Rakhine State

Rakhine State

Rakhine State is a state of Myanmar. Situated on the western coast, it is bordered by Chin State in the north, Magway Division, Bago Division and Ayeyarwady Division in the east, the Bay of Bengal to the west, and the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh to the northwest. It is located approximately between latitudes 17°30′ north and 21°30′ north and east longitudes 92°10′ east and 94°50′ east. The Arakan Yoma mountain range, which rises to 3,063 m at Victoria Peak, separates Rakhine State from Myanmar proper. Its area is 36,762 km² and its capital is Sittwe. The famous unspoilt Ngapali beach is in Rakhine State, stretching along the Bay of Bengal. It is famous for its clean aqua blue water and the sandy beach shore. There are many luxury hotels for tourists and locals for accommodation. The southern beach of Kanthaya is reached from Ayeyarwaddy division by road. Mrauk U, or the ancient city of the Rakhine Dynasty is also a popular destination in this state.

Sittwe is situated on an estuarial island at the confluence of the Kaladan River, Myu River, and Lemo River. The location of Sittwe is between East Longitude 92deg 56′ and North Latitude 20deg 7′ and 22deg 17′. This port city of the Rakhine State sits at the mouth of the Kaladan River where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. Offshore 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 along the coast bloomed during the British era. Two huge cargo steamers a day plied back and forth between Calcutta and Sittwe. Scottish short-story writer 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 spicy food and brighter-coloured clothing.

The climate in Sittwe is moderate. Rainfall in the year round is not more than 200″. 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 to February.

1) Mahamuni Buddha Image

This temple is situated in the centre 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 only 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.

2) Buddhist Museum

This modest two-story 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.

3) View Point

The 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.

4) Thalondaw Datt Pagoda

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.

5) Shwe Zedi Monastery

The Shwe Zedi Monastery is a famous Theravada Buddhist monastery in Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar. Founded in 1903, the monastery is one of the main Buddhist monasteries in the city. Venerable U Ottama was a resident of the monastery during the 1920s and 1930s. He was the first political monk in the then British Burma, helping to establish a key factor in modern Burmese politics – that of political monks. He is considered one of the national heroes of Burmese independence movement. The monastery is seen as a focal point of Burmese and Arakanese politics and the birthplace of political Buddhism in Myanmar. The monastery now runs a gratis school and an Arakanese cultural school to help the local residents.

Mrauk U is a little known archeological site in Western Burma. In the beautiful hilly landscape of the Rakhine state hundreds of ancient temples and pagodas, many of which are well preserved remains of the powerful empire that once flourished here. The site used to be the capital of the Mrauk U Kingdom, a powerful empire that existed from 1430 until 1785. Today Mrauk U is a small town where the centuries old monuments form the backdrop for everyday life of local people. Mrauk U is a site that receives very few visitors compared to sites such as Angkor in Cambodia or Ayutthaya in Thailand.  Centered around the town of Mrauk U is the Mrauk U archeological zone, an area of 7 km2 where hundreds of temples and pagodas were built between the 15th and 18th century. The capital of the Kingdom was protected by 35 kilometer long walls and moats; at the center of the city was the Royal Palace.

The Mrauk U Kingdom was founded in 1430 by King Min Saw Mon. At the height of its power the Kingdom ruled over much of present day Bangladesh and Myanmar, for a large part thanks to its large naval fleet. Mrauk U was an important port in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ships from many countries frequented the city to do trade. Although about 70 kilometers from the sea, Mrauk U could at the time be reached by the largest sea going ships from the Bay of Bengal. In 1785 the Mrauk U Kingdom was besieged by King Bodawpaya of the Konbaung dynasty. The remains of the Royal Palace are found in the center of town, just East of the market. Very little is left of the teak wood building that once stood here; only parts of the walls remain. 

1) Htaukkathein Temple

Htukkanthein temple is situated at the North of the Royal Palace and nearby Shite-Thaung temple, Andaw paya, Ratana-Pon paya. It was built in 1571 by King Min Phalaung whose reign brought prosperity and expansion of the Mrauk U empire. The Htukkanthein temple is a bunker like Buddhist temple on a small hill located near the Shite-Thaung temple North of Mrauk U town. The structure has a dark interior and a long spiralling corridor leading to the inner chamber. The temple’s name translates to “cross beam ordination hall”. As the very massive structure is built on raised ground, has small windows and just a single entrance, it is believed that the Htukkanthein served as a place of refuge during times of war. Built on top of a small levelled hill the square Htukkanthein temple built of massive sandstone blocks and brick measures 32 meters long on each side. The structure is surrounded on all sides by massive stone walls. Stairways on the East and South side lead to the temple, the East one being the main entrance. On top of the Htukkanthein’s flat surface is a large central bell shaped stupa topped with a circular, mushroom shaped hti. It is surrounded by 4 smaller, similarly shaped stupas at the corners, also topped with a hti. A window in the central dome allows the rays of the sun to illuminate the principal Buddha image in the central chamber.

2) Laungbanpyaunk Pagoda

Laungbanpyauk pagoda, Laungpanprauk paya is located near Mahabodhi Shwegu in North Mrauk U. It was built by King Minkhaung in 1525.  The Laungbanpyauk Paya is a solid pagoda located North of Mrauk U town. The stone pagoda that was built in 1525 by King Minkhaung is also known as the “colored tile pagoda”. The pagoda is surrounded by a stone wall, the outer surface of which is decorated with flower patterns made of glazed tiles. Each flower consists of nine glazed tiles; its flower petals are in bright blue, white, yellow, red and green colors. An opening in the East side of the wall leads to the pagoda. The Laungbanpyauk sits on a platform about two meters high. The solid pagoda does not have an entrance leading to its interior. The massive Laungbanpyauk is an octagonal pagoda shaped like a pyramid with tiers of diminishing size. Each of its eight sides measures 10 meters long at the base. In the center of each side of the bottom tier is an ornate niche that contains an image of the Buddha. The niches and pediments over it are adorned with detailed sculptings in several motifs. The nearly 37 meter high Laungbanpyauk Paya is topped with a spire called “chattra”.

3) Shit Thaung Pagoda

Shit Thaung Temple (Temples of 80000 pagodas) built in 1536 AD in Mrauk Oo, northern Rakhine state of Myanmar. The first terrace is 40 feet high and the walls are built with stone blocks. On the upper platform there are stone wall 9 feet think and 12 feet high on the west and south sides. Along the south and north walls there are brick pagodas. The main shrine is said to encase 84000 holy relics and are dedicated to the 84000 future Buddhas. And this temple became known as temple of 80000 pagodas. The temple is the tunneled structure with the main cave hall surrounded by tunnels and also connected to a prayer hall.

4) Koe Thaung Temple

Excavations at Koethaung pagoda, “the shrine of 90,000 images” began in 1997. The shrine is the largest in Mrauk U, and was built by the son of Meng Bin, Meng Tikka, who ruled between 1553 and 1556. It stands northwest of the palace towards the outer forts and walls, on marsh lands which later caused the foundations to subside. The Koethaung is square in plan, measuring about seventy seven meters on each side. It was built of brick faced with sandstone said to have been brought up the Kaladan River (Gissapa Nadi) from the coast. As is the case with most other shrines at Mrauk U, it is oriented to the east, and its central image faces that direction. The outer body of the shrine is composed of five receding terraces each ornamented with small pagodas, originally 108 in all. It is Buddhist practice to worship the Buddha by walking around the central image of his shrine three times, at all times keeping the image to the right. At Koethaung this ritual circumambulation would therefore take place around the inner and outer passages and then the image itself in the center of the upper platform.

5) Andaw Thein Pagoda

It is a temple in Mrauk U located at the northwest corner of the Shite-thaung Temple. The name means ‘Tooth Shrine’. It contains a tooth relic of the Buddha coming from Sri Lanka. It was first built as an ordination hall between 1515 and 1521 by King Thazata, and restored by Min Bin between 1534 and 1542. It was later expanded into a temple by King Raza II in order to house a tooth relic of the Buddha he brought back from his pilgrimage to Ceylon, either in 1596 or 1606–1607.

6) Mahabodhi Shwegu Temple

Mahabodhi Shwegu temple is located in North of Mrauk U, nearby Ratana-Pon Paya. It was built by King Ba Saw Phyu in second half of the 15th century. The Mahabodhi Shwegu is an eight sided bell shaped temple located in a quiet area near the Ratana-Pon Paya, North of Mrauk U town. It was built by King Ba Saw Phyu, who reigned Mrauk U during the second half of the 15th century. The King expanded the Mrauk U empire and strengthened its defensive systems. The 10 meter high sandstone temple on the side of a small hill is an octagonal structure. A bell shaped dome topped with a finial sits on top of a number of receding tiers. At the base of each of its eight sides measure a little over four meters long. A total of 32 protective spirits guard the Mahabodhi Shwegu temple. At each corner of its lowest four tiers is a stone sculpting of a guardian spirit.

7) Le Myat Nhar Pagoda

The Le-myet-hna pagoda is located North of the Royal Palace, near the Htukkanthein temple. It is one of the oldest temples of Mrauk U; it was built in 1430 by King Min Saw Mon, the founder of the Mrauk U Kingdom. The Le-myet-hna Paya, which translates to “four faced pagoda” is a rectangular sandstone structure. At the center of each side is a vaulted entrance protruding out of the structure facing one of the four cardinal directions. The main entrance is East. On top of the temple’s flat surface are five stupas. In the center is the main, large bell shaped stupa topped with a mushroom shaped hti, an ornamental top element. The stupa with concentric rings at the base rises to a height of 21 meters. The main stupa is surrounded by four smaller stupas; one on each corner of the temple. The temple’s interior has an octagonal floor plan with a large column at the center. Around it, seated on pedestals are eight stone images of the Buddha in the Bhumisparsha mudra of calling the Earth to witness. The wall opposite the central column contains 20 niches, each enshrining one slightly smaller image of the Buddha. The total number of 28 images signifies the 28 Buddhas mentioned in the Buddhavamsa, a part of the Tripitaka, the Buddhist scriptures written in ancient Pali language.

Thandwe is very ancient, and is said to have been at one time the capital of Rakhine State, then called Arakan. The district has an area of 3,784 square miles. The country is mountainous, the Arakan Mountains sending out spurs which reach the coast. Some of the peaks in the north attain 4,000 and more ft. The streams are only mountain torrents to within a few miles of the coast; the mouth of the Khwa forms a good anchorage for vessels of from 9 to 10 ft. draught. The rocks in the Arakan range and its spurs are metamorphic, and comprise clay, slates, ironstone and indurated sandstone; towards the south, ironstone, trap and rocks of basaltic character are common; veins of steatite and white fibrous quartz are also found. The rainfall in 1905 was 23-49 in. Except a few acres of tobacco, all the cultivation is rice. The Thandwe Domestic Airport serves as an important entry port to the beautiful Ngapali Beach and the ancient Mrauk U City of Rakhine State.

Ngapali Beach is one of the loveliest places in Myanmar. It is famous for its natural and unspotted beauty. The beach stretches about 3 km with soft white sand fringed by coconut palms. It is situated about 7 km away from Thandwe, one of the ancient Rakhine (formerly Arakan) towns. It is said to have been named after the Naple of Italy by a homesick Italian. It serves as the best ground for sunbathing and recreation such as beach strolling, cycling and so on. There are only natural scenic beauty of the blue sea, white sand and the lovely sun. The sea is cobalt blue, without any dangerous marine animals and clean. The water here is transparent and the sea is tranquil. The villagers usually dry their fish, shrimp and coconut in the Sunlight. These products are transported to Yangon and over the country. The best time to visit this beach during October and May of every year.

1) Jade Taw Fishing Village

The village of Jade Taw is very interesting to visit because the visitors will see fish, shrimp and coconut drying on bamboo mats. These products are transported to Yangon and over the country.

Kantharyar Beach is the Rakhing State’s third pleasant beach resort. Kantharyar by its name meaning the pleasant beach in Myanmar. The beach is about 2km long. This beautiful beach was unveiled on 24th March, 1995 in commemoration of the 50th Golden Jubilee Myanmar Armed Forces Day. It is situated in “Gwa” township only 82 miles from “Ngapali” beach. Yangon to Gwa is about 174 miles by Motor road and the route from Gwa to Kann-tha-ya beach is 17 miles by road. From Yangon, it has a distance of 200km, and one can reach by car in about 6 hours. If you are already in Ngapali, there is a 3 hour boat ferry. The out-standing features of ‘Kann-tha-ya’ beach are the blue sea, a very long stretch of silvery sands, a dark green line of coconut palm groves along the wide coast almost level beach about 8000 yards long and massive rock slabs and boulders. People with a penchant for fishing may go out angling in the sea reefs and rocks providing a natural fence for the beach in safety. Life-guards have been posted along the beach.

Kyaukpyu Township is a township of Kyaukphyu District in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. At Ma Day Island of Kyaukpyu Township, a deep sea port was being built by Asia World Company by investment of China National Petroleum Corporation. The Kyaukpyu SEZ plan is included an industrial zone, residential housing estates and a deep-water port and to cover about 11 miles near Sit Taw and Si Maw Village. It is one of Burma’s largest natural gas projects.

Waithali, located in today’s northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, was the capital of the Waithali Kingdom from 788 to 1018. The former capital site is approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) north-east of Sittwe, and east of Ram Chaung, a tributary of the Kaladan river. Like much of northern Rakhine State, Waithali is in a hilly locale. Like its predecessor, Dhanyawadi, the former capital site has fallen into ruin and much of it is now deserted. Only a few temples and traces of the old city wall remain. The site is about an hour’s bus ride from Mrauk U. It has been estimated that the centre of power of the Arakanese world shifted from Dhankawadi to Waithali in the 6th century AD. Although it was established later than Dhanyawadi, Waithali is the most Indianized of the four Arakanese kingdoms to emerge. Like all of the Arakanese Kingdoms to emerge, the Kingdom of Waithali was based on trade between the East (Pyu city-states, China, the Mons), and the West (India, Bengal, and Persia).

Dhanyawadi was the capital of the first Arakanese Kingdom, located in what is now Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. The Kingdom of Dhanyawad was based on trade between the East (pre-Pagan Myanmar, China, the Mons), and the West (India, Bengal, Persia). The site is approximately 180 miles (290 km) north by north east of Sittwe, and lies between the Kaladan River and Thare Chaung (Thare Stream). Like much of Northern Rakhine State, it is in a hilly locale. Much of it is now deserted, with the only signs of civilization being the stalls around the Mahamuni and meditation centres, opened to cater to the influx of pilgrims to the Mahamuni shrine (not the Mahamuni Image). The site can be reached by a one and a half to two hours bus ride from Mrauk U. Up until the mid-1950s, Dhanyawadi could also be reached by boat from the Thare Chaung, but pollution and silting has almost blocked the canal leading to the site. The city-walls form a perimeter of roughly 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), defining the city to about 4.5 square kilometres (1.7 sq mi). Remains of the city wall, and the palace compound are still visible.

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