Rakhine history 101

Dhanyawaddy, Vesali, Laungkret, Mrauk U and more

Although I have been to Sandoway / ThanDwe and Ngapali / ShweWarChaing many times, I have always wanted to visit Mrauk U but found going there difficult to bring about. It was in the 1990s, with the building of the bridge across the Kispanadi river that I saw news and tv programs about Rakhine, especially one about the Kispanadi bridge building, starring Yan Aung and May Than Nu. It showed past and present in the forms of reincarnations and the “historical” episodes of “hiding” the Buddha image in the river when the British came to prevent it from being taken, looted and destroyed. The Rakhine songs and dances portrayed captured my imagination very much. When I worked at the m.v. Road to Mandalay, I met tour guides who also wanted to visit Mrauk U. At the time, travelling was very difficult, the Kispanadi bridge still being built. However, my “dream” of going there became deep rooted in my mind.

Much later, after vacations elsewhere, I still have not reached Mrauk U in ?2003 when the road to Sittway was completed. That year, just after the opening of the road, I met the Engineer in charge of the road construction. He advised me to take the trip that year as the road would become bad with the coming of the rainy season and that repairs in later years will not be on the same budget as the road construction was given. Hence the Sittway road would be the best that year before the rains came. I passed on the information to ko ko and arranged to visit Mrauk U in April on my days off. Ko ko went by road in a bus with a group of KKZ’s relatives and returned with negative view of the highway and the pagodas in Mrauk U, although the NatYayKan was very good. Ko ko told me not to go by myself alone in my car as the towns and villages are few and far away between Annm and the next town. Even if I had a puncture, I would be in trouble. That year, I went to Mawlamyaing, Kyaik KhaMi, Set Se, Pa-an instead.

I read about Rakhine history and Rakhine facts from books and internet and was quite well prepared by the time I managed to visit old Rakhine in 2005, but linn zaw win, who previously accompanied us on our vacations did not accompany us as he was more keen to be in Yangon for Thingyan, and as our trip could not be taken entirely before or after Thingyan.

It was a very memorable trip, still cherished in my memory whenever I think about it or read Rakhine history again or looked at the photos I had taken. I hope I can visit it again. Bagan is the place to go for every Myanmar, after Bagan comes the Dhanyawaddy, Vesali, Mrauk U, Laungkret tour which lies within a small area, with the Mahamuni near Dhanyawaddy, or Dhanyawaddy near Mahamuni, depending on your outlook, and the Salagiri hill opposite the town of Kyauktaw, where Buddha stopped and preached the king candra thuriya and had the Mahamuni image moulted.
The beginning of Buddhism in Rakhine, much earlier than in the Mon Ramanyadesh at the time of king Asoka of India and the much later Bagan period of the 11th century. Although Mrauk U was in the 15th century and later, the cities of Dhanyawaddy and Vesali (Waytharli) parallels the contemporary Pyu cities of Tagaung, Vishnu (Beikthano) and Sriksetra (Tharaykhittara).
The wars between the Rakhines and the Pyus with the fact that king Cula Candra drowned in a mishap off MawTinSuun in 769 AD, on his return from war with Tagaung after a 3 years absence at the capital of Vesali / WayTharLi is to be marveled at, during the period of pre Sriksetra times….

769 AD, king Sula Candra met his death at Cape Negrais, on his return from Tagaung. 3 Mraung chiefs (Rakhines call Tripuras as Mraungs) ascended the throne of Vesali after this but Mraung chiefs did not seem to be as able to rule as well as the Candras, so that in 776 AD Vesali met its tragic end in the hands of invading Pyus.

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