June 29, 2017

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Shitthaung, a potential tourist attraction, in Mrauk U

  • Htay Win
  • Shitthaung Temple in Mrauk U.

Located on the tributary of Kalandan river in the western Myanmar , Mrauk U was once the last capital of Rakhine dynasties with rare Asia archeological evidences. King Minbar built the temple in 1517 AD enshrining Buddha relics after he recaptured twelve Bengal cities of Arakan.
The rulers in Arakan built many stupas using sandstones to show their dominion and belief on Buddhism. Among them, King Minbar is one of the most powerful kings in Mrauk U dynasties.
The temple is called Chitthaung because 80,000 Buddha images are displayed in the tunnels. Chitthaung means 80,000 in Rakhine Language. In other words, the temple is also called RanAung Zay Yar to dedicate to victory for Portuguese attack on Mrauk U.
With lots of sandstones, the architectural design is a little bit similar to Borobudur temple in Indonesia which is one of the world heritages. Sometimes, astrology and Hinduism involve in the architecture. Astrological concepts and architectural designs are intertwined. In terms of the astrology, the foundation of the temple was laid down and suitable architectural designs were chosen. With four planetary arrangements, Chitthaung temple was built on Phoekhaung hill.
In the first planetary arrangement, the Buddha image was placed in the perfumed chamber which is the eastern part of the temple at the center of the great temple. The Buddha image made of single sandstone is the sitting Buddha image with the posture of Bumiphattha Mudra(victory Mudra) and it was built to mean that Buddha was sitting cross-legged by facing eastwards when he won over Mara’s attack on him for the Bodhi tree and the jeweled throne.
Building the Buddha image facing the eastwards means that in terms of eight elements, living things and non-living things arise and pass away. Those elements were regarded as eight planets or eight gods or eight directions. Among the eight planets, Monday planet associated with the moon exists in the east. Therefore, the Buddha image was built facing the east in the first planetary arrangement in terms of the Monday planet because the moonlight makes the human beings peaceful.
In the the second planetary arrangement, Brahma figure was placed as the second planetary arrangement in the south-east corner called Tuesday corner. The Tuesday corner associates with the lion. It means that after Buddha-to-be had renounced the world, he cut his hair and Ghatikara Brahma offered the yellow robes to Buddha-to-be to become a monk.
In the third planetary arrangement, the figure of the celestial king riding Ayeyarwon elephant and accompanying by his queens_Thu Si Ta, Thu Nan Dar, Thu Pa Bar and Thu Mar Lar, was built as the third planetary arrangement in the north-east corner called Sunday corner. It means that the celestial king neglects the bad persons but, salvages and helps the good persons with his supernatural power and he is also a supporter for Buddhism.
In the fourth planetary arrangement, four Lawkapala god figures were placed as the fourth planetary arrangement in the north-west corner called the corner of Rahu. It means that no sooner had Baddha world appeared than four Lawkapala gods appeared to take care of the world. Datarahta god takes care of the east and also Wirulaka god, the south, Wiruphat kha god, the west and Kuwayra god, the north.
In the fifth planetary arrangement,the figure of king Min Bar, a donor of Chitthaung pagoda, together with queen Phaw Saw in his right hand side and princess Pay Thi Dar in his left hand side, was placed wearing the clothes like Brahma as the fifth planetary arrangement in the south-west corner called Saturday corner.
Those four different figures represent that the four different persons are taking refuge in Buddha dwelt in the perfumed chamber. The great temple was built with five rectangular-shaped cave tunnels.
The first tunnel was used as the place for the king’s bodyguards while the king was paying reverence to Buddha image and entering the Sabbath hall.
In the second tunnel, the figures of 550 previous stories of Buddha who fulfilled for the minor perfection called parami, were carved fully on the wall.
In the second tunnel, the most interesting place is the hall adjacent to the back of the great temple. The hall was used by the ancient Rakhine kings for the coronation. The Buddha image wearing like the clothing of the anointed king, was cast with nine jewels. The size of the image depended on the king’s desire. The Buddha image was consecrated in the presence of the head of monk order and the senior monks, and the anointed vow of the king was made by putting the image on the king’s head. The ceremony was called Buddha Bithayka Bitheik Mingalar.
The Buddha image cast wearing in the form of the king, is called Beikthayka Muni. Rakhine call those Buddha images Mahakyein image. The Sabbath hall for the king is adjacent to the southern part of the coronation hall. There are thirty one niches around the second tunnel and every niche has two Buddha images sat back to back.
The area in which the third cave tunnel and the fourth cave tunnel have is called Atonkat.In the fourth tunnel, there are twenty eight Buddha images in the niches. Such Buddha images were erected in terms of Thanbuday verse.
The big stupa surrounded by 26 small stupas, was built on the roof. Those stupas represent Thataveiththa 27 stars. Thus, Chitthaug is the temple based on astrological concepts and Gupta architectural designs in India.
I believe that visiting Mrauk U and Rakhine state in Myanmar, you are contributing to some extent for the development of Rakhine state.

Reference: Rakhine touristy stupas by Htay Win

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