Chitthaung Pagoda


Ba Saw Ye, the governor of Thandwe, gained the throne of Mraukoo in 1531 AD. He was called Min Pyin prince because he was given Lamucriminpyin by the king to govern. When he became a king, he was called king Min Pyin, but later, his name became Min Bar. He accepted giving him the title of Thi Ri Thu Ri Ya San Da Mahar Dam Ma Ra Zar at the coronation. His chief queen was Phaw Saw Min. King Min Yay Kyaw Saw fought king Min Saw Mon who was ruling Laungkyat, the last capital of Laymyo period. Consequently, he had to take shelter under king Thu Ra Tan, and he had to give him twelve Bengal cities of Rakhine in order to get back the throne of Laungkyat. Therefore, the twelve Bengal cities of Rakhine fell to king Thu Ra Tan for 125 years from 1406 AD to 1531 AD.

One year later, after king Min Bar had gained the throne of Mraukoo, Shin Mya Wa and Maha Pin Nya Kyaw suggested him to recapture the twelve Bengal cities of Rakhine, which fell to king Thu Ra Tan in 1406 AD. The king let Maha Pin Nya Kyaw manage for the war by appointing him general and giving the title of Maha Nan Da Thu Ra. And, they went for the war in 1522 AD. King Min Bar could take back the twelve Bengal cities due to the failure of king Thu Ra Tan in the war.

After king Min Bar had defeated king Thu Ra Tan, he went to Buddha Gaya and did meritorious deeds at Mahabodi temple. He took the Buddha relics of the pagodas destroyed by the heretics and the derelict Thiripada Buddha footprint to Rakhine. He didn’t place Muslim princess Pay Thi Da in the palace of Mraukoo, but he placed her in the isolated palace in the island near Ponnagyun. Nowadays, the island is called the island of Paythida palace. King Min Bar consulted with Agga Sein Day Ya monk, Agga Mu Ni monk, Shin Mya Wa, minister Vi Ma La and Maha Pin Nya Kyaw to enshrine the Buddha relics he took in the pagoda. 20,000 Buddha images made of sandstone and 60,000 Buddha images made of seven jewels, were sculpted in the vestibules and the caves of the pagoda in dedicating to 80,000 future Buddhas. The pagoda was surrounded by five rectangular-shaped cave tunnels and then, the sandstone Buddha images were placed in order. The ordination hall was built in front of the great pagoda inside the stone wall. Many pagodas were also built inside the stone wall.

According to the record of the scholars, after Phoekhaung hill had been levelled fairly, building the pagoda was started in 1535 AD, which was devoid of lunar and solar eclipse. Shin Mya Wa drove the stake into the ground for the site of the building. Besides the name of Chitthaung, the pagoda was called Ranaungzayya dedicating to the success for Portuguese’s attack on Mraukoo. No sooner had a hundred and eight reliquaries been enshrined in the pagoda then the five planetary arrangements were made.

Making the first planetary arrangement

In the first planetary arrangement, the Buddha image was placed in the perfumed chamber which is in the center of the great pagoda. The sitting Buddha image with the posture of Bumiphattha Mudra, was made of single sandstone, and it was built to mean that Buddha was sitting cross-legged by facing eastwards when he won Mara’s attack on him for the Bodhi tree and the jewelled throne. Building the Buddha image facing the eastwards, meant that the eight elements associate with the nature of arising and passing away of the living things and non-living things. Those elements were regarded as eight planets or eight gods or eight directions. Among the eight planets, Monday planet associated with the moon, exists in the east. Therefore, the Buddha image was built facing the east in the first planetary arrangement in terms of the Monday planet because the moonlight makes the mind of human beings peaceful.

Making the second planetary arrangement

The king of lion influenced on different animals, lives in the cave alone. The king of lion associated with Tuesday planet, exists in the south-east. After Bodhisatta had renounced the world, he cut his hair and Ghatikara Brahma offered the yellow robes. Therefore, by carving that Brahma figure, it was placed as the second planetary arrangement in the south-east called Tuesday corner.

Making the third planetary arrangement

The king of Deva ignores the foolish persons, and salvages and helps the wise persons with his suppernatural power. Moreover, he is also a supporter for Buddha Sasana. Therefore, the figure of king Deva riding Ayeyarwon elephant and accompanying by his queens __ Thu Si Ta, Thu Nan Dar, Thu Pa Bar and Thu Mar Lar, was built as the third planetary arrangement in the north-east called Sunday corner.

Making the fourth planetary arrangement

No sooner had Buddha world appeared then four Lawkapala gods appeared to take care of the world. Datarahta god takes care of the east and also Wirulaka god, the south, Wiruphat kah god, the west and Kuwayra god, the north. Those four Lawkapala god figures were placed as the fourth planetary arrangement in the north-west called the corner of Rahu.

Making the fifth planetary arrangement

The figure of king Min Bar, a donor of Chitthaung pagoda together with queen Phaw Saw in his right hand side and princess Pya Thi Dar in his left hand side, was placed wearing the clothes like Brahma as the fifth planetary arrangement in the south-west called Saturday corner.

Those four different figures represent that the four different persons are taking refuge in Buddha dwelled in the perfumed chamber.

The great pagoda was built with five rectangular-shaped cave tunnels. The first tunnel was used as the place for the king’s bodyguards while the king was paying reverence to Buddha image and entering the sabbath hall.

In the second tunnel, the figures of 550 previous stories of Buddha who fulfilled for the minor perfection called parami, were carved fully on the wall. The figures of 101 kings of human beings who are taking refuge in Buddha including the king of dragon, the king of Galone bird, the heavenly musician and the king of ogre, were carved holding the lotus buds with their hands at the topmost row. In the south, some previous animal lives of Buddha which were free from illtreatment, were carved too. Buddha circled in the whirlpool of defilement called Thanthara as sixteen lives of crane, nine lives of brahminy duck, six lives of pigeon, three lives of parrot, five lives of bird with melodious voice, four lives of mystical-winged human beings, fifteen lives of bird of paradise, ten lives of monkey, eleven lives of elephant, fourteen lives of ox, one life of horse, eight lives of buffaloes, two lives of peacock, seven lives of mynah bird, twelve lives of cock and thirteen lives of boar.

Thakuna story (the ungrateful lion story) Sulapaduma story, the grateful tortoise story and Dathaphadica ten brothers story, were carved demonstrably in the wastern wall of the second tunnel. Besides, Rakhine oil lamp dance, Poewar dance, Shawl dance, Rakhine drum dance and Rakhine actute and right angle dance, were sculpted too. The sports of Mraukoo period such as the posture of wrestling, boxing and the stick martial art, were sculpted. The figures practising the elephants for the war on the basics of the war strategic book and the figures in the form of going for war holding the shields, can also be seen. The figures in the posture of playing the ancient musical instruments such as the harp, the xylophone, the cymbal, the bugle and the flute, were carved too.

King Buridet dragon story, Zanaka story, king Zawana brahminy duck story, the elder brother and younger brother brahminy duck story, king Panthuboatdi parrot story, Thinsiwa in the form of biting by the tiger and Utayna story, were also sculpted in the northern wall of the second tunnel. In the past, the figures on the wall were coated with the glaze and painted with different colours. The remains of the paint still can be seen on some figures until now. The stone pillars sculpted with Wathonedaray figures can be seen at the right side of the passage along the second cave tunnel. Such figures are pillars of the ordination hall. Three mouldings of the wall have 1104 small stone hollows chiselled the stone to offer light to Buddha.

There is a hall adjacent to the bakc of the great pagoda. The hall was used by the ancient Rakhine kings for the coronation. The Buddha image wearing like the clothing of the anoited king, was cast with nine jewels. The size of the image depended on the king’s desire. The Buddha image was consecrated in the presence of the head of samgha order and the senior monks, and the anoited vow of the king was made by putting the image on the king’s head. The ceremony was called Buddha Bithayka Bitheik Mingalar.

The Buddha image cast wearing in the form of the king, is called Beikthayka Muni. Rakhine call those Buddha images Mahakyein images. The sabbath hall for the king is adjacent to the southern part of the coronation hall. There are thirty one niches around the second tunnel and every niche has two Buddha images sat back to back.

The place in which the third cave tunnel and the fourth cave tunnel have, is called Atonkat. The eastern passage leads to the west. From the west, the passage leads to the north. From the north, the passage leads to the east. By climbing the stairs from that place, one can reach the room in which the Buddha foodprint, was placed. It is at the right side of the entrance of the perfumed chamber. The arch roofs were made of stone in the cave tunnel. Not having echo in the tunnel, is very strange. The Buddha footprint was taken by king Min Bar from Buddha Gaya. It is the form of pressing on the mud. By going to the west from the Buddha footprint, one can see the cave Buddha images in both sides around the wall. Go to the south from the west. By going to the east from the south, one can reach the end of the fourth cave tunnel. The end of the fourth tunnel is in the left side of the entrance of the perfumed chamber. There are twenty eight Buddha images in the niches in the fourth tunnel. Such Buddha images were erected in terms of Thanbuday verse.

Many pagodas were built on the southern, the western and the northern walls of the great pagoda. There are a big pagoda and seventeen small pagodas in the south. There are three small pagodas in the west. There are one big surrounding pagoda and fourteen small pagodas in the north. The flat stones engraved with the figures on both sides, are between the two small pagodas of those. Nowadays, the figures which can be seen in the north, are king Saddhan elephant, king Buridat dragon, the fighting of Mar Ra Yu and Be Lu Wa Sadham, the romantic dating of Mar Ra Yu and Ru Si Ta Mar Lar princess, and the figure of Thurathadi Maydaw.

The hand postures of the Buddha images inside the pagoda and the standing Buddha image at the mouth of the porch, are Waradara mudra. That Mudra represents the prophecy of Buddha. Pacinka mudra, Bumiphattha mudra, Zarna mudra and Gonemanda Daythana mudra, can also be seen. The big stupa surrounded by 26 small pagodas, was built on the roof of the great pagoda. Those represent Thataveiththa 27 stars.

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