August 19, 2016

The Brief History of the Urittaw-dhat Sutaungpyi Ceti (The Buddha’s Skull Relic Wish-fulfilled Pagoda)

Dr. Saw Mra Aung


The Urittaw-dhat Sutaungpyi Ceti, better known as the Warittawdhat Ceti in Rakhine State, is situated gracefully on a hill on the western bank of the Kalandan River in Ponnargyun Township  some twenty miles to the north of Sittwe. This gilded pagoda with a panoramic  view of grey mountain ranges rolling far in the distance as the background and  Siberian -geese, seasonal migratory birds and wild ducks hovering over the wide expanse of blue water flapping their wings and uninterrupted fresh air coming from the direction of the Bay of Bengal as the fore-ground will offer inexpressible freshness and happiness to a holiday-makers cruising down the Kaladan River. Surely, he will be lost in the breath-taking beauty of the scenery! Here, I am reminded of a piece of an ancient Rakhine lullaby……
“Warittaw Ceti round and shapely
Its top gilded so beautifully
And when does my sonny visit it
on which day of the week?”
The origin of this ancient pagoda is closely associated with the visit of the Gotama Buddha to Dhannavati Rakhine Kingdom over 2500years ago. The following account, it is hoped, will vividly give a nostalgic history of the pagoda.
While King Candasuriya was ruling over Dhannavati Rakhine Kingdom, the Buddha was enlightened in Majjhimadesa and preached the Dhamma to human beings, Devas and Brahmas. When the king heard that news, he was filled with a buring desire to pay homage to the Buddha. So, making the devotional offering of incense, oil-lamps, pennants, umbrellas, bent bamboo-sticks tied to flag-staffs, pure cold water and pop-corns at a holy place in the golden palace, he, through mind, invited the Buddha respectfully to visit Dhannavati personally.
When the Buddha, from the Jetavana Monastery, surveyed the world through Sabbannutanana ( Knowledge of Seeing Everything ), saw thus, “If I do not visit Dhannavati, the king will die to no purpose. If, however, the king and the people have a chance to see me, welfare and auspiciousness will accure to them. The Sasana (Dispensation) I am to leave behind in this land on my behalf will endure for a long time. Many people from different walks of life will take refuge in the Triple Gem.” For these three reasons, the Buddha, accompanied by 500 disciples, journeyed to Dhannavati through the sky in 500 celestial chariots decorated with a tiered roof in the year 123 Maha Era (554 B.C). He came down and took his stand at the top of the Selagiri Kyauk Taw Hill located to the west of Dhannavati city and on the eastern bank of the Gacchapanadi River. Standing there, he prophesied the places where his bodily relics were to be enshrined in the future. In doing so, he prophesied that his skull relic would be enshirned in a pagoda at the top of Selapitthi Urittaw Hill and that it would become known as Urittaw Ceti (the Buddha’s Skull Relic Pagoda) later.
After the Buddha’s Parinibbana (Demise), King Siridhammasoka, ruler of Pataliputta in Majjhimadesa, entreated two Arahats Ven. Mahatissa and Ven. Bakula to offer the bodily relics of the Buddha to Rakhine King Suriyasakka. King Suriyasakka and his consort Rucita, on the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon, in the year 222 Sasana Era, built at the top of Selapitthi Hill a pagoda which had a bull’s height (six cubits) and 20 fathoms in circumference at the base.
Then, while Rakhine King Min Phalaung on his march to the West Bengal, was staying the night near the mouth of Kim Creek, he saw mysteriously brilliant rays radiating and moving to and fro between Selapatthi Hill and Salamaya Hill. Deeply impressed with this miracle, he vowed that if he won a victory during the march to the west, he would reconstruct and renovate the pagoda and serve as the donor. Therefore, when he returned victorious, he, in the year 941 Rakhine Era, built at the top of Selapatthi Hill a pagoda entirely of brown rock which had the height of 153 feet (100 cubits) and was 401 feet (80 fathoms) in circumference at the base for twelve years. The construction work of the pagoda was completed in the year 953 Rakhine Era (1591 A.D)
In this pagoda were enshrined the Buddha’s skull relic, slabs on which the Tipitakas were inscribed, relics of Chief Disciples (Aggasavakas), Great Disciples (Mahasavakas) and Ordinary Disciples (Pakatisavakas) and a ruby worth a country held dear as her own off-spring by consort Soe -Me Kyi. Then, the King Min Phalaung vowed thus, “If  I would definitely become the Buddha, let holy water come out from underneath the earth. Instantly did  the holy water  roll out. Until now, the monks and lay people who come to this pagoda on a pilgrimage can drink the holy water from this Adhitthana well (the well resulted in by the resolution of King Min Phalaung).
Rakhine kings of successive periods had restored and renovated this pagoda from generation to generation. Currently,  the responsible personnel from the State, Buddhist monks and lay people  continue the renovation work, lavishing generous donations. The current trustee is conducting such works as gluing golden leaves to the pagoda from the top to the bottom, reconstructing prayer- halls on the terrace, building miniature surrounding stupas, paving the entire terrace with Nepukhan limestone slabs and constructing and mamtaining the Uritmangala Belay Bridge linking the Urittaw Pagoda with Ponnargyun Township on the self-reliant bass.


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