The Phaung Daw Oo pagoda is the most highly revered monastery in the Inle Lake area.
The center shrine in the main hall of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda - one of the most famous shrines in Myanmar - houses five small golden Buddha images. These Buddha images (more than 800 years old) have been covered with so many gold leaves that it is impossible to see their original structure and look like a solid mass of gold. Every day Buddhist devotees come to the monastery to pay their respect to the images and apply more gold leaf, which only men are allowed to do.
The images are believed to have been brought to the Inle Lake region by Alaungsithu, King of the Bagan empire in the 12th century.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the most famous pagoda festivals in Myanmar and the biggest and most important occasion in the Shan State.
Four of the Buddha images are once a year are ceremonially rowed around the Lake in a gilded barge accompanied by many other boats with Inle leg rowers.
Although there are five Buddha images at the pagoda, only four 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.
Celebrated at the beginning of October (depending on a Buddhist calendar), it is attended by diversity of hilltribes from throughout the region - from the plains, mountains, and from small remote villages - everybody is here to enjoy the festivities.
During the festival, each village greets the four images with vivid fanfare, celebrating every moment of the stopover of the barge.
Rowing competitions are the highlight of the festival with teams representing various villages around the lake using their skills and strength to win the races. Rowers stand upright and row with an oar attached to one leg.