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1. The Early Hindus (a) Dhannyavati Dynasty


Ba Tha, B.A

“ The geographical position of Arakan makes it likely that it received Indian colonies and Indian culture and civilization from a remote antiquity, a period certainly anterior to that of Indian colonization in Burma, and probably centuries before the Christian Era 1 ’. R.C. Majumdar

The early history of Arakan is very complex. The existing records, compiled by the ARAKANESE, are filled with impossible stories invented in many cases. Some based on tradition but made more beautiful, attractive and interesting to hide their foundation and made to show the glories of the race and of the religion, Buddhism. It is not possible to discover the exact nature of the early history from vague statements of the chronicles. Arakanese chronicles trace the lineage of the kings of Arakan as far back as 2666 B.C. which is an exaggeration 2 even by that time the Aryans did not come to India.

Moreover the Arakanese claim that they are the descendents of the Aryan people, who were an off springs of the aboriginal tribes dwelt in the pasture lands of Central Asia. Owing to the drying up of their pastures or pressure from other invading tribes they migrated southwards in two hordes of which one horde entered into Iran and the other horde crossing the Hindu Kush mountains found their way to Afghanistan, from which they entered into Punjab ( The land of Five Rivers).

The Aryan entered in successive waves not as invading army but as settlers, bringing with them, their wives and children, and flocks and herds. But they did not stay long in Punjab. As their number grew they migrated eastwards until they reached the land between the Ganges and Jumna rivers. As they advanced farther they were opposed by the earlier inhabitants who were hardy and highly civilized and dwelt in walled cities. The Aryans who were more hardy and vigorous defeated them. Although the Aryans hated their opponents they did not exterminate them and they called them Dasyus(Slaves) because of their dark complexion and broad noses. But the date of the Aryan invasions is uncertain. Some scholars think that the Aryan invasions took place some time between 2000 and 1500 before the Christian Era. 3


  • 1. R.C Majumdar, Hindu Colonies in the Far East , P.202.

  • 2. W.S Desai, A Pageant of Burmese History PP. 2 & 3. Phayre, History of Burma, p.43


Arakan forms the western part of Burma and it is regarded as a continuation of South – Eastern Bengal. 4 It extends for nearly 350 miles along the shore of the Bay of Bengal and is shut off by a mountain range, the Arakan Yoma, from Burma. It is intersected by chains of hills and watered by many rivers, out of which the four big and famous rivers are Naaf, Mayu, Kaladan and Lemyo.

Arakan, the “western state of Burma, under different period of history, had been an independent sovereign monarchy ruled in succession by the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, and finally by Buddhists again”. 5

Arakan was called Rakkhapura, the abode of Rakshasas 6 , the demons, cannibals or forest dwellers. The Arab named it as Rahma 7 . But Ibn Batuta gave its name Al-recon, from which Arakan was corrupted 8 , while Muslim poets of Arakan called it Rowang (Ro- ang) 9 Roshang 10 and Rukham 11 .


There were numerous seaports in India. People from all parts of India came to these seaports from which they made direct voyage to the East and South-Eastern countries including Arakan and Burma. From Tamralipti (Tamluk in Midnapur district at the mouth of Hugli River) there was a regular sailing of seagoing vessels which proceeded along the coasts of Bengal, Arakan, Burma, Malay Peninsular and beyond 12 .Besides the sea-routes there were land-routes by which the Hindu colonists came to Arakan and Burma through Eastern Bengal, Manipur and Assam 13 .

Arakan is the nearest land to India (and Bengal) and directly accessible both by land and sea. It is situated in a temperate region of the world and very suitable for human habitation. Adequate rainfall and flowing of rivers make the land fertile and suitable for cultivation. Moreover the commercial products of the country are sufficient to meet the demands of the people. Such ease of communication, fine climate, fertile land, profuse commerce and varied product of this country naturally attracted Hindu, Persian and Arab traders, merchants, missionaries, colonists and ardent military spirits from a very early period.



Hindu colonies

in the Far East, PP.189 & 202.

Anil Chandra Banerji, The Eastern Frontier of British India

1784-1826, P.231

5.Errol de Silva, Why the Muslims are fleeing Burma, The Bangkok Post, Sunday, May, 31,1981, P.7

  • 6. Arthur Phayre, Coins of Arakan, of Pegu and of Burma, P.3. U San Tha Aung, The Buddhist Arts of Ancient Arakan, P.2. U Aung Tha Oo, A Short History of Arakan, P.2 “ Their country is called Rakkhaing , a foreign word and a designation which they might not have expected to retain. It is derived from Rek-kaile, a Pali form of Rak-shasa (demon), which appears to have been applied to the people, by their Indian teachers, before their conversion to Buddhism. (Coins of Arakan, of Pegu and of Burma P.3) But on the contrary I would like to opine that the word “ Rakkhaing ’’ is corrupted from the Bengali word Rakkha means shelter, refuge or help because the early Hindus from Bengal had been driven into Arakan on political and religious grounds and they took shelter in Arakan where they made their kingdoms and they named it Rakkhapura ( the land of shelter), and so there is a saying:- Rowang, Roshang, Rukkham, Rakkhapura nam, Arakan ki bolanto

shobo pandito gonodam, which means that all the learned men of Arakan named Arakan Rowang, Roshang, Rukkham and, Rakkhapur.

  • 7. G.E Harvy, History of Burma,P.10. Coins of Arakan, of Pegu and of Burma P.13.

  • 8. M.K. Rahman, Burma Muslims, RUMSA, Annual No. 1952-53, L.S.S.O’ Malley, Chittagong District Gazetteer, P.23.

  • 9. Keyamat Nama. Chittagong Gazetteer,pp.60+61

    • 10. Syed Shah Alawal, Padavati, pp.21+22. T.R. Chaudhury, Bengal under Akbar and Jahangir, pp.147+148+150

    • 11. Burma Muslims, RUMSA Annual No. 1952-53-

    • 12. Hindu Colonies in the Far East, pp.9,11and12


There is no doubt that by the first century A.D. and probably long before there were Hindu settlements both along the coastal region as well as in the interior of Arakan.

However the ancient people of Arakan were Negritos who have been known as Rakshasas (Bilus), demons or cannibals 14 . But later different races such as Mros, Saks, Chins, Khamis, Chaungthas, Shandoos, Linkes and Anoos, the forest dwellers or hill tribes came to Arakan from the north owing to causes such as drought and ethnic pressure. They thinly scattered over the country. They dwelt in isolated units which were doubtless their villages divided by forests and hills, a scanty population. They were illiterate animist tribes with no political organization and civilization. The Hindus had come with writing, customary law and other elements of civilization. They also brought with them their religions, Hinduism, Brahmanism and later Buddhism. With the coming of the Hindu colonists Brahmanic principles and practices were introduced into the country. In the process of time these arts of civilization and religions produced what is now known as Arakanese civilization. The Hindu colonists

established their kingdoms in Arakan 15 and ruled over the native people who were very few while the Hindu immigrants doubtless formed a large population. The Hindus came from the Gangetic valley and they were impressing their culture and civilization on the native people. It is very interesting to observe that the people still preserve the local traditions and the memory of the founder of the Hindu colonial kingdoms in Arakan.

Arakanese chronicles reveal that the first Hindu king of the country was a Benaresi king’s son who had been driven into Arakan on political grounds and made Ramavati as his capital 16 .The second dynasty was founded by a Brahman who had married a daughter of the earlier royal family, a female descendant of which became the ancestor of the third royal family 17 who was married to Marayu, the son of a prince of Kapilavatsu who had been driven to Arakan on political reasons and founded the first city of Dhannyavati which became the classic name of Arakan. The Arakanese chronicles placed the time when Marayu became king as extravagantly remote era – 2666 BC. The dynasty he founded is represented as having lasted many years, and fifty four kings reigned from the city 18 .Then a rebellion broke out in the city and the queen of the last king of the Marayu dynasty went to mountain with her two daughters.

Then Kanrajagyi, son of Abhiraja, a Kshatriya chief of Tagaung in Upper Burma came to Arakan after leaving his ancestral kingdom to his younger brother, Kanrajange. He married the daughters of the last king of Marayu dynasty and built the fourth dynasty at Kyauk- Padaung (near Paletwa) in about 825B.C 19 and then he reigned in the second city of Dhannyavati. Twenty eight kings ruled Dhannyavati in the direct line of descent from Kanrajagyi and lasted for several centuries.

  • 14. U San Tha Aung, The Buddhist Arts of Ancient Arakan, p.2

15 Hindu Colonies in the Far East, pp.12& 13. A Pageant of Burmese History, pp2+3

  • 16. Hindu Colonies in the Far East, pp.13 & 202

  • 17. Ibid , p.202

  • 18. U San Shwe Bu, A Brief note on the old capitals of Arakan. The Buddhist Arts of Ancient Arakan , P-3. Phayre, History of Burma, p.43, 293, 294, 295

  • 19. Hindu Colonies in the Far East, p.203.


According to the Arakanese chronicles the Kanrajagyi dynasty was succeeded by Suriya dynasty the first king of which was Chandrasuriya (146-99 A.D) with whom the dim outlines of the early history of Arakan appears. He founded the third city of Dhannyavati and twenty five kings of the Suriya line ruled the country and in 788 A.D. the supremacy passed to Vaisali dynasty. It is said that Chandrasuriya cast the Mahamuni Image and built Mahamuni temple.

The Mahamuni image has been regarded as the tutelary deity of Arakan 20 . It was in the Mahamuni shrine on the summit of Sirigutta Hill which lies just to the north of Dhannyavati. The name “Sirigutta’’ is a Sanskrit name. This site is older than Vaisali and Myauk-U. It was a sacred hill which went right back to the period of the Hindu migration. There were bas- reliefs of Hindu deities around the foot of the image 21 . But the style of the deities showed that they belonged to the period before 957A.D, when Arakan was an Indian Land, the people of which were Hindus similar to those of Bengal 22 . They were Bengali Hindus. They easily came to Arakan because there are no great barriers except a few small rivers and a cluster of low lying hills between Bengal and Arakan which is an eastern extension of the great Indo- Gangetic plain and there is no reason why the early Hindus of Bengal should not have occupied this country 23 . Of the original Mahamuni shrine nothing remains with the exception of the three walls surrounding the three flat surfaces of the Sirigutta Hill, the Chandra suriya reservoir, a number of bas-reliefs of Hindu deities, and a few original architectural fragments.

  • 20. Ibid, p.203

  • 21. The 50 th Anniversary Publication No.2 of BRSJ, P.486.

  • 22. D.G.E. Hall Burma, p.57. A Brief Note on the old capitals of Arakan . The land of the Great Image, p.135. Maurice Collis,

Indo Hidden Burma, pp.124, 134, + 137.

  • 23. A Brief note on the old capitals of Arakan.


(b) Vaisali Dynasty

“The area now known as north Arakan had been for many years before the 8 th century the seat of Hindu dynasties; in 788 A.D. a new dynasty, knownas the Chandras, founded the city of Wesali 1 ’’ Mauriee Collis.

In 788 A.D. Mahataingehandra (788-810) son of Suriyaketu (746-788) abandoned the city of Dhannyavati where some revolution or war had taken place during his father’s rule and founded Vaisali as his capital 2 which is named after an ancient Indian capital city in Bihar. Almost every city of any importance carried a classical name which was Indian. He also founded a new city on the site of the old Ramavati.

The dynasty of Vaisali is also known as Chandra dynasty, the kings of which were supporters of Mahayana Buddhism which was probably introduced into Arakan in the 6 th century A.D. guarding and glorifying the Mahamuni shrine though they were Hindus. The Chandras extended their territory as far north as Chittagong3. They probably related to the Chandra kings of Vikrampur in Eastern Bengal who represented fresh batches of Hindu colonists from Bengal to Arakan.

Vaisali was a famous trade port. It became rich and prosperous state because it had established foreign trade and thousands of ships laden with rich merchandise came to this port annually 4 . Most of the ships belonged to the Arabs and Persians. This city was enclosed by brick walls within which there are very many mounds made for offensive and defensive purposes. The pieces of statuary, bas-reliefs, capitals, floral designs in stone and the inscriptions in the Nagari character (Northern Indian alphabet) of the 8 th century A.D. are still to be found on these mounds. The plan of the remains is purely Hindu style. The figures represent deities. There is the sacred bull of Siva on the capitals. The Siva style is rougher than the best Hindu work but the quality is not low 5 .

Remnants of old moats and the surrounding walls of the old palace are still to be seen. Other remains of buildings and sculptures scattered in the surrounding jungle “indicate the once wide extent of the ancient city and bear unmistakable signs of Gupta influence. A bronze bell with a short Sanskrit inscription of about the 7 th century A.D. engraved on it and an inscription in the Gupta character, belonging probably to the 8 th century A.D. have been found in Vaisali” 6 .


1.The 50 th Anniversary Publication No.2 of BRSJ, p.486

  • 2. Hindu Colonies in the Far East , p.203

  • 3. The 50 th Anniversary Publication No.2 of BRSJ, p.486

  • 4. Ibid, p.486. A Brief note on the old capitals of Arakan.

  • 5. Ibid, p.486.


Near the walls of the city there is a large single stone block of Buddha image known as Payagyi belonging to the 8 th century. The discovery of this Buddha’s image with inscription in Gupta character shows the introduction of Buddhist religion and it also proves the establishment of Hindu settlement in Arakan 7 . The existence of Chandra dynasty is clearly proved by coins, Hindu deities and inscriptions which were issued by Hindu Kings of Arakan. “ Alarge number of coins have been discovered in various parts of Arakan issued by kings Dharmachandra, Pritichandra, Dharmavijaychandra, Nitichandra and “Virachandra’’ 8 , which were Sanskritised Bengali names. The bull, Nandi, Sivas trident, vase of votive flowers and Nagari inscriptions are stamped on them 9 . These symbols on the coins indicate that they were purely in Brahmanical tradition 10 , and these coins were consistent with a Mahayanist dynasty.

Many Sanskrit inscriptions in Nagari script dating from the 8 th century A.D. have been found in the ruined city of Vaisali. There is a Sanskrit inscription at the gate to the entrance of Shittaung Paya of Myohaung. It is discovered and planted by Minbin (1531-53) while he was erecting the temple. It is the most important historical record. As it was inscribed by Anandachandra it is known as Anandachandra inscription. Anandachandra built many viharas and Hindu temples named Anandodaya. He also granted lands with servants and furnished with musical instruments and musicians to the Brahmans 11 . It gives an account of the Dharmarajanuja-Vamsa and gives a list of kings who ruled the land from 528 B.C down to 720 A.D of the dynasty known as Dharmarajanuja-Vamsa with their reigning period 12 . Kings belonging to the period before the 2 nd century A.D. might have been legendary but those after that period seems to have been historical . The fact that many of these inscriptions are in Sanskrit suggests that Arakan had been a land where Sanskrit religion ( Mahayana Buddhism ) and Sanskrit culture was prevailing 13 . We can reasonably assume that most of the coins were issued by the kings of this dynasty as some of the royal names such as Dharmachandra, Pritichandra, Nitichandra, Dharmavijaychandra etc. occur on the coins 14 .

The northern face of the Anandachandra Inscription was probably inscribed by Chulataingchandra (951-957 A.D), the last king of Vaisali dynasty, in about 10 th century A.D in old Bengali language which is to be nearly indistinct and which clearly indicates that the kings and the people of Arakan were Bengali Hindus as mentioned by Professor D.G.E. Hall of History Department of the University of Rangoon. (U San Tha Aung, Anandachandra, p.10. D.G.E. Hall, Burma, p.57)


  • 7. Hindu Colonies in the Far East, p.203.

  • 8. Ibid, pp.203, 204

  • 9. The 50 th Anniversary Publication No. 2 of BRSJ. P.487

    • 10. Ibid, p.488. Phayre, History of Burma, p.45

    • 11. Hindu Colonies in the Far East, p.204. U San Tha Aung, Anadachandra , p.179. Nai Pan Hla, History of

Arakan and Sanskrit Inscription, the Guardian Magazine, Vol; 21 No.8, August, 1974, p.16

  • 12. Ibid, p.204.

  • 13. Anandachandra, p.25

  • 14. Hindu Colonies in the Far East, p.204


The royal names of the kings of this dynasty are quite different from that of Chandra Kings of Vaisali 15 , although their names end with the word Chandra. The Dharmarajanuja-Vamsa is regarded as one of the historical Hindu royal dynasties of Arakan, which ruled over the land for three or four hundred years. Anandachandra is described as the king of Tamrapattana which is regarded as the name of the capital of the dynasty while the chronicles mention the capital city as Vaisali 16 . Therefore “ it is possible that there were two branches of the royal family, if not two separate royal families, of kings bearing names ending in Chandra, one ruling at Vaisali and the other at Tamrapattana” 17 .

The Sanskrit inscriptions discovered in Arakan prove that the Sanskrit language and Literature were highly cultivated, and they lead to the conclusion that the religion, political and social institutions of India made a thorough conquest of Arakan. They also present us a strong Hinduised court and society thoroughly saturated with Hindu culture and civilization. The rivers had Indian names such as Mallayu(Mayu), Gacchaphanadi (Kaladan), Randannadi (Ran), Thinganadi (Thare),and Anjannadi (Leymyo). Moreover the locality had also Indian names such as Dhannyavati, Vaisali, Maghavati, Dwaravati, Ramavati , Sirigutta, Silagiri, Rajapabbata etc.

The deities which show thorough – going influence of Hindu art are still to be found in Arakan. The preponderance of Hindu religion (Hinduism) is also proved by the remains at Vaisali. Here we get symbols of Vishnu and Siva namely the Samkha (conch-shell), Gada (mace), and Padma (Lotus) or votive flowers of the former, the sacred bull and Trestila(Trident) of the latter on the coins of Arakan. These symbols, images and inscriptions prove that Brahmanical religion flourished side by side with Buddhism in this part of the world. Brahmanism is also “ indicated by the word Chandra which ends the name of every traditional king from 788 to 957 and by the fact that medallions ascribed to these kings bear Siva’s tridents and Nagri script.’’ 18

The Pala kings (750-1199) of Bengal sent missionaries to abroad and developed the Tantric side of Mahayana Buddhism; and with their help more Hindu culture and civilization were introduced into Arakan. 19 The Pala period was a contemporary period to that of Chandras of

Vaisali which was a Hindu state adjacent to Bengal. The Pala missionaries from Bengal prevailed upon the Chandras of Vaisali to accept and introduce the new doctrine of tantric forms of worship into Arakan . So in addition to the image of Buddha they placed the images of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva in the sacred shrine of Mahamuni and they permitted to perform the rites pertaining to their worship. The Chandras were great builders of temples and images in stone. The large stone images of these gods are found to this day in the ruined site of Vaisali. 20


  • 15. Ibid, p.204. Coins of Arakan, of Pegu and of Burma, p.4

  • 16. Ibid, p.204.

  • 17. Ibid, p.204

  • 18. Harvey, History of Burma, p.137.

  • 19. M.A. Qasim, Muslim Rule in India, p.12

  • 20. A Brief Note on the old Capitals of Arakan.


So the presumption in the religious history of Vaisali was similar to that of Bengal; and Vaisali was an easterly Hindu kingdom of Bengal and the kings and the people were Bengali Hindus who practised both Hindu and Buddhist religions. Hinayana form of Buddhism had

vanished Mahayana Buddhism “ had compromised with original Hinduism to such a point that Buddha had become one of many gods” 21 This was the Chandra dynasty of Vaisali, a Mahayanist city of ancient Arakan.

The Mahayana form of Buddhism was very much like Hinduism, and the two religions, Hinduism and Buddhism moved nearer and nearer until Hinduism (or Brahmanism) was absorbed by its rival Hinayana form of Buddhism which came to Arakan from Pagan of Burma after the fall of Vaisaili dynasty.

On the study of the religious history of Arakan it can be interpreted that the long period which elapsed from the first conversion of the people of Arakan to Buddhism until the day when Mahayana Buddhism vanished the Hinayana or “ pure Buddhism did not always generally prevail. Heretical doctrines and practices are acknowledged to have occasionally existed, though from the vague statements of the chronicles it is not possible to discover their exact nature”. 22

The old landmarks and relics in Arakan show that the religious beliefs and practices were really a mixture of both Hinduism (Brahamanism) and Buddhism. The Hindus were refined and highly civilized people who had highly developed the thoughtful and reflective arts. But caste system remained intact and even rooted deeply in Hindu life and the fundamental basis of their society was the system of caste which could be found wherever Hinduism or Brahmanism exists. To be a Hindu people means to remain in one of the castes in which he is born and to obey the caste regulations 23 , although Hinduism (Brahamanism) asserted itself in a new way which was different from the Vedic religion.

In course of time Buddhism triumphed over the Brahaminical religion which played a significant role in Arakan and Brahmanism maintained its existence for centuries and gradually assimilated to Hinaya form of Buddhism after the 11 th century A.D. when Mongolians firmly established their kingdom there. Buddhism now prevails in Arakan is decidedly an off shoot of the southern Buddhist school. The priest of Suvannabhumi (Thaton) unified their religion with the mother religion of Cylon in the 10 th century when Buddhism established in Suvannabhumi by Thera Sona and Thera Uttara, the two Buddhist missionaries sent by Asoka (273-232 B.C) must have become nearly extinct. The unification was brought to Pagan by Shin Arahan with whose help Anawrahta (1044-77) of Pagan purified the religion from the Mahayana ( and Ari religion ) to the Hinayana form of

Buddhism and this purification had been passed on to Arakan in the 11 th and 12 th Centuries.


  • 21. The 50 th Anniversary Publication No.2 of BRSJ, pp.486+487

  • 22. Coins of Arakan, of Pagu and of Burma, p.2

  • 23. Edmilnd Davision Soper, The Religions of Mankind, pp.103 & 104. Moshe Yagar, Between Integration and

secession, p.4


If the Hinayana form of Buddhism had not been passed on to Arakan Mahayana School of Buddhism might have vanished and the Hinduism ( or Brahmanism ) might have taken its place gradually as in India (and Bengal) where Hinduism had taken the place of its rival religion, Mahayana Buddhism while Hinayana Buddhism had already vanished in India.

It can be interpreted that the religious history of Arakan during the first thousand years of the Christian era presented a new spectacle, the rise of Buddhism and the corresponding decline

of Hinduism or Brahmanical religion under which east

system was observed.


SECTION (B) 2. The Coming of Islam

“History says that the early Muslims had entered Arakan firstly through its coastal parts and secondly through its mountain passes . They were the races of Arabia and India. They came to Arakan as traders, missionaries, warriors and refugees. They were welcome and well treated by the Arakanese kings because of their honesty, loyalty, bravery and the services rendered by them”. 1 U Ba Tha .

The teaching of the Holy Prophet Mohammed ( peace be upon him ) was so strong and so wonderful that within a hundred years after his death Islam was propagated by his followers in the West and in the East.

Arakan saw the light of Islam very early in Islamic history through an intimate contact with the Arab warriors, sailors, merchants, traders and missionaries who came across the sea and hill tracts. 2 The Arabs and Persians were enterprising seafarers as Islam gave a new impetus to their shipping and they carried on trade by the sea-route with many parts of the world including Arakan and Burma when South - East Asian trade route fell into their hands since 7 th century A.D. and they controlled the maritime trade between the Red Sea and China. As in the case of western India, there were Arab Muslim settlements on Arakan and Chittagong coasts from the eight century. 3

At first the Muslims came to Arakan for trade and they had their markets in the coastal plain of Arakan. But later they began to preach Islam. The Hindu kings of Arakan were very much tolerant to them. This liberal attitude of the Hindu kings of Arakan facilitated their task.

After the death of Hazrat Ali, the 4 th Caliph of Arabia, there was a scramble for power between his son Iman Hussain and Yazid, son of Hazrat Mahbiah. The scramble was won by Yazid, poisoning Imam Hasan, eleder brother of Imam Hussain and executing him ( Imam Hussain ) in the battle field of Karbala in 680A.D., the news of which reached the ears of Mohammed Hanif son of Hazrat Ali by other marriage. Hanif declared war against Yazid. But he was defeated and th en he fled with his followers towards eastern countries.

At last Hanif, the warrior and missionary stepped into the soil of Arakan with his followers

and took refuge there at a village a few miles north of Maungdaw, named after him, the Arabshahpara, means the village of the Arab king. 3(a)


1.U Ba Tha, Muslims in Arakan, Islamic Review April, 1966, p.25 2. Ibid, p.25 3. Donal N.Wilber, Pakistan, its people, its society its culture,pp.12&13 3 (a). Qaul-e-Buzurgan. Burma Muslim (Article). Shah Barid Khan; Hanifah and Kayapuri. The 16 th century written Book. M.A. Tahir BaTha; The Rohingyas and Kamans, pp. 6+7, Who is Rohingya, p.8


At that time the forest dwellers or the hill tribes living in the dense forest of North-west Arakan were troublesome to the people of Arakan (the Hindus) made depredation after depredation on the people killing hundreds of people. At last Hanif took pity on the people and fought a furious battle against Kayapuri, the female chief of the hill tribes who was defeated. Then Arakan became a peaceful land as the hill tribes became civilized people. Converting her and her subjects to Islam he sought her hand in marriage. They started missionary works and later they renounced the world and passed the remaining part of their lives in meditation and worship of Allah on the Hanifah and Kayapuri Tankees(shrines), the names given to the two peaks on the Mayu mountains in Arakan. The followers of Hanif had intermarried with the Hindus and the hill tribes, and from this race- fusion a Muslim race, Rohingya, came into existence and they lived in North Arakan, as a result of which Arakan saw the light of Islam since then, and the Tankees are regarded as sacred by the Muslims of Arakan 4 .

Amir Hamza converted king Gaulongyi whose territory was known as Kalapanzan valley in Buthidaung township. It is said that he conquered Arakan 5 , but the Muslims could not enjoy the fruits of their victory for long. For their disunity and want of provision, and the Hindu immigrants from Bengal were greater in number they were easily ousted by the Hindus who regained their kingdom 6 .

The Arabs were a trade loving nation and for the purpose of commerce, trade and missionary they used to travel from one country to another. From the 7 th to the 16 th century A.D. Arakan and Burma were the ready and good markets for indigeous industries and products. As there was barter system in force and no currency bar, the Arabs found a very good harbour along the coast lines of Arakan and Burma for the pupose of trade. Arakan , as history tells us, became a developed and economical country establishing active commercial relations with Arab traders 7 .

The Arab being traders were expert in sea-piloting and commanded both the Western and the Eastern waters, and carried on trade by the sea-route with many parts of the world. The Arabs who were master of the Eastern Seas from the 7 th to the 16 th century not only hard of Arakan and Burma but also visited them. 8 . During this period Arabs influence was very strong and they controlled sea trade between the Red Sea and China including Arakan and Burma and the Indian Ocean was prominently the great highway of their commercial roads. At that time Burma was known to them as Arakan and lower Burma 9 .

The Arab geographers, missionaries and historians Ibm Khurdad Zabeh( 844-848), Sulaimam

(851) and Ibn Faqih (902) named Arakan and lower Burma as Rahma 10 .


  • 4. Burma Muslims, p-25. Why the Muslims are fleeing Burma , The Bangkok post,

  • 5. Burma Muslims,p.24

  • 6. The Islamic Review, April, 1966, p.25

  • 7. Ibid, p.25

  • 8. Harvey, History of Burma, p.10

  • 9. Ibid, p.10

10. Ibid, p-10

Sunday , May 31,1981, P.7


“These instances probably explain the name of Ruhmi, Rahma or Rahmaa given to a

kingdom on the sea coast of the Bay of Bengal by the Arabian voyagers in the 9 th and 10 th

centuries of

the Christian era. It has been supposed to refer to Ramri in Arakan or to

Ramanya, the classic name of Pegu.’’ 11 Their 9 th century writing mention Burma’s products

such as cotton, yaktails, velvet, stuff, wood, aloes, rhinocerous horns and precious metal – gold and silver 12 rubies and precious stone of all kinds.

The Arab traders carried Islam to Arakan and established themselves on the Arakan and Chittagong coast from the 8 th century 13 . But the Arab traders had not restricted themselves to the sea coasts alone. Their ships could go up the Naaf, Mayu, Kaladan and Lemyo rivers. At that time the area now known as north Arakan had many trade ports. Karim Khali, Munim Khali, Musa Island, Sadapara, Jahazghat , Basrah etc, were said to be the trade ports. Vaisali was a famous trade port to which thousands of ships came annually 14 .

Persia had also developed her commercial navigation as early as the Arab navigation. The period from the 7 th to the 16 th century was the golden age of Persian and Arab navigation. In the first two centuries of this age, it was the Persians who had monopolized Eastern trade. But in later period the Arabs had began increasingly to displace the Persian sailors on the seas. In the course of their Maritime trading activities Persian travelers had spread to all the coastal parts of India, Arakan, Burma and the other eastern countries. In some places in their trading colonies the Persians had settled down 15 . They also brought with them the religion of Islam and by intermarriages with the women of the land and through willful conversion Islam became a living force in Arakan 16 .

In the 9 th century A.D. there were small communities of Muslim merchants in many parts on the sea route to China. There were about 198 trade centres along the coast of Arakan 17 . Many settlements of Muslims ( Arabs and Persians ) sprang up in Arakan, for instance, Nurullapara, Arabshapara, 18 Hanifah and Kayapuri Tamkees 19 , Karim Khali and Munim

Khali 20 Kaladan and Kalapanzan 21 Anaukparang 22 Sunarpara 23 , Basrah, Sandama 24 Abdupara 25 etc.


These settlements were important centres in the sea-trade carried on by the Muslims from the Red Sea to the Far East. The Muslim trade was mutually beneficial to the Muslims and the people of Arakan, and this strengthened the bonds of friendship between them. Thus the Muslim had no grievance against the kings of Arakan where they carried their business.

  • 11. Phayra, History of Burma, pp-269+270. Chittagong Gazetteer, p.180.

  • 12. Harvey, History of Burma, p.10

  • 13. Pakistan, its people, its society, its culture pp.12 and 13

  • 14. The 50 th Anniversary Publication No. 2 of BRSJ, p. 486

  • 15. M. Sidig Khan, Muslim Intercourse with Burma, Islamic culture, Vol: X , No.3 July, 1936. P.416

  • 16. M.A. Chaffar, Memorandum presented to the Regional Autonomy Enquiry Commission dated 24 th May,


  • 17. Pamela a Gutman,Ancient Arakan pp. 44 +45

  • 18. M.A. Chaffar, Memorandum presented to the Regional Autonomy Enquiry Commission dated 24 th May,


19, 20 , 21 ,22 ,23 , 24 . Burma Muslims, pp-25,27 and 28.


Skipping over a period of more than one century, we came to our next glimpse of Muslims in Arakan. During the reign of Mahataingchandra (788-810) several merchants ships were wrecked on Rammree Island which was a well known sea port. The crews were Mohammedams 25(a) ( Muslims) called Arabs or Moors 26 . They were sent to Arakan Proper and settled in villages 27 . Ramree is a corruption of the Arabic word Rahambree means a place full of pity 28 .The king favoured them in every respect. They were expert in trading. They could go easily from one place to another by small local boats. They found Arakan a suitable land which is fertile and agricultural country. They, therefore, did not return to their motherland, Arabia, but made their homes in villages, and they had discarded their seafaring lives and turned to agriculture 29 .

The Muslim settlers freely intermarried and intermixed with the woman of Arakan who changed their religion and became Muslims. The practice of intermarriage was encouraged by the kings of Arakan who wanted to increase the population of the county. It was a long established Arakanese and Burmese custom to provide with wives all foreigners who were forced to make a prolonged stay in the land either by shipwreck or for commercial reasons, but no foreigner was allowed to take with him his children of such mixed marriage or his wife when he left the country 30 . They adopted the nationality of their wives to whom they transferred their properties 31 . They built religious edifices and started missionary works. Their descendants would adopt the native way of life and they would not even think of leaving their mother’s land.

The Muslims brought with them the spirit of Islam with the ideal of one God, to which caste system and other distinctions are unknown. Equality and brotherhood are two important social features of Islam. Both slave and master have equal right and power of accession. Success is open to talent. Muslims came with these noble principles and gave a death blow to the caste system. Islam gave liberty, equality and opportunity for social, economic and development.

The Arab and Persian settlers and coverts and the later immigrants from Bengal and the rest of India mixed up together and they all merged into the Muslim race, Rohingya. These Muslims formed a group orthodox to the extreme, retaining Islamic names, faith and culture. This group of Muslims later spread all over the Arakan


25 (a)

R.B. Smart, Burma Gazetter, Akyab Districf, Vol(A)pp. 19+86

  • 26. Burma Muslims, p.26. Burma Muslims (article),

  • 27. H.R. Spearman, British Burma Gazeteer, Vol:II, p.7. Burma Gazetteer Akyab District,Vol: ‘A “, p.19. Burma Muslims, P.26, Burma Muslims (article)

  • 28. Memorandum Presented on 18-3-69 by the Rohingyas in Rangoon to the Union of Burma Internal Unity Advisory Body, Consisting of 33 members formed on 4.12.68 vide Revolutionary Council Chairman Proclamation NO. 72.

  • 29. M.A Ghaffar, Memorandum Presented to the Regional Autonomy Enquiry Commission dated 24-5-1949.

  • 30. Islamic Culture, Vol X, No. 3, July, 1936, p.423.

  • 31. M.A. Ghaffar, My Activities in Parliament and Outside, Part II, P.28.


country mainly in the valleys of Lamyo, Kaladan, Mayu, Kalapanzan and Naaf rivers being more fertile lands than anyother parts of Arakan, and other parts of the country such as Akyab, Ramree, Kyaukpyu and Kyauknimaw and Sandaway. 32

The word Rohingya is derived from the Arabic original word and the aforesaid historical name of Rahma which means kindness 33 . It can also be interpreted that the ancient name of Arakan was Roshang, literally means light which in course of time was pronounced as Rohang and hence Rohingya. There are also other words – Rowang (Ro-ang) and Rukham, Rovinga about the name of Arakan given by the Muslim poets of Arakan from which the word “Rohingya ’’ can be derived.

The Rohingyas are not only an indigenous race but also a nation with their own distinctive identity and Culture, names and nomenclature, language and literature, legal laws and moral codes. They have a distinctive racial unity entirely different from other races of the Union of Burma. With the passing of years the number of Rohingyas in Arakan began to grow partly because of the increase in the number of the converts and the children of the mixed marriages and partly because of the constant flow of more and more Muslim adventurers from other lands.


  • 32. Burma Muslims, pp.27, 28

  • 33. Ibid, pp.26, 27, 28, 106, 177 & 181. Burma Muslims (article)



3. The Mongolions and the Arakanese Race

“The true chronicle records that in the year 957A.D, a Mongolian invasion swept over Wesali, destroyed the Chandras and placed on their throne Mongolian kings.’’ 1 . M. Collis.

During the absence of Chulataingchandra(951-57), the 9 th king of Vaisali who in 957 A.D. went about his kingdom with a retinue of unwise and dissolute companions and never came back, Amyathu ( 957-64), the chief of Mro tribe ( Mongolian )of Arakan hills invaded the country, seized the throne of Vaisali and married Chandadevi, the queen of Chulataingchandra 2 . At this conduct of Amyathu Nyaung – U - saw –rahan (931-64), the Pyu king of Pagan was angry and invaded Arakan with a large army. Yephyu, the nephew of Amyathu defeated the Pagan king who ran away. In commemoration of this victory Amayathu erected a large monument, the remains of which still exist near the modern village of Waithali which proves that the site was occupied by the city of Vaisali 3 . On Amyathu’s death Yephyu( 964-76) became king.

In 976 A.D. a Shan prince conquered the country and in 994 A.D. after eighteen year’s occupation he withdrew with much spoil 4 . At this time the Mro king Yephyu had abandoned the capital and retired with his followers to the valley of the Yochaung river, some thirty miles further west, and made Thabeiktaung (976-994) as his new capital from which he exercised some semblence of authority over the surrounding area for a further period of eighteen years.

Just about this time the king of Pagan invaded Arakan but he was forced to retreat by Ngapin-ngatun, the chief of the Thets (Saks). Then in 994 A.D. Ngapin-ngatun ascended the throne and removed the capital from Vaisali to Sambawut (994-1018) on the Lemyo River.

He ruled Arakan for a period of twenty four years. He was defeated by Kettathin son of Chulataingchandra who removed the capital to Pyinsa 5 . In this way Vaisali dynasty came to an end and the Mongolian Kingdom was established.

The Mongolians also terminated the rule of Chandras of Vikrampur in South-Eastern Bengal where the Hindus regained their kingdom in a few years, but in Arakan the Mongolions increased their numbers by recruiting more of them from Burma Proper and the influx of Mongolian immigrants was decisive 6 . They became more powerful and stronger than before. So the Hindus of Vaisali failed to regain their ancestral kingdom.


1.The 50 th Anniversary Publication No.2 of BRSJ, p.488. 2. Hindu Colonies in the Far East , p.205 3.Ibid, p203. 4.Burma Gazetteer Akyab District Vol: (A), p.20 5.A Brief Note on the old Capitals of Arakan. 6.The 50 th Anniversary Publication No.2 of BRSJ. P.488.


The Mongolians freely intermarried and intermixed with the Hindus and slowly a new race called the Arakanese came into being. So the Rohingyas and the Arakanese are the pots of the same clay. There is Hindu and Mongolian blood in their veins. The history of Arakan in connection with the Arakenese began since then and lasted eight centuries until 1784, when the country was annexed by Bodawpaya (1782-1819) of Burma 7 . The Mongolians cut Arakan away from India (and Bengal)as they successfully established their kingdom. They were uncivilized people and their incursion led Arakan into a period of darkness 8 . But later they became educated in the culture and civilization of the land which had been conquered by them, and their civilization was of mediaeval character 9 . They looked east and moved the capital from Vaisali to lemyo river fifteen miles south - east so that they could make relations easily with Burma Proper. Five dynasties ruled there, each with its own city but in the same locality 10 .

In conclusion I wish to give a few lines about the races, the Rohingyas and the Arakanese. The Rohingyas are the descendents of the Muslims, Hindus and Mongolians while the Araknese descended from the Hindus and the Mongolians. Buddhism flourished in Arakan since times immemorial and Islam was propagated by Muslims in the 7 th century A.D, and the Arakanese came into existence in the 10 th century A.D. while the Rohingyas came into being in the 7 th century A.D.

One of the Hindu Coins of Arakan.

16 The Mongolians freely intermarried and intermixed with the Hindus a nd slowly a new race

Probably a Coin of Arabia issued in the names of four great caliphs who became caliph one after another, after the death of Prophet Mohammed. It is possible that it was brought to Arakan by the Arabs.

16 The Mongolians freely intermarried and intermixed with the Hindus a nd slowly a new race


7.Maurice Collic, Into Hidden Burma, p.134, A Brief Note on the old Capitals of Arakan.

8.This 50 th Anniversary Publication No. 2 of BRSJ. p- 488 9.Ibid , p-489 10.Ibid, P.489


Sanskrit Inscription of Virchandra

17 Sanskrit Inscription of Virchandra THE END (5-8-1982)