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
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
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.
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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.
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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.