Myohaung in Rakhine State

Mrauk U or Myohaung in Rakhine State

To reach this temple city needs a 60 km slow float on the Kaledan River from the seashores of Sittwe. Using one of the river vessels its a 6-7 hour trip from Sittwe port up the Kaledan River. Travel to Mrauk U is Burmese exploration at its best, a exotic river journey in an interesting country and don’t worry there are several hotels at rather low prices to stay to visit the temples and pagodas

Probably the best information about Myohaung

in former Arakan, today Rakhine State from long time ago was in the book from S. Manrique, a Portuguese monk of the Augustinian Order. He went from India to Arakan – Rakhine in 1630 and lived there for about five years. Arakan – Rakhine at that time in the area of the present day was an independent Kingdom. He has left a long and detailed account of his travels, its available as a soft cover pocket book today.

Today this area in Rakhine, the former Arakan near the Bangladesh border is a prime tourist destination but not many people know this. Until a few years ago it was difficult for any travel because there was only one serious hotel, but this has changed. Several good hotels supply the right accommodations for the traveler who want to explore this magnificent place not far away from the Bangladeshi border.

 

Travel there is a way to explore Burma on a great tour. See ancient pagoda and temples, have a good time and explore the real, not the country the western media try to trash all the time, this is different as it is shown in the European and US media.

In 1571 Mrauk U and the kingdom was in a state of chaos

High officials played intrigues against King Mong Phaloung and tried to overthrow him.. On the advice of his astrologers the king to build a temple (Htukkant Thein) with the help of the plotters as well as governors, land-lords and common people. They acted according to a saying common at that time, ‘when the city is worn out, support its ceiling’. The temple was built on a 70 meter by 80 meter platform. The structure was built of stone blocks with brick pagodas on top of the hall and on the four corners. Inside the temple there are two pavements with many images and carvings picturing the various donors.

 

Shite-thaung Temple

Shite-thaung Temple (right) and Htukkant Thein Temple (left) Rakhine, Myohaung

A very interesting collection

of different costumes and ornaments can also be viewed, plus sixty four varieties of coiffure, forty different head-dresses, twenty different bracelets, eighty-one rings, sixteen types of pendant and various other body decorations are a creative showcase into the past. The Shite-thaung Temple, also called the Temple of Eighty

 

Shite-thaung Temple Interior

Thousand Images, was erected in 1536. The building was funded by a donation from King Mong Ba Gree to commemorate the victory over the twelve provinces of Bengal and the Portuguese marauders who came to assault the capital.

The basic structure is a hall topped by a main stupa surrounded by 26 smaller stupas. The temple is 53 metres long, 41 meters wide and 29 meters high, at the opposite side is the Htukkant Thein Temple basically a huge ordination hall. The city was founded by a King with the name Mong Saw Mon in about 1430, 48 kings followed over for 350 years. The scenery of today is marvelous, green hills change with valleys in a marvelous surrounding. It would be a very peaceful and pleasant environment but in the last few years a tsunami of Bangladeshi came over the area plus the area down to Sittwe and around.

 

Htukkant Thein Temple south of the Myanmar Bangladesh border

The Myanmar Bangladesh border

down to Sittwe and further to the south is a real clash point between Buddhist and Bangladeshi Muslims who try to outnumber the local population and slowly take over the area. The Bangladeshi flee from the continuous natural disaster since they simply produce to many kids and run into a overpopulation, passing even India and China. Somehow it looks, similar to Europe, where Muslim try slowly to outnumber the local population to take over afterwards, according to official British statistics Britain will have a Muslim majority in about 2040 and the other European countries will follow. Simply by reproduction numbers over time to reach the majority and take over the state in the long run.

 


Mrauk U Temple of Eighty Thousand Buddha Images

A scenic landscape with pagodas around is typical

The hills and valleys are dotted with dozens of pagodas, temples and lakes. Rising approximately forty meters from the dark ground, this exceptional pagoda was built under the supervision of King Thirithudhamma Raza in 1629 as an ordination hall. The pagoda and the structures around are made from solid stone. Two hundred meters away, a small lake with a emerald colored surface within lush green vegetation creates a dream-like picture.

 

On the Kaledan River between Sittwe and Mrauk U

On the Kaledan River between Sittwe and Mrauk U

There are several passage ways with galleries throughout the inner temple. The temple is richly decorated with statues of  Buddha as well as images of the animals or persons which Gautama Buddha occupied in his 550 previous lives. People in native costumes with faded colors are shown wrestling, boxing and dancing.

A few kyats for the person sitting at the left behind the main entrance brings a half hour of electricity for the lamps. A rich cultural and traditional heritage mixed up with Portuguese, Indian and Arab influence came down to present day Rakhine or it was known before as Arakan. The foreigners came to city via the mouth of the Kaledan River at Sittwe navigated upwards, since the river is extremely slow moving this was no big deal. There are also indications that at that time the sea coast was much further to the east.

 

Mrauk U near Myanmar Bangladesh border

is a very old city with its heydays were in the 16th and 17th centuries, contemporary to the days of the Tudor Kings of England, the Moguls and the Ayutthaya Kings of Thailand. At that time Mrauk U was fortified with 30 km long fortification walls and moats. A big city of the size of London at that time. Ships could navigate to the city after entering the delta, read more.

One of the main differences to most other places is, many pagodas and temples of Mrauk U are built from stone, elsewhere they are made from bricks. The temple construction followed the Kunhaung architecture, that means smaller pagodas have built at the corners of the lower basement of the temples. In general this Buddha Temple reminds to the Borobodur Temple in Indonesia.

Sakyamanaung pagoda

Sakyamanaung Pagoda, a stone construction

One of the absolute highlights is the Sakyamanaung Pagoda situated a half mile north-east of the palace-site. To the south is the Ratanamanaung Pagoda.

 

 

The Sakyamanaung pagoda was built in 1629 A.D

under King Thirithudhammaraza who reigned in in the years between 1622 and 1638 A.D. The plan and material of the base ofthe pagoda is peculiar. The base consists of eight braces joined to form an octagon. From the first tier upward the structure of this pagoda is octagonal. After the ninth tier the shape of the spire becomes circular and continues to be so up to the top.

On each side of the second and third tier is a niche containing a image of a sitting Buddha. The facade contains ornamental designs similar to those found at other pagodas. The circumference of the pagoda at the base is about 100 meters and the whole structure is a solid stone work. The pagoda is still in good conditions. It is about 40 meters high, the stone wall has openings at the east and west side. The western gate of the pagoda is guarded by two giants in kneeling posture. Twelve turrets were built in the platform which surrounded the pagoda.

Sittwe Kaledan river port ships bound for Mrauk U

Sittwe Kaledan river port ships bound for Mrauk U
Kaledan River Delta at Sittwe
Kaledan River Delta at Sittwe
Kaledan River between Sittwe and Mrauk U
Kaledan River from Sittwe to Mrauk U
Monks visiting a monastery near Mrauk U
Monks visiting Mrauk U

In ancient times Mrauk U had a tradition of producing coins

for trading, the Vesali kings started minting coins around the fifth century. Inscriptions on the coins show the title of the ruling king and his year of coronation.

Coins before 1640 had Arakan inscriptions on one side and Persian and Nagari inscriptions on the other. The inclusion of  foreign inscriptions that ment more easy acceptance by Indian and Arab traders.

About twenty types of silver coins and three types of gold coins have been found until now. It was the privilege of the kings to issued coins.

This was the last royal capital of Rakhine or former Arakan south of the Myanmar Bangladesh border. A scenic and exotic beauty with great historical remains and panoramas.

Mrauk U pagodas are a bit different in style compared to Bagan, the famous pagoda city in central Myanmar or Burma.

No wonder that Mrauk U is also known as the  ‘State of Pagodas’ and the Portuguese who where one of the first colonist on the shores of Arakan gave the city the name ‘The golden City’.

The city was founded in 1430 and became the capital of then Arakan. The area flourished over 355 years untill 1785. Before there were several other royal cities, Dhanyawaddy, Vesali, Sambawet, Pyinsa, Parein, Launggret , Hkirt.

Geographically, Mrauk U lies at the head of a tributary to the Kaladan River, about 45 miles from the Bay of Bengal coast. Sea going ships were able to reach the city via a network of waterways.

The position near the shores of the Bay of Bengal resulted in commercial and cultural development over the centuries.

Mr. Schouten, a Dutchman who visited the area in the 16th century mentioned that the city of was comparable in size and wealth to Amsterdam and London. He also mentioned that it was the richest city among the ports of Asia he had visited.

The wealth of the people depended mainly on extensive rice farming. The crops never failed because plenty of rain all over the year. Trading goods were allowed to import duty-free in order to encourage trade.

Thus Mrauk U or Myohaung as the city was also known  had a large number of foreign merchants from the neighboring countries and western countries as well, such as the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and later England.

During British colonial times it was a strategic important city for the British East India Company vessels which sailed from the west coast of Asia, mainly Penang Georgetown to British India, also Phuket Thailand was frequented. An important export item to India were elephants. At that time a elephant had cost 1300 silver coins. Portuguese and the Dutch were permitted to build a factory at Aungdat port.

Ships on their voyage to Penang,

Melacca or the former Malacca and Java or any city on the west coast always did this along the coast means trading vessels naturally call at Mrauk-U to replenish food, water and other. At the beginning of the 16th century the sea oriented Arakan or present day Rakhine was even more visible. King Minbin (1531-1553) built a large naval fleet with modern cannon to guard the long coastal territory of about one thousand miles.

Mrauk U was heavy fortified, walls have been integrated into the hills to get a somehow natural wall around the city. At strategic points artillery was positioned. A array of lakes and moats were also constructed inside and outside the city walls to improve the fortification.

These moats didn’t function as water supply, the idea was only to further improve the defense. A traveler today still can see the city walls, moats, watch towers, pagodas, temples, forts plus a lot of archaeological remains still in good conditions.

Some Japanese samurai came in 1623 to Mrauk U to serve as bodyguards for the kings as domestic guards of the king. Because of cleverness of the Kings and an efficient administration the kingdom was in good shape at that time. The kingdom of Arakan in today’s Rakhine state was divided into twelve provinces each had a governor who was responsible to the king.