History of Rakhine

History of Rakhine

The Rakhine people (Arakanese) claim a history that began in 2666 BC and certain archaeological evidence have been supposed to be found to support this claim.

According to legend, the first independent kingdom was established in 2666 BC by King Marayu. Buddhism was introduced into Rakhine during the lifetime of Buddha himself. According to Rakhine Chronicles, the Buddha in his lifetime, visited the city of Dhanyawadi in 554 BC. King Sandar Suriya (Sun Moon) requested the Buddha to leave an image of Himself. After casting the Great Image Maha Muni, the Buddha breathed upon it which resembled the exact likeness of the Blessed One.


Ancient Dhanyawadi lies west of the mountain ridge between the Kaladan and Le-mro riv­ers. Dhannyawadi could be reached by small boat from the Kaladan via its tributary, the Tharechaung. Its city walls were made of brick, and form an irregular circle with a perimeter of about 9.6 km, enclosing an area of about 4.42 square km. 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 km, and another wall surrounds the palace itself.

At times of insecurity, when the city was subject to raids from the hill tribes or attempted invasions from neigh­boring 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.

From aerial photographs we can discern Dhannyawadi's irri­gation channels and storage tanks, centered at the palace site. Throughout the history of Rakhine, 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.


It has been estimated that the centre of power of the Arakanese world shifted from Dhanyawadi to Waithali in the 6th century AD. Although it was established later than Dhanyawadi, Waithali is the most Indianized of the four Arakanese kingdoms to emerge. Like all of the Arakanese Kingdoms to emerge, the Kingdom of Waithali was based on trade between the East (pre-Pagan Myanmar, China, the Mons), and the West (India, Bengal, Persia).

According to the Anandacandra Inscription, carved in 729AD, the subjects of the Waithali Kingdom practiced Mahayana Buddhism, and proclaims that the ruling dynasty of the kingdom were descendants of the Hindu god, Shiva.

Some important and badly damaged life-size Buddha images were recovered from Letkhat-Taung, a hill east of the old palace compound. These statues are invaluabe in helping to understand the Waithali architecture, and also the extent of Hindu influence in the kingdom.

According to local legend, Shwe-taung-gyi (lit. Great Golden Hill), a hill northeast of the palace compound maybe a burial place of a 10th century Pyu king.

The rulers of the Waithali Kingdom were of the Chandra dynasty, so called because of their usage of Chandra on the Waithali coins. The Waithali period is seen by many as the beginning of Arakanese coinage - which was almost a millennium earlier than the Burmese. On the reverse of the coins, the Srivatsa (Arakanese/Burmese: "Thiriwutsa"), while the obverse bears a bull, the emblem of the Chandra dynasty, under which the name of the King is inscribed in Sanskrit.


Mrauk U

In 1431, King Min Saw Mon established Mrauk U as the capital of the last unified Arakanese Kingdom. The city eventually reached a size of 120,000 in the mid sixteenth century. The city traded with Portugal, the Netherlands, Ava, Pegu, Arabia, Persia and India. Items traded include rice, cotton, rubies, elephants, slaves, horses, ivory, cowrie and spices.At its zenith, Mrauk U controlled half of Bangladesh, including Dhaka and Chittagong, modern day Rakhine State and the western part of Lower Burma. During that period, its kings minted coins inscribed in Arakanese (similar to the Burmese language), Kufic and Bengali. As they prospered, they built many pagodas and temples, many of which remain today.

In 1784, the Burmese, under Bodawpaya invaded Mrauk U and conquered the kingdom.

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