The Crumbling Ruins of ‘Shwe Inn Thein’ Pagodas of Indein, Myanmar

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On the western bank of Inle Lake, in the heart of Myanmar’s jungles, lies the small village of Indein with hundreds of ancient pagodas of many shapes and sizes and in various states of ruin. Some of them have been restored, but most are in the crumbling state overgrown with bushes.

The village is reached only by boat through the Inn Thein creek, a long narrow foliage-cloaked canal that wind through the dense overgrowth. The scenic 8 kilometer boat ride from Inle Lake can be made only in the rainy season and winter, and not in summer as the water becomes too shallow.

There are two sets of pagodas around Indein — Nyaung Ohak and Shwe Inn Thein.

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The first site is immediately behind the village and near the boat landing. It contains the Nyaung Ohak pagodas, which in Burmese means “group of banyan trees”. The crumbling pagodas are decorated with ornate stucco carvings of mythical animals, deva (celestial beings) and chinthe (mythical lions). Some have images of the Buddha.

From Nyaung Ohak, a covered stairway climbs up a hill at the top of which is located Shwe Inn Thein, a complex of hundreds of weather beaten pagodas, most constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries. This site is believed to date back to the days of the Indian emperor Ashoka, who sent out monks in the 3rd century BC across Asia to spread Buddhism. Centuries later two Kings of the Bagan empire, Narapatisithu and Anawrahta built pagodas at the site. At the center of the Shwe Inn Thein group is the shrine housing an image of the Buddha that is believed to have been built by King Ashoka himself, although there is no archaeological evidence to support this theory.

From the hill where the pagodas are situated, you can have a great panorama of the village and the surrounding area.

Also see: The Thousand Temples of Bagan

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The Nyaung Ohak stupas. Photo credit

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Some pagodas have been restored to golden splendor. Photo credit

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Sources: Renown Travel / www.tomyasia.com / Lonely Planet

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