Arakan, The Land of Father

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Arakan, The Land of Father

Exploring Arakan      

Arakan Was 


Arakan's earliest traces of human activity date back Neolithic Age (12,500-9500 BC or 12,000-9500 BC) has evidently proved as Neolithic artifacts that crudely made axe heads (locally recognize as thunder axe), chisels and polishing tools. The first inhabitants of the Arakan were Neolithic people known as Raksa (ogre)>Rakkha>Rakhine. The term of Rakhine/Arakanese probably comes from Sanskrit and Pali name Raksa and Rakkha and the land of Arakan which means 'Rakkhapura' in Pali and in Sanskrit 'Raksapura'.

Rakhine who were titled this name in honor of preservation on their national heritage and ethics or morality.


The Mrauk Oo of Father Manrique's day

Past dynasties included Danyawady, Vesali, Laemro and Mrauk-U. The golden days of Mrauk-U in 16th and 17th centuries were contemporary to the days of Tudor kings and the Moguls from India, the Ayudya kings of Thailand and Ava, Taungoo and Hanthawaddy kings of Burma. Arakan has an over 5000-years old language and rich culture.

The natives of Arakan trace their history as far back as 3325 B.C., and give a lineal succession of 227 native princes down to modern times. According to them, their empire had at one period far wider limits, and extended over Ava, part of China, and a portion of Bengal. This extension of their empire is not, however, corroborated by known facts in history. According to recorded history, a kingdom called Dhanyawadi arose in the Arakan region between the 34th century BC to 4th Century AD. The famous Mahamuni Buddha (located in Mandalay) was cast in Dhanyawady in around 554 B.C.

Map of Dhanyawaddy

Ancient Dhannyawadi Lying, west of the ridge between the Kaladan and Le-mro riv­ers. Dhannyawadi could be reached by small boat from the Kaladan Via the its tributary, the Tharechaung. Its city walls were made of brick, and form an irregular circle with a perimeter of about 9.6 kilometres, enclosing an area of about 4.42 square kilometres. Beyond the walls, the remains of a wide moat, now silted over and covered by paddy fields, are still visible in places. The re­mains of brick fortifications can be seen along the hilly ridge which provided protection from the west. Within the city, a similar wall and moat enclose the palace site, which has an area of 0.26 square kilometres, and another wall surrounds the palace itself.

Map of Vesali

At times of insecurity, when the city was subject to raids from the hill tribes or attempted invasions from neigh­bouring powers, there would have been an assured food supply enabling the population to withstand a siege. The city would have controlled the valley and the lower ridges, supporting a mixed wet-rice and taungya (slash and burn) economy, with local chiefs paying allegiance to the king.

Map of Mrauk U

From aerial photographs we can discern Dhannyawadi's irri­gation channels and storage tanks, centred at the palace site. Throughout the history of Arakan, and indeed the rest of early Southeast Asia, the king's power stemmed from his control of irrigation and water storage systems to conserve the monsoon rains and therefore to maintain the fertility and prosperity of the land. In ceremonies conducted by Indian Brahmins the king was given the magic power to regulate the celestial and terrestrial forces in order to control the coming of the rains which would ensure the continuing prosperity of the kingdom. The oldest artefact, stone image of Fat Monk inscribed "Saccakaparibajaka Jina" in Brahmi inscription comes to the date of first century A.D.

An ancient stone inscription in Nagari character was discovered by renowned Archaeologist Dr. Forchhammer. Known as Salagiri, this hill was where the great teacher came to Arakan some two thousand five hundred years ago. Somewhere from eastern part of this hill, a stone image in Dhamma-cakra-mudra now kept in Mrauk-U museum, was found earlier in 1923. This relief sculpture found on the Salagiri Hill represents Buddha preaching King Chandra Suriya belongs to 4th century A.D.; five more red sandstone slabs with the carving were found close by the south of this Salagiri Hill in 1986. They are the same type as the single slab found earlier in 1923. These carving slabs of Bhumispara-mudra, Kararuna-mudra, Dhammacakra-mudara, and Mmahaparinibbana-mudra represent the life of Buddha.

These sculptures provide earliest evident about the advent of Buddhism into Arakan; during the life time of the Buddha and these discoveries were therefore assumed as the figures of King Chandra Suriya of Dhannawadi, who dedicated the Great Maha Muni Image. These archaeological findings have been studied by eminent scholars and conclusion is that the Maha Muni was made during the king Sanda Suriya era.

The kingdom of Waithali (Rakhine: Wai-tha-li) was the successor to Dhanyawady from the 4th century AD.

The founder of Vesali city, King Dvan Chandra carved Vesali Paragri Buddha-image in 327 A.D and set a dedicatory inscription in Pali verse

"ye dhamma hetuppabuava / Tathagato aha / tesan ca yo niyodho / evamvadi Mahasamano."

That Buddha-image is carved out by a single block and the earliest image of Vesali.

The meaning of Ye Dhamma verse is as follow.
"Of these dhammas which arise from causes / The Tathagata has declared causes / Lord Buddha preached about the causes / And the effects gained by the causes / And that which is the ceasing of them, Nirawda Thitesa / This the great ascetic declares."

The verse, which is considered as the essence of Theravada spirit, bears testimony to the fact that Buddhism flourished to an utmost degree in Vesali. The relationship of Vesali with foreign countries especially Ceylon would be established for Buddhism.

The stone inscriptions are of Sanskrit, Pali, Rakhine, Pru and Arabic languages. Anandacandra Inscriptions date back to 729 A.D. originally from Vesali now preserved at Shitethaung indicates adequate evidence for the earliest foundation of Buddhism. Dr. E. H. Johnston's analysis reveals a list of kings which he considered reliable beginning from Candra dynasty. The western face inscription has 72 lines of text recorded in 51 verses describing the Anandacandra's ancestral rulers. Each face recorded the name and ruling period of each king who were believed to have ruled over the land before Anandacandra. Archaeology has shown that the establishment of so many stone pagodas and inscriptions which have been totally neglected for centuries in different part of Arakan speak of popular favoured by Buddhism.

Arakan reached the zenith of its power in the Bay of Bengal during the Waithali (Vesali), Lemro and Mrauk U periods, but the country steadily declined from the seventeenth century onwards. Chittagong, which was part of Arakan, was invaded and occupied by the Mughal Empire in 1666. Internal instability and dethroning of kings was very common. The Portuguese, during the era of their greatness in Asia, gained a temporary establishment in Arakan.

On the last day of 1784, the Arakan was finally cccupied by the Burmese. The famous Mahamuni Buddha image was taken as a war trophy by Crown Prince Thado Minsaw to Amarapura. (The image was relocated to Mandalay by King Mindon in 1853 when he relocated the capital to Mandalay). The Burmese, after conquering Arakan, came directly into contact with British interests in east India. Burmese seizures of Arakan's neighbouring states of Assam and Manipur and the assault on Shinmaphyu Isle, which was a British outpost in Bengal, were the instigating causes of the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824 to 26). Under the Treaty of Yandabo (1826), Burma ceded Arakan and Tenasserim to British India. Arakan was thus one of the first Burmese territories to be ceded to the British. The British made Akyab capital of Arakan, and retained the traditional divisions of the country into the districts of Akyab, Kyaukpyu and Sandoway (Ramree) with a district officer in charge of each.

With independence and the formation of the Union of Burma in 1948, the three districts became Arakan Division, on equal footing with the majority Burmese administrative divisions.

From the 1950s, there was a growing movement for  restoration of Rakhine independence. In part to appease this sentiment, in 1974, the Burmese government of Ne Win constituted Rakhine State from Arakan Division giving at least nominal acknowledgment of the majority Rakhine ethnic group, the Arakanese nationalities.

Historical periods:

Dhannyawadi - BC. 3325 - AD. 326
The First Dhannyawadi
BC. 3325 - 1483 King Marayu
The Second Dhannyawadi
BC. 1483 - 580 King Kanrazagree
The Third Dhannyawadi
BC. 580 - AD. 326 King Chandra Suriya
Gautama Buddha, Himself, visited Dhannyawadi and the Great Image of Mahamuni was casted, and Buddhism began professed in Arakan. Currency system by coinage is said introduced in Arakan economy.

Vesali - Lemro - AD. 327 - 1430
Vesali Kyauk Hlayga
AD. 327 - 794 King Dvan Chandra
AD. 794- 818 Prince Nga Tong Mong (Saw Shwe Lu)
AD. 818 -1430 King Nga Tone Mun
This period was the highest civilization in the Bay and highly prosperous with busy international trade with the west. Pyinsa, Purain, Taung Ngu and Narinsara, Laungkrat cities were flourished and gold and silver coinage was used in trade relation in Arakan in this period.

Golden Mrauk-U - 1430 - 1784
First Golden Mrauk-U
1430 - 1530 King Mun Saw Mwan
Second Golden Mrauk-U
1530 - 1638 Solidified by King Mun Bun (Mun Ba Gri)
Arakan reached at the zenith of the national unity and of the time of most powerful in the Bay in this period.
Third Golden Mrauk-U Period
1638 - 1784 King Mahathamada Raza

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  • Arakan Is

    In the modern age, Arakan is still one of colonial states of Burma/Myanmar and it is absolutely ruled by Burmese successors or Burmese successive government without rule and law. Their system or policy maintains to govern and order politically suppress, economically exploit and socially subject base in Burmese extra-chauvinism.

        The people of Arakan are being hunger, poorness and neurosis due to Burmese government brutal rule by principles of fascism constantly. There has no free and fair election, the right to vote, freedom of expression, freedom of press, and freedom of association. Arakanese people have been suffered by the Burmese government has treated and commited "murder,extermination, torture;,rape, political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane ." 



    Burmese authorities have systematically neglected to fulfil the basic infrastructure as roads, schools, power plants, transportation and communication systems for Arakan since 1948.

    So-called "Look Ar Pee" Forced Labour

    Arakan Highway Bridge

    Akyab(Sitetwe) to Rangoon

    View of Mrauk U Jetty, Arkan

    Burmese Army for Porter"Forced Labour"

    Geography and Territories      

    Arakanese  is located between south Asia and south-east Asia bordering Bangladesh on the north-west, India on the north, Burma on the east and the Bay of Bengal on the west and south.

    Arakan geographic surfaces are formed with mountains, hills, rockies, plains islands and rivers. Arakan Roma (Arakan Range) is well known and separates from central Ayeyarwady plains of Burma. Son Toung(6,500ft) is one of the highest mountains(Mayu Toung, Buthi Toung, Watha Thoe Toung, Bae Nga Ra Toung) of Arakan. The most  rivers of Arakan are flowing from north to south and some is running in a stream from east to west, The rivers Naaf, Saing Ton, Mayu, Kalantan, Lemore are all in the north and streaming from north to south.  Rivers of Ann , Toung kook, Tan Hlawe, Gwa  are in the south and all are flowing down from east to west. The plain regiosn as valleys of Kalantan and Lemro are vast and fertilize.   

    The area of Arakan was about 21,694 sq. ml. till the British period. But, Burmese ruler, without the Arakanese people's consent, split up a north western Arakan Hill Tracts area bordering India and a southern most part of Arakan (from Kyauk Chaung River to Cape Negaris) from the Arakan mainland. Due to these partitions, the present day total area of Arakan was reduced to 18, 500 sq. ml and it comprises less than half of historic Arakan.

    Indigenous People of Arakan

    Indigenous people of Arakan are Mro, Khami, Thauk, Dinenuk, Maramagri, Kaman and Arakanese (Rakhine). These people are officially recognized as native of Arakan  according to Arakanese History. Small ethnic groups are as Linke, Anoo, Shandoo and Khaungso in addition to Myanmars and Chins. Total population of Arakan is estimated at 3.83 million. Some illegal Bengali also known as Kular has stayed in Arakan without document. This group is neither ethnic nationalities nor indigenous race of Arakan. Bangladesh is their mother land. They make false story of Arakanese history and say themselves as so-called Rohingyas are linking the terrorist movement connection with Taliban, Al Qaeda and Harakat UI-Jihad-i-Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-B) based in Jihad war. 



    The colonial economic of Arakan is very worst by Burmese rulers. 80% of Arakanese people has depended earning on agriculture as paddy, 10% for fishing, 5% for small scale of private business and 5% for others including merchants. There has no factories in Arakan except rice mill in Akyab (Sitetwe) and suger mill in Kyouk Taw. Agriculture is the main economic activity: principal crops being paddy, chili, tobacco, coconut, betel nut and ohm-toddy palm- Groundnut, maize, rubber, matpe, bocate bean, soya bean, and gram are also cultivated. The Kissapanadi(Kalan Tan) and Aissana nadi(Lemro) rivers runs through the state, giving water for plantation.

    Oil exploration is in progress along Arakan offshore. Rathetaung Township, Baronga Island, Cheduba Island, Ramree Island and Muwe island produce some oil. Coal is found in Sittwe Township and marble in Taung Kook Township. There is a four-mile long lime-stone hill on Ramree Island. Half of the State is covered with forests that yield valuable woods and bamboos. Solar salt making is another occupation in Thantwe, Taungup and Kyaukpru townships.

    Almost people of Arakan are too much poor due to Burmese government's economic exploitation and human right violation. However , someone who close to Burmese authorities gets oppunities of Business permit is rich. There has a lot of Arakanese people are jobless and they have departed to looking for new job to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Malasia, Bangladesh and India.

     Arakanese is abounding with natural resources and raw and material, but Arakanese people have no benefit, no advantage due to Arakanese is still subject to colonial and Burmese alien rule.

     Culture & Society

    The Arakanese are predominantly Theravadan Buddhists. They claim to be one of the first groups to become followers of the Buddha in Southeast Asia. The Arakanese culture is based on Theravada Buddhism and has more Indo-Aryans culture influence, likely due to its geographical isolation from the Burmese mainland divided by the Arakan Roma and closer proximity to South Asia. Traces of Indian influence remain in many aspects of Arakanese culture, including its literature, music, and cuisine.

    Traditional Arakanese (Rakhine) Water Festival - Rakhine Thungran

    Traditional Rakhine Thungran is celebrated on 13-17 April every year, it''s also known as the Water Festival. Traditionally there is a festival for each of the twelve months. Thungran is on Tangu, the first lunar month of Rakhine calendar. Thungran means passing from one year to another.

    The New Year, Thungran Celebration, symbolizes the feast of washing away the old year clean. Traditional Rakhine Thungran is held in three stages which are: incense - grinding, offering of water to Buddha images and holding the water festival. There are four days of holiday.

    All marketing and shopping are closed. Before the arrival of Thungran, everyone''s household must be cleaned. On 12th April, the eve of Thungran, young women prepare the scented water at night. To make the scented water, a piece of sandal-wood is rubbed with a little water added on the surface of a flat, circular stone plate surrounded by a sunken ring to collect the mixture.

    Young men come and join them accompanied by music and dance, and then they make beautiful bamboo trees with hanging things to offer to the monasteries. They are called the "Padetharpon".On 13th April, the opening day of Thungran, young men-women, children and parents go to monasteries in lorries bringing scented water and "Padetharpon" (bamboo trees).

    When they arrive at the monastery compound the girls carry the water and the boys wash the Buddha images and statues, then offer scented water to the Buddha images. They go around from one monastery to another offering one "Padetharpon" to each monastery. Before bathing the Buddha no one is allowed to play with water.

    When they return home from visiting the monasteries, anyone can throw water at the lorries carrying people. The Water Festival starts the next day. In every suburb they make a beautiful pandal with wooden posts surrounded by toddy palm leaves hanging with green bunches of leaves and colourful flowers. In the middle of the pandal there is a wooden rowboat filled with water. In front of the boat there are benches in a single row which provide seats for the girls. A fence is placed three feet above the ground. It serves as the divider between males outside the pandal and females inside the pandal. Rakhine girls who are pandal members run the pandal. There are usually twenty to forty young girls at a pandal. The girls sit on the benches facing the boat, they wear the same colour and designed uniform. They all look alike from the rear. It is hard to tell the girls apart. The pandals open from 11.00am to 3.00pm.

    The boys go around the city one pandal after another. The boy can choose the girl he likes as his mate and chat with her teasingly but politely. The boys come on foot and in the bullock carts with music instruments and utensil boards. Every group has to wait for its turn while the other group is enjoying the water festival in the pandal. While they are waiting for their turn, there is singing and dancing in the fore ground.

    When the whistle blows, it means that the time is up. The next group takes the place opposite the girls of their choice. The boy invites the girl to join him for the water festival, he greets her with a cupful of water gently thrown her back.. The girl gets up and throws a bowl of water at him. He calls her "Maree", sister-in-law, before he politely asks for some water. The girl fills his bucket with water. He takes a cup of water from his bucket and throws it at her. She throws him a bowl of water from the boat. They play face-to-face, faster and faster If some-one''s cup drops down or he/she wipes his/her face, that will be a looser, as must pay a fine. A group is allowed to enjoy themselves for about 15 minutes. There are whole pandals filled with water sparks. After the pandals close the members of the pandals go around the city in the lorries. The Water Festival Celebration goes for three days in the cities but in the countryside it''s celebrated until the end of the month.

    During the Thungran days, every house cooks some traditional food and sends it to monasteries. Also they send food to relatives and neighbors then, everywhere is filled of music until midnight.
    On New Year Day, the cultural association group goes around, suburb to suburb, and gives respect to the oldest people by prayer, singing, dancing and presents.
    It is the most joyful celebration of the year.

    Arakanese Traditional Sports

    There were various traditional sports as wide range of activity in Arakan like art of self-defence, kyun ( Arakanese style of wrestling and self-defense),elephat and horse race, bow race, sword with sword and spear with spear race, carriage pulling and long boat race. The purpose of all race were produced skilled warriors of the Kingdom for the Royal Army of Arakan. However, Both major sports of Kyun wrestling and long boat race have remained and popularized among the people of Arakan. Carriage pulling is still alive and some Townships are playing it traditionally during the full moon of Tapoe Htwe month. The several kinds of sport were lost throughout under the colonial rule.

    Arakanese  Wrestling - Kyun

    Arakanese  people have a long tradition of holding wrestling competitions during the annual festivals in their towns and villages. It is one of the Arakanese traditional sports which mainly based on physical ability to uplift the happiness and physical prowess. It's a kind of martial art. The skill of wrestling and making one's rival fall on to the ground while avoiding hid attack is called "Kyun".

    Kyun - It derives from Kyar-Yun. Kyar" means "tiger" and "yun" means "quick". Therefore, the complete meaning of "Kyun" is the quick tiger. The Arakanese wrestler can be called as a quick tiger because of his ability in wrestling movements and techniques.

    "Kyun" the Arakanese wrestling is very different from other wrestling and it has its own rules and disciplines not to get hurt each other. Wrestler first dances jumping and making special styles in the playground. The two wrestlers have to play three rounds. They are defined as an attacker and one defender. After finishing three rounds, the first attacker becomes the defender and also the first defender becomes the attacker. The attacker who can make the back of the defender falls up to the ground wins the playing round. The first prizewinner will be awarded the gold gong, one tickle weight and for the second prizewinner, the silver gong is awarded. The "Kyun" wrestling is usually performed at the pagoda festivals.

    Long Boat Race

    Long Boat Race also known as Prying Loung Pwe is one of the famous and favorite sports of Arakan. it has made an enjoment,  the valuable team-work lessons and friendly contest. The races are Long Boats(72 feets) and Short Boats(48 feets) powered by 29 rowers for Long Boat and 19 rowers for Short Boat. There are many competition Teams as groups (Long Boats and Short Boats) from various Villages were participating during the events. The Boats are made of Long Trees with being to be straight and without disease and flaw.

    The Long  Boat racing event has annually held in the Aung Tat tributary stream during the  three days of Full Moon of Kasune (May) in Shittaung Temple Festival.  The first winner team and second winner team are awarded Championship Flags as a prize in a competition by Decision Committee Board. 

    Carriage Pulling Event - Rahta-Swe-Pwe

    We call carriage pulling event as "Rahta-swe-pwe" in Arakanese version, meaning that pulling a kind of tug-of-war. In these sports, two teams including at least 20 persons each side has to complete three rounds. In this event, "Rahta" is made of four big wheels and the wooden frame. On the frame, there are some decorations and some bamboo leaves. Originally, the winner group can get the chance to burn that bamboo leaves. Now a day, the winner groups are awarded the gold medal as the first prize.