Buddhist Arts - a photographic journal

Mrauk U Kingdom Middle Phase

Shit-taung Pagoda, Mrauk U, Myanmar (Mrauk U Kingdom Middle Phase)

King Min Bin and the beginning of Mrauk U Kingdom Middle Phase

During the time of King Henry VIII’s reign in England, Min Bin’s reign in AD 1531 marked the beginning of the Mrauk U Kingdom Middle Phase, also referred to as the second Golden Mrauk U period. His reign lasted until his death in 1553, when his son, King Dikkha who ruled for three years after his father’s death. Min Bin took advantage of the turn of events in India, namely a civil war and the arrival of the Mughals in Bengal. With the help of newly arrived Portuguese missionaries and along with their brilliant naval fleets and expertise they led the ground military and the navy to protect and enlarge Arakan or Rakhaing. This middle phase lasted from 1531 to circa 1600, but Venerable Ashon Nyanuttara [A Study of Buddhism in Arakan, Ashon Nyanuttara, 2016] gives a more definitive end to this period as 1620.

The Temples and Monuments of Mrauk U Kindom Middle Phase

The most important shrine from this Mrauk U Kingdom Middle phase, and for the entire period of the Mrauk U Kingdom, was Shittaung Pagoda, the pagoda of 80,000 images. Next was Koe Taung, a somewhat similar structure with the winding and meandering (or so it seems) cave-like trenches under the earth built with heavy stones and many Buddhas. Koe-Taung is the largest pagoda, only unearthed in 1997, the shrine of 90,000 images. Others during this period include Andaw-Thein (Tooth Shrine), Htu-Kan-Thein (Cross Beam Ordination Hall), Phara Ouk, Pitaka-Taik and Thet-Taw-Ra, a library repository built to store Buddhist scriptures received by King Min Phalaung at the end of the 16th century from Sri Lanka.

Trade, Military and Advancement

The trade network in Rakhaing went throughout the known world all the way to Portugal and the Netherlands. Mrauk U had diplomatic relations with India, Sri Lanka, the Burmese, the Mon, Siam, Indonesia, Java, Japan and several western countries. [section 5.3, A Study of Buddhism in Arakan, Ashon Nyanuttara, 2016].

This period also was a time of closer ties with the Muslim states. This is possibly due to a debt by Min Bin to the Sultan of Bengal for services rendered to help Min Bin return to power in Mrauk U. He was away in Bengal before his reign began. The Rakhaing kings took Islamic names and the coins were inscribed in both Persian and Rakhaing. During this time hundreds of Muslims from Bengal migrated to Mrauk U.

This was a time of great rivalry of kings, sultans and emperors for the land in what is now modern Bangladesh and West Bengal, namely Chittagong, for sovereignty. These were the kings of Rakhaing, Mughal emperors, Afghan kings and Bengali sultans. Thanks to the superior Portuguese naval and land defenses, put to use to defeat their rivals. By 1532, the land of Rakhaing was as far as Calcutta, West Bengal in the north and contained all of what is now modern day Bangladesh.  By the end of the 16th century, noblemn in Mrauk U received tribute from cities as far as Mushibadaad in the west, Pegu, the capitol of Mon in the east. This was upheld by armies of Mughals, Japanese, Mon, Siamese and Portuguese mercenaries.