Thursday, January 21, 2010

Identities of The Rakhaing Community

The Rakhaing community of Bangladesh is one of the indigenous peoples living widely scattered in the districts of Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Khagrachari, Rangamati, Bandarban, Patuakhali & Bargura, The total population is over two hundred thousand and they folllow Theraveda Buddhism. The Rakhaing race is a mixture of Aryan and Mongolian. And Their language is very close to the present days Burmese. Infact some regard it as archaic Burmese. The Bengali refer to them by the name Magh and European call them as Arakanese.

Many Rakhaing historians while referring to the old treatises advocate that Buddhism was introduced into Rakhaing-pray during the life-time of Lord Buddha, Who at the age of 55 is said to have visited Rakhaing-Pray in 554 BC during the reign of King Chanda Thuriya (580BC-528BC).1

From time immemorial the Rakhaing has lived independently in RakhaingPray or Arakan along the coastline from Chittagong to the feet of the Roma Ranges of Lower Burma (now Myanmar). The local Rakhaing chronicles record some six dynastic lists of kings dated from 3325 BC which are as follows:

1st Dhanyavati Dynasty (1st Era) 3325 BC to 1507 BC ruled by 57 kings.

2nd Dhanyavati Dynasty (2nd Era) 1507 BC to 580 BC ruled by 28 kings.2

3rd Dhanyavati Dynasty (3rd Era) 580 BC to 320 AD ruled by 25 kings.

4th Vesali Dyanasty 320 AD t0 1018 AD ruled by 12 kings. 3

5th Laymro Dyanasty 1018 AD t0 1406 AD ruled by 61 kings.

6th Mrauk-U Dyanasty 1430 AD t0 1784 AD ruled by 41 kings.

The early history of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, unlike other parts of Bengal, is not so distinct in the Bengali history. But there are ample testimony in Rakhaing history that Chittagong and Cox's Bazar was long in possession of the Rakhaing kings and considered a part of Rakhaing-pray. The first discernible history found today records a series of Buddhist kings mostly coming from the neighbouring Arakhan.4

There are many fine examples of Rakhal Literature by famous courtriers such as 'Saw pree Nyo Radu ' (7th century AD)5, 'Tsaindrah Bweh' (8th century AD)6, 'Rakhaing Munthameen Aye khrun (15th century AD)7, and U-Ka Byan Radhu' (17th century)8. Radu, Bweh and Aye khrun are lyrical poems meant to be sung the subject matter usually consists of historical background that instills a sense of patriotism into the listener. There is also a famous legal precedents called 'Maha Pinnya Kyaw Shouk Thoon' written in the 16th century AD.9

It was during the Vesali Dyansty that one Rakhaing king, Sula Taing Chandra (951-957 AD) conquered Chittagong and Noakhali10. i And in memory of the victory he erected a monument with the words 'Tsit-ta-goung' (Tsit-ta means army, gound means head so Tsit-ta-goung means Army Head Quarter - where they encamped after victory ) inscribed on it. It is said that this monument was erected on the south bank of Kauniachara near Kumira, Chittagong. Most scholars believed that the name of Chittagong has been derived from that inscription on the
monument.11 Prior to the conquest of Chittagong, Ramu (15 Km. east present Cox's Bazar town) was under the sway of Rakhaing kingdom. Some of the Rakhaing people living to-day in these region are the descendants of those people.

Because of its geographical position, Bengal has played a role in the history and civilization of- Rakhaing kingdom. In the fifteenth century, Bengal helped Rakhaing to resist he rise of the Burma kings of Ava. From 15th to 17th century the kings of Arakan used Islamic titles, although they and the majority of their subjects remained Buddjist.12 While describing this period Professor Alamgir Mohammed Sirrajuddin has aptly said, "it is difficult to accept the view that assumption of Muslim names was the manifestation of Muslim influence in Arakan. Among other things, it does not explain why only 9 out of 48 rulers were won over by the Muslim culture. Again,Muslim influences rose to its height during the long and prosperous reign of king Sanda Thudhamma (1652-1E84). Yet, he did not take Muslim name and title and was content with his Arakanese name and coin. In reassessing the significance of Muslim names and titles we must not lose sight of the fact that the rulers who assumed Muslim names had Chittagong under their possession."13 He further adds by quoting A.P. Phayre that, it is no coincidence that only those rulers who had Chittagong under their possession at the time of accession to the throne assumed Muslim names and titles and struck coins in Arabic and Bengali Script bearing these names and titles. Cions are a symbol of sovereignty and these rulers issued the Bengal coin-types to assert their sovereignty over Chittagiong.l4

This Fact is Further accentuated by the abundance of the Buddhist stone temples, pagodas. pitaka libraries against only two mosques of that period. It is expected of any Muslim ruler not to erect non-Muslim (infidel) temples-since they house images which they consider as idolatry. Most of the temples of MraukU were made by all the Buddhist kings who adopted Muslim names.

By the end of 1666 Chittagong was annexed by the Mughols and the Rakhaing retreated to Ramu some filed to the neighbouring Chittagong Hill Tracts.15 The Mughols imposed Magher-kar (Rakahing tax) upon the Rakhaing people in their domain with the aim in driving out Rakhaing subjects and encouraged Muslim settlement in its place. Since the Mughols could not occupy Ramu, the Rakhaing having retreated from Chittagong settled in Ramu and continued to live practicing their humble vocation of life.l6

The Northern Chittagong which remained under the possession of the Mughols until 1760 went under East India Company when Md. Reza Khan handed over the control of Chittagon4 to Mr. Harry vereIst, a representative of East India Company on Jan 5, 1761.17 As the House of Mrauk-U 18 had been rendered confused under internal strife, the East India Company extended its teritory upto Naf river including Ramu. The East India Company brought with them a large number of Bengali speaking Iabourers to the Southern part of Chittagong For cultivation because at that time the region was thinly populated.

The Burmans also taking opportunity of Rakhaing weakness annexed Rakhaing-pray (Arakan) in 1784 which was followed by a wholesale genocide of the Rakhaings19. As a result countless Rakhaing filed into the neighbouring places controlled by then East India Company and thus augmented the population of Rakhaing in Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Bandarban, Rangmati, Kharachari, Patuakhali and Barguna Districts. They were allowed by the East India Company to Settle on the Extensive tracts and waste land then untenated.20 Captain Hiram Cox, who had left his name to the neighbourhood of the Baghkhali river, now called cox's Bazar town was the first officer appointed to Superitend the Rakhaing settlement in July 1799. 21

The national Struggle of Rakhaing people from 1784 to 1824 was hardly marching and sandwiched between the two aggressors22, the Burman feudalist controlled up to the eastern bank of the Naf river and the British upto the western side of it. Both the aggressors had a common interest of keeping Rakhaing under their respective clonies. The Burman-controlled Rakhaing-pray along with Assam, Manipur and Tanasserem were annexed to the British empire after the 1st Anglo Burmese War in 1825 and the remaining of upper Burma was also annexed in 1886.

The story of Rakhaing is the story of how a free people is threatened by extinction because of aggression, treachery, forced distortion of history and repression by alien vested quarters and colonists. Today they are even confronted by an international conspiracy that with the help of shameful lies project their homeland as belonging to an alien race introduced by colonial forces.

Further the people of both sides of the Naf river experienced the Britih rule for over six decades until 14th August 1947 when the people living in the western side saw a birth of a new nation called East Pakistan and the subjects there on was labelled as East Pakistani. On the other hand the same stock of people living on the east of Naf river saw a birht of another national called Union of Burma and their subject as Burmese-irrespective of race, religion, culture, language, etc. Again all the people of East Pakistan were labeled as Bangali after the emergence of the peoples Republic of Bangladesh in 1971 and once again they are called Bangladeshi since mid seventies.

At present whenever they are asked to give their identity they simply reply as 'Bangladeshi Rakhaing.' They are proud of being Bangladeshi because they took to the streets and shed blood during the struggle for liberation in 1971 and they are also proud of being Rakhaing as they do have testimony to a stormy period living on this very soil under the rule of their own kings. The Bangladeshi Rakhaing, exiles in its own land; have up to now preserved the culture, linguistic, religion and traditional inheritance of their forefathers.


Tun Shwe Khaing: RakhaingMahamuni I'hara Tha-hmaing (in Rakhaing), p-14, ed 1 3d-1991, Rangoon, burma.
Tun Shwe Khaing : Rakhaing Nansak Morsak Tha-hmaing_(in Rakhaing), p-8, ed1970, Rangoon, Burma.
Abdul Hoq Chowdhury : Prashanga-Prachin Arakan O Chattagram (in Bengali) Bangla Academy Patrika, 32nd year, 3rd Vol, 1988.
Chittagong Guide- edited by Mahabubul Hoque, p-7, 1981, Barnarekha, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Tun Shwe Khaing : Rakhaing Tsa-so-daw M,vah (in Rakhaing), p-1 to 4, Saikthudaw Tsabay, 1991, Rangoon, Burma. "Saw Pree Nyo Radu" was written by a Rakhaing Author in 619 AD. Saw Pree Nyo was the wife of Prince Thinga Chandra who was the son of king Chandra (595-667 AD).
Tun Shwe Khaing : op. cit. , P-5 to 22. " Tsaindra Bweh" was Written by Chief Minister Dhama Za-yah. during the reign of king Sula Chandra (733-769 AD).
Tun Swhe Khaing : op. cit. , p-33to35. "Rakhaing Munthameen Aye Khrun" was written by poet Phadu Mun Nyo. It is a lullaby, Sung for Princess Saw Shwe Kra alias Mouk Taw 1'hwee when she was a baby, the daughter of king Ba Saw Pru (1459-1482 AD.). Also see Ranbray Tharak Choung Parabaik (copper plate inscription).
Tun Shwe Khaing : op. cit., p-69 to 81 "U-Ka Byan Radu" Was written by U-Ka Byan, Viceroy of Saitan between 1599 and 1607 when he was an advisor to prince Mun Kha Moung who later ruled the Rakhaing and kingdom from 1612 to 1622. Also see "Dhaywady Ah-ray-daw poon~'written by Gaweethara-be-theere-pawara Agga Maha Dhamma Razadheeraza Guru, a palm leaf manuscript written in 1787 and was first printed in 1881 by Burma Herald Steam Press, Rangoon, Burma, P162 to 167.
Raza Gura Gweethara Mathay : Maha Panna Kyaw Shouk 1'hoon (in Rakhaing), a palm leaf manuscript of 1787 and later printed & published by The Hanthawady Press,Rangoon, Burma, 1986. Maha Panna Kyaw served as the Viceroy of Chittagong, advisor and minister to six successive kings of Rakhaing-pray- i. Mun Ba Gree (1531-1552), ii. Mun Tai Kkha (1553-1554), iii. MunSaw Hla (15551563), iv. Sakrawaday (1564-1570), V. Mun Pha Loung (1571-1592) and vi. Mun Raza Gree (1593-1611). Maha Panna Kyaw accompanied Mun Raza Gree as Leader of the house of Lords during pegu expidition in 1599 and he died of old age on their way back after the victory ;
Ashung padita Lankara : Dhanyawadi Razawon Thaik Kvan (a Rakhaing palm leaf inscription), leaf No. back page, line 2 to 7, written in 1911, pegu , Burma.
Bangladesh District Gazetteers- Chittagong, p-60, ed-1975.
Aung San Suu Kyi : Freedom From Fear. P-63, 1991,Penguin Books India.
Alamgir M. Sorajuddin : Muslim Influence in Arakan and the Muslim Names of Arakanese Kings-a Reassessment. JASB, Vol- }aaci, No.-1, June 1986 p-19 & 20.
Alamgir M. Sirajuddin op. cit., See A.P. Phayre's 'The Coins of Arakan-The Historical Coins'. JASB, Vol-xv, 1846. p-234 to 237. For coins minted in Arakan before the 4th century see San Tha Aung's 'Rakhaing Danga Mvah' (in Burmaese), 1979, Rangoon, Burma. For symbolical coins of Arakan see Thomas Letter's The Coins of Arakan-The SXrnbolical Coins', JASB, Vol-xv, 1846, p-238 to 240. Also see G.E. Harvey's 'History of Burma'. London, 1925.
Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers. ed-1908.
Bangladesh District Gazetters-Chittagong, p-115, ed-1975.
Bangladesh District Gazwtters- Chittagong, p-87, ed-1975.
The House of Mrauk-U'-Mrauk-U palace of Rakhaing kingdom.
Saw Tun Oo : Thongran and Rakhaing Culture, The Voice of Rakhaing, p-6, 2nd Vol, 1989.
Eastern Bengal District Gazetters, ed-1908.
D.G.E. Hall A History of South-East Asia, p-632, ed-1985, Hong Kong.
U khin Maung : The Dark Age of Arakan under the Aliens Rule from, 1785 to Up-to date. 1982, unpublished.

Maung Than Aye


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