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Shwe Oo Min, Pindaya

Back, back, back in November 2014, while up in Shan State for the Balloon/Firework Festival of Flames, I took a day trip over to Pindaya where the Shwe Oo Min Cave Pagoda houses some 8,094 statues. I’ve been to a handful of caves housing Buddha statues, but I was not prepared for the sheer density of statues in Pindaya and the multiple labyrinth-like levels of this cave. There’s a lot going on with Buddhism in Myanmar from the revolutionary role monks played during the junta; the current role monks play in shaping in/tolerance towards other religions; the everyday spiritualism of Myanmar Buddhists that still use Shwedagon Pagoda and Bagan as local places of prayer, meditation, and pilgrimage; and even this particular incidence with the December arrest and current detainment of a Kiwi co-owner of a Yangon bar that posted a promotional with a Buddha wearing headphones. Even with the country closed off for years it has apparently always been a center internationally for Buddhist practice. The cave held statues donated within the past few decades from families, groups and business from all over the world including Singapore, Germany, the US, the Netherlands, Australia, Thailand, etc.

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The entrance to the cave. Legend has it that a giant spider used to live in the cave; the prince slayed it with an arrow after it had captured the princess. Of course. Pindaya is, after a few rounds of Chinese Whispers, translated to “taken the spider.”

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The ornate “cloud” around the head is a style I’ve never seen before.

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She looks perfectly in place.

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The cave was tall enough to have a few large towers full of small Buddhas.

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Close up of one of the towers.

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Buddha’s feet/footprints are also sacred; the toes are all the same length.

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Cave rat. Perhaps it was a person born in the Year of the Rat who donated this statue?

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Buddhas perched on top of dripping cave features. Every surface possible – Buddha.

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Perspiring Statue. They were the only statues painted black. Streams of people came up and started vigorously rubbing them and then rubbing their faces and hair. Not sure…

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Another lucky thing to touch. People would wet their hands with the water dripping down this cave column and rub it on their heads.

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Modern touches – gold glitter.

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Lotuses are symbolic of many things in Buddhism. They are transcendent with their roots in the mud and their blossoms blooming above the water.

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Many of the statues had plaques beneath them noting who donated them. The Thai narcotics agencies’ donations are perhaps an indication of the cooperation between the Golden Triangle countries. Poppy production is still doing quite well in northern Myanmar.

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Like the red dragon/pink gauzy veil combination.

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Multiple rooms, multiple levels. Each one had mood lighting.

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Terminus of Cave. It seemed like an intimidating drop, but in fact was only about three feet down.