed at. So once, during one of his journeys, he came to the Inle Lake and the royal barge stopped at a place. That place was marked as a sacred place and a pagoda was built. That pagoda is now known as Phaung Daw U Pagoda. Some local tribes from Dawei requested the King for their stay at the lake, due to their liking of the pleasant lake, and also for looking after the pagoda. The King granted their stay and now, there are Inthars of the mysterious Inle Lake.
Phaung Daw U Pagoda Festival
The Phaung Daw U Pagoda Festival is held annually for a total of 18 days. It is one of the most famous festivals in Myanmar. Both locals and foreign visitors come to visit this traditional festival in Inle Lake, Shan State. Annually, during the Myanmar Month of Thadingyut, usually between September and October, the 18-days festival is held. The festival is held with the dates according to the Lunar Calendar of Myanmar. It begins on the first Waxing Moon day of Thadingyut and ends a couple of days after the Full Moon. (For 2015, 14 October to 31 October)
A large boat with a Golden Hintha (Hamsa) Bird creation is built. The Buddha Images tour around the Inle Lake from village to village taking the whole 18 days on the way. During the festival, only four of the Buddha Images are moved onto the royal barge. One image always remains at the temple. The decorated royal barge is towed by several boats moving by leg-rowers of Inle. The barge is towed from village to village along the shores of the lake in clockwise fashion, and the four images reside at the main monastery in each village for the night. The high point of the festival is on the day when the images arrive at the main town of Nyaung Shwe, where most pilgrims from the surrounding region come to pay their respects and veneration by boats. There are hundreds of floating boats from near and far.