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INLAY is a big inland lake. 9 miles long and 31/2 miles wide, in Nyaung Shwe Township, Shan State, in northern Myanmar. In the past, there were four villag­es on the lake. The four (lay in Burmese) villages were referred to as inn (lake) lay villages. And, accordingly, the lake also came to be called lnnlay or Inlay. The four vil­lages on the lake are Nantpan, Wantlon or the big village of Bantpon, Naungtaw or Naung­taung, and Hineya or the main village of Heiyaar.

In 1120AD, during the tour of the nation by King Alaungsithu, Thawtapan, , King of Nats (celestial beings), requested the King to enshrine the Five Thayetkan Images at the East Taungnyo mountain range and to worship them. Accord­ingly, King Alaungsithu carried back the Five Images on five elephants.

When they reached a place called Than Taung in East Taungnyo region, the ele­phants stopped. Therefore, preparations were made to build a pagoda and to en­shrine the Images there. An elephant carrying one Image, however, continued travelling to the south and the King decreed that the Image on that elephant be carried into the Royal Palace. At that point, Thawtapan, King of Nats, showed himself and instructed that the Images should be giv­en into the temporary custody of Mahagama Village. There­fore, the Images were given into the custody of Sayadaw U Ariyardaza, presiding abbot at the village monastery. The vil­lagers held a joyous festival to mark the occasion and made libation calling on all living beings to share the merit.

In 1359AD, during the time of Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa Si Saing Pha a.k.a Si Saing Bwa, the villagers of Than Taung noticed aureole radiance em­anating from a cave covered with weeds and shrubs. When they removed the weeds and shrubs, the villagers saw the Images. When the Nyaung Shwe Sawbwagyi heard this, he ordered the Images carried to his Haw Palace and built a monastery for the Images to reside in.

During the time of Nyaung Shwe Sawbwagyi Si Saing Pha, only four Image resided at his Haw Palace; the fifth image  resided in Mahagama Village. Sawbwagyi Si Saing Pha used to build a temporary monas­tery east of his Haw Palace and allowed the people to worship the Images on the 7th waxing day of Thadingyut every year. The rest of the year, the Images resided at Nan Oo San Mon­astery.

In 1515AD, during the time of Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa Sao Nang Pheir, the Buddha Images were shifted to In Tein Village due to the danger of enemy pillage. While the Im­ages resided at In Tein Village, `royal carriers’ (trustees) were appointed to protect and maintain them. The Nyaung Shwe Sawbwagyi imbued the royal carriers with certain im­munities. However, on every 7th waxing day of Thadingyut, the Images were carried back to the Nyaung Shwe Haw Palace to receive the vener­ation of the people. At that point of time, the Image given into the custody of Mahagama Village during the time of King Alaungsithu was back together with the other Images.

In the earliest times, the Buddha Images embarked on their annual journey according to the following itinerary:‑


6th waxing day – Heiyaar Main Village

7th waxing day – Nant Thei, day food alms offered

8th waxing day – Resided the night at NantpanVillage

9thwaxing day – Naungtaw

10thwaxing day- Big Village of Bantpon

11thwaxing day – Sawma Village Monastery

Only Four Images were car­ried on the journey while the remaining Arahat Image was left behind to watch over the monastery. There is a reason for this. At one time, while the Five Images were being carried on their annual jour­ney, strong winds suddenly erupted when the royal barge carrying the Images was in the middle of the lake, east of Lin Kin Village at the entrance of Nyaung Shwe, and the barge sank. When divers searched the lake-bed for the Images, they found only Four Images. Therefore, the Four Images were carried back and, when they reached the monastery where the Images resided, they saw the lost Image residing in Gandha Eighti Monastery Block, its royal head covered with moss.

Then, when the Images were carried on their annual journey again, strong winds again blew like the last time. Therefore, it was decided to leave behind the Arhat Image on future journeys and to carry only the remaining Four Imag­es on the journeys. Even then, the royal barge again capsized in 1965. On October Ist, 1965, while the Images were being carried from Heiyaar main village to Kyay Sar Kone Monastery heavy rains descended when the royal barge reached Myay Ni Kone Village and it capsized.

When the royal barge capsized, two image sank to the bottom but they were retrieved and the ceremonial journey continued at 9:30 AM in the morning. However, the route of the journey to receive veneration was changed in 1966. In 1967, no more places touched by the royal barge on the journey were added; only the dates and the timings were adjusted. Later, the journey to receive veneration was drawn up to begin on the 1st waxing day of Thadingyut and, lasting for 19 days, end on the 3rdday from the full moon day of Thadingyut.

Still later, the journey to receive veneration was again adjusted, taking into account the vagaries of the weather. The journey is to start from the 15th waning day of Taw­thalin (dark moon day), with the Buddha Images carried on aboard the Karaweik Barge and the royal barge pulled by long boats rowed by In Thars (males native to Inlay Lake).

The Inlay Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is held beginning from around the full moon day of Thadingyut and the most congested part of the festival is when the Buddha Images return to Nanthu Village Monastery where they reside. Not only pilgrims from all parts of the country come to the Inlay Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, even many foreign visitors have great in­terest and join in the festivities.


Source:The Traveller Journal