By Thiha Lu Lin(THIHA, THE TRAVELLER)
Translated by EI PHYU PHYU AUNG
The full moon day of Tazaungmon is usually full of pagoda festivals with balloons and candle lights following the traditions. However, this year, everything is quiet, so is the Indawgyi Shwe Myintzu Pagoda Festival. When I was about to go to Indawgyi, I was actually scared as I am afraid of deep water. I heard the news as well. But when I got there, I was relieved to see the pilgrims on the motorboats crossing around. Although it is relatively easy to reach near the pagoda market by car in the afternoon, it isn’t easy to do so in the evening.
We got out of the car at the entrance of the market and went to the boat dock while looking around food stalls, souvenir shops and the shops selling flowers and donation items. The boat fare is 2,000 kyats per person. You can only ride a motorboat when the tide is high. When I went, I did not see seagulls. At times, it’s pleasant to see the birds flock to the boat and beg for food. At low tide, roads appear and are often viewed as human and spiritual roads as well as called sand roads. It is also known that it is visible during the full moon festival and disappears after the festival. Garbage is also clean on its own. The path of human is now paved with concrete and can be used day and night for traffic. I am not sure if the course of deity can’t be walked on or not since it was during the high tide when I got there.
How do we get there?
Most came down from Myitkyina. Some came up from Katha. Most came for pilgrimage after Mohnyin. I went from Myitkyina. It takes about 3 hours by car. People from Katha often come after the pilgrimage to Zalontaung Pagoda.
Indawgyi Lake, home to the Shwe Myintzu Yele Pagoda, is the largest natural lake in Myanmar and is 14 miles long and 7 miles wide. It is more noticeable from the top of Mount Hofa. The locals are proud of the fact that the water is always clean and free of garbage.
Shan people mostly live around Indawgyi lake. They are the Shan Reds called Tai Lyan. Therefore, Shan drum sound with Shan songs and Shan dances are the most heard and seen during the festival in Kachin State.
Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary has also been established around Indawgyi Lake. Therefore, bird watching enthusiasts especially visit this area. One of the unique features of Indawgyi Lake is the Shwe Myintzu Pagoda in the centre of the lake. Most of the visitors come here to pay homage to the pagoda.
Shwe Myintzu Ye Lae Pagoda
I see that the history of Shwe Myintzu Pagoda and Indawgyi Lake is a mixture of science and mythology, depending on each person’s belief.
Due to the practice of erasing years of the era in the calendar by ancient Burmese kings, historians often try to relate some historical facts. In any case, it is no longer a matter of arguing that only a little history is accepted.
Shwe Myintzu Ye Lae Pagoda is one of the famous pagodas in Kachin State.
When Uttara Htarni Si Khan, a town inhabited by Taman people who spend their time indulging in sensual pleasures, had been decided to be flooded by the Dragon Council, the Dragon Prince came to the land. He announced to leave the town in 7 days. But there was only one widow who heard this, and she went from house to house to deliver the message, but no one believed her.
When the widow moved to the highlands with her family and relatives, seven days later, heavy rains fell, and the town disappeared. The widow who escaped was also the founder of the Widow Pagoda and is often visited when visiting the area. That is the legendary history of how Indawgyi Lake came to be.
History of Shwe Myintzu Pagoda is that once upon a time, when Gautama Buddha ascended to the region, he saw a hermit at the foot of a mountain. The hermit remained silent. Buddha stopped at the top of the mountain (called Elephant Head Mountain). He looked at the ground and looked upset then smiled again when Ananda asked him why he said that the hermit he had just seen would later become the ruler of the lake that would be here and that the living beings would perish for many years.
He smiled when he saw the pagoda where the Buddha stood and where the sacred relics were located. According to this preordainment, it came to the time of Sayadaw U Nyi Thu, a well-known Alchemist. He was asked by the people living near the lake for help with Labit and Lataung crocodiles as people did not dare to cross the boat or to take a bath in the lake because they were afraid of the crocodiles and the Indawgyi Lord. Thus, they asked Sayadaw U Nyi Thu for help to apologize to Indawgyi Lord to keep the crocodiles. Monk U Nyi Thu apologized to Indawgyi Lord and took a boat and three small stones. He went to Indawgyi Lake with the wish to build pagoda although he was disturbed by a heavy storm. He wished to guide him with the place to make the pagoda.
It is said that there was a sandbank near the place where the Shwe Myintzu pagoda will be built, and a giant sea creature blocked the boat from going there. With a cane on the sand, he was able to drop three small stones on top of the sand. Then, the sea creature also disappeared, and the heavy rain was calm and pleasant. It is believed that the Lord of Indawgyi had placed the crocodiles under the Golden Mountain forever. It is said that the Shwe Myintzu Pagoda was formed at the place where alchemist U Nyi Thu dropped the three stones.
It was the monk U Thar Aye (U Thar Bita) who made this Shwe Myintzu pagoda stand out. It is said to have been built in 1230 ME. The pagoda is also said to have a shrine with the five Noble relics brought from the Shwedagon Pagoda. The shrine was placed on a boat in a gold box, so it was named Mazutha after the golden box, which became known as Shwe Myintzu.
In the past, the relics were located above, but the pagoda’s shrine has been upgraded, which makes it lower when the tide is down, so women are not allowed to enter the pagoda.
Locals are very wary of heavy rain and people falling in the lake when women go up to the pagoda. There is a separate room for women to pay homage from there. It is said that a floating ring road is planned to construct soon.
The Shwe Myintzu Pagoda is said to be 50 feet tall, and the base is 39 feet 10 inches. You will also see 152 small pagodas built. Many people pay to visit the pagoda whether they know the history of the pagoda or for the regional knowledge. The pagoda festival is also a lot of fun for both locals and visitors.
Best time to visit
It is quite alive during Ta Paung La Pagoda Festival (around March), Thadingyut and Tazaungmon Full Moon Days. Since I visited on the full moon day, I saw the practice of launching balloons.
9 Wonders of Indawgyi
1. Eight miles long and 4 miles wide (16 miles x 8 miles – the widest width at the highest tide).
2. The water is clean and clear
3. There is no big sea creature in the lake, although it is large and spacious (assumed that it was possibly controlled by Lord Indawgyi).
4. In the lake, if a person falls, he or she is brought to the shore without any fish-eating or defects
5. Gold can be mined near the lake
6. Garbage is brought back to shore every night
7. water flow to the different direction three times per year
8. Rivers are not allowed to flow cleanly into the lake
9. Every year, from the month of Tazaungmon to the month of Pyatho, the fish in the lake die.
In addition to nine unique things, the water leaks out and is flowing upwards in reverse. Plants that grow in the lake also change and disappear every ten years.
Where to stay?
There are good hostels in Indawgyi for pagoda festivals. Most of the time, they build and rent for the festival season. There are very few well-built ones. I stayed at Htay Metta Advanced Guest House. Typically, there were a few simple rooms, but luckily there were only two VIP rooms so that I could have one. There was also an air-conditioned room with an attached bathroom included with the refrigerator (mini bar).
In a place where water is scarce, it was impressive. Since restaurants are offering Chinese and Myanmar foods, it is also convenient for food. Because it is a family-style, the hostel is as warm as your family. You can spend the night there and visit Shwe Myintzu Ye Lae Pagoda in Indawgyi.
Indawgyi actually has many other places to visit besides Shwe Myintzu Pagoda. This is only about the Shwe Myintzu Pagoda, so I won’t mention other things to see. If you have time, you should visit for two nights. I appreciate the help of Sayar Nay Lin for providing a reference for the history of the pagoda and the lake.
If you have the opportunity, I would like to say that it is a place worth visiting.