Situation and Structure
To the west of Vesali runs Rann-Chaung, a tributary of Kaladan River. Lying east to the city is the mountain range extending from Kaladan to Lemro River. The old palace city wall forms an irregular square with a narrow and curved part. The walls are almost straight in east and north but are curved in the west and south. A Rann-chaung tributary runs across the city.
The widest distance between the north and south walls is about 1000 feet and between the east and west walls about 6500 feet.
These walls are the outer walls and there is another inside, the inner wall. The inner wall is encircled by a moat. Inside these walls is the palace site. The extent of the palace site is about 1500 feet from north to south and about 1000 feet from east to west.
There are so many wells for drinking water inside the city and even a large lake in the east. During the golden days of this city, majority of the population lived within the outer city, whose walls enclosed the fields in which they worked.
Vesali Stone Stair
Thaunggyat-taw or Frontlet Relic Pagoda
On going to the north, there is a large lake, the former moat of the palace site. After the lake, one will reach the Vesali village. The village monastery lies on a hill now called Lak-khat Taung. Some Nat statues and Bodhisattva figures are found on the hill. This believed to be the origional site of Anandacandra Inscription Piller which was moved to Shitethaung Temple by King Mong Ba Gree. It is said that Lakkhat Taung or loom batten hillock gets its name as there is a stone slab used to set up the statues and it looks like the frame of the reed in the loom. Adjacent to Lakkhat Taung is the palace site. At one place of palace site, there is a headless statue with four arms and a child figure on each side. It is Vishnu statue. On its back, there is a conch shell motif also seen on the stone slab capping the Anandacandra Piller. King Mong Ba Gree made the statue with four arms like this be carved in the gallery of Shitethaung temple.
Memorable inscription for building a pagoda
The Great Image of Vesali
In 1959, Vesali monastery Sayadaw found an inscription containing Ye Dhamma Verse in Pali, used before six century on cleaning the walls of the campus.
Vesali free from protection
The various of silvers coins bearing the inscriptions and a bull motif have been being discovered around Vesali. These coins indicate that the trade relationships of Rakhine with foreign countries were flourished during Vesali period (4 to 8 centuries AD). It is evident; therefore, that Rakhine does not tag behind the time. The civilization of Vesali would be at the highest level in the world at that time.
The decorated carvings of stone and metal images, stupas, statues and lamps were discovered from Vesali. They unmistakably point out the high level of art that Vesali had attained.
The materials used in stone carving are very hard sandstones. So the tolls used must be much more harder. Therefore, it is known that Vesali people could produce and use the metals with high hardness.
Moving the huge stones from a distant place, carrying these stones to the top of the steep hills, making circular stone plates and casting the coins indicates the level of technology that Vesali had attained.
Bronze bells and copper plates were to be inscribed. Besides them other substances may also be used. Bell, copper plate and stone inscriptions in Sanskrit give an indication that Sanskrit would be popularly used in Vesali. As the language was used only by higher standard people, the Sanskrit scholars would invent a language for public use.
Household utensils such as stone plates, pots, golden sash, rings, bracelets and ear-plugs were also discovered around Vesali.
In Vesali period, Ye Dhamma verse would be inscribed at all pagodas built. Stone inscriptions containing Ye Dhamma verse were abundantly found at many ruined pagoda in Vesali and the area nearby. The meaning of Ye Dhamma verse is as follow.
Of these dhammas which arise from causesThe verse, which is considered as the essence of Theravada spirit, bears testimony to the fact that Buddhism flourished to an utmost degree in Vesali. The relationship of Vesali with foreign countries especially Ceylon would be established for Buddhism.
The Tathagata has declared causes
Lord Buddha preached about the causes
And the effects gained by the causes
And that which is the ceasing of them, Nirawda Thitesa
This the great ascetic declares.
Unability to go against Sankara
The golden days of this city were contemporary to the days of Thayekhitaya. It had been the capital of Rakhine Kingdom where the Rakhine culture had its full bloom for about 600 years before Pagan came into existence. At present, Vesali is in ruin in accordance with Sankhara. It has been for about 1000 years that Vesali came to an end. But we have been discovering the workmanships of Vesali people till now.
Note: The related figures of stone inscriptions, copper plate inscriptions, bronze bells and Vesali coins described in this articles can be seen in the book, "Scripts of Rakhine, 6th century and before" written by U San Tha Aung.
SAN THA AUNG
Translated by -
Kyaw Soe Naing
Source: The Rakhaing Tha-Ha-Ya Athong Megazine No.3