The land that is known as Arakan by the foreigners is called ‘Rakhaing-pray’ [ရခုိင္ျပည္] by its own peoples, Rakhaing-thars (Arakanese) [ရခုိင္သား]. The word “Arakan” was a derivation of the ancient word “Arakha-de-sha” [အာရကၡ ေဒသွ်] (the land of Arakan) which is found in line forty of Anandachandra inscriptions of Shitethaung pillar.
Rakhapura [ရကၡပူရ] is the former name of Rakhaing-pray [ရခုိင္ျပည္]. Arakanese people today do not use the term ‘Rakhapura’ to mention their land. But, every Arakanese love the word “Rakhapura” [ရကပူရ] as they assume that it is a unique word for only Arakanese in this universe. It can also be found in both classical and modern Arakanese plays, poetry and songs.Both Rakhapura and Rakhaing-pay means the land that is owned and inhabited by the Arakanese.
According to the Arakanese chronicles, the word ‘Rakhaing’ [ရခုိင္] was originated from Rakhapura [ရကၡပူရ] and it means the original inhabitants of Rakhapura [ရကၡပူရ].
Arakhadesha [အာရကေဒသွ်] > Rakhasa [ရကသွ်] > Rakkha [ရက] > Rakkhaing [ရကၡိဳင္] > Rakhaing [ရခုိင္]
The Arakanese history records the early Arakanese to migrate in Arakan and settled down in their true land since time immemorial. The independent and sovereign Buddhist Kingdom of Arakan had been splendidly flourishing from 3325 B.C. till the Burman invaders occupied it in 1784.
The history of Arakan can be divided in to four major period throughout its thousand-years-long history. They are:
The 1st Dhannyawaddy Period (King Marayu, BC. 3325 – BC. 1483)
The 2nd Dhannyawaddy Period (King Kanrazagree, BC. 1483 – BC. 580)
The 3rd Dhannyawaddy Period (King Chandra Surya, BC. 580 – AD. 326)
Dhannyawaddy Era [ဓည၀တီေခတ္]
The 1st Dhannyawaddy Period (BC. 3325 – BC. 1483)
According to the legend, Dhanyawadi [ဓည၀တီႏုိင္ငံေတာ္] (the first independent Arakan kingdom) was established in 3325 B.C by King Maryu [မာရယု] (the Arakanese legendary hero-ancestor). It is said that King Rarayu [မာရယု] had married the daughter of the chief of Mro [ၿမဳိ] tribe and had founded Dhanyawadi [ဓည၀တီႏုိင္ငံေတာ္] after defeating the bilus [ရခုိင္] (demon-like creatures) who arrived earlier in the area.
Buddhism was introduced into Arakan during the lifetime of Buddha himself. According to Arakanese chronicles, Lord Buddha, accompanied by his five hundred disciples, visited the city of Dhannyawadi (Grain blessed) in 554 B.C. King Chandra Suriya (Sun and Moon) and all the people converted to Buddhism and became Buddhists since then. The king requested Lord Buddha to leave the image of Himself to commemorate the event before he left Arakan and Lord Buddha consented it. This was the famous Mahamuni (Great Sage) image, known throughout the Buddhist world and desired by kings who sought to conquer the country in order to carry away this powerful prize. The history of this image is entwined with that of Arakan. After casting the Great Image Mahamuni, Lord Buddha breathed upon it which resembled the exact likeness of the Blessed One.
The tradition of the origin of the Mahamuni image can be interpreted as an allegorical account of the introduction of Buddhism to Arakan. The first evidence we have of Buddhism is in the early sculpture of the Mahamuni shrine at Dhanyawadi.
Arakanese, to show their utmost respect to King Chandra Suriya who had donated Mahamuni Shrine and introduced Buddhism into Arakan, have been using the signs of Sun and Moon as the most sacred symbols throughout the history until today.
These symbols can be found in all ancient coins of Arakan, as well as present-day flag and seal of Rakhaing state under Burma.
The Lost of Arakan Kingdom, its nation and national identity
After the Moghal invaded and annexed part of the Arakanese territories, internal instability and dethroning of kings had happened very often in Arakan Court. Taking opportunity in the overall weakness inside the country, the Burmese King U Wine violated the good-friendly neighbour’s ethics and dispatched his invading forces into Arakan in mid-November, 1784 and occupied it by the end of 1784.
The national independence of Arakan and sovereignty of the Arakan Kingdom were lost on 31 December 1784 (7 waxing day of Pratho 1146 AE.) when it was invaded and subjugated by the Burman King Maung Wyne. The people of Arakan became enslaved. The national flag hoisted in honour of the nation on the top of the Royal Assembly Hall was dropped. The dignity, the honour and the prestige of the Rakhine as a FREE NATION had terminated immediately after loss of independence.
Area of Arakan
Arakan is situated among India in the North, Burma in the East and People’s Republic of Bangladesh in the West. To the south, it extends up to Haigri Islands and is bounded on the southwest by the Bay of Bengal.
The area of Arakan was more than 20,000 sq. ml. till the British period. But, Burmese ruler, without the consent of Arakanese people, 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 comprise less than half of historic Arakan territory.
The Rakhine State of Burma
The Rakhine state, consisting 17 townships was created by the then Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) government led by General Ne Win after granting Arakan region the state status. But it was done by the Burmese for administrative purposes.
Today area of Arakan is located between Lat. 16′ 00″ N- Lat. 21′ 20″ N and Long. 92′ 20″ E- Long. 95′ 20″ E. Arakan is known as one of the poorest states under so called Union of Burma ruled by military junta called SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) with its official name, Rakhine State.
Arakanese, however, use the term “Arakan” to mean the area which was historically and traditionally known as Arakan before the 1784 Burmese invasion. Despite over 200 years of Burmese occupation of Arakan, the Arakanese peoples refuse to be conquered and subjugated by the Burmese. Arakan independent movement started just after it lost independent and is carrying on until now.