ARAKAN, THE LAND OF BUDDHISM Skip to main content


ARAKAN, THE LAND OF BUDDHISM - A Brief History of Mahamuani by
Khaing Kyaw Kyaw

According to almost all Arakanese chronicles, it is asserted that the Mahamuni Image
was cast during the reign of King Candasuriya of Arakan in the middle of six century
B.C. when the Lord Buddha in his life time made his sojourn to Dhanyawadi, the
ancient city of Arakan.1 ( the old site of Dhanyawadi is situated on the focus of East
longitude 93º 3´ and North Latitude 20º 52´).

However the modern historians believe it may have been in the second century A.D.2
Among the several places where King Ashoka of India (273-236 B.C) had sent the
Buddhist missionaries, it included the name "Mahinsaka". 3 Mahinsaka is the ancient
name of Arakan.4 In the Rakhaing Medhapinnya Mawguan Lunga, it was composed
such as that Rakkha Pura (Arakan) either possesses the name "Mahinsaka".

The Indian people especially of Bengal call the Arakanese as "Magh" or "Mogh".5
Magh may have also been derived from Mahinsaka/Mahka/Makh which sounds
"Magh" or "Mogh".6 In Bengali literature, the vowel (a) sounds as (o). The Bengali
people may have called Arakanese as Magh/Mogh or Maghad in sense of the people
from Mahinsaka (Arakan).

Mahamuni Image and its Long Events

In 81 A.D. the King Nagarasinda of Thayekhittaya (Burma) had made his journey to
Arakan to worship the Mahamuni image.1 The King Suriya who ascended the throne
of Arakan in 272 A.D had greatly devoted to it.2 Prince Mahataing Candra, founder
of Chittagong, son of King Suriya (272-327 A.D) built a new temple at Mahamuni by
the approval of his father.

Before the accomplishment of it, the King Suriya had passed away and his son, prince
Mahataing Candra, succeeded the throne in 327 A.D. He made a golden crown
embellished with rubies and offered it to the Mahamuni image. During his rule in
Arakan the Mahatheras from Ramanya (Mon) and Sri Lanka made the pilgrimage to
the Mahamuni pagoda.3 He was succeeded by his son Suriya Candra.

During the rule of King Suriya Candra in Arakan, the pedestal of the image was burnt
down. He substituted it with a new one of marble stone and renovated the temple with
the teak wood. After completing it he performed a great merit ceremony.4

In 776 A.D. during the reign of King Pe Phru in Arakan, the alien from the North had
settled in the east of the hill-site of Mahamuni Shrine. They dug the treasure stored
under the pedestal of the image and set fire the building of Gandakudi (The location
where the Mahamuni image was housed).5

In 980 A.D. another settlement could be found from the wild northern part of the
Arakan and they have occupied the area ofÿ Mahamuni. They tried to bring the image
to their place and when it was unsuccessful they took the treasure and melted the
statue. When they found it all in vain, the image was left behind. Thus the Mahamuni
image could not be found out for three years and five months.6

King Anawratha, founder of the first Burmese Dynasty in Burma, ( who ascended the
throne of Pagan in 1044 A.D.), himself came to Arakan and tried to bring the image to
Burma. Later he had given up his previous plan and constructed the new temple at the
shrine and came back to Pagan.7

Athinkhara Raza who became king of Pincha Dynasty of Arakan in 1068 A.D.
rebeautified Mahamuni shrine again.8

In 11 century A.D in time of King Foonthan of Pincha in Arakan, the King of Pagan
sent fifty thousand warriors, five hundred ministers and a Mahathera. They encamped
at Cetootaya and begged the permission from the Arakanese king for the construction
of a new temple at the Mahamuni. After getting the agreement from the King
Foonthan of Arakan, they built a new Gandakudi and planted the Sanga trees at four
locations of the Mahamuni."9

In 1103 A.D. the Paganians came to Arakan to confer Lakkyamunnan the throne of
Arakan when it was in absence of king. They destroyed Mahamuni images and cut off
the legs and hollowed the back in hunt for the treasure.10

Mahamuni was being lost till six successors of Arakanese kings Lakkyamunnan,
Thiharaza, Thakyawangree, Thakyawannge to Koliya in Arakan. The King Datharaza
who succeeded the throne of Parin Dynasty of Arakan in 1123 A.D. tried to search for
the lost image and found out it by the help of Mro Lord Rahoungla in the wild sinking
up to the neck under the ground, the right hand broken and a big hole on the back. He
brought it back to old Dhanyawadi and placed it on its former Katanyuta Hill.11

King Ngahnaloon who succeeded the throne of Nerinsara in 1246 A.E. was the last
King of Taung Ngoo Dynasty of Arakan. During his rule in Arakan, the temple of
Mahamuni was ruined by a great storm.12

In time of King Alaumaphru, successor of King Ngahnaloon (1246-1250 A.D.) and
founder of Laungrek Dynasty (1250 to 1430 A.D.), the temple of Mahamuni had been
rebuilt and it was burnt down again in 1354 A.D.13

King Mong Saw Mon (1406-1433 A.D.) founded Mrauk U in 1430 A.D. He paved the
road from Mrauk U to Mahamuni and dug several ponds and lakes along the way. In
1439 A.D. King Mong Khaki (Ali Khan), the successor of Mong Saw Mon brought
the Pitaka from Sri Lanka and offered them to the Mahamuni.14

King Mong Ba or Mong Bun (Sri Suryachandra Dharm), (Jobouk Shah) (1531-1553
A.D.) made a great merit on the conquest of twelve towns of Bengal in 1536 A.D. He
cast thousands of Buddha images resemble to Mahamuni and constructed many
shrines and pagodas across Arakan, enshrined the images therein.15

King Mong Razagree (1593-1612 A.D.), grand son of Mong Ba renovated the temple
of Mahamuni and celebrated a one-thousand-monks ordination ceremony at the
Mahamuni temple.16

During the reign of Sandathudhamma (1652-1674 A.D.) the temple and Wunmana
Kyi (rice store) were burnt down in 1647 A.D. The King constructed a new temple in
1658 A.D. and finished it in that era.17

In 1674 A.D. the son of King Sandathu-dhamma, King Ukkabala succeeded the
throne and made the pilgrimage to Mahamuni. In time of King Waradhamma who
became king of Arakan in 1684 A.D., many monasteries and Uppasampada temples
(where monk-ordination is performed) were build around the Mahamuni pagoda and
eight thousand monks were ordained within one year.18

In 1710 A.D., the Burmese king Thirimaha Thuradhamma had sent two missionaries
of Weluthara and Sandataraza and they asked permission for the construction of a
new temple at Mahamuni whereas the king of Arakan denied it.19

In 1718 A.D. the palace of Mrauk U, the temple of Mahamuni, other 8000
monasteries and 800 Uppasampada Temples were built by the king of Arakan.20

In 1761 and 1762 A.D. there was a pair of earthquake in Arakan and the roof and the
walls of the temple were collapsed down. In 1764 A.D. the lord of Rembree
succeeded the throne of Arakan by the name of Abayamaharaza. In Pratho (10th
month of Arakanese Era, January) of the same year, the main temple of Mahamuni
was burnt down and he reconstructed it in 1127 A.E. (1765 A.D).21

During the reign of King Sandasumanaraza of Arakan, the king of Eve of Burma,
Sinphyu Shin (Lord of white elephant), sent a delegation of pilgrimage led by
Surinchakka to Arakan and they arrived at Mahamuni on Saturday of 8th waxing of
Tawthalunn (6th month of A.E. September) in 1136 A.E. (1774 A.D.).22

King Mahathamadaraza ascended the throne in 1784 A.D. and two years latter in
1784 there was a great flood of Gaiccapanadi (Kaladan river) which lasted for seven
days. Among the people who sought shelter at the Mahamuni temple, the three
women had given birth to three babies by the same time and a giant log reached onto
the pedestal of Mahamuni Image. At night the people could hear the odd crises and
sounds of trumpets and see the bad omens.

On hearing such odd events, King Maha-thamadaraza came to the Mahamuni on
Thursday of 14th waning of Waso in 1146 A.E. (1784 A.D.). On Saturday of 7th
waning of Pratho in 1146 A.E., on 30th December 1784, the Burmese King Bodaw
Maung Wyne occupied Arakan and took Mahamuni Image, and it reached at the
Sagaing harbour on 2nd waning after Kasone full-moon in 1147 A.E. (1785 A.D.).23
Mandalay Mahamyatmuni pagoda is the great Mahamuni Image of Arakan.

1. Tun Shwe Khine (M.A.): "History of Mahamuni" (in Burmese), 1991.

2. Dr. Qanungo: "History of Chittagong" (in English), 1986.

3. Ahn Maung (M.A.): "2500 years of Buddhism" (in Burmese).

4. However, the historians of India have identified "Mahinsaka" as present "Mysore"
of India. Kyaw Zan tha (M.A.): "Buddhism in Arakan before Yedhamma" (Rakhine
Tazaung Magazine), 1980, p.20.

5. "Magh", nowadays, has the notorious sense as "Pirate" because the"Magh" or
"Rakhaing" who were clever at the maritime warfare had often raided "Bengal" by the
sea-route during the glorious age of golden "Mrauk U".


a) More research works should be done on this view point.

b) "Magh" is allied to Sanskrit word "Magh" which means "Superior". (Dr. Qanungo:
"History of Chittagong", 1986.)

c) Some scholars believe the word "Magh" is a derivation from "Maghada" of India.
(San Tha Aung (M.A): The Mog or the Magh or the Arakanese in Bangladesh.)
(Chittagong Gazetteer (Government of Bangladesh), 1974.)

d) "Magh", in Bengali Literature, is pronounced "Mogh". So is "Mahinsaka"
pronounced as "Mohinsoko" and may be corrupted into "Mohinsoko/ Mohko/ Mokh/


a) Chan Htwan Oung: The Mahamuni Shrine in Arakan, J.B.R.S. (Journal of Burma
Research Society).

b) Oo Kala Maharazawin (in Burmese), Vol. III, p.104.

c) Hmannanrazawin (in Burmese), Vol. III, p.104.

2. Sandamalalungara, Rakhaing Razawunthaik-kyan (in Burmese), Vol.III, p.104.


a) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I, p.286.

b) Dr. Forchammer; The Mahamuni Pagoda, p.6.

4. Kyauk Roe Razawun, (Palm scripture in Arakanese)


a) Dr. Forchammer, The Mahamuni Pagoda, p.6.

b) U Nyo Mya: Koombaung Shapoondaw, p.154.

c) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I, p.307.

d) Arakanese Princess Yaingcrong (Hantha-wadi Print) (in Arakanese), Stanza-14.

8. Chan Htwan Oung, Mahamuni Shrine in Arakan. J.B.R.S., P.263.

7. Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan: Vol. I, p.316

8. Dr. Forchammer: Arakan, p.6.


a. Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan: Vol. I, p.323.

b. Dr. Forchammer: Arakan, p.6.


a) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan: Vol. I, p.316

b) San Shwe Bu: The Story of Mahamuni, J.B.R.S., P.226


a) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan: Vol. I, p.130, 323, 329, 331.

b) San Shwe Bu: The Story of Mahamuni, J.B.R.S., P.226, 227, 228

c) Dhanyawadi Razawunthaikkyan, p.118.

d) Dr. Forchammer: Mahamuni shrine in Arakan, p.265.

e) Rakhaing Sgabre Razawun (Palm scripture in Arakanese), "Za" Sheet.

f) Sara Ngame Razawun and Rhihoung Razawun (Manuscript copy from palm


a) Dhanyawadi Razawunthaikkyan, p.120.

b) Rakhaing Sgabre Razawun, (Palm Scripture), "Zau" Sheet.


a) Dr. Forchammer: Mahamuni Pagoda, p.6.

b) U Nyo Mya: Koombaung Shapoondaw, "Mahamuni History", p.155.

14. Rakhaing Sgabre Razawun (Palm scripture in Arakanese), "Lau" Sheet.

15. Ibid. (Twelve towns of Bengal are (1) Gatapalan (2) Kana (3) Chittagong (4)
Padikhara (5)

Tilinga (6) Comilla (7) Barisal (8) Moksuja (9) Dacca (10) Ganga-Sagara (11)
Rounphru and (12)


16. Ibid.

17. Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I., p.241.

18. U Nyo Mya: Mahamuni History, p.155.

19. Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I., p.243


a) Rakhaing Sgabre Razawun (Palm Scripture), "Taw" Sheet.

b) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I, p.244.

c) Dhanyawadi Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I, p.277.


a) Rakhaing Sgabre Razawun, (Palm Scripture), "Htan" Sheet.

b) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I, p.270.

c) Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. I, p.276, 279.

22. Rakhaing Razawunthaikkyan, Vol. II, p.276, 279.

23. Ibid.

24. Arakanese Year (A.E.) English Year:

1. Thanku 1. April

2. Kasone 2. May

3. Nanyone 3. June

4. Waso 4. July

5. Wakhaung 5. August

6. Tawthalunn 6. September

7. Wakywat 7. October

8. Tansaungbone 8. November

9. Nattaw 9. December

10. Pratho 10. January

11. Taboohtwe 11. February

12. Taboung 12. March

Note: The Arakanese months are not fixed with English months every year as
mentioned in the


*( A.E. = Arakanese Era )


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