Who does not dream of a breathtaking white,
unspoiled beach with crystal-clear water? A 45
minutes flight from Yangon (or a 13 hour drive
via Pyay - as you wish!) will bring you to the
Bay of Bengal, where you can spend wonderful
vacations away from the main tourist spots. From
a recently built first-class hotel including 24
hour electricity to budget accommodations - you
may choose according to your taste. No time to
get bored! There are more mosques than pagodas to
be visited, fishing villages nearby and of course
a big market, popular for its dried fish, in
a sleepy town until 1989 named Sandoway and the oldest
"city state" of Rakhine. Not only Lord Buddha
spent some of his life on the hills surrounding Thandwe
but also Mr. George Orwell - to whom we owe "Burmese
Days" - had to serve some of his time here as a
colonial officer for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of England.
One hour flight from Yangon, the capital of Rakhine State
does not offer the white, white beach. Here the beach is
black with water as clear as in Ngapali. It is worthwile
to visit some of the pagodas, the Mahakuthala Monastery
and the Cultural and Buddha Museum with exceptional
collections of ancient sculptures, copies of old works of arts, bronze and old
Sunset from point at Sittwe
Once one of the most
beautiful and prosperous ports of Myanmar, Sittwe
nowadays is the gateway to
which is still not accessible by road.
A beautiful 6 hours'
boat ride on the Caladan River will bring you to this
historical site where you will be witness to a mute
evidence of the former glory of Rakhine State!
HOW TO GET THERE
By private chartered boat on the Kiccepanadi River (appr.
5-6 hours). You can also drive by car from Sittwe via
Ponnakyun and Kyauktaw to Mrauk Oo (appr. 3-4 hours). As we
do not recommend to drive by boat at night we arrange a car
from Sittwe to Mrauk Oo and take the boat back to Sittwe.
Shitthaung or "temple of the 80,000 Buddhas" was
built by one of the most powerful kings of the Mrauk-Oo
Dynasty, called by the people, Minbargyi. King Minbin who
reigned from 1513 to 1553 built this fortress-temple after
repulsing a Portuguese attack on the City of Mrauk Oo.
The skill and art displayed in its construction and
ornamentation are remarkable. Besides, you may observe here
about the maze-like layout of this pagoda. In the accounts
of this curious plan, some foreigners remarked that the
Shitthaung Temple was built alike a fortress. The real
purpose of the temple was for prayer, some rituals of
initiation, and some of the King's ceremonies, which were
usually held secretly. It was constructed six feet thick of
solid sandstone and like "rock cave tunnel". No
mortar was used in the construction and stones were
connected with stone brackets. It is believed that 84,000 of
the Buddha's relics with the same number of the Lord's
images are enshrined in it. People who entered the tunnels
of the temple felt that they were actually inside an endless
Shit-Thaung Temple in Mrauk Oo
The Dukkan (or Htukkan) temple stands on a hill, 30 feet
high, having a flat surface like that of a drum. King
Minphalaung built the pagoda in 1571 A.D. Like the
Shitthaung and the Andaw shrines, Dukkanthein was built of
hewn sandstones and layers of bricks over the roof. It
measures 190 feet from north to south and 200 feet from east
to west. It is reached by stone stairways, 8' broad,
situated on the east and south.
These stairways measuring 106 feet are built of massive
stonewalls on the north, east and south. The west one which
is slightly convex is connected to an oblong chamber.
The temple entrance on the east side, closer to the south-east
corner, leads to a long vaulted passage which spirals up in
two tiers till it reaches the central chamber. The
superstructure, a bell-shaped dome on receding terraces, is
similar to the one on Shitthaung, but here a tall square
arch is provided on the east side to admit light into the
central chamber. The inner chambers and passages of the
temple are constructed with well fitting and cemented stones.
The pagoda is well-known for the stone sculptures in the
vaulted passages, es¬pecially the figures of seated ladies,
with different styles of coiffure, in the manner of offering
lotus buds to the Buddha. Traditionally it is said that
there are sixty-four kinds of hairstyle and all the figures
are of the wives of noblemen. Besides, on both sides of the
entire passage, niches of 1˝ feet broad, 1 foot deep, and 2
feet high are dug at regular intervals of 20 feet in the
wall and each contains a stone image of the Buddha in
sitting posture. There are one hundred and forty-six niches
along the passage.
The name means 90,000 and probably signified the number of
Buddha images it was supposed to contain. It was built by
King Min Taikkha, the son of King Min Bin who built the
Shitthaung or temple of 80,000 images, so the son exceeded
the father by 10,000! It is the biggest temple in the Mrauk
Oo area. Like the Shitthaung, this temple is also a massive
fortress-like structure built with stone walls and terraces.
There are 108 smaller pagodas surrounding it, all made of
sandstone. With a winding corridor it is like a cave tunnel
which you have to traverse until you reach the central
chamber. The inner gallery has collapsed and is no longer
accessible. There is an octagonal pagoda in the middle
surrounded by over one hundred smaller pagodas. Unlike some
of the other temples, not only sandstone, but bricks were
Was built by the first king of Mrauk Oo Dynasty in 1430
A.D. It is one of the five pagodas built at the beginning of
the establishment of the city. It is a square structure,
with a long protruding portal towards each cardinal point.
The interior room is octagonal. In the center of the latter
there is an octahedral column intended to support the
circular tower erected over the center of the roof. Over
each of the four corners of the terrace a smaller circular
stupa was built. Each side of the square of the shrine
measures 55'; the portals are 13' broad and protrude 17'
into the platform.
The central tower is circular and has the shape of a dome,
with a circumference of 80 feet at the base and is 70 feet
high. There are 28 Buddha images as mentioned in the
Situated close to Htupayon Pagoda and south of Shinkite wall
was built by King Mong Phalaung. It was square in plan with
an entrance passage to the east like others pagoda in Mrauk
Oo. Built entirely with stone, the outer walls are decorated
with ornate floral and geometric design. It is said that
there were 33 Pitakataiks, built in Mrauk Oo. The little
library or Pitaka-taik, the Repository for the Buddhist
scriptures was built in 1591 also by King Min Phalaung. It
measures only 14 feet from east to west, 10 feet from north
to south and is only 9 feet in height. Built entirely of
stone there are lovely designs on the outer walls making it
look like a tiny jeweled casket shaped like a blooming lotus.
There were 48 libraries in Mrauk Oo, but only this one is
preserved, though it is sometimes obscured by thickets of
bushes and partly covered by moss and weeds which flourish
in the 200" of annual rainfall in the region. This
library is reputed to have housed 30 sets of the Buddhist
Tipitaka which King Narapatigyi (1638-1645) received from
Sri Lanka. Unfortunately it acquired an unpleasant
appellation due to its dark windowless interior.
Was built by Minkhamaung and his chief queen Shin Htway in
A.D 1612. The main edifice is circular at the base, measures
365 in circumference, and is constructed of huge blocks of
sandstone; it rises in a number of concentric tiers, of
which the upper portion recedes from the one lying beneath
it, to a height of about 200 feet. The uppermost portion has
fallen down. During the Second World War, a bomb hit the
Ratanabon Pagoda, and a half of the main structure was
damaged. There are no entrances, niches, arches, nor
ornamentation of any kind, not even an image could be found.
At a distance of eight feet from the central stupa rises a
brick wall 4' high and 2' thick, which encompasses the
pagoda in circle; then follows a row of 24 small circular
pagodas, built of brick. They are now all in ruin. This
pagoda resembles a huge bell. The whole structure is
enclosed by an octagonal wall 8-10' thick, with an entrance
at the south. A lion made of sandstone protects each of the
four corners of the outer pagoda walls.
The temple court is in ruins. The building is impressive by
its massiveness. Its architecture pattern resembles an
ordinary pagoda, like Sanchi in India. But the bareness of
decorative designs and the absence of structural
ornamentations characterize it as peculiarly Rakhine.
Traditionally it is believed that the pagoda was built for
the purpose of acquiring or securing treasures, both mundane
and spiritual. (Ratana means "treasure", "bon"
means to gather, to accumulate.)
SAKKYAR MAN AUNG PAGODA
King Sri Suddhamma Raja built the Sakkyar Man Aung
Pagoda in A.D 1693. It is located in the south of Yadanar
Man Aung Pagoda. This Pagoda is known to be one of the five
most revered pagodas in Mrauk Oo. The pagoda was built with
stones instead of bricks. The architecture of the pagoda is
in the form of lotus flower. There are 12 small pagodas
surrounding the main Sakkyar Man Aung Pagoda. The dimension
of the Pagoda is 240 feet and the height is about 114 feet.
There are two statues of Orges guarding the pagoda. The
sculptural arts of these two images are of rare artists.
Also there are two statues of Nats, paying respect to Buddha.
ZINE MAN AUNG PAGODA
Is located on top of the Pandein Taung hill andwas built and
donated by King Sanda Thuddhamma during A.D 1652. The
structure of the pagoda is octagonal in shape. At the base,
there is a mouse with two bodies and a head. On the higher
level, there are two more mice.
WETHALI (VESALI), A CITY OF TRADERS:
The ancient city of Wethali was founded by King Dvan Sandra
in 327 A.D. It is about 8 km to the north of Mrauk Oo. By
jeep it takes about half an hour from Mrauk Oo to Wethali.
The Great Wethali Payagyi, the 17 feet high Buddha image is
said to be made from a single piece of boulder. Chronicles
say that it was donated by Queen Thupaba-Devi, the Chief
Queen of King Maha Taing Candra, the founder of Vesali. This
ancient Buddha image in the Bhumi-sparsa or Earth-touching
Mudra, is one of the oldest Buddha images in the whole
country, but unfortunately the original features have been
largely lost due to later renovation.
Old brick walls of the city can still be traced and the
archaeological department has excavated five sites so far.
Stone sculptures, coins and many stone artifacts were
unearthed and are now in display at Mrauk Oo museum and some
monasteries at Mrauk Oo.
Dating from 327 to 1018 A.D, Vesali is pre-Bagan and
contemporaneous with Pyu cities like Beithano and Hanlin in
central Myanmar. Excavations carried out in 1980 to 1984
revealed some Buddhist religious buildings, one probably an
ordination hall or sima, and also parts of the city wall and
sandstone inscriptions. The Ananda Candra pillar inscription
now housed in the Shit-thaung Pagoda of Mrauk Oo was
originally from Vesali and records about twenty Kings who
ruled there. Vesali is undoubtedly one of the earliest
Buddhist cities in Myanmar. There are also some ancient
Vishnu Images of 6th century within the Wethali village.
Visitors go up the 510 feet mound near the old Abaungdaw
moat to Thaung-gyatt-taw (or frontlet Relic) Pagoda for a
panoramic view of the old city now covered by forest trees
with a couple of village lying in between some farm land.
MAHAMUNI SHRINE (DYANNYAWADI)
According to Rakhine chronicles, Lord Buddha in his life
time visited the city of Dhannyawadi (Grain Blessed) in 554
B.C. The Rakhine king Sandar Suriya (Sun Moon) requested
Lord Buddha to leave the image of him. This Buddhist shrine
is one of the most revered sites in the whole country as the
Maha Muni Buddha Image is believed to have been cast in
bronze and five kinds of precious metals by Sakka or Indra
the Lord of the Celestial Realm. After casting the Great
Image Maha Muni (Great Sage) Lord Buddha breathed upon it
which resembled the exact likeness of the Blessed One. Maha
Muni was worshipped by Rakhine kings for centuries and
regarded as a protector of the country. In 1784 A.D,
Rakhineland was conquered by King Bodaw Paya and the Great
Image was carried across the Rakhine Yoma to Amarapura (now
In the main shrine on the topmost level are three very
old stone images of Buddha. The central image four feet, two
inches high is known as Maha Muni's brother. The shrine is a
peaceful, quiet place about 10 km east of Kyauktaw town and
about 40 km north of Mrauk Oo. It is on a small hillock
called Sirigutta surrounded by three low walls on three
successive terraces, the main shrine built on the highest
platform. On the lowest platform is an old library built by
king Minkhari in AD 1439; it is a rare example of a library
from this early period Also a large tank dug by king
Sandasuriya can be seen in the vicinity. In the year 1900, a
rich man from Akyab (Sittwe), U Rai Kyaw Thu cast an image
and installed it at the former place of the Great Image. Up
to this day, Maha Muni site has become the most venerated
site in Myanmar and the former glory has again been restored
due to the new highway linking Yangon and Sittwe. Mahamuni
Site now can be reached by car either from Sittwe or Mrauk
Oo. Throughout the year, pilgrims flocked to visit from all
parts of Rakhine State as well as devotees from different
parts of Myanmar. There is a small museum near the shrine
which displays some oldest stone.
Yangon - Yangon excursions - Bagan - Bagan excursions - Mandalay - Mandalay excursions - Kayin State - Mon State - Shan State
© 1999 Myriam