Rakhine State

Arakan old painting
Mrauk-U in 1676

Rakhine State

Rakhine State is situated between the Rakhine Yoma Range in the western part of Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal. It borders Chin State on the north, Ayeyarwady Region on the south, the Rakhine Yoma on the east and Bay of Bengal on the west. Rakhine State is rugged with mountains and the land is high on the north while it gradually lower down to the south. Rivers are also flowing down southwards. The very beautiful Ngapali beach is situated in Thandwe Township. Andrew Bay or Lonetha Gyaing, Mayo Bay or Thabyu Gyaing, Gwa Aw and Shwe Wah Gyaing are famous bays.

As the Rakhine state is a coastal region it has a temperate climate. It has an average rainfall of over 200 inches every year. It has much rains in June, July and August. These months are in the rainy season of Myanmar. In the early months of Rainy season, Hurricanes sometimes blow past the state. Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, has a yearly average temperature of 74’F. The majority of the population are Rakhine nationals. There are some ethnic groups related to them. They called themselves other names as they cannot contact each other due to transport problems. These ethnic groups are Thet, Daing Net, Myo and Maramargyi. Rakhine national profess Buddhism. In BC 600 when Lord Buddha was still alive, Sasana had reached Rakhine state.

Among the traditional festivals, Rakhines usually celebrate the Thingyan water festival on a larger scale. The Rakhine Thingyan festival is a bit unique. Three days before the festival, elders from different townships and village-heads hold discussions and start collecting donations. On the eve of Thingyan, they set up pandals in which women start grinding all the sandalwoods on the stone slabs. At about midnight Rakhine people carry baskets of those perfume blended water and dance around their living quarter the whole night to the beats of drums and gongs. On the Akya day, the second day of Thingyan, they poured perfume blended water on the images of Buddha and that practice is dominant in Sittwe only while in rural areas it is done usually in the evening.

During the Thingyan water festival, women do not go around pouring water but they usually stay in nearby pandals and throw water at revellers. They usually keep water in longboats and old barrels inside the pandals. When the first group is revelling water the next group is waiting outside the pandal dancing and singing. These reveller groups are well disciplined and well behaved. In the past, man revellers went around in pony carriage and bullock carts to the pandals where women are throwing water. Inside the pandal, men and women stand in row face to face throw water to each other. An umpire has decided the winner. On the Atet Day, the last day of Thingyan, people usually go to the directions astrologically favourable to their birthdays and wash their hair with perfumed blended water in which gold and silver ornaments are immersed. They also pray for the new year blessings. Rakhine traditional wrestling, Kyin Game, is always held during the Thingyan water festival. Kyin Game is the Rakhine traditional wrestling which is usually held at the pagoda festival and at the funeral processions of monks.

Highlights

Sittwe

Let Way Thalone Taw Dhat Pagoda

Let Way Thalone Taw Dhat Zedi built by King Thuriya Setka. It is situated on Sittway-Yethedaung road about three miles from Sittway. When Buddha paid a visit to Rakhine Danyawady and took a rest on Kyauktaw mountain (or) Mawrapabbata Thaylagiri mountain and instructed venues to build pagodas. It was noted that place was one of the venues.

Buddhist Museum

This museum started with the articles of ancient cultural heritage collected by Reverend Pandita, the presiding monk of Mahakuthala monastery. The museum is located at Magyee Myaing Ward in Sittwe with the pagoda precinct measuring 3.657 acres. This museum is compulsory to place of study for researchers on archaeology as it has the exhibition room on the ultimate Life of Buddhahood was attained. The exhibition also displayed the sacred relics, palm-leaf and parabaik (writing tablet made of paper, cloth or metal in the form of accordion folds) manuscripts.

Rakhine Culture Museum

This museum is situated at the corner of the Main road and Yaydwin street in Mawleik ward in Sittwe. This is a four-storeyed building. The centre of the museum has paintings depicting Rakhine culture and customs. There are exhibitions about ancient cities of Rakhine, Rakhine literature, Rakhine traditional arts and cultural heritage, the architecture of Rakhine, the Buddhist culture and traditions.

Sittwe Viewpoint (Fakir Point)

This seaside viewpoint is located at the southernmost edge of Sittwe which was said to be constructed by a Portuguese engineer before 1844 AD. It was also the first lighthouse site in Myanmar. Now the lighthouse is used as the viewpoint tower from which travellers can see the scenic beauty of the beach and the bay.

Mrauk-U

The Five Mahn Pagodas in Mrauk-U

  • Radana Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Sanda Thudhamma Yarzar in AD 1652. It is highest (180 feet) among five pagodas and decorated with stone stucco carvings.
  • Sakya Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Thiri Thudhamma Yarzar in AD 1629. It was the first one to be built among five pagodas. The pagoda’s design depicting water lily blooming out of the quagmire. On the western gate of the pagoda are the two statues of ogre guarding the pagoda.
  • Zina Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Sanda Thudhamma Yarzar in AD 1652. The gate is on the east and there is Gandakuti (holy interior room) inside the pagoda.
  • Lawka Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Sanda Thudhamma Yarzar in AD1652. Inside the pagoda is Gandakuti and the spire is done proportionately. On the turrets of the pagoda, gates are decorated with stone stucco carvings.
  • Mingala Mahn Aung Pagoda was built by King Okkalapa in AD 1685. Design of the pagoda is a solid cone structure with the spine on top and decorated with stone stucco carving.

Shite Thaung Pattodawgyi and Koe Thaung Pattodawgyi

Shitthaung Paya or Shite Thaung Pattodawgyi is the most well-known pagoda for all its sculptures depicting the Rakhine heritage. It is also named as Yan Aung Zeya (Pagoda for Victory) because King Minba built it in AD 1365 in memory of his great conquest over 12 Bengal towns and Portuguese navy. There are five layers of caves forming a great underground maze upon which one big pagoda and 26 accompanying smaller pagodas. Shit-thaung stands for the Myanmar number 80,000.

Koe Thaung Pagoda or Koe-thaung Pattodawgyi was built by King Minteikkha in 1553 who is the son of King Minba. Koe-thaung stands for the Myanmar number 90,000. So the Rakhine people said “Father 80,000 and Son 90,000”. It is a massive carved out of hard rocks. The pagoda base is almost square, 250 feet by 230 feet. On its three sides, there are three terraces, each with a row of small stupas.

Htukkant Thein Pattodawgyi

The Htukkant Thein Pattodawgyi, built by King Min Phalaung in 1571, stands not far away from Shite-thaung Pattodawgyi. A natural hill supported by four man-made walls formed the base of the Pattodawgyi and there are two rock staircases, on the east and south, to climb up the hill. At each of four corners of the Pattodawgyi’s roof, there is a small bell-shape pagoda. The underground caves with stairs spiralling down as if entering a great conch. At regular places on the cave-sides, stairway or doorways were dug up with carved Buddha Images on each side of the way. On the walls, there are stone sculptures of men and women, young and old, of all classes and status in life, with their respective styles of dresses with lotus-buds in their hands paying homage to the Buddha. The intricate carvings depict such details as 40 styles of men’s headwear, 9 styles of insignia strings and 64 styles of women’s hair-dos.

Let Say Lake

This irrigated lake known as Let-Say-Kan was first dug up as a defence measure during the day of Mrauk U Dynasty. Enemies approaching the city from the south could be repulsed by letting off volumes of lake’s water through the gates. The lake has an area of over 100 acres between two hills. There is also a long wall, 12 feet high, built like a fort with a gate named Shwe Pauk Pin. The well-known pagoda Zina Man Aung stands on the north-west of the lake. With its enchanting environment, the site now has become a holiday resort of Mrauk U.

Mrauk U Palace Hill

The traces of Mrauk U period, AD 1430-1785, in which the kings made their capital at Nandaw Gon can still be seen until today at the town of Mrauk U. The ancient city has three layers of 50 feet of stone walls. Each stone wall which is closest to the capital is about 600 feet and form a square shape. Outermost layer wall on northern and southern sides stretches 1600 feet. The palace area occupies 1.2 square miles. Within the royal compound, there are nine royal buildings, buildings with earthern floors, parliament buildings, buildings where water used for coronations is housed, royal pond, the tower where there is a Bahosi (central drum), astronomical observatory, carpentry house and arsenals. To the south of the royal compound are the royal vessels. To the north of Theinganadi stream are white elephant hill and buildings for the queens. Near the place where there was the treasure house is the Archeological Museum.

Mahamuni Buddha Image in Kyauktaw Town

History says that the Mahamuni Buddha Image was cast very long ago, during the reign of King Sanda Thuria, 3rd Danyawady Dynasty, 580-528 BC. At that time, Buddha himself was still living and he let the devout Rakhine King make the image, which might be the first in the land of Myanmar. The pagoda stands 5 miles to the south of the old Rakhine city of Kyauktaw. 

Kutaung Pagoda in Rathedaung Town

It was one of the nine single-rock carved pagoda built by King Minbagyi in Mrauk-U period in AD1351. It is situated in Kutaung village, Rathedaung Township. On the walls of the cave are engraved scrollwork, pictures of birds, aquatic creatures, human beings and celestial being in decorative designs.

Ngapali beach in Thandwe Town

Ngapali is well-known for its long, smooth, white-sand beach with clean and clear water. The beach is four miles away from the town of Thandwe. The beach stretches for eight miles.

Kanthaya beach in Gwa Town

Gwa is the southernmost township of Rakhine state. The beach is 16 miles away from the town of Gwa on the Gwa-Thandwe highway. This is a long silvery beach with a stretch of coconut trees.