Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the biggest and most famous festival in Myanmar, taking place annually in Inle Lake, Shan State, usually between Sep and Oct, and is celebrated for 18 days. The pagoda houses five little gilded pictures of Buddha, which have been canvassed in gold leaf to the point that their unique structures can’t be seen. During the festival, four of the five gilded Buddha images are removed from their shrine in the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and placed on the Royal Karaweik barge to tour around the lake, from village to village. Although there are five Buddha images at the pagoda, only four Buddha Images are carried on royal barge and conveyed around 14 villages on the Lake. (This is because once, the barge tipped over and the fifth image was nearly lost and only later, somehow, mysteriously appeared back at the pagoda).
The sight of the four sacred Buddha images being rowed around the lake on a shimmering gilded barge towed by hundreds of leg-rowers in long canoes against the backdrop of Inle’s stunning landscapes is unforgettable. During the festival, each village greets the four images with vivid fanfare, celebrating every moment of the one-night stopover of the barge. Shan dances and martial arts in each special ceremonial boat. Rowing competitions are the highlight of the festival with teams representing various villages around the lake use their skills and strength to win races which we can witness up close from our boat. The elaborately decorated barge is striking on the water and with green mountain ranges behind. It is often accompanied by many boats, making an impressive procession.
The busiest time 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 join the festivities. The interesting highlight of the festival is the long boat race. The boats are paddled using the skillful, one-legged rowing technique, teamed up by about 50 rowers, representing the villages. This year 2018, the dates is set for 10th Oct to 27th Oct. The best view procession is on 16th Oct from Lin Kin to Naung Shwe with the boat race on the same date and the last day of the festival, 27th Oct with the boat race too. The barge is towed by long boats manned by up to a hundred leg rowers in colorful costumes. The Royal barge stops at 14 villages around Inle lake, where the images stay in the main monastery for one night.
Finally, the images arrive in the main town of Nyaung Shwe, where most pilgrims from near and far on hundreds of floating boats come to pay their respects and veneration. One more interesting highlight of the festival is the long boat race, where the participants row with an oar attached to one leg.
Visitors will experience local culture and enjoy the unique spectacle of rowers dressed in traditional costumes rowing boats standing with one leg.
This colorful festival is a must-see if you happen to be on a trip to Myanmar!
Take a glimpse of this tour including Inle Lake.
To plan your visit, here is the detailed schedule of the festivals for 2018, by date, time and activity:
16-Oct-18 Best view procession 7:00 Lin Kin to Naung Shwe
16-Oct-18 Boat race 10:00 Naung Shwe
24-Oct-18 Longest procession 7:00 Kyaing Kham to Mine Pyone
27-Oct-18 Boat race 10:00 Phaung Daw Oo Monastery