The Rakhine (Arakanese) speak a language related to but different from Burmese. Although mutually intelligible with standard Burmese, one major variation is the Rakhine speech's retention of the /r/ sound, which is a /j/ sound in Burmese. Written Rakhine is essentially the same as standard written Burmese though certain differences in vocabulary do exist.
The Rakhine are predominantly Theravadan Buddhists. They claim to be one of the first groups to become followers of the Buddha in Southeast Asia. The Rakhine culture like the majority Burmese culture is based on Theravada Buddhism but has more Indian influence, likely due to its geographical isolation from the Burmese mainland divided by the Arakan Roma and closer proximity to South Asia. Traces of Indian influence remain in many aspects of Rakhine culture, including its literature, music, and cuisine.
Arakan is comprised of the four provinces of Dhannyawadi (Mrauk-U), Maegawadi (Man Aung), Dwarawadi (Sandway), Rammawadi (Rann Bray) and 12 Bengal cities including Chittagong (now in Bangladesh). Decca (present capital of Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka) area as far a field as Mushidabad (near present day Calcutta) was most of the time under Arakanese rule.
The area of Arakan was about 20,000 sq. ml. till the British period. But, Burmese ruler, without the Arakanese people's consent, split up a north western Arakan Hill Tracts area bordering India and a southern most part of Arakan (from Kyauk Chaung River to Cape Negaris) from the Arakan mainland. Due to these partitions, the present day total area of Arakan was reduced to 18, 500 sq. ml and it comprises less than half of historic Arakan.
The land that is known as Arakan by the foreigners is called "Rakhaing-pray" by its own peoples, Rakhaing-thar (Arakanese). The Arakanese history records the early Arakanese to migrate in Arakan and settled down in their true land since time immemorial.
The people of Rakhine claim a history that began in 3325 B.C and also archaeological evidence has been found to support this claim. The first independent Arakan kingdom was established in 3325 B.C by King Marayu. Buddhism was introduced into Arakan during the lifetime of Buddha himself. According to Rakhine chronicles, Lord Buddha in his life time visited the city of Dhannyawadi (Grain Blessed) in 554 B.C. The Rakhine king Chandra Suriya (Sun Moon) requested Lord Buddha to leave the image of Himself. After casting the Great Image Maha Muni (Great Sage) Lord Buddha breathed upon it which resembled the exact likeness of the Blessed One.
Ancient Dhannyawadi Lying, west of the ridge between the Kaladan and Le-mro rivers. Dhannyawadi could be reached by small boat from the Kaladan Via the its tributary, the Tharechaung. Its city walls were made of brick, and form an irregular circle with a perimeter of about 9.6 kilometres, enclosing an area of about 4.42 square kilometres. Beyond the walls, the remains of a wide moat, now silted over and covered by paddy fields, are still visible in places. The remains of brick fortifications can be seen along the hilly ridge which provided protection from the west. Within the city, a similar wall and moat enclose the palace site, which has an area of 0.26 square kilometres, and another wall surrounds the palace itself.
At times of insecurity, when the city was subject to raids from the hill tribes or attempted invasions from neighbouring powers, there would have been an assured food supply enabling the population to withstand a siege. The city would have controlled the valley and the lower ridges, supporting a mixed wet-rice and taungya (slash and burn) economy, with local chiefs paying allegiance to the king.
From aerial photographs we can discern Dhannyawadi's irrigation channels and storage tanks, centred at the palace site. Throughout the history of Arakan, and indeed the rest of early Southeast Asia, the king's power stemmed from his control of irrigation and water storage systems to conserve the monsoon rains and therefore to maintain the fertility and prosperity of the land. In ceremonies conducted by Indian Brahmins the king was given the magic power to regulate the celestial and terrestrial forces in order to control the coming of the rains which would ensure the continuing prosperity of the kingdom.
Dhannyawadi - BC. 3325 - AD. 326
The First Dhannyawadi
BC. 3325 - 1483 King Marayu
The Second Dhannyawadi
BC. 1483 - 580 King Kanrazagree
The Third Dhannyawadi
BC. 580 - AD. 326 King Chandra Suriya
Gautama Buddha, Himself, visited Dhannyawadi and the Great Image of Mahamuni was casted, and Buddhism began professed in Arakan. Currency system by coinage is said introduced in Arakan economy.
Vesali – Lemro - AD. 327 – 1430
Vesali Kyauk Hlayga
AD. 327 - 794 King Dvan Chandra
AD. 794- 818 Prince Nga Tong Mong (Saw Shwe Lu)
AD. 818 -1430 King Nga Tone Mun
This period was the highest civilization in the Bay and highly prosperous with busy international trade with the west. Pyinsa, Purain, Taung Ngu and Narinsara, Laungkrat cities were flourished and gold and silver coinage was used in trade relation in Arakan in this period.
Golden Mrauk-U - 1430 - 1784
First Golden Mrauk-U
1430 - 1530 King Mun Saw Mwan
Second Golden Mrauk-U
1530 - 1638 Solidified by King Mun Bun (Mun Ba Gri)
Arakan reached at the zenith of the national unity and of the time of most powerful in the Bay in this period.
Third Golden Mrauk-U Period
1638 - 1784 King Mahathamada Raza
The verse, which is considered as the essence of Theravada spirit, bears testimony to the fact that Buddhism flourished to an utmost degree in Vesali. The relationship of Vesali with foreign countries especially Ceylon would be established for Buddhism.
The stone inscriptions are of Sanskrit, Pali, Rakhine, Pru and Arabic languages. Anandacandra Inscriptions date back to 729 A.D. originally from Vesali now preserved at Shitethaung indicates adequate evidence for the earliest foundation of Buddhism. Dr. E. H. Johnston's analysis reveals a list of kings which he considered reliable beginning from Candra dynasty. The western face inscription has 72 lines of text recorded in 51 verses describing the Anandacandra's ancestral rulers. Each face recorded the name and ruling period of each king who were believed to have ruled over the land before Anandacandra. Archaeology has shown that the establishment of so many stone pagodas and inscriptions which have been totally neglected for centuries in different part of Arakan speak of popular favoured by Buddhism.
The cubic stone inscriptions record the peace making between the governor of Thandaway Mong Khari (1433-1459) and Razadhiraj the Mon Emperor in Arakanese inscription. This was found from a garrison hill at the oldest site of Parein. A stone slab with the alleged figure of the Buddha preaching, King Canda Suriya bored testimony to the Salagiri tradition, depicting of the advent of the Teacher to Dyanyawaddy.
The crowing event in the history of Arakan was the Convention of the Buddhist Council at the top of golden hill of Vesali under the royal patronage of King Dhammawizaya in 638 AD. through joint effort of two countries, Arakan and Ceylon. This momentous triumph of the great council was participated by one thousand monks from Ceylon and one thousand monks from Arakan kingdom. As a fitting celebration of the occasion, the lavish construction of pagodas, statues and monasteries were undertaken for the purpose of inscribing the Tripitaka. After Vesali, Pyinsa was found by Lemro dynasty in 818 A.D; the great king of dynasty (AD. 818 -1430) was King Mim-Yin-Phru, who turned his attention towards the development of Buddhism, and in 847 A.D. he conveyed the second Buddhist council in Arakan attended by 800 Arahants. Arakanese chronicles report that therein the Tripitaka and Atthakatha were inscribed on the golden plate and enshrined. Never has there been impediment in the practice of Theravada Buddhist faith since it has introduced in Arakan. The copious findings of inscription Ye Dhamma verse were practical evidence that Theravada was dominant faith if epigraphic and archaeological sources were to be believed. The Royal patronage has always been significant factor contribution to stability and progress of the religion in Arakan.
The country had been invaded several times, by the Mongols, Mon, Bamar and Portuguese and finally the Bamar in 1784 when the armies led by the Crown Prince, son of King Bodawpaya, of the Konbaung dynasty of Burma marched across the western Yoma and annexed Arakan. The religious relics of the kingdom were stolen from Rakhine, most notably the Mahamuni Buddha image, and taken into central Burma where they remain today. The people of Arakan resisted the conquest of the kingdom for decades after. Fighting with the Rakhine resistance, initially led by Nga Than Dè and finally by Chin Byan in border areas, created problems between British India and Burma. The year 1826 saw the defeat of the Bamar in the First Anglo-Burmese War and Arakan was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Yandabo. Akyab (Sittwe) was then designated the new capital of Arakan. In 1852, Arakan was merged into Lower Burma as a territorial division.
During the Second World War, Arakan was given autonomy under the Japanese occupation and was even granted its own army known as the Arakan Defense Force. The Arakan Defense Force went over to the allies and turned against the Japanese in early 1945. After the war, Arakan was the centre of multiple insurgencies which fought against British rule, notably led by the monks U Ottama and U Seinda.
In 1948, Arakan became independent as a division within the Union of Burma. Shortly after, violence broke out along religious lines between Buddhists and Muslims. Later there were calls for secession by the Rakhine, but such attempts were subdued. In 1974, the Ne Win government's new constitution granted Rakhine Division "state" status but the gesture was largely seen as meaningless since the military junta held all power in the country and in Rakhine. In 1989, the name of Arakan State was changed to "Rakhine" by the military junta.
Where Will Our Children Live.....
A lonesome warrior stands in fear of what the future brings,
he will never hear the beating drums or the songs his brothers sing.
Our many nations once stood tall and ranged from shore to shore
but most are gone and few remain and the buffalo roam no more.
We shared our food and our land and gave with open hearts,
We wanted peace and love and hope, but all were torn apart.
All this was taken because we did not know what the Burma Invader had in store,
They killed our people and raped our lands and the buffalo roam no more.
But those of us who still remain hold our heads up high,
and the spirits ofthe elders flow through us as if they never died.
Our dreams will live on forever and our nations will be reborn,
our bone andbeads and feathers all will be proudly worn.
If you listen close you will hear the drums and songs upon the winds,
and inthe distance you will see....the buffalo roam again.....
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
"So, we must protect our own land for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect our land for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees."