Pindaya – The land of Buddha Caves
Situated 40 kilometers north of Kalaw, Pindaya is a quiet picturesque town perched on the bank of the placid Pone Ta Lote Lake, in the beautiful country of Shan state. It would be fascinating to take a trip to Pindaya – the land of Buddha caves. The famous limestone caves house thousands of Buddha images that have been consecrated for worship over the centuries. Pindaya is also known for its attractive lakeside sitting, its handicrafts and the Shan paper umbrellas that are manufactured there.
The term ‘Pindaya’, according to local legend, comes from the word ‘pingu-ya’ (translated as ‘Taken the spider’ in Burmese). This name arose from a local legend that there was once a giant spider which resided in the caves and captured a princess. The spider suddenly closed the entrance and held the princess captive in the cave. The princess was rescued by a Prince Charming, Prince Kummabhaya of Yawnghwe (Nyaung Shwe now), who killed the spider by using a bow and arrow. The prince was said to have exclaimed ‘pingu-ya’ (“taken the spider”), that is he killed it. The exclamation became the name of the region and Pindaya got its name from it.
Pindaya is not popular as Bagan, Mandalay or other attractive destinations in Myanmar. However, it put a nice impression on the travelers, the best things to see and do in Pindaya.
The Pindaya Caves is an important pilgrimage site for Myanmar Buddhists, and an attractive and unusual sight for tourists. The cave is set in a limestone hill, about one mile southwest of the town.
There are three caves, but only one is open to visit. Inside the southernmost cave, there are more than 8000 Buddha statues made from teak, alabaster, marble, brick and lacquer, representing Buddhist iconography from different periods of times. They are arranged in such a ways to form a labyrinth through the cave chambers.
Most statues were built between the 18th century and 19th centuries, and others were brought to the cave by a wide variety of donors from ordinary people to governmental institutes. Therefore, the statues are in a rich diversity of styles. The most notable are the 70 Bhisakkaguru statues with a seed in the flipped right palm, a unique feature that cannot be found anywhere else in Myanmar.
On the way to the only cave that can be entered and explored, there is a 15 meters high Shwe Oo Min Pagoda (meaning ‘Golden Cave’).
Pindaya trekking, one of the best in Myanmar, is recommended for travelers who don’t have much time for a long trekking. The views from the hills down onto the surrounding countryside, the colorful hill ethnic villages, the vegetable farms and the mountains will be the reward for your efforts.
You can visit tribal villages of Pa-O, Palaung, and Shan people and have a night stop so that you will immerse into the atmosphere of an authentic village and see the way of life of the mountain people.
Pindaya is one of the key places where local style umbrellas and Shan papers are made. There are around 20 places in Ngetpyawdaw quarter in Pindaya. You will enjoy visiting homerun workshops where craftsmen and women use simple handmade tools for making paper from mulberry bark, umbrellas and parasols, and for weaving bamboo hats. Their sheer simplicity and calm relaxed way of life make this stop as a ‘must-see’ on any trip to Pindaya.