Arakan History



Largely unknown to the Western world for much of its tur¬bulent history, Arakan played a pivotal role in the exchange of cultures and religions between India and Southeast Asia. For over a thousand years the region which now forms the Rakhine State of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) was an inde¬pendent state whose rich history is only slowly being paid the attention it deserves. Stretching along the Bay of Bengal, from the Naaf River which separates it from Bangladesh to Cape Negrais in southern Burma, it occupies the narrow strip of land to the west of the mountains of the Arakan Yoma (Range). Land and sea routes connected it with Bengal to the west and Burma proper to the east, routes that were travelled by peo¬ples, religions and cultures. When its neighbours were weak, Arakan was able to expand its influence along the coast to the east, west and south. At other times strong and aggressive neigh¬bouring states would drive the Arakanese back to their home¬land in the north or, at times, seek to conquer them.

Arakan’s heartland was in its north, based on the rich alluvial flood plains of the adjoining Kaladan and Le-mro valleys. The earliest cities were in the Kaladan valley, backed by hills and facing west, and were thus open to influence from India and beyond. Subsequently cities were founded west of the Le-mro River, more accessible to Burma proper. The greatest city, Mrauk-U, bestrides the gap between these two valleys and thus could control both. All these cities were accessible to the Bay of Bengal through the tidal Mayu, Kaladan and Le-mro Rivers and their tributaries. Continue reading

The Land, the People and the Name

According to our tradition and historical annals, Buddhism was introduced into during the lifetime of the Buddhua Himself.

On the request of the people and the king, the Buddha visited Rakhaing with His five hundred disciples and rested on the top of Salargiri Hill (ေသလာဂီရိ), situated on the right bank of Gisapanadi(Gacehabhanady) (ကစၦပနဒီ) River. Before supervising the casting of His Image, Mahamratmuni, the Buddha prophesied relating to the country. The arrival of the Buddha in Rakhaing was during the reign of King Sadasuriya (စႏၵသူရိယ) who ascended the throne in the sixth century B.C. An ancient palm-leaf manuscript called Sababadhanapakarana (သဗၺဒါနပကာရန) gives detailed account of the casting of the Buddha’s Image, Mahmratmuni.
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The History of Mahamuni

(J.B.R.S Vol. 6, Part3. 1916)

The great outstanding feature in the history of Arakan is the account of Buddha’s sojourn in this country and of his supervision over the casting of his image. The story of his seven day’s visit with five hundred Rahandas— his lengthly discourse pregnant with prophesy delivered on the top of the hill opposite the town of Kyauktaw– His Journey into the city of Dynnyawaddi at the request of King Sanda Thurya— the casting of the image by men and gods, have been very clearly set fourth by the able researches of the late Dr. Forchammer and need hardly be mentioned again in the present sketch. The Mahamuni tradition is the oldest of the kind we have. It permeates the whole religious history of Arakan and the images that at present sanctify a thousand temples and pagodas in this country are the replicas of the first great and only faithful copy of the Master.
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