Published on March 4, 2014
Inle Lake is a freshwater lake located in the Shan Hills in Myanmar. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles (116 km2), and one of the highest at an altitude of 2,900 feet (880 m). During the dry season, the average water depth is 7 feet (2.1 m), with the deepest point being 12 feet (3.7 m), but during the rainy season this can increase by 5 feet (1.5 m)
Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats,
or by somewhat larger boats fitted with single cylinder inboard diesel engines.
The population consists predominantly of Intha, with a mix of other Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O (Taungthu), Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar ethnicities. Most are devout Buddhists, and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers.
Tourist boats at Inthein
The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), some 70,000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake's shores, and on the lake itself. The entire lake area is in Nyaung Shwe township.
Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar.
This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting.
Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds.
However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands, sitting cross legged at the stern.
In addition to fishing, locals grow vegetables and fruit in large gardens that float on the surface of the lake.
The floating garden beds are formed by extensive manual labor. The farmers gather up lake-bottom weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating beds in their garden areas, anchored by bamboo poles.
These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, and so are resistant to flooding. The constant availability of nutrientladen water results in these gardens being incredibly fertile. Rice cultivation is also significant.
Hand-made goods for local use and trading are another source of commerce. Typical products include tools, carvings and other ornamental objects, textiles, and cheroots.
The Inle lake area is renowned for its weaving industry. The Shan-bags, used daily by many Burmese as a tote-bag, are produced in large quantities here.
Silk-weaving is another very important industry, producing high-quality hand-woven silk fabrics of distinctive design called Inle longyi.
A longyi is a sheet of cloth widely worn in Burma. It is approximately 2 m long and 80 cm wide. The cloth is often sewn into a cylindrical
The longyi is worn around the waist, running to the feet. It is held in place by folding fabric over, without a knot. It is also sometimes folded up to the knee for comfort
The longyi certainly suits the climate in these parts as it allows some air to circulate and keeps cool in the hot sun. Silks are unique in keeping warm in the winter as well as cool in the summer.
Men who cannot read are like the blind; women who cannot weave are like the cripple —an old Burmese saying at a time when every household had a handloom and the womenfolk wove all the longyis for the family
A unique fabric from the lotus plant fibers is produced only at Inle lake and is used for weaving special robes for Buddha images called kya thingahn (lotus
There is only one place in the world where the fibers of the lotus plant are woven into scarves and shawls. It is a form of weaving that is entirely unique to Myanmar (Burma) and specifically to Inle Lake
The lotus flower has always had a special place in Myanmar as a Buddhist motif for purification of the spirit,
and indeed the people of Myanmar claim that wearing the lotus thread makes you feel calm and meditative, plus it has the power to relieve heart and lung conditions.
The origin of the lotus silk shawls goes back 100 years when a girl plucked a lotus flower from the lake to offer at the Buddhist pagoda. It was then that she noticed a trail of fiber from where she had cut the stem.
Though lotus silk is considered extremely luxurious and the rarest fiber in the world, the lotus silk is still made for monks’ robes and is also made into pieces for the public, hence the shawls and scarves.
Lotus weaving caught on around Inle Lake, and the creation and offering of lotus robes to eminent Buddhist monks and pagoda statues became an act of Buddhist devotion and merit-making. Every step of the process is infused with spiritual significance. The Guardian Spirit of the Lotus is given ritual offerings before the stems are plucked. The handloom is consecrated as a sacred space.
The women weaving the robes follow the five precepts of Buddhism.
The robes are offered to the monks during Buddhist Lent, which coincides with the rainy season when the lotus are at their peak. And when worn, the Burmese believe the lotus robes have the power to calm the mind and aid in meditation.
Lotus scarf for a Buddha statue at Aung Sakkyar Lotus Robe Cooperative Ltd
Buddha statue clothed in a lotus robe, Shwe Yaunghe Kyaung Monastery, near Inle Lake
There are more than 4,000 lotus flowers woven within a single scarf and each scarf takes about 2 weeks to complete. This laborious process explains the expense of the scarves; they are certainly not cheap but then again you won’t find them anywhere else!
A sacred image in Asian cultures since ancient times, the lotus is a fitting metaphor for the Buddha’s teachings. Rooted in mud, the lotus grows upwards through murky waters (suffering) and its pristine flower blooms high above the water’s surface (purity, enlightenment).
In Buddhist cosmology the lotus flower contains all of creation and represents divine birth. According to the legend, Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk and lotus flowers bloomed where he took seven steps in each of the four cardinal directions. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on top of a lotus, and the pink colored lotus flower — like the one produced by the Padonma Kyar — is the supreme lotus associated with the Buddha’s life story.
A small neck scarf requires about 4,000 lotus stems, a large scarf requires about 40,000 stems, and a full set of monk’s robes (30 meters) requires about 220,000 lotus stems and 60 weavers to complete over a 10day period.
Text: Internet Pictures: Sanda Foişoreanu & Internet Copyright: All the images belong to their authors Presentation: Sanda Foişoreanu www.slideshare.net/michaelasanda Sound Hlaing Win Maung – Towards Shwe Man
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