Located in Northern Rakhine State, Mrauk U is a major archaeological spot in Myanmar and has only recently become a reachable tourist destination. Some dating back to the 15th century when Mrauk U reached its zenith. Most of the sites in Mrauk U date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, such as Shittaung Pagoda, which was built by King Minbin in 1535 and remains the main attraction for visitors. The ruins of the royal palace and the remains of the city walls are worthwhile sightseeing points. The most popular mode for tourists to travel to Mrauk U is to take a domestic flight from Yangon to Sittwe and board a boat from Sittwe against the Kaladan River. A popular myth amongst the Arakanese and the Burmese people is that the name Mrauk U was derived from a legend of a monkey offering Gautama Buddha an egg as a sign of devotion, it is purported that the name Monkey Egg (Myauk U) stuck with the region, and from it, the current Mrauk U was derived. The main attractions are the temples and ruins around the town such as a small archaeological Museum near Palace site, Shitthaung Pagoda - the most impressive meaning 80,000, with its endless perambulatory tunnels, Dukkanthein Pagoda, Andawthein Shrine are some of the sites to see in Mrauk U. Mrauk U is an ancient city in the Rakhine State which is situated in the western part of the Union of Myanmar. Mrauk-U is also a place where cultural heritages have flourished for many years. The Rakhine State is close to the Bay of Bengal and 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.
Tour Highlights in Mrauk U
- Shittaung Pagoda
- Lemyathnar Pagoda
- Yadanar Pon Pagoda
- Sanda Muni Pagoda
- Mrauk U Museum
- Koethaung Pagoda
- The Palace
Shitthaung (temple of the 80,000 Buddhas) built by as King Minbin who reigned from 1513 to 1553 one of the most powerful kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty lying on a hillock to the north of the palace site is more a fortress than a pagoda. 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 art displayed in its construction and ornamentation are remarkable. In the accounts of this curious plan, some remarked that the Shitthaung Pagoda was built alike a fortress but the real purpose of the pagoda was for prayer, some rituals of initiation and some of the King's ceremonies which were usually held secretly. The temple is virtually a storehouse of sculptures exhibiting not only Buddhist, but also to a lesser degree, Brahmanic influence. The superstructure of the temple is brick. It is a cylindrical stupa with square relic chamber between the dome and the finial. No mortar was used in the construction and stones were connected with stone brackets. The central pagoda measures 160 feet long and 124 feet broad, 86 feet high. There are one big and 14 smaller ones on the north and bigger one and seventeen smaller ones on the south. Along the other two inner galleries are hundreds of Buddha images of various sizes. The Shittaung Pillar is well-known and it is located just on the northern entrance of the Shittaung Pagoda. It is believed to have been brought from Vesali to Mrauk U and was placed by King Minbin in 1535 A.D. 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. The pillar was destroyed during the World War II. The original pillar stands from 10 feet and each side is 2' 4" wide in surface. Three faces have Sanskrit Inscriptions but the other one was badly damaged.
Dukkanthein (Htukanthein or Htoekanthein) built by King Minphalaung in 1571 A.D stands on a hill which is about 30 feet in height. Its structure is like a flat surface in the form of a drum. Dukkanthein was built with sandstones and layers of bricks over the roof. . The pagoda is well-known for the stone sculptures in the vaulted passages, especially the figures of seated ladies with different styles of coiffure in the manner of offering lotus buds to the Buddha. The measurement of the temple is 190 feet from north to south and 200 feet from east to west and 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 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.
Laymyetnha Pagoda or "the four-faced pagoda" built by King Minsawmon, the first king of Mrauk-U Dynasty in 1430 A.D. 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. . There are 28 Buddha images as mentioned in the Sambuddha scripture. In the center of the latter there is an octahedral column intended to support the circular tower erected over the center of the roof. 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.
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 which was square in plan with an entrance passage to the east like others pagoda in Mrauk U. It was built entirely with stone and the outer walls are decorated with ornate floral and geometric design. The Pitakataik measures only 14 feet from east to west, 10 feet from north to south and is only 9 feet in height. This library is reputed to have housed 30 sets of the Buddhist Tipitaka which King Narapatigyi (1638-1645) received from Sri Lanka.
Yadanar Pon Pagoda was built by King Min Khamaung and Queen Shin Htwe in A.D 1612. There are seventeen smaller pagodas around the main pagoda. Each one was donated by Kings, Queens and other royal families of Mrauk U Dynasty. The main pagoda is resembles the shape of a huge bell and measure a height of 200 feet but it was destroyed during the World War II and now has been renovated based on the original structure.
Sanda Muni image is located in Bandoola Monastery of Mrauk U. When Buddha came to Mrauk U, King Sanda Thuriya begged for making of images as a symbol representing the real Buddha. So, Buddha made 4 Muni Buddha images which are:
- Maha Myat Muni (located at Mandalay)
- Shwebonthar Muni (located at Pyay)
- Zalun Pyaydawpyan (located at Zalun)
- Maha Muni (located at Sittwe).
There were more jewelries 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 which were surrounded the Maha Muni. During the reign of King Saw Mon, he moved to Mrauk U as the capital. He took the Sanda Muni image along with him to Mrauk U.
Mrauk U museum is located near the palace site. Displays some old artifacts of Vesali, Launggret and Mrauk U periods. Various inscribed stone inscriptions in Sanskrit, Rakhine and Arabic are also displayed Votive tablets. Krishna Vishnu, Bodhisattvas dvarapala stone htis (stone umbrella of pagodas), lintels coins, musical instruments, ceramic-wares are also on display. You can also find stone-sculptures such as God of Earth, Godness, 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.
The pagoda is the biggest in size among the pagodas in Mrauk-U measures 230 feet from east to west and 250 feet from north to south. The Koethaung Pagoda is very similar to Shitthaung Pagoda. Koethaung Pagoda (means 90,000 number of Buddha images) built by King Mintaikkha who was the son of the King Minbin was the donor of the great Shitthaung Pagoda in 1553 A.D. To the north of the Pisei Hill at a distance of 400 yards is the Koethaung Pagoda. The pagoda stands on a plain and is surrounded by paddy fields. The upper tiers of the pagoda had disappeared. The remaining lowest tier is about 30 feet high including earth foundation. The pagoda was constructed of stone walls 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 main tower above the pagoda is octagonal in shape and believed that there may be treasures of sculptures, artworks and even valuable jewels buried underneath the ruins.
The place is surrounded by three wall encirclements. When Mong Saw Mon started buildings the palace, underground canals were first dug. The area of the whole palace was 1.2 square miles and the walls were originally made of brick. The height of the walls today averages 12ft and thickness runs about 7ft. Three sites of the palace are guarded with moats. The moats in the east and west are manually made whereas the southern one is a natural Thinghanadi Creek.
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