Friday, November 4, 2011

A Glimpse Of Rakhine

A Glimpse Of Rakhine  by Moing Maung     
  
Because they have valiantly preserved both their national identity and religious traditions-these people are given the proud name of Rakhine.
- Ashin Naginda

Jambu among the islands, Rakhine among the nations - such is known of their fame, moral character, patriotic feelings, enterprising spirit, and great benevolence that they are loved both by men and devas : let the nirvana be granted to their prayer.
- Buddhawang Verses

In the old poems and songs the Rakhine people are portrayed as a great nation, proud of possessing high morale, and are reputed for being pious and just. They are also said to be brave and enterprising. The name Rakhine also stands for The proud Buddhist traditions of benevolence, unity, peace and compassion.

The Greeks attributed the name of Argyre (Land of -Silver) to Rakhine, while the Tibetans called it as Kawky. The Indians and Europeans always referred it as Arakan/Arracan. Indians often call the Rakhine people as the Maghs, since they are alleged to be the descendants of the Sakya clan of Magadha. Maurice Collis fondly called it as The Land of the Great Image' - or the land of the Mahamuni Buddha Image which was carried off by Bodaw Maung Wain, a Burmese feudal warlord, and which is enshrined at the Arakan Temple in Mandalay.

The Source.

It is popularly believed that Rakhine was established by king Marayu and his queen Rucita Mala while Marayu was a distant descendant of the Magadha kings.

According to tradition Dwarawady city (Sandoway) was established by Ten Brothers including Bala Deva, Vasu Deva, etc. Who are also alleged to be of Indian Aryan descent. The story is almost legendary since no concrete proof of this otherwise mythical city has ever been found. Many think the city to have vanished into the Bay of Bengal. But who, after all, can tell this? The Historians.

1. The earliest Rakhine tribe came from Magadha, through the contiguous south-eastern ranges of the Great Himalayas into the soil of Rakhine so that they are called the Maghs.
-BRPearn

2. The early Indo-Aryan group migrated from the Ganges Delta, Magadha, into the southern reaches of Rakhine called Dwaravadi and got settled there with their relatives.
- U San Shwe Bu

3. Marayu who established First Dhanyavati (B.C. 3325-3263) was the son of King Arjuna of Kapilavastu and Queen Indamaryu, the Sakya woman (in the old script the queen is described as Chaik-ma, which can mean as Chaik-daughter or the daughter of a Chak> Chakma> Sakya chief.
- U San Tin, Ramree

4. When the Aryans migrated to the northern parts of India, they racially mixed with the indigenous Dravidians and became Aryo-Dravidians; likewise the Mongolians after intermixing became Monogolian-Dravidians ...
- K S Latourette

5. When the Aryans met the Dravidians, they disparagingly named the aboriginals as Rakshasas or demons ...
- E B Aavell

All these comments leads us to the conclusion that the Rakhine people are the descendants of the Indo-Aryans, with an admixture of Dravidian and dominantly Mongolian traits.

The Name

Rakhine is a name that signifies a people and also the land they live in. The name actually has a story of gradual evolution. In the old palm-leaf Razwang it is written : 'Taking shelter in the rain foests and hills, conquering the local cannibals or Rakshasas, they in time attained the name of Rakhine, and preserved the name very fondly.'

'Defeating the Raksasas' as recorded in the Razwang probably means 'overpowering the aboriginal cannibal tribes' who were no better than 'demons' in their way of life. Compared with E B Havell's observations this statement can help us to come to the conclusion that the Raksasas were actually the ethnic Dravidians.

Again in other writings we find that because of their unbroken tradition of safeguarding their national indentity the name of Arakkha' or preservation has been conferred upon them. 'Arakkha' in time, after natural modifications, changed into Rakkha, Ftakkliaing.

The Land


The name of the land also has an interesting story of evolution. The process was rather like a metamorphosis, changing a shade here and another there.

In the tenth century Ananda Candra pillar Sanskrit inscription the land is mentioned as 'Araksadesa'. This stone pillar is now preserved at the Shit-thaung temple, Mrauk U. In the early histories Rakkhapura was the name ascribed to it. In some traditional histories the name of ' Mahimsaka-taing' is also given to the land. From these old stone inscriptions and chronicles we can draw an inference that Rakhaing is a
considerably ancient land with a somewhat accurate history.

The present area of Rakhine is about 14,200 square miles, and population is a little over four million. The indigenous races living there are the Rakhine (Arakanese). Chin, Khami, Thet, Daingnak, and Barua (Maramagri). Chittagonian dialect speaking Bangalee Muslims also live there.
Besides such agricultural produces as rice, cotton, black pepper, varieties of citrus fruit, areca nut, Rakhine also possesses a wealth of forest produce like teak, timber, bambooo and rattan. The flora and fauna of Rakhine consist of a caleidosopic collection. Along the coastline of the Bay the vast expanse of blue sea teams with countless kinds of sea-life. The state with its rugged hills and mountains mav be a source of untapped natural resources, including gas and minerals.

The Area


Back in the history Rakhine was a flourishing kingdom with its sway felt at Ganges delta of Bengal in the west, at Assam and Manipur in the north, at Hanthawadi (Burma) in the east. (From Udina Langa verse)

Most of the time the boundary encompassed Chittagong in the west, Western Irrawaddy in the east, Assam and the Chindwin in the north, and a string of islands including Koko in the south.

To rule over such a large territory the Rakhine kings appointed viceroys, governors, mayors, and local chieftains or headmen to run the administration smoothly. The Golden periods of Mrauk-U extended between the reign of Thiri Candra (595-667) and Canda Thudhamma (1652-1674). When the Twelve Towns of Bengal fell to the invading Mughals in the Battle of Chittagong in 1966, Rakhine lost the greater part of its territory. Yet the fall did not come all of a sudden. Palace coups, usurpations by the Western Viceroys at Chittagong (though the post was always appointed to the King's closest kith and kins), revolts by the Muslims merceneries (Afghans, etc), natural calamities like earthquakes, famines and outbreak of cholera and smallpox, declining foreign relations especially with the Portuguese, in the last seventy years contributed much to the Fall of Chittagong.

After the Fall, the House of Mrauk-U faced heavily trying days. Usurpations of every sort, such as the one by a leader of robbers or Tanta-boh, the Portuguese mercenaries' change of allegiance to the Moghuls, and dissatisfaction among the Palace Guards followed one after another. They all were interspersed by repeated Burmese aggression and great palace fires. All these factors put the military muscle of Mrauk-U on the wane. Meanwhile a number of kings were assassinated.

With every assassination attempt, whether successful or not, political instability took the country one step closer to the fall. Yet the turn of fate held out for a little more than a century. A small number of Rakhine royalty, realizing the deterioration of economy and administration, decided that all the misrule should stop. As the Rakhines kept a mutual trust with the Burmans, the group in good faith invited the Burmese king to help bring a peaceful end to the long-lasting strife at the Golden House of Mrauk-U.

After a number of futile campaigns against MIrauk-U, the crafty Burmans found the occassion most opportune. In December 1784 Bodaw Mating Waing was secretly invited and led by the dissident Rakhine royalty into the House of Mrauk-U. Many specialists believe that, without being thus led, the Burmans could have never made it through the crisscross maze of defence fortifications. The beleaguered city - reputed as the invincible Mrauk-U possessed bulwarks, moats with gigantic sluice gates, water canals, and bastions strategically controlled by heavily manned garrisons and watch towers (for signaling). Even today the remnants of the formidable defence work runs about 19 miles long city walls, .many miles of moats and their ruins.

The Fall


As soon as the Burmans overpowered the remaining defence, they took to killing the royalty and the nobility first. Then they resorted to the genocide.

Besides, they burnt once the most famous palace in south East Asia down. The best craftsmen, noblemen and intellectuals were deported to Burma. In chain-gangs they were forced to walk all the way to Burma. Anybody going to Mrauk-U can see for himself the bone pieces of those killed at Gaung-bung-prang or Skull-heap-field. Two centuries and many generations of rice cultivations after, the ground is still full of the broken chips of the skull heaps of the killed. The mere size of the field is sure to make a casual onlooker awe-struck.

Soon after the Burmese treachery, the Mahamuni Image was carried off to Mandalay where it is now enshrined in the Arakan Temple.
Throughout the way back home while carrying off the Great Image, the treacherous Burmans resorted to the scorched earth policy. At one sweep the whole countryside was devastated. A great famine followed and the people had not other alternative than suffer all the oppressions of the feudal, Bodawpaya.

This was all done simply to wipe out the name of Rakhine from the face of the earth. So it is now. The Slore fascists have appointed Burman teachers in the schools of Arakan and forced the children to speak Burmese and to stop speaking Rakhine, their mother tongue. To wipe out the identity of Rakhine the Burman soldiers have been encouraged to keep Rakhine girls as 'pleasure women' or kepts. Rakhine rarely practice intermarriage. But now intermarriage is forced upon in many instances and rewarded only to assimilate the Rakhines into Burmese as Ne Win did with the Mons. In 1826 the British colonists took possession of Arakan. Japan took over in 1942. In a manner of supporting the racial identity issue, Arakan was declared as a State in 1944. The British considered the Rahine as descendants or relatives of the Burmese racially. The same colonial attitude was practised by successive Burmese governments. Their excuse, by any way lame, springs from the notion that Rakhine is an archaic form of Burmese language.

Again during the AFPFL (U Nu) rule, Paletwa township - long considered as the Arakan Hill Tracts-was chopped off and included into Chin State, against the public opinion.

Today Rakhine is not independent. Neither its fourteen thousand or so square miles of area is progressive. It is the most neglected state within the Union of Burma - a union which is peculiar in the world for its oppression of ethnic minorities including the Rakhines.

It is a sad coincidence that the last Arakanese king should possess the name of the first king of the legend-Maha Thamada. Arakan is now far from what it once enjoyed as a thriving military and trading power in the Bay of Bengal. Its lost glory is sung only in poems and a couple of foreign travellers' memoirs. Massive stone temples like Shit-thaung, Doke-kan-thein, and the deserted tumbled down palace grounds in sad silence now testify to the proud heritage quickly vanishing. Thousands of ruined pagodas and temples still lay scattered all about Mrauk-U in utter neglect.

At nightfall screech owls flap their capricious wings breaking the eerie silence of the vast ruins. At far end of a distant Mrauk-u hill, in a rickety bamoo hut, a child wakes up crying, frightened by a nightmare.

How long should Rakhine writhe under oppression?


.....
Sources: Rakhapura
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