Myanmar marks the return of boat competition, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, after 3 years

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1000’s of Buddhists took to boats on Myanmar‘s famed Inle Lake on Thursday to have a good time the return of one of many nation’s greatest festivals, however the devotees’ pleasure was laced with the sorrow of conflict.

Devotees row the golden barge carrying the four sacred Buddha images during the festival of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in Inle Lake, Myanmar's Shan State, on October 19, 2023. Thousands of Buddhist devotees joined a waterborne procession on Myanmar's Inle lake as one of the country's biggest festivals returned to joy and sorrow as conflict between the military and its opponents rages on. (Photo by SAI AUNG MAIN / AFP)
Devotees row the golden barge carrying the 4 sacred Buddha photographs in the course of the competition of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in Inle Lake, Myanmar’s Shan State, on October 19, 2023. 1000’s of Buddhist devotees joined a waterborne procession on Myanmar’s Inle lake as one of many nation’s greatest festivals returned to pleasure and sorrow as battle between the navy and its opponents rages on. (Photograph by SAI AUNG MAIN / AFP)

The seventeen-day Phaung Daw Oo pagoda competition sees 4 sacred Buddha photographs positioned on a golden barge and rowed by way of villages that dot the shores of the vacationer hotspot in jap Shan state.

The coronavirus pandemic after which the navy’s 2021 coup cancelled the three earlier editions of the competition, denying locals the possibility to worship the pictures and achieve benefit.

On Thursday morning, the golden barge zipped by way of the cool water, towed by glossy wood longboats crewed by males rowing within the native trend — a leg wrapped round their oar to achieve extra push.

Dozens of boats crammed with worshippers adopted because the solar rose, the sounds of drums and cymbals accompanying the flotilla.

“We’re having fun with right here however on the opposite aspect (exterior of Inle Lake) the scenario is just not good,” scholar Phuu Pyae Thwe informed AFP on the water.

“We really feel unhappy due to their scenario… We’re additionally worrying what might occur on the best way,” the scholar added, resembling attainable armed clashes.

“We wish to apologise to you all. We’ve not held [the festival] for 3 years already. We’re sorry in regards to the preventing somewhere else.”

As they drew alongside the golden barge decked out with Buddhist flags, devotees prayed to the 4 photographs inside.

A fifth Buddha picture stays within the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda in the course of the festivities — the legacy of an accident a number of a long time in the past when it was dropped into the lake from the boat carrying it.

– Vacationer no-go –

International travellers flocked to Inle’s waters and brooding hills after the then-junta transitioned to semi-civilian rule in 2011 and opened up the Southeast Asian nation.

However arrivals have dried up because the 2021 coup, which has battered the financial system and put many areas of the nation off-limits.

One employee within the close by city of Nyaungshwe informed AFP his lodge had shed 80 % of its workers.

“Many motels are closed as a result of there are not any native or international company,” they stated, asking for anonymity.

Shan state has been spared the worst of the navy’s crackdown {that a} native monitoring group says has killed greater than 4,100 folks and seen tens of 1000’s arrested.

However in March round 30 folks sheltering from preventing at a monastery simply hours from Inle had been killed, with the junta and anti-coup fighters buying and selling blame over the bloodbath.

The navy says greater than 6,000 folks have been killed by anti-coup fighters.

“We have been getting ready since we heard the competition was going to occur,” Than Nyunt, 75, informed AFP.

“We’re additionally doing good deeds for these folks in Myanmar who’re struggling as properly,” she stated.

“We’re praying for them. We’re wishing for them to be pleased and peaceable once more rapidly like right here.”

On the shore, Htway Yi stated she was “very pleased” for the competition’s return.

“We had been unhappy as we hadn’t seen (the Buddha statues) for 3 years,” she informed AFP.

“We’re pleased now… I need the lake to be crowded like earlier than.”

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This story has been printed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content. Solely the headline has been modified.

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