Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

This annual festival is the biggest and most important event in Shan State. The Phaung Daw Oo Kyaung Pagoda is one of the holiest sites for the Shan people. The celebrations take place from the first day of the waxing moon to the third day after the full-moon in October (2–19 Oct). The pagoda houses five statues dating back to the reign of King Alaungsithu (1112-67). Three of the statues are allegedly Buddha images and the other two Buddha disciples. All five have lost any recognizable shape after being encrusted with accumulated gold leaf over the centuries but their fame and holiness is undisputed and pilgrims rub red strips of cloth over the statues and tie the cloth to their bikes, cars and trucks to ward off evil spirits. During the 18 day festival, four of the five images are carried around the lake by ceremonial barge to bless the village monasteries. The barge is pushed forward by the unique leg-rowers of Inle Lake. The fifth Buddha image stays to guard the monastery. Legend has it that when the five were paraded around the lake, the barge suddenly capsized, only four statues were recovered but the fifth mysteriously reappeared at the pagoda draped in lake reeds and has remained there since. It’s a magnificent sight; hundreds of boats follow the slow procession around the lake and thousands of people flock to the lakeshores to celebrate the occasion. The atmosphere is carnival like. The annual boat races also take place at this time and add further excitement and entertainment to the occasion. 

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