Arakan


Arakan
   (Rakhine, Rakhaing)
   A series of independent kingdoms that flourished from around the fourth century CE, when an urban center was established at Dhanyawadi, until 1784-1785, when Arakan was conquered by the Burman (Bamar) King Bodawpaya. Located in a coastal and riverine region largely coterminous with modern Arakan (Rakhine) State, the Arakanese enjoyed abundant supplies of water, rich harvests of rice, and close land and sea communications with the Indian subcontinent. After Dhanyawadi's fall, new capitals and states were established at Vesali (sixth to tenth centuries CE), and other locations on or near the Le-Mro River. The original Arakanese were probably from India, but the eighthand ninth-century migration of Tibeto-Burman peoples created a population linguistically and culturally closely related to the Burmans. Arakan was one of the first areas in Southeast Asia to receive Indian civilization and the Buddhist religion, and its importance to Buddhism is reflected in the legend of the Maha Muni Image, which Bodawpaya, like his predecessor King Arawrahta, longed to capture. Although Islamic influences were strong, the Arakan kingdoms were Buddhist, and a number of distinctive pagodas and temples are located there, including the Shitthaung (Sittaung) temple. These are comparable in historical and artistic importance to those found at Pagan (Bagan).
   Arakan's golden age was the early centuries of the Mrauk-U (Mrohaung, Myohaung) period (1433-1784), when the capital of Mrauk-U was a center of free trade and a formidable naval power in the Bay of Bengal. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Portuguese mercenaries helped Mrauk-U control the regional slave trade and occupy the eastern part of Bengal. At the end of the 16th century, an Arakanese force invaded Lower Burma, capturing the capital city of Pegu (Bago). For a brief time, Mrauk-U's authority extended along the coast from Dhaka (Dacca) in modern Bangladesh to Moulmein (Mawlamyine) in present-day Mon State. During the late 17th and 18th centuries, however, the country was weakened by repeated civil wars and the growing power of the Mughal Empire in India and the Burmans. In October-December 1784, Mrauk-U fell quickly to a Burman occupying force, which took the Maha Muni Image, the royal family, and 20,000 Arakanese subjects back to Bodawpaya's capital of Amarapura. Arakanese resistance against the Burmans continued until the British captured it during the First AngloBurmese War of 1824-1826.
   See also Arakanese; Min Bin, King.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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