Arakan

The land that is known as Arakan by the foreigners is called Rakhaing-pray by its own people, Rakhaing-thar (Arakanese) who were titled this name in honour of preservation on their national heritage and ethics or morality.

Vesali

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, July 25, 2015

Anandacandra inscriptions on Shitethaung Pillar in Mrauk-U describe King Dven Candra as the father founder of Vesali. Not only nine Candra Kings but also sixteen kings descended from Dven Candra and other kings ruled over the country with Vesali as the Capital.


Situation and Structure 
 
Vesali was the Capital when Candra dynasty reigned over the country. It lies five miles north of Mrauk-U. The city walls and palace site can be clearly observed in photographs taken from aerial view. By studying these photographs and the article 'Rakhine Capital' written by Prof. Daw Thin Kyi (Journal of Myanmar Research Society Vol 52 Part 2, 1970, December) and through field-works, the structure of Vesali will be described as follow.

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
 
Vesali can be completely called Vesali Stone Stair City or Vesali Stone Pier City. Some remnants of Stone Stair can be still found close to the northwest of the palace city on the Rann-chaung tributary. At present, only the lower part of the Stone Stair can be seen at low tide as the stones from upper part have been taken away by the villagers nearby for their uses. At Vesali Period, the Stone Stair would serve as an important pier for sea-going sailing-ships. The city would be crowded with sailing ships from Vesali and other countries travelling to and fro for trading purposes.


Thaunggyat-taw or Frontlet Relic Pagoda 
 
The road to Mahamuni from Mrauk-U passes through and halves Vesali. Taking this road, the south wall of Vesali can be seen at the distance of four and half miles from Mrauk-U. Just in front of the wall is a hill on which Thaunggyat-taw pagoda stands. At the top of the ridge extending the southwest of Thaunggyat-taw pagoda is a stupa from where a stone inscription containing Ye Dhamma verse was found in May, 1965. In 1957, the stone inscription of Niticandra's queen was recovered from a ruined stupa at Unhissaka hill north of Thaunggyat-taw pagoda. In that year, Viracandra's inscription was found at a ruined stupa on a hill north of Unhissaka hill. The letters in these inscriptions closely resemble to those used before six-century. The names of Niticandra and Viracandra are inscribed on Anandacandra inscriptions.


Thalla-waddy Village 
 
Pauktawbrung village is situated closed to the inner side of the south wall of Vesali. Now a day it is called Thalla-waddy Village. Forty years ago, an inscribed copper plate was obtained at a mound near the city wall at a distance of two furlongs from this village. It is a land grant record of a Vesali king. The second inscribed bronze bell was recovered from a pagoda on Aboungdawdatt Hill south of Thallawaddy village ten years ago. The scripts of the two inscriptions are identical and written with letters used before six century. The monastery of the village is situated on a small mound. It is said that the Anandawdaya monastery built by Anandacandra was once situated on that mound. There is a well dug during Vesali period in the monastery compound. When a place was cleared for building a Sima, a collection of stones were found. They are base slabs used for erecting the stupas and stone status after carving. It is suggested that there would be a grotto beneath the mound.


Vesali Village
 
The palace site serves as the settlement grounds of Vesali Village. Some ancient ruined cetiyas, broken Buddha images, broken stone statues and carvings are found to be scattered on the hills lying along the road from Thallawaddy to Vesali Village.

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 palace site is encircled by a moat. A stone inscription with the same script as the Anandacandra Inscriptions was recovered from the moat. The difference is the way of writing of "Ra" alphabet. "Ra" is written as the English alphabet "J". Now the inscription is observed in Mrauk-U Museum.


The Great Image of Vesali 
 
Lying north to the Vesali village is the Sanghayana or Buddhist synod hill. The great image of Vesali believed to be built by Maha Taing Candra's queen, rests on a hill near it. The image was carved of a large single block of sandstone. It is praiseworthy how such large stone could be carried to the top of the hill. Now some ancient styles of the image are disappeared as some monks changed the eyes of the image with the false eyes from foreign countries. Other than the eyes, the frontlet of the image is also richly ornamented.

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
 
Vesali palace city and the ruined pagodas near by have turned into fond of treasure-trove hunters. Brick rubbles and broken stone statues and images are scattered here and there. Stone stair, arch-ways, city walls and palace site are almost completely destroyed. There is no one to take care or protect the city so they all are in great disorder. As it is not in the same condition as the ancient Rakhine capitals viz Parein, Laungret which were washed away by the mighty Lemro currents, some precious things may still stay in the soil. If the old city is systematically excavated it is sure that some evidences invaluable to the study of Rakhine history will appear.


Civilization 
 
The presence of the pier for the sea-going sailing-ships indicates that Vesali would have dealings with foreign countries. Vesali had cultural relations especially with the northeast India. Communications with the area were made not only by sea but also by land.

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 causes
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.
The 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.


Unability to go against Sankara 
 
Deciphering Anandacandra inscription and studying paleography of inscription on the coins, Johnston and Sircar suggested the date of the founding of Vesali to be 320 AD or 350 AD. Rakhine chronicles record that Vesali declined in 957 AD.

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
2nd M.B.B.S
I.M (2)

Source: The Rakhaing Tha-Ha-Ya Athong Megazine No.3

http://www.myanmar-image.com/rakhine/wesali/vesali.htm

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