RAKHINE STATE, SITTWE, MRAUK-U, MAGWE AND CHIN STATE

RAKHINE STATE

RAKHINE STATE is located in western Myanmar along the Bay of Bengal near Bangladesh. The State is home of the Rakhine, a people who forged a great kingdom that reached its peak in the 16th century. Some of Myanmar best beaches are here. Rakhine is a sparsely populated, coastal state (population 2.7 million), covering 14,200 square miles. Sittwe, the state capital, is the biggest city. The Rakhine people generally depend on fishing, prawn breeding, farming and salt production for their livelihood.

Largely unknown to the Western world for much of its turbulent history, Rakhine 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 was an independent state whose rich history is only slowly being paid the attention it deserves.

The coastal region is full of rocks and reefs and may be that is why so many stone-sculptures can be seen as ancient cultural crafts in the Rakhine region. The climate in Sittwe is moderate. Rainfall in the year round is not more than 200 inches. Monsoon starts in the last week of May and heavy rainfall months are June, July and August. The best month of the year is November and the best travelling months are November up to February.

ROHINGYA AND RAKHINE STATE

The Rohingya are a minority who practice Islam and primarily live in Rakhine State, near the border with Bangladesh. They speak a regional Bengali dialect and resemble Bangladeshis, with darker skin than most people in Burma, which is mostly Buddhist. Descendants of South Asians from the Indian subcontinent, they are widely regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are heavily discriminated against. “Bengalis” is the a term common in Myanmar for the Rohingya, indicating the belief that they belong in Bangladesh.

The United Nations estimates the Rohingya population in Burma at 800,000, but the Burma government does not recognize them as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups. Most are denied citizenship and have no passports, though many of their families have lived in the country for generations. Bangladesh also refuses to accept them as citizens. Khin Yi, a Myanmar minister, told Reuters there are 1.33 million Rohingya in the country of 60 million people, above past estimates of 800,000. He said 1.08 million are in Rakhine State. Only about 40,000 had citizenship, he said.

Rakhine state in home to 80 percent of the Royingya in Myanmar. Rakhine lies in a region of Burma traditionally known as Arakan state. Most Rohingya are to three districts in Rakhine— Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung. Most are stateless, recognized as citizens neither by Myanmar nor neighboring Bangladesh. They are the world’s largest stateless population.

The Rohingya language is is an Indo-European language linguistically related to the Chittagonian language spoken in the southernmost part of Bangladesh bordering Burma. The Rohingya people practice Sunni Islam with elements of Sufi worship. Because the government restricts educational opportunities for them, many pursue fundamental Islamic studies as their only educational option. Mosques and religious schools are present in most villages. Traditionally, men pray in congregations and women pray at home.

Rohingya Muslims are officially considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are denied the rights of citizenship, though many of their families have lived in Burma for generations. The Myanmar government says the Rohingya are Muslim migrants from Bangladesh who arrived during British colonial rule between 1824 and 1948. Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Act excluded Rohingya from Myanmar's 135 recognized ethnic groups, effectively rendering them stateless. It stripped them of their nationality, and limited their movement, ability to marry and other basic rights. Bangladesh also disowns them and has refused to grant them refugee status since 1992.

ROHINGYA AND ARAKAN (RAKHINE) HISTORY

Muslim settlements have existed in Arakan since the arrival of Arabs there in the 8th century A.D. The direct descendants of Arab settlers are believed to live in central Arakan near Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw townships, rather than the Mayu frontier area, the present day area where a majority of Rohingya are populated, near Chittagong Division, Bangladesh. Early evidence of Bengali Muslim settlements in Arakan date back to the time of King Narameikhla (1430–1434) of the Kingdom of Mrauk U. The Bengalis who came with him formed their own settlements in the region. [Source: Wikipedia]

Narameikhla ceded some territory to the Sultan of Bengal and recognized his sovereignty over the areas. In recognition of his kingdom's vassal status, the kings of Arakan received Islamic titles and used the Bengali Islamic coinage within the kingdom. Narameikhla minted his own coins with Burmese characters on one side and Persian characters on the other. Narameikhla's successors captured Chittagong (in present-day Bangladesh), holding it until 1666, and gained independence from the Sultans of Bengal.

The Arakanese kings were Buddhists but the used Muslim titles., compared themselves to Sultans and fashioned themselves after Mughal rulers. They employed Muslims in prestigious positions within the royal administration. The Bengali Muslim population increased in the 17th century, as they were employed in a variety of workforces in Arakan. Some of them worked as Bengali, Persian and Arabic scribes in the Arakanese courts, which, despite remaining mostly Buddhist, adopted Islamic fashions from the neighbouring Sultanate of Bengal.

Following the Burmese conquest of Arakan in 1785, as many as 35,000 Arakanese people fled to the neighbouring Chittagong region of British Bengal in 1799 to avoid Burmese persecution and seek protection from British India. The Burmese rulers executed thousands of Arakanese men and deported a considerable portion of the Arakanese population to central Burma, leaving Arakan as a scarcely populated area by the time the British occupied it. According to an article on the "Burma Empire" published by the British Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1799, "the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan," "call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan."

Fighting in border areas in the early 19th century created problems between British India and Burma. In 1826 the British defeated the Bamar in the First Anglo-Burmese War and Rakhine (Arakan) was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Yandabo. Akyab was then designated the new capital of Rakhine (Arakan). In 1852, Rakhine (Arakan) was merged into Lower Burma as a territorial division.

British policy encouraged Bengali inhabitants from adjacent regions to migrate into the then lightly populated and fertile valleys of Arakan as agriculturalists. The East India Company extended the Bengal administration to Arakan, thus there was no international boundary between Bengal and Arakan, and no restrictions on migration between the regions. In the early 19th century, thousands of Bengalis from the Chittagong region settled in Arakan seeking work. In addition, thousands of Rakhine people from Arakan also settled in Bengal.

The impact of huge waves of south Asian immigration to Burma under the British was particularly acute in Arakan, one of less populated regions. In 1939, the British authorities, alert to the long-term animosity between the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims, recommended securing the border between India and Burma, however, with the onset of World War II, the British retreated from Arakan. On 28 March 1942, around 5,000 Muslims in Minbya and Mrohaung Townships were killed by Rakhine nationalists and Karenni. Meanwhile, Muslims from Northern Rakhine State massacred around 20,000 Arakanese including the Deputy Commissioner U Oo Kyaw Khaing, who was killed while trying to settle the dispute. See History

SITTWE

SITTWE is a port town of mainly wooden houses where Buddhists and Muslims have long lived in uneasy proximity. It has a Muslim population of around 100,000 and dozens of mosques. Places of interest include the beautiful Kaladan River, Sittwe Museum and Sittwe Viewpoint See Rohingya violence

Sittwe is situated on an estuarial island at the confluence of the Kaladan River, Myu River, and Lemyo River at the mouth of the Kaladan River where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. Off shore delta islands form a wide protected channel that has served as an important harbour for many centuries. The city started as a trading port around 200 years ago and further developed after the British occupation of 1826. International trade alone the coast bloomed during the British era. Two huge cargo steamers a day plied back and forth between Calcutta and Sittwe. Scottish short-storywriter and novelist Hector Hugh Munro, known by his pen name ‘Saki’, was born here in 1870. There is a distinctive Rakhine twist on standard Myanmar culture that includes the enjoyment of much spicy food and brighter-colored clothing.

Mahamuni temple is situated in the center of town and features a large plain shed supported by pillars decorated with glass mosaic. A large seated Buddha image was cast in 1900 in the Rakhine style with the royal costume common to many Rakhine images. The face of the figure shines with gold, while the rest of the body is of bronze. This is the place where town people celebrate the annual lighting festival at the end of Buddhist Lent which usually falls in the month of October and November.

The Buddhist Museum is a modest two-storey museum is the best place in Myanmar to view Rakhine Style Buddha images. The collection here represents a rare instance of historical preservation. Most of the images are under a meter in height with the royal attire common to Rakhine Buddhas Images. The majority dates to the Mrauk U period, while a few date as far back as the Wethali era and are made of bronze, silver, quartz or alabaster. There are also some Indian Buddha images and Hindu deities on display, a few Thai and Japanese Buddha statues, silver coins from the Mrauk U era, clay pipes, terracotta votive tablets and engraved astrological charts. Entry is free.

Sittwe View Point is a lovely recreational spot where one can enjoy breathing fresh sea breeze. It shows the panoramic view of Baronga islands on the other side of the Kaladan River, and also the Layshinedaung savage island lighthouse. The View Point was also known as Farkir Point. Thalondaw Datt Pagoda is situated in the western end of the town lying over the Ahgyettaw ridge near the north-western corner of the Royal Lake. This pagoda is said to have been donated and built by King Ashoka. It was called Letwai Thalonedaw Datt because Lord Buddha's left thigh bone relic was enshrined in this pagoda. There is also the Rakhine State Cultural Museum. Myanmar Tourism Services Sittwe Office: No. (25), Main Road, Ywar Gyi Taung Quarter, Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar., Tel & Fax: (+95 43) 2315,

MRAUK-U

MRAUK-U (50 miles or five hours by boat from Sittway) is where the Rakhine kings built their palaces and ruled over their people. Located on the banks of the Shwenatpyin Tributary of the Kaladan River, Mrauk-U was established by King Min Saw Mun in 1530 and today it is known for Hindu-influenced temples and murals.

Worth checking out are the ruins of the ancient palaces walls; the stupa of Andawthein Phato (with unique stone carvings and floral designs); Htokekanthein Pahto (built from rock by King Phalaungmin and known for its interesting stone sculptures); Saka-man-aung (a tall attenuated stupa) and Yadanabon Zedi Pagoda. Inside the Theindawgyi Pagoda are paintings and statues of courtiers and dancers with elaborate clothes and hairstyles. Inside the old palaces wall is an archeological museum. The main sights are Shittthaung Pagodas, Ananda Sandra Pillar, Andaw Thein temple, Yadanarpon temple, Dukkanthein or Htoke Kan Thein, Koe Thaung Pagodas, Pitakataik (or) the Library, Five Victory Pagodas, and the Palace Site.

See History

Shitthaung Stupa (Mrauk-U) is the most famous building at Mrauk-U. A fortress-like religious structure built by the Rakhine king Minpargyi is 1535, it purportedly contains 80,000 Buddhist hair and tooth relics. The shape of the stupa is different from other stupas found in Myanmar: enclosed on three sides by wall, the stupa includes a maze-like structure containing numerous Buddha images, of different shapes and sizes.

The design of the stupa is influenced by Hindu architecture. Enshrined in the stupa is a three-foot-high gold Buddha surrounded by 108 smaller gold images, 108 silver images, 108 images made from nine kinds of gem, 12 gold statues depicting 12 Rakhine kings, and 80,000 Buddha figures carved in the walls. Traditional Rakhime boat races are held at the annual Skithaung Stupa Pagoda Festival. Shitthuang is sometimes written as Skithaung. In ancient times the stupa was called Minbargyi.

Shitthaung or "Temple of the 80,000 Buddhas" located about half a mile to the north of the palace site and was built by one of the most powerful kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty. According to records on inscriptions as King Minbin who reigned from 1513 to 1553. The king built this fortress-temple after repulsing a Portuguese attack on the City of Mrauk U. The skill and art displayed in its construction and ornamentation are remarkable. The curious maze-like layout of this pagoda induce some foreigners remark that Shitthaung Pagoda was built alike a fortress. The real purpose of the pagoda was for prayer, rituals of initiation and some royal ceremonies, which were usually held secretly.

The stupa was constructed six feet thick of solid sandstone and like "rock cave tunnel". No mortar was used in the construction and stones were connected with stone brackets. It is believed that 84,000 of the Buddha's relics with the same number of the Lord's images are enshrined in it. People who entered the tunnels of the temple felt that they were actually inside an endless tunnel. The pagodas had been built by one thousand architects and workmen for a year. The central pagoda is160 feet long, 124 feet wide and 86 feet high. On the north and south walls, at regular intervals, are circular, turret-like pagodas. There is one big one and 14 smaller ones on the north and a bigger one and seventeen smaller ones on the south. Along the other two inner galleries are hundreds of Buddha images of various sizes.

Shittaung Pillar (on the northern entrance of the Shittaung Pagoda) is well-known and is believed to have been brought from the ancient Indian-Buddhist city Vesali to Mrauk U. It was placed in the pagoda by King Minbin in 1535 A.D. The pillar was destroyed during the World War II. Later it was renovated. The original pillar stood 10 feet high and each side is 2 feet 4 inches wide in surface. Three faces have Sanskrit Inscriptions and the other one was badly damaged. The pillar was made from red sandstone and decorated with double lotus petal motif at all the eight corners. The ancient petal pattern designs of the Mrauk U period can be seen on this pillar.

MRAUK-U PALACE, LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

Royal Palace of Mrauk U was surrounded by three wall encirclements and this is mostly what you see today. When Mong Saw Mon started buildings the palace, underground canals were first dug, then stone walls were erected and finally the three hills were leveled down. Some of the canals that carried off the water to the Thinghanadi creek to the south of the palace can still be found.

Before visiting any other place in Mrauk U priority should be given to the ruins of the inner palace city where the Royal palace once stood magnificently. The area of the whole palace was 1.2 square miles and the walls were originally made of brick. King Mong Ba Gree reinforced the palace walls with a new structure of stone in 1531. The height of the walls today averages 12 feet and thickness runs about 7 feet. Three sites of the palace are guarded with moats. The moats in the east and west were man-made, whereas the southern one is natural Thinghanadi Creek. The Royal flotilla used to be manned in this very creek. The northern side had buildings for the Queens and also includes the strategically important Haridaung Hill.

The inner enclosure of the palace had all the important structures. From here all the 48 Kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty reigned with pomp and grandeur. The Golden Palace had roofs with five tiers supported on tall, thick pillars, gilded with gold on a coat of vermillion. The roof was plated with glistening sheets to copper that would reflect the crimson rays of the sun in the early morning, transforming the palace into a fairytale palace awash in gold.

The King's Palace was essentially a complex of many separate buildings. The King and his attendants stayed in the palace proper whereas the queens, princes and princesses were assigned separate buildings within the palace city. To the west of the Royal family's quarters there were the quarters for the Duty Officer and from there proceeding to the south was the quarter of the Port Officer.

The Thinghanadi creek running across the city offered easy communication with the Lemro river in the east. Agricultural products and handicrafts from the Lemro made their way along the river into the five central markets of Mrauk U. Lying side by side with Anuma Lakey south-west of Zina Banaung Pagada is the Laksaykan Lake. This scenic lake is about 100 acres wide and its embankment connecting the two hill ranges has two 12 feet high gates. The western gate. know as Laksaykan gate is 24 feet long. 17 feet high and 8 feet wide. In case of an enemy raid from the south of the palace. This gate was to flood the lower plains in the north to defer the enemy.

Pitakataik (close to Htupayon Pagoda and south of Shinkite wall) was a library built by King Min Phalaung. It was square in plan with an entrance passage to the east like others pagoda in Mrauk U. Built entirely with stone, the outer walls are decorated with ornate floral and geometric design. It is said that there were 33 Pitakataiks built in Mrauk U. The little library or Pitakataik. The Repository for the Buddhist scriptures was built in 1591 also by king Min Phalaung.

The Pitakataik measures only 14 feet from east to west, 10 feet from north to south and is only 9 feet in height. Built entirely of stone there are lovely designs on the outer walls making it look like a tiny jeweled casket shaped like a blooming lotus. There were 48 libraries in Mrauk U but only this is the one that has been preserved, though it is sometimes obscured by thickets of bushes and partly covered by moss and weeds which flourish in the 200 inches of annual rainfall in the region. This library is reputed to have housed 30 sets of the Buddhist Tipitaka which King Narapatigyi (1638-1645) received from Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately it acquired an unpleasant appellation due to its dark windowless interior. The library is also known as Khraung Kaik Library from name of the city wall which is close to the the library. If you have difficulty in finding this library ask for the Htupayon Pagoda as it is just north of this pagoda.

Mrauk U Museum (near the palace site) displays some old artifacts of the Vesali, Launggret and Mrauk U periods. The bronze Buddha icons of Rakhine are exquisite in design. Various inscribed stone inscriptions in Sanskrit, Rakhine and Arabic are also displayed. Votive tablets, images of Krishna, Vishnu and Bodhisattvas, dvarapala, stone htis (stone umbrella of pagodas), lintels coins, musical instruments and ceramic-wares are also on display.

Highlights include a 15th century stone Wunti God Image, a part of 8th century stone pillars from Stupas in the Watha Li period; pieces of a stone 15th century Vishnu image, Wetha Li coins from 4th to 8th century, and stone-sculptures from the Mrauk U period. Household appliances in Mrauk U period include a 15th century from Mrauk U period and the glazed floor tiles. You can also find stone-sculptures such as God of Earth and the Goddess Wathoundarei and Wathoundara. There is a replica of Ananda Sandra stone inscription carved in Danyawaddy alphabets from the 8th century. The inscription tells us about Watha Li King Ananda Sandra and his ancestors with 65 verses. Stone inscription of Purain Ah Song-Taung (1430), Wara-Dhamma-Yar-Zar (1618) and An-Taw-Thein (1596) are also there to be studied.

PAGODAS IN MRAUK-U

Andaw Pagoda (86 feet northeast of the Shittaung Pagoda in Mrauk U) means the “Pagoda Enshrining the Tooth-relic of Buddha.” Min Hla Raza was the original builder of this pagoda, in 1521. Due to some damage, the King of Mrauk U, Minrazagyi reconstructed parts of in 1596. The central tower of the shrine contains the tooth-relic of Buddha. It was originally obtained from Sri Lanka by King Minbin (1534-1542 A.D.)

The shrine is an octagonal structure made of pure sandstone, with two internal concentric passages. Fifteen small circular pagodas built of bricks stand on the platforms of south, north and west of the shrine. On the east, there is a prayer hall. which has an entrance on the east, north and south sides. A stonewall divides the prayer hall from the outer court. The east facade of the shrine measures 31 feet from north to south and is only 14 feet high from the ground to the roof. On each side of the entrance are three niches which get into the wall—which are 6 feet high, 1.2 feet deep and two feet wide—which contain stone images of Buddha. Passing through the vaulted passage a gallery opens on either side. Each is 3 feet 7 inches wide and 9 feet high.

The gallery runs in an octagonal shape around the central chamber; each of the outer sides of the passage measures 20 feet and each contains a row of four niches with a semicircular arch 2 feet above the ground, and a second row of smaller niches at the height of 7 inches, four to each side, which hold stone images of Buddha. From the inner side of the gallery a vaulted passage leads from north, south, east and west to the inner chamber, which is also octagonal in shape. At the center stands an eight-cornered stone pillar 40 feet in circumference. It supports the roof.

Neither light nor air can penetrate into the shrine except through the front entrance. The roof is about ten feet thick. Over each of the eight corners of the shrine stands a smaller pagoda. At the center. there stands a large pagoda. Andaw Pagoda was wholly constructed with stone blocks. It stands on a small square-shaped hillock. This hillock includes the shrine and pagoda and measures 228 feet from east to west and 145 feet from north to south and is 42 feet in height from ground to top. While Shittaung features three square passages inside the temple. Andaw Thein has two passages around an eight side pillar. which supports the roof.

Dukkanthein also called as Htukanthein or Htoekanthein. stands on a hill which is about 30 feet in height. Built under King Minphalaung in 1571, this pagoda has a flat surface and sort of resembles a drum. Like most of the ancient monuments in Mrauk U, Dukkanthein was built with sandstones and layers of bricks over the roof. The measurement of the temple is 190 feet from north to south and 200 feet from east to west. It has stone stairways about 8 inches broad in the east and south sides. These stairways measuring 106 feet are built of massive stonewall on the north. east and south. The west one which is slightly convex is connected to an oblong chamber.

The pagoda entrance on the east side, closer to the south-east corner, leads to a long vaulted passage which spirals up in two tiers till it reaches the central chamber. The superstructure—a bell-shaped dome on receding terraces—is similar to the one on Shitthaung, but here a tall square arch is provided on the east side to admit light into the central chamber. The inner chambers and passages of the temple are constructed with well fitting and cemented stones. The pagoda is well-known for the stone sculptures in the vaulted passages. especially the figures of seated ladies, with different hairstyles, offering lotus buds to the Buddha. Traditionally it is said that there are sixty-four kinds of hairstyle and all the figures are of the wives of noblemen. Besides. on both sides of the entire passage, niches of 1½ feet wide, 1 foot deep, and 2 feet high are carved at regular intervals of 20 feet in the wall and each contains a stone image of the Buddha in sitting posture. There are one hundred and forty-six niches along the passage.

Lemyathnar Pagoda (150 feet to the northwest of the Dukkhanthein Pagoda) or "the Four-Faced Pagoda" was built by King Minsawmon, the first king of Mrauk-U Dynasty, in 1430. It is one of the five pagodas built at the beginning of the establishment of the city. It is a square structure. with a long protruding portal towards each cardinal point. The interior room is octagonal. In the center of the latter there is an octahedral column intended to support the circular tower erected over the center of the roof. Over each of the four corners of the terrace a smaller circular stupa was built. Each side of the square of the shrine measures 55 feet; the portals are 13 feet broad and protrude 17 feet into the platform. The central tower is circular and has the shape of a dome. with a circumference of 80 feet at the base and is 70 feet high. There are 28 Buddha images as mentioned in the Sambuddha scripture.

Sanda Muni Pagoda is located in Bandoola Monastery of Mrauk U. It is said that Gautama Buddha came to Mrauk U and from that time on people started to believe in Buddhism King Sanda Thuriya reigned over the Rakhine territory when Gautama Buddha came to Mrauk U. The king begged the Buddha for images as a symbol representing the real Buddha. The Buddha made four Muni Buddha images which are: 1) Maha Myat Muni (located at Mandalay); 2) Shwebonthar Muni (located at Pyay); 3) Zalun Pyaydawpyan (located at Zalun); and 4) Maha Muni (located at Sittwe). There was more jewelry and gold left. so he made 5 more images known as 1) Sanda Muni, 2) Kuja Muni, 3) Sakkyar Muni, 4) Deva Muni and 5) Sula Muni. These five images are also known as Maha Kyan Images. The Maha Muni was surrounded by these five images.

When King Saw Mon. he moved to Mrauk U as the capital. He took the Sanda Muni image along with him to Mrauk U. In 1852. lower Myanmar fell under the rulings of the British colony. The British took all the bronze images to melt and turn these into weapons. Since the people wear afraid that the Sanda Muni might be turned into weapons. they covered the image with concrete and left in the Bandoola Monastery. The British thought that this image was made of concrete and left it where it was.

In April 1988, Sayadaw Ashin Sattkapalar was cleaning the floor in front of the image and suddenly an eye dropped down. The monk saw that the inner part was not made of concrete but of bronze metal. A month later the covered concrete of the Image was torn down and the real Sanda Muni Buddha Image was shown to public. The size of the image is 4 feet 10 inches high and 4 feet and 2 inches in width. This Buddha image became more and more popular with the locals.

Koethaung Pagoda (400 meters north of the Pisei Hill) means “90,000 Pagoda,” which probably signified the number of Buddha images it was supposed to contain. The pagoda stands on a plain and is surrounded by paddy fields. The upper tiers of the pagoda have disappeared. The remaining lowest tier is about 30 feet high including earth foundation. King Mintaikkha who was the son of the King Minbin, built Koethaung Pagoda in 1553 A.D.

This pagoda is the biggest among the pagodas in Mrauk-U. It measures 230 feet from east to west and 250 feet from north to south. The Koethaung Pagoda is very similar to Shitthaung Pagoda. They are of the same type from the historical and archaeological viewpoints. This tradition of donation of religious buildings by royal families came down from the royal ancestors.

The pagoda was constructed of massive stonewalls and terraces. The small one hundred and eight pagodas, all made of sandstone, were built on the terraces. The entrance to the pagoda on the east side leads to a long vaulted passage which spirals round the tiers until it reaches the central chamber. The construction of the Koethaung Pagoda resembles a rock cave tunnel. The main tower above the pagoda is octagonal in shape. It is believed that there may be treasures of sculptures. artworks and even valuable jewels buried underneath the ruins. The platform is scattered here and there with vestiges of pagodas. images and many other such paraphernalia.

Legend says that the pagoda was demolished and hit by a thunderbolt because the King Mintaikkha built the Koethaung Pagoda (ninety thousand images). which exceeded in number to the images of his father, King Minbin's Shitthaung Pagoda (eighty thousand images). In truth, Koethaung was built in six months time on the advice of his astrologers. In building this pagoda workmen used both bricks and stones. Other pagodas were mostly built of pure sandstone, which had to be carried from the Rakhine-coasts. The six-month's time was not long enough to collect the required number of blocks of stone. As a consequence. Koethaung was inferior in quality in materials as well as in workmanship compared to Shitthaung Pagoda.

MAGWE DIVISION

MAGWE DIVISION is located in the central part of Myanmar in the Dry Zone. Covering an area of 17,305 square miles, it borders Sagaing Division to the north, Mandalay Division to the east; Bago Division the south, and Rakhine and Chin States to the west.

The population of Magwe Division is 4,218,699. The majority of the people are Bamars and there are also Chins, Rakhines, Kayins, Shans and others. A total of 98 percent of the people are Buddhists and the rest are Christians, Hindus, Muslims or Animists. Magwe Division embraces Magwe, Minbu, Thayet, Pakokku and Gangaw Districts where there are 25 townships and 1,696 ward village-tracts. Magwe is the divisional capital. Its population in 1994 was about 300,000. Other major towns of the Division are Pakokku and Minbu. Other well-known towns are Taungdwingyi, Thayet, Aunglan, Natmauk, Pwintbyu, Chauk, Yenangyaung, Pauk, Gangaw and Yesagyo.

Farmland occupies 1.6 million acres of about 2.5 million acres of total arable land in the Division. The rest is occupied by rice paddy land, silt land (Kaing-kyunmya), hill-side cultivated land (taungya-myay) and vegetable land. Multiple cropping is practiced on paddy land and farmland. In Magwe Division 500,000 acres is put under paddy. The major crops are sesamum and over one million acres is put under the crop. Other crops grown are millet, maize, common millet (lu), ltalian millet (Hsat), groundnut, sunflower, bean and pulses, Virginia tobacco, toddy. chili, onion, and potato. There are three water-pump stations, nine electric water-pump sites, and 32 diesel-powered water-pump sites. There are Thanakha (Limonia acidissima) plantations and the Shinmataung Thanaka variety is well-known in the country. The famous product of Magwe Division is Phangar (Chebulic myorobalan) fruit. Magwe Division produces 694 million kyats worth of monsoon sesamum and 515 million kyats worth of monsoon groundnut each year.

As the majority part of Magwe Division falls within the Dry Zone, it is very hot during the hot season and relatively cold during the cold season. The average temperature of April, which is the hottest month of the year, is 90 degrees with the temperatures during daytime ranging between 100 degrees - 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature of January, which is the coolest month of the year, is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature sometimes falls as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall in the western hilly region is slightly higher than other parts of the Division. The Bago Mountain Range and the southernmost part have a tropical savannah climate.

Magwe City (331 miles from Yangon by road) is the divisional capital of Magwe Division. Its population in 1994 was about 300,000. Myathalun Pagoda or Magwe Myathalun Pagoda is well-known in Myanmar. The name of the Pagoda means "The Jade Throne Pagoda". According to legend the Jade Throne was enshrined by two ogre brothers in ancient times. Therefore, faces of ogres are carved into the flowery patterns on the side of the pagoda. The pagoda is situated on the bank of the Irrawaddy River. The Myathalun Pagoda festivals, which are common in other parts of the country, are also held in Magwe Division. The festivals of Myathalun Pagoda in Magwe and of Shwesettaw Pagoda in Minbu are very well-known throughout the country. Being one of the greatly venerated shrines, and also because Magwe lies midway between the upcountry and the lower parts, its annual festival has served as a great fair for the exchange of local goods. According to legend the original pagoda had a height of about 55.5 feet (16.9 meters) and was built by U Baw Gyaw and his wife the daughter of a certain Maha Bawga, a man of great wealth with an official title.

King Saw Lu (1077-1084) of Pagan encapsulated the original pagoda and raised it to a height of 87 feet (26.5 meters). In 1847, it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt by the mayor of the town Min Din Min Hla Kyaw Gaung. The pagoda was rebuilt to the present height of approximately 104 feet (31.7 meters).

Minbu Shwe Settaw (in Settawyam 34 miles west of Minbu on the opposite bank of Magwe) is the home of a pair of Buddha's Footprints enshrined in a forest pagoda and surrounded by shrines. One can go there also by the Minbu A Road following a brach road at the 22 miles post. The site is on the river Man. The festival is held on the fifth waxing moon of the Myanmar calendar month, Tabodwe (February and March) annually. On the way from Minbu, the visitors can pay homage to Sandal wood Monastery at Legging, visited, it is said, by the Lord Buddha in his lifetime. The Footprint was purportedly left by the Lord Buddha when he visited Sunapranta. The lower Footprint is under water during the monsoon months as the river Man is flooded. Therefore the festival is celebrated in the later winter months.

CHIN STATE

CHIN STATE borders India in the north and west, Rakhine State to its south and Sagaing and Magwe divisions in the east. Chin State can be reached in an arduous seven hour overland journey from Pagan to Mindat , with very poor accommodation options. An easier way to see the Chin by using the ancient kingdom of Mrauk U in Rakhine State as a base. It is about 3½ hours up river from Mrauk U and its eerie, endless and spectacular temples. Here the population are primarily Chin as it is near the border with Southern Chin State. To get to Mrauk U you can fly from Yangon to Sittwe — an area that is 40 percent Muslim — then take a four hour boat up the Kaladan River. According to the Myanmar government: Because Chin State is hilly and access is difficult, there is a slight difference in languages spoken in one region and another. It had a population of about 412,700 in 1983 and 465,361 in 1996 respectively.

The Chin is a group that lives in the mountains along the Myanmar-India borders and neighboring areas. The name “Chin” comes from the English version of the Burmese name and is used mostly in Myanmar. The Chin call themselves the Zo or Zomi, names used for them in India. Regional and dialect groups include the Chinbok, Chinbon, Dai, Lai, Laizo, Mara and Ngala. They are related to the Mizo, Kuki and Hmar in Mirozam and Manipur state in eastern India.

There are believed to be around 300,000 Chin in Burma and roughly 600,000 in Mizoram State in eastern India. They have traditionally lived in an area of high mountains in villages that ranged between 1,000 and 2,000 meters. These areas were traditionally seen as so inhospitable few other groups wanted to lived there. The northern Chins have different customs and beliefs from the southern Chins. Groups like the Purum, Lakher, Mizo and Thadou also live in the hill country of northeastern India and northwestern Burma and have customs and lifestyles similar to that of the Chins.

The Chin are a predominately-Christian ethnic group that lives in the remote mountains of northwestern Myanmar in an area that borders Assam, India to the west, Bangladesh to the southwest, Myanmar ‘s Arakan state to the south and Burmese-dominated Myanmar to the east. It is estimated that the Chin, in a general sense including outside and inside of Chinland, number as many as two million, with the largest and noticeable number concentrated in the Chin State. [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005]

The Chin tend to have darker skin than the Burmese.The Chin languages belong to the Kuki-Chin Subgroup of the Kuki-Naga Group of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. They are all tonal and monosyllabic and had no written form until missionaries gave them Roman alphabets in the 1800s. See Minorities

Hakhar is the capital of Chin State in Myanmar. The city is 6120 feet above sea level and it lies at the foot of Rungtlang (Mount Rung), which is about 7543 feet high, and is one of the most famous and beautiful mountain peaks in the Chin State. January is the coldest month of the year with a mean temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius. April is the hottest month at a mean of 36 degrees. The total rainfall is about 86.22 inches every year. The total area of Hakhar is about 12.50 square miles. Hakhar is in the center of Chin State and it is connected with Thantlang, Falam, Gangaw and Matupi by truck roads.

Hakhar was founded around A.D. 1400 by the Laimi ethnic group. There were only 30 houses at that time and the area was ruled by local chiefs for many generations. After the second World War, Hakhar became an important city as the headquarter for one of the sis subdivisions in the Chin Special Division and Falam was the capital in that time. The Chin Special division was abolished and formed the Chin State in 1974 and Hakhar became the capital for the Chin State. That brought an influx of government workers, housing development and extension of the city limits. Hakhar eventually became the largest city in the Chin State with about 20,000 people.

Hakhar’s main pagoda lies at the confluence of Neyinzaya and Myittha Rivers in Kalemyo, Chin State. It was one of the 84,000 pagodas sponsored by King Thiri Dhamma Thawka as- it was built under the reign of (wing Landapala in Sakarit 225 enshrining the relics sent by King Thiri Dhamma Thawka. It is over 300 years older than the city of Kale as the city was built on the 5th waning moon day of Tabodwe, Kawza Sakarit 328. In Sakarit 450, King Alaung Sithu of Pagan got to the venue of the pagoda and had it repaired while the barge was at rest. The pagoda has been repaired successively by lay people and it is now standing in full splendour.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Myanmar Travel Information, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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