Near Myanmar Bangladesh Border

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Mrauk U near Myanmar Bangladesh Border

 

This ancient city in today Rakhine or former Arakan south of the Myanmar Bangladesh border. This great city is built in a beautiful valley, about fifteen leagues in circuit, and entirely surrounded by high rough hills, walls of nature's make, and dispensing with artificial ones.

On the inside, these hills have been leveled in necessary parts with rammers, and where they have been cut through from top to bottom, gates have been erected for going in and out, whilst above them are some bulwarks provided with artillery, so that the city Would naturally be impregnable, as if it belonged to another more warlike nation.

Through the middle of the city runs a large and copious river, which branching off through various parts, makes the greater number of its streets navigable for different kinds of craft, big and small, the vehicular service public and private, depending mostly on these. These boats bring for sale along the aquatic streets all kinds of foodstuffs and provisions, rice country-wine, meat,

fish (fresh, salted and dried), butter, vegetables, fruit, and other food; also, sundry commodities and household utensils; and all these things, the eatables chiefly, are very cheap. Besides this convenience for traffic, there also many squares (places), called Bazaars, where the same articles are on sale.

The greater number of the houses in the city are made of bamboos, which, as I have said, are strong canes, some of them being very thick. These houses of reed are covered with plaited palm-leaves, called olas. These houses are made according to the means and position of those who get them made, for much labor and ingenuity is spent on the curious designs of fine variegated mats, very neat and beautiful things. And they manage all that without any kind of nailing, for, instead of nails, they use strong better ligatures, or Bengali canes, as we call them in Portugal; while they are still tender and thin, they work them with some iron instruments,

called Daos, and make them as thin and slender as they live. With these ligaments of reed they bind the pieces of the structure in such a way that, if the supports and pillars are of wood, it lasts twelve or fifteen years. Some princes and lords have also in their palaces some rooms made of wood, the different sculptures and moldings of the wood-work being gilt and painted in various colors.

The Royal palaces of Mrauk U are also constructed with the same materials; and they have massive wooden columns of such extraordinary length and straightness that one wonders there are trees so tall and so straight. The inside columns are entirely gilt, without any admixture of other materials. These places contain also some rooms made of odoriferous woods, such as white and red sandal-wood, wild or forest eagle-wood, so that in those apartments the sense of smell has its special delight, in the natural fragrance of those scented woods.

In the same Mrauk U palace there is a hall gilt from top to bottom,

which they call the "golden House", because it has a vine of the purest gold which occupies the whole roof of the hall, with a hundred combalengas of the same pure gold. These combalengas are in breadth and shaped like big pumpkins of the kind we call Guinea pumpkins, and they- say that each one of them weights ten bissas, or forty pounds Spanish. There are also in that very rich house seven idols of gold, each of the size and proportions of an average man; they are hollow within, but two inches thick. I could

Ancient Mrauk U in 1676
Ancient Mrauk U in 1676 them the Capital of Arakan south of today
Myanmar Bangladesh border.

not ascertain the weight of each of these idols, on account of the various estimates given by those whom I questioned. Those idols are adorned on the forehead, breast, arms and waist with many fine precious stones, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, as also with some brilliant old Rock diamonds, of more than ordinary size. In the same golden hall stood eight pitchers of gold each four palms high, seven-inch circumference, and one inch thick. There were also nine dishes of the same metal, each three palms high thirteen inches in circumference, and one inch thick.

This grand and very rich hall contain still those equally ancient and most celebrated precious Chanequas of the Tangu, the prime cause, past, and present, of so many wars and so much bloodshed on the part of various nations, such as the Siames, the Pegus, Tangus, Bramas, A was, Sions and now at present the Mogos and Mogars. This unique treasure is contained in a casket of gold, two palms long and proportionately broad, the whole of it is covered with very artistic and boughs, flowers and birds, and within this tracery are encased very fine diamonds, rubies and pearls of extraordinary greatness. This admirable casket stands in the centre of the hall on a square table of gold, three palms long; this table too is elaborately engraved, and set with many rich gems. To stimulate the more human cupidity, it is covered with a cloth of white satin, entirely embroidered with gold and pearls of ordinary size. I freely confess that, albeit I had seen in other parts of the East many things of great price and value, yet, when they opened the casket for me, and I beheld the chanequas, I stood amazed, especially on seeing that I could scarcely fix my eyes on them, due to the splendor they cast. These Chanequas are two rubies shaped like an obelisk and pyramid, of the length of the small finger, and the bottom of each has the circumference of a small hen's egg. These most precious jewels are used only at the coronation of the Mogo Kings, or in their greatest solemnities. The word chancqua means the same as a pendant, or ear-ring, an article worn at the ears both by the Mogos, and the Pegus and Bramas; for this purpose, they pierce their ears when young, and put in them something heavy, which keeps stretching and enlarging them until they reach almost the shoulders.

In one of the inner courts of the palace there is also a statue of the King Braka, Tyrant of the Empire of Pegu, who was slain by a Pegu lord called Xemi' Decatam, whom he had ordered to be killed. While quartering at a small country-house some uses belonging to a Verela, or temple, with four thousand Bramas, this Brama King was waiting for the rest of his army, which he had ordered to collect, with the intention of marching against a prince who had revolted in Martaban  - or  Mottama, as it is known today 2009, south of Yangon.

Now, one night, Xemi Decatam with six hundred Pegus fell unexpectedly on him at the houses of the Vaakto. Luck would have it that they found the Tyrant busy in a closet, for he was suffering at the time from a flux of the belly, and they killed him. The Burmans hold him for a Saint, and as such they dedicated a temple to him, because he had so greatly aggrandized and exalted their nation, and, to perpetuate his memory forever, they resolved to make an image of him. So, they made a bronze figure and seated on a table, also of metal and around him are sundry monsters in bronze of surprising size. The most wonderful are four giants of both sex, each sixteen palms high and holding maces in their hands: a monstrous brood. With them there is another monster of the same material, half elephant, half bull, eleven palms high, another horrid-looking object. Still other animals, also of bronze from port of that cortage; but as they are one of ordinary shape and size. The statues of the four Giants were, they say, adorned with many precious stones, and in the places where they were encased there are still the traces of them. That statue is venerated by many of those Gentiles, who come to see it, and out of devotion anoint it with sandal and fragrant oils. And when people are afflicted with diarrhea, they came to him as to their advocate against that infirmity, bringing vases full of water, they bathe him, and the water which flows out, after passing through his body, is collected and given to drink to those who suffer from the illness.

At a small distance from that Mrauk U Royal Palace,

there is a lake, the water of which is dammed off, and they say it is more than thirty leagues long. The lake is divided into several arms, containing many islets, quite cool, and planted with fruit-

Mrauk U near Myanmar Bangladesh Border
Mrauk U near Myanmar Bangladesh Border

bearing trees. The greater number of these islets (island) are inhabited by Raulins. Some of these live in Varelas, some of their Varlas being built like our Convents. Others live in private houses. I shall give a special account of them all, when I describe the warship of those nations. On that big lake there are many boats, but they do not communicate with the interior of the city, as the passage is dammed up.

Their ancient histories say that this lake was opened and begun when that Kingdom seperated and made itself independent from the Empire of Pegu, the purpose of it being this. In case they should be besieged, they would retire to the suburbs contiguous to the Lake, and, as a last resource, let the waters escape, and the violence of the onrush would be such that they would
inundate the city and at the same time destroy the enemy. It is for this reason that they still keep these waters.To go back to the thread of our golden Myanmar, I say that this city in Arakan must have, according to the common estimate, one hundred and sixty thousand inhabitants, exclusive of the foreign merchants, who are very numerous, as the place is a very important roadstead for vessels coming there from Bengala, Mussulapantan, Tanaussarim, Martaban, Achem, and Jakarta: there are,

besides, other foreigners, both merchants and soldiers who are fixed there and in the King's pay, as I have said: these are Portuguese, Pegus, Bramas, and Mogos. In addition to these there are also many Christians, Japons, Bengalas, and of other nations.

The Kingdom of Arakan was bordered on the south by the Kingdom of Pegu from which it is divided by mountains, on the other side, it borders on the Kingdom of Bengal through the Kingdom of Chatigan, the coast-line runs up to the Kingdom of Chudube, and Cape Negrais. The whole of that coast is very wild; and, though it has some harbors and islands, yet these are very unsafe, owing to certain winds blowing there, which are dangerous to vessels.
 

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