Buddhism and gemstones are major parts of life in Mogok. Pagodas of every size are scattered around the area, and gemstones are often given as offerings to the temples and monasteries. One extraordinary example of the link between gems and religion can be found in the beautiful Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.
It features an impressive white marble Buddha and two sacred gilded Buddhas, surrounded by intricate patterns of mirrored walls and columns. It also houses two incredible gold and silver plinths, encrusted with thousands of gemstones of all types and qualities. The grandiose of these objects when seen in person is indescribable.
Once a year, the two gilded statues are placed on these remarkable gem-covered bases for public viewing. We were able to see them during our journey to Mogok thanks to two of our hosts, Tun Shwe, a long-time Mogok gem dealer and one of the people responsible for creating and protecting the plinths, and his son Aung Naing Tun, Chairman of Mogok Gems & Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association.
We also visited the large Chanthargyi Pagoda on the other side of the lake. Along with beautiful statues and elaborate mirrored walls, the pagoda houses a very elaborate collection of precious gemstones and art objects of all sorts, all donated.
An estimated 1000 to 1200 gemstone mines operate in the Mogok Stone Tract. These include artisanal miners, cooperatives, semi-mechanized operations and large-scale companies utilizing modern exploration and excavation techniques.