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A new tourist site, which is becoming increasingly more popular in recent years, is the old capital of Rakhine (Arakan) called Mrauk U, a town 80 kilometres from the north of Sittwe. Local people refer to it as Myo Haung, the old city. It is situated in Rakhine State, on the southwestern part of Myanmar. It was first founded by The Rakhine King Min Saw Mon in 1430 AD and flourished until 1784 AD.
Mrauk U was once known as the Golden City by foreign travellers due to its strategic location on the costal region of Bay of Bengal and being a focus of trade. The early 17th century was Rakhine Golden Age for its trading with western countries such as Netherland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and south India. It was an important free trade port and is now an archaeological complex with several very interesting buildings and temples. In its heyday, Mrauk U was one of the richest cities in all of Asia and there are many places of interest to visit in the ruins of this once great city.
Mrauk U, a prominent capital, was carefully built in a strategic location by leveling three small hills. The pagodas are strategically located on hilltops and serve as fortresses. They were once actually used to prevent enemy intrusion. There are moats, artificial lakes and canals and the whole area could be hooded to repulse attackers. All over the old city and the surrounding hills are dotted with in numerable pagodas and Buddha images. Among many in ruins, some are still being used as places of worship today and some are now being restored to their original splendor.
Mrauk U can easily be reached via Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State. From Yangon, there are daily flights to Sittwe and there are small private boats as well as larger public boats plying through the Kaladan River to Mrauk U. Fly up to Sittwe, the nearest gateway to Mrauk U from where a five-hour boat riding will take you to Mrauk U.
The legendary Shittaung Pagoda, ordination halls and tattooed Chin women are some of the highlights in Mrauk U. A tour through Myanmar would not be worth while without exploring Mrauk U, an ancient city that reflects the different characteristics of cultural and religious heritage of Myanmar.
The Shitthaung or "temple of the 80,000 Buddhas" is located about half a mile to the north of the palace site. It was constructed in commemoration of the successful defense against Portuguese attack in 1535 by King Minbin, one of the most powerful Kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty.
The most impressive feature of the massive Shitthaung Temple is that it houses 80,000 Buddhas Images. Its interior walls are engraved with over 1,000 Buddhist figures. The skill and art displayed in its construction and ornamentation seen today are remarkable. We can observe the unique maze-like layout plan of the temple.
Due to this curious plan of the temple, some foreigners remarked that the Temple was built alike a fortress. It was constructed like rock cave tunnel by using 6 feet thick solid sand stones. Amazingly, the stones were connected with stone brackets using no mortar at all.
The Andaw (meaning the tooth relic of Buddha) pagoda was built by King Min Hla Raza in 1521 to enshrine a tooth relic brought from Sri Lanka by King Minbin. The pagoda is situated near the Shitthaung Temple. Like other pagodas and temples it is on a small hillock.
The shrine is a hollow octagonal structure made of pure sand stone blocks. There are two internal concentric passages and a prayer hall on the east. Fifteen small circular pagodas, built of bricks stand on the platforms of south, north and west. This eight sided temple has small windows like the Shitthaung Temple which admit light and ventilation. In the innermost core, an eight-sided pillar supports the roof. We can still observe its unique stone carvings and floral designs.
Mrauk U archaeological museum located within the old palace wall is a place worth visiting. It features a good collection of religious sculptures and other artifacts dating from 8th to 16th century. Various inscribed stone inscriptions in Sanskrit, Rakhine and Arabic, musical instruments, ceramics wares, gold and silver wares and silver coins from around the area are also on display. Recently, the Archaeology Department has been excavating the Palace Site, which was ruled by Rakhine Kings for over 200 years.
Dukkanthein standing on a hillock 100 metres to the north west of Shitthaung Temple was constructed by King Min Phalaung in 1571. It was once used as an Ordination Hall but now it is one of the well-known pagodas in Mrauk U.
Dukkanthein includes simple dome-shaped stupas, which stand atop receding terraces over a large sanctuary and two stone stairways on the east and south. There is a long vaulted passageway, which leads to the central shrine. There we can observe two cloisters which house 146 niches with Buddha Images and sandstone relief depicting 64 different types of ancient hairstyles.
408A, Yuzana Condo Tower, 69, Shwegondine Rd, Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar. 11201
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