The Arrakan poets and the later Muslim writers

A closed cultural contact between Bengal and Arrakan, the neighbouring province of lower Burma speaking a Tibeto-Burman language, was first made early in the fifteenth century when Narameikhia, the king of, Arrakan, dispossessed by the king of Burma, came to Bengal and took, refuge in the court of Gaud (1404).After a sojourn of many years he was helped by Jalaluddin, the Bengal Sultan, to regain his throne (1430).

We can reasonably assume that the king had acquired some liking for Bengali song and music, among other things, during his stay in Bengal and introduced them in his own country after he had returned home and to power. But, there is no evidence to show how far this engrafting of Bengali culture in the Arrakan court was enduring, in spite of the fact that Arrakan continued to be dominated politically by Bengal and its external affairs controlled by the Sultan’s governors in Chittagong. The position was however reversed for some years at least in the third quarter of the century when the Arrakan power annexed Chittagong and kept it under its control until, in the first decade of the sixteenth century, it was recovered by Nusrat Khan, a general of Husain Shah. During the years Chittagong was in occupation by the Arrakanese it appears that some cultural contact between Bengal (and the rest of India) and Arrakan was established. From this time Bengali was accepted at the Arrakan court as the chief cultural language, mainly because many of the high officials of Arrakan came from Chittagong and the other neighbouring territories whose mother-tongue was Bengali.

After the overthrow of the dynasty of Husain Shah, Arrakan seems to have regained its full political independence. But, the influence of the Bengali language did not suffer; on the countray it grew. The kings of Arrakan now adopted also Bengali names for themselves and sometimes it was, as in the case of Thiri Thu Dhamma (Arrakanese pronunciation of srisudharma), the only name known to history. The Bengali immigrants or sojourners in Arrakan were almost all Muslims, and the officials and ministers were mostly Bengali Muslims. Muslim influence in the Arrakan court was therefore potent, and as happened quite often in the seventeenth century, the kings took Muslim names as well. The literary tradition which Paragal Khan and his son Nusrat Khan had started in South-east Bengal reached the court of Arrakan by the end of the sixteenth century.

The people of Arrakan and their rulers had for their mother-tongue, Arrakanese, a Tibeto-Chinese speech closely connected to Burmese, which latter was outside the pale of Aryandom. But from the middle of the fifteenth century the culture of Bengal began to percolate into Arrakan not only   through the officials but also through merchants and adventurers who came across the sea or hill tracts to seek their fortunes. In about a century the court of Arrakan had accepted some of the manners and customs of the Bengali court. Bengali poetry and Bengali dance and music became quite popular in the cultured section of Arrakan society.

So far as we know the first Bengali poet to write under the aegis of the Arrakan court was Daulat Kazi. His patron Ashraf Khan was a commanding officer of king srisudharma (Thiri Thu Dhamma) who ruled between 1622 and 1638. Ashraf was a Sufi and so presumably was Daulat Kazi. To popularize the romantic tales current in West Indian poetry (Rajasthani, Gujarati,  Hindi, Avadhi and Bhojpuri). Ashraf had asked Daulat to render the story of Lor-Candrani and Mayana into Bengali narrative verse (Paticili). The story had been popular in folk-song and dance, and the mention of ‘Lorik Dance’ in an early fourteenth century Maithili work indicates that it was a popular amusement in North Bihar in the early fourteenth century. The Lorik song is now popular in South Bihar (where the story has assumed the form of a saga), especially among the Ahir. But the story Lorik as now current in South Bihar is not its original from. The story was probably not well known in Bengal. Daulat Kazi took it from the old Rajasthani poem by Sadhan, manuscripts of which have come to light recently. Daulat Kazi died before he could finish his poem. It was completed years later by Alaol (1659), another Bengali poet from Arrakan. Kazi’s poem has a double title, Sati Mayana and Lor-Candrani. The story is as follows.

Lor1, the ruler of Gohari 2, was married happily to Mayana (or Mayanamati). After a time a yogi mendicant came to Lor and showed him the portrait of Candrani, the beautiful princess of Mohara 3. Candrani was married to a valiant warrior who was an impotent midget. Lor was tempted to seek the love of the princess. He went to Mohara and managed to meet Candrani. She reciprocated Lor’s feeling and the lovers were united. Candrari’s husband, who had been away, now returned home and the couple had to flee the country. The husband gives chase. They met in a forest. A duel ensued which resulted in the death of Candrani’s husband. Candiani’s father accepted Lor as his son-in law and made over the kingdom to him. Here ends the first part of the story (Lor-Candrani).

The scene now shifts to Lor’s home where his neglected wife was pining away. Her only solace was praying to Durga who alone could bring back her husband. Meanwhile a rich young fellow named Chatan had fallen for Mayana and engaged a woman to procure her for him. The woman came to Mayana and introduced herself as her old wet nurse. She was a clever woman and her words of commiseration convinced Mayana of her sincerity. But, when she proposed a liaison with Chatan. Mayana became furious. The woman was thrown out with ignominy. Mayana was now it the end of her tether and she sent a trusted Brahman, carrying her pet parrot, in search of her husband. The Brahman travelled through many lands and at last came to Mohara. When Lor met him he at once remembered his forgotten wife and was all remorse. Placing his son on the throne of Mohara he with Candrani returned home to Mayana. This is the second and last part of the story (Sati Mayana).

Daulat Kazi vw a competent poet; he was well acquainted with the contemporary poet’s craft. His knowledge of Sanskrit poetry was not superficial. He has drawn similes from Kali dasa and some metrical patterns from Jayadeva. His indebtedness to Vaishnav poetry is evident.

The following lines are from the ‘Baramasiya’ song describing the procuress’s attempts at turning Mayana’s sorrowing heart to a contemplation of love’s pleasures:

0 Mayana, the month of Sravan brings much pleasure; the soft steady drizzling excites passionate love.On the earth flow low streams of water; the night is dark, and lovers are engaged in love sports.

The sky is dark; the fields and meadows are green; the horizons are dark and the daylight is dim and soft. Flashes of lightning dailies with the cloud lover at night which is filled with darkness and terror, enjoying the various .sports of love.

The season is very seasonable in Sravan,but how can one pass the time when Hari is not there.4   The rivers are torrential ; the wind blows sharp. This kindles four-fold the fire of unrequited passion.

Yon are a king’s daughter, but you let yourself suffer for life. What is the meaning of thinking you are Lor’s wife still? You should know that the love of the true-hearted is a garland that never fades.

The chief of (he commanders, the General (i.e. Ashraf Khan),is glorious in the world (and he knows this).

Alaol, another Sufi poet succeeding Daulat Kazi in the court of Arrakan, was also a good scholar. His knowledge of Persion poetry was deep, and of Sanskrit lore adequate. He was well versed in music too. But as a writer Alaol shows less facility and ingenuity than his predecessor. He was more religiously minded and the devotional strain in him dominated his fancy to the detriment of his poetry.

Alaol’s life was never smooth. He was the son of Majlis Kutub, governor of a Lower Bengal region. While the father and son were once making a journey by boat, they were attacked by foreign pirates. There was a fight, the father was killed and the son was capture and ‘sold as an Arrakan. Alaol was brought for the army and, was taken in the cavalry. ln a short time  the young cavalry man’s, reputation for scholarship and efficiently in music spread around and reached, the ears  of sulaiman, a minister of king Sricandra. Sudharma. (reign 1652-1684). It was at the request of Sulaiman that, Alaol wrote (1659) the sequel to the unfinished poem of Daulat Kazi and translated (1663) the religious, treatise Tuhfa from Persian.

Magan Thakur 5 the foster-son of the sister of Sri Candra Sudharma and co-regent o£ Arrakan, became a fast friend of Alaol. Two of his poems, including his best work (Padmavati) were written at the instance of Magan. Magan was indined towards Sufism and was an admirer of Jaisi’s poetry. He requested Alaol to render Jaisi’s. Padmavati into Bengali verse so that it might be readily appreciated by the men of Arrakan. Alaol’s translation is neither complete nor wholly faithful. He abridged and revised the story to suit the pattern of a Bengali narrative (Pancali) and added some extraneous episodes and stories.The story of Alaol’s Padmnvati is briefly as follows:

Nagasen was the king of Chitor. His wife was Nigamati. The king came to hear of the extraordinary beauty of Padmavati, the daughter of the king of Ceylon, and desired to marry her. Dressed as a yogi Nagasen went to Ceylon, and by showing his power and skill won the hand of the princess. When the couples were returning home their boat foundered on the high sea but they were saved by the god of ocean. The king came back home and lived happily with his two wives. But he was not destined to enjoy peace for long, Nagasen’s ministers became jealous of the favours which the king bestowed on Raghavcetan, a Tantric scholar, possessing occult power. They contrived a disgrace of Raghavcetan before the king who had him banished from the kingdom. Padmavati tried to appease the pandit and offered him a bangle from her- wrist Raghavcctan went to Delhi and showed the bangle to Sultan Alauddin and told him of the ravishing- Iooks of Padmivati

The sultan desired to possess her. He sent a messenger to Chitor to fetch Padmavati. On being refused Alauddin attacked Chitor. Nagasen was defeated and taken a captive to Delhi, but Cora and Badila (or Badal), two of his most loyal followers, managed to get the king back to Chitor.

While the king was away from Chitor, Deopal, the king of Kumbhalner, attempted to seduce Padmavati. When Nagasen came back and heard this, he challenged Deopal to a duel. Deopal
was killed and Nagasen was mortally wounded. Nagamati and Padmavati died suttees and were cremated in the same pyre with their husband. The pyre was still smoking when Alauddin and his army entered Chitor. On coming to know of the noble and tragic end of Ratnasen and his two wives the tultan paid homage before the pyre and returned to Delhi.

Alaol adapted in Bengali verse the story of the Persian romance saiful-mulk baoiup-jamal at the instances of Magan Thakur. The work was interrupted when Magan died and it was resumed and completed years later at the request of Saiyad Muhammad Musa who after prince Magan’s death
took Alaol under his patronage. At Musa’s request he also rendered Haft Paikar of Nizami into Bengali verse.  At that time Shah Shuja, son of Shahjehan and subedar of Bengal, had taken refuge at the Arrakan court. Shuja met Alaol and the two exiles were mutually attracted. Shuja was assassinated and Alaol came under suspicion and was thrown into prison with his belongings confiscated. When he was released after some years he was a broken man. Saiyad Musa and Majlis Navaraj, both ministers of Sri Candra Sudharma, took rare of him. At the request of the Majlis, Alaol wrote Dara-sikandar-nama,a Bengali adaptation of Nizami’s Iskandar-namah.

Alaol appears to be the first Bengali writer to translate from Persian poetry. His good knowledge of several languages, such as Sanskrit, Bengali, Avadhi and Persian, gave a distinction to his style. His poetic fancy however was seldom as original as Daulat Kazi’s, but his achievement was more solid. The following song from Padmavati illustrates the poet’s allegiance to the contemporary form of vernacular lyric poetry:

Ah! my heart breaks. Awake or dreaming I always see him only. I know not how fate has decreed for me: I obtained a touchstone but have lost it out of carelessness. To whom can I reveal the burning of my heart? My sympathizing friends would break their hearts over it. Through sorrow and distress my days and nights drag on like ages. How can I live like a fish out of water? Why does my insufferable life continue? My heart is stone hard and it does not break under such stress. Lord Saiyad Musa is an adept in wisdom. The sufferings of separation in love are sung by
the humble Alaol.

Muslim writers were not impervious to the influence of the religious poetry of the Hindus. Their first attempts at writing religious narrative poems for their brothers in faith frankly imitated the narrative poems of the Hindu authors. Such poems, dealing with the stories of Muhammad and the earlier prophets were entitled Nabivamsa (after the Hindu Harivamsa) or Rasulvijay (after the Hindu Pandavvijay). The older Muslim writers of this class belonged to Chittagong and
Sylhet as these places were the best centres of Muslim literary culture in East Bengal from the sixteenth century.

Saiyad Sultan of Chittagong wrote his Rasulvijay(also called Nabivamsa) in 1654 and he included some Hindu gods and avatars among the prophets. He had also written treatises on Yoga as well as some ‘Vaishnav’ songs. The Bengali Muslims had their own Mahabharnta in the Jangnama (Battle Stories) poems which describe either the conquest and conversion of Iran by the followers of the prophet or narrate the cruel fate of the brothers Hasan and Husain, the grandsons of the prophet.

The latter story being as tragic as that of Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata became very popular among the Shia Muslims of Bengal.  The oldest Jangnama in Bengali is Makyub-hosen (Death of Husain) by Mohamad Khan of Chittagong. It was written at the instance of the poet’s spiritual master (murshid) Pri Shah Sultan and was completed in 1645. Among the other writer of Jangnama works from Chittngong mention may be made of Nasarullah Khan who wrote towards the beginning of the eighteenth century at the command of his murshid Pri Hamiduddin, and of Mansur who wrote at the instance of Muhammad Shah. 

The earliest known Muslim poet of North Bengal was Hayat. Mamud whose Jangnama. is also called Maharamparva (after the books of the Mahdbharnta). It was written in 1723. His
other works include a Bengali adaptation of Persian version of Hitopsaesa written in 1732, an Islamic theological treatise Hitajnanavani, (Words of Good Knowledge) written in 1753, and Ambiyavani (Voice of the Prophets) written in 1758.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century a literary and cultural centre for the West Bengal Muslims was established in the Bhursut (ancient Bhurisresthi) region on the lower reaches of the Damodar. The mid-eighteenth century poet Bharatcandra Ray belonged to this region and his highly Persianized style of poetry reflects the influence of the style of the popular Muslim writers from that locality. The most notable of these writers was Garibullah who in all probability belonged
to the early part of the eighteenth century. Two poems of Garibullah are known. One is a version of Jangnama of Amir Hamza and the other is Yusuf-Zulekha based, on the Persian
poem of Nuruddin Jami. Garibullah, was followed by .Saiyad Hamza who completed the formers’ Jangnama by writing the second part (1792-94). Before that he had written Madhu-malati, a. romantic poem based on a popular folk-tale. Hamza’s third poem, printed under the title Jaiguner Pathi (Book of Zaigun), is the Jangnama of Hanifa completed in October
1797. His last work is Hatem-Tair Keccha (Stories of Hatim Tayyi). It was completed in 1804.

The early nineteenth century Muslim writers from this region are not worth mention here. They produced mainly for the consumption of the illiterate people residing in Calcutta, and they drew; largely from Persian, Hindi and Urdu popular tales. Their language was, so much saturated with Perso-Arabic and Hindi words and phrases that it was often unintelligible to persons not acquainted with those tongues. This jargon was known as Muslim Bengali (Echlami Bangala). It was a creation by the West Bengal Muslim writers and was taken up by their North and East Bengal brethren only towards the close of the century.

The Muslim Bengali poetry does not appear to have been cultivated exclusively by Muslim. Sometimes a Hindu writer was commissioned or himself inclined to write it. A good instance is the Jangnama by Radhacaran Gop who belonged to North-west Bengal. It is known, in manuscripts.

The influence of Hindu poetry on the Muslim writers was increasing so that by the beginning of the nineteenth century, we find several Islamic themes recast in the Hindu mould. The very much popular story of the boyhood sportiveness of the brothers Hasan and Husain was a frank, imitation of the similar exploits of Krsna and Balaram narrated in, Krsna- mangal. The story of Hariscandra (in Dharmamangal) and of Karna the Charitable (data) (in tlie eighteenth century Krsna-mangal poetry) had its Muslim version in Islam- Nabi Keccha (Stories of the Prophets of Islam) by Abdul Matin of Burdwan. The latter part of the story of Surajjamal by Abdul Rahman of Faridpur imitates the story of Bchula as in Manasamangal.

The Muslim settlement of Sylhet remained in cultural isolation more or less. They had never lost contact with their west-country co-religionists. They cultivated Hindi poetry and had kept up the use of Kayathi script among themselves.In the last quarter of the nineteenth century some books were printed in this script which came to be known as the Sylhet variety of Nagari (‘Sileti Nagari’). The Muslim writers of Sylhet preferred romantic narratives as well as ‘Vaishnav’ lyrics and mystic songs.

The traditional stories of the local Muslim saints (‘Pir’) were woven with tales to form a new type of religious poetry a West and North Bengal and were responsible for the emergence of a new deity called Satyanarayan (i.e. Satya the Narayana) by the Hindus and Satya Pir (i.e. Haq the Pir) by the Muslims. The writers of such poems (Satyapir PancaliI) were almost all Hindus. The earliest traditions regarding the Muslim Pirs in Bengal are recorded in Sekaiubhodayd written a hybrid language which is as much Sanskrit as Bengali.It contains stories of the spiritual powers of Sheikh Jalaluddin who is said to have come to Bengal during the reign of Laks-manasen (late twelfth century). Some of the stories and anecdotes are old. One story that is not known from any source says that woman was so much enraptured by a melody that she mistook her infant son for her pitcher and dropped him down a well where she had come to fetch water. The story is illustrated in a terra cotta plaque from the ruins of the eighth century temple at Mahasthan. Sekasubhodaya has obviously utilized materials from an earlier work of the same type which
was probably in verse.

At any rate the tradition of the Pirs in Bengal has its origin in the thirteenth century, and it originated independently from North and West Bengal. A few writers took up folk-tales to illustrate the greatness of Satya Pir. A North Bengal writer, Krsnaharidas, who wrote the biggest poem of the genre at the instance of a Muslim landlord, exploited local traditional lore. But the majority of them produced only very small books using the same story that was obviously modelled after the merchant episodes of Candimangal   and Manarimangal. As literary products this Pir literature is entirely valueless except that it bears evidence of a widespread attempt at a rapprochement between the two major faiths. The novel deity Satya-Pir or Satya-Narayan achieved high popularity in the eighteenth century and we find there the best writers of the century, Ghanaram Kaviratna, Ramesver Bhattacarya and Rharatcandra Ray writing short Satyanarayan-Pancali poems.



  1. Literally, a young man ( Hindi laurda)
  2. Literally, a rustic region ( Hindi gaoari)
  3. Literally, (the land of ) enchantment ( merchant )
  4. This is obviously an echo from Vaishnav wings
  5. The name Magan (Literally obtained by begging) indicates that he came from a Bengali speaking family


This paper was contained in History of Bengali Literature of Chapter 13, which was published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi on First publish January 1960 and revised edition 1971 and wrote by Dr. Sukumar Sen, M.A, Ph.D,  Khaira Professor of Linguistics and Phonetics and Head of the Department of Comparative Philology, University Calcutta, Forewords by Jawahrial Nehru

Towards Understanding Arakan History (Part I)

A Study on the Issue of Ethnicity in Arakan, Myanmar


by Abu Anin


A mirror reflects exactly any object that stands before it. So does history reflect the past of a people or a nation? History gives us knowledge of past. But history can be a forgotten past, especially for literally less advanced people. After a few generations, history cannot be remembered unless it is written or recorded, and observation of illiterate tribes all over the world shows, that they are helplessly wrong with regard to the events of their history for more than a couple of generations back. Thus recording of history in various forms took place from the early stage of human society.

Records of history are very important such as roots are for trees. Without proper records of history it is very difficult for a people to go ahead. For future planning we need the knowledge of past.

Hence, I have been studying the history of Arakan in particular and of Myanmar in general and have been collecting some important facts and records related to them. Here some of my friends requested me to compile a brief but precise history of Arakan with special attention to the evaluation of Muslim society there and I complied with their request. Writing a history book needs knowledge and experience. It is a big job for me as it will consume time, mind and energy. At the same time I was not free enough because of my personal engagements. Non-availability of some reference books is another factor. Next most of the history books on Arakan, by Arakanese themselves are found to be irrelevant with the latest researches of scholars. Many facts there are illogical, imaginary and exaggerative in nature.

So to bring historical nucleus in to light with authentic references and correct documentations become an essential part of my task here. Further, facts concerning Muslim’s role in Arakan, traditionally have been covered ‘up or distorted. In this treatise my attempt to bring them in to light may be subject to refutation from some circles. Especially three historical nucleuses here may be found deviated from our traditional concept though they are real and true. The main object of this treatise indeed is to shed light on these points.

These three points (nucleus) of Arakan’s history are:

* The existence of a cultural and political transition from Indian Wethali period to Burmese Lemyo period in early 11th century.
* The fact that genealogically Rakhine people are a branch of Tibeto-Burman in contrast to some Rakhine writer’s attempt to show their origin in the Indo-Aryan’ people of Dannyawaddy and Wethali with whom they of course have mixed up to a limited extent.
* The fact that in the light of racial and linguistic affinity with Wethali people, Rohingya of Arakan today are to be designated as the descendants of those early Indo-Aryan people of Arakan.

These new findings of mine may draw criticism from some circles. But these are historic realities supported by prominent researchers of today like Dr. Pamela Gutman of Australia. So it is up to our new generation to research and bring light on these issues.

Records of Muslim role in Arakan are amply found in the chronicles of India and Bengal. But to avoid refutation and denial from some circles, I gave preference to quote from the works of Arakanese, Burmese and some western historians. Most of the points and facts in this thesis are rarely found in the works of present day Arakanese and Burmese writers. Nonetheless, greater parts of my writing are extracted from the works of eminent Arakanese historians and prominent Arakanese politicians of early period. Some inscriptions recently showing the roles of Muslim Kings in Arakan were brought into the light by the researches of Professor G. H. Luce and Dr. Than Tun of former Myanmar Historical Commission. So I have extracted some portions in my thesis from their writings.

References from English books are kept in its original form, where as for Burmese, I Have tried my best not to deviate from the tract and meaning of original writers.

Traditionally, we see Arakanese chronicles always distort or belittle the roles of Muslims in Arakan. Yet we find in them a lot of valuable facts and points, which substantiate the remote past of Muslims and their role in the sociopolitical life of Arakan.

For some issues, which seem contentious, and subject to criticism from some circles I have tried, here, to substantiate them or to authenticity them with the analyses and commentaries of some Arakanese writers. I used the terminology “Magh” for Rakhine, somewhere in this text, not deliberately but unavoidably to conform to the original writings. I am aware that the Arakanese Buddhists used to disclaim that name.

Anyhow, I hope this attempt of mine will give a clear and precise account of both Arakanese history and the roles Muslims had had in it. It will of course help the readers to have a comprehensive and chronological knowledge of Arakanese history.

Even, Dr. Pamela Gutman, an Australian, specialist on the history of ancient Arakan said, “Many gaps in our knowledge of ancient Arakan are soon to be filled by the publication of the catalogue of Burmese manuscripts by BSPP”1. So this research of mine cannot be said to be perfect and complete. I admit my ability not being able to bring all essential facts and points here, in this booklet. Of course my effort is like a drop in an ocean. History is wide and somewhere much complicated. It is up to our younger generation to research and bring to the light the reality of history for our coming generations.

I have avoided the trend, which some people forcibly want to take. History is history. It should be as it was. It cannot be what I want it to be. Sometimes new findings may overshadow old ideas. Further if someone happens to be in disagreement with some facts and points here, he is advised to see the original text concerned. In chapter XI, Muslim influence in the medieval period, some facts will sound repetitive. It is only to substantiate their authenticity I have to quote the opinions and commentaries of different writers on the same subject or fact.

Here, in this thesis Rohingyas, Muslims, Arakanese Muslims or Rakhine Muslims are used frequently to indicate the same entity Rohingya.

Since this is a precise and chronological study of whole Arakan history, I would like to name this treatise as “Towards understanding Arakan history”.

Publicity of Rohingya’s true historical and legal background is essential to promote their stand among the national peoples of Myanmar. So here in this treatise I did try my best to fulfill that object. It is up to my readers to comment how far my maneuvers are successful in achieving that objective.

Lastly I highly appreciate and acknowledge the help contributed by some of my friends who gave me valuable advices and encouragement, and took a great burden to bring this copy up to its fair stage, especially by computerizing it. Without their cooperation this copy is hardly possible to reach its completion. Presently they prefer to remain anonymous.

BRAJ in Japan is given my consent to publish it there. Copyright otherwise in book form or website is reserved by the author. Welcome your constructive opinions and commentaries through the publisher.

Abu Anin
A Researcher of Arakan history Yangon,
Union of Myanmar
Dated: November 2002


Arakan, the western most province of Myanmar, for most part of its history was an independent kingdom. As there were frequent incursions and attacks from the east as well as from the west, its central authority sometimes was weak. For many times Arakanese had to seek help from Burma proper to maintain stability in their country. It fell under Burmese (then Ava Kingdom) rule in 1786 and then under British rule in 1826. After Burmese independence in 1948, it became part of Burmese Dominion again.

Dr. Pamela Gutman says the early history of Arakan has been generally considered to be that of a province of India, and hence its study had been neglected by both Indian and South-east Asian historians.2

There always have been a section of people who disfavor to highlight on any political role played by Muslims of Arakan. The roles of Muslims or Rohingyas have been concealed or belittled, in some cases distorted in the writing of that (said above) circle.

Therefore, an attempt hereby is being made to highlight on Muslim roles, but not neglecting the abridgement of Arakan history as a whole. Main sources of reference here are the works of Arakanese and Burmese writers. As regard to foreign sources, Dr. Kanungo, Dr. Pamela Gutman, Moshe Yegar, D. G. E. Hall, G. E. Harvey, Sir Arthur Phayre and M. Collis are frequently quoted.

In this treatise I give more emphasis on the transitional period from Chandra dynasty (Vesali) to Burmese dynasties after the mid 10th century. Some new facts of researches are brought here about the transition. Until now most Arakanese chronicles described this transitional period in a vague manner. According to Rakhine chronicles, the last king of third Wethali (Vesali) King Sula Chandra was succeeded by two Mro Chieftains, Amarathu and his son (some say his nephew) Paipru one after another. They were attacked by Pyus and Shans. Paipru had to flee to the northwest. In the mean time the Sak (Thek) in the north grew stronger. A Sak king Ngamin Ngadon, whom Rakhine chronicle supposed to be a son of late Sula Chandra, seized the throne of Wethali and shifted the capital to Sambowet, not very far from Wethali. Dr. Pamela said there were invasions of Tibeto-Burman from the east and the Sak had revolted against them. But finally the Burmese or the present Rakhine gained the control of the plain and Ngamin Ngadon was dethroned.3 Ngamin Ngadon’s being son of Sula Chandra is an issue subject to question. Sula Chandra’s wife, Chandra Devi, married Amarathu, a Mru. So her infant son, if there was one, should fall in the hands of Mru, not in the hand of Sak, the rival of Mru tribe, who gain the throne of Wethali after Sula Chandra.

Arakan State Council in its publication of Arakan history says Ngamin Ngadon was killed by the conspiracy of eastern people (the Burmese). He was succeeded by Kettathin, who had shifted the capital to Pyinsa. Establishment of Pyinsa is a change and a new phase of Arakan history.4 It further says Wethali is counted up to the end of Sambowet, by historians. U Hla Tun Pru, an eminent Arakanese politician and historian says “they (the Burman) performed other Yatras which contributed to his'(Ngamin Ngadon’s) ruin. No wonder Ngamin Ngadon fell in a wan with king of Pagan in 380 A. E. (Perhaps 818 A. D. according to Arakanese chronicles and 1018 A. D. according to western writers.). Arakan nevertheless kept her independence. The next king was Khettathin, a grand nephew of Sula Chandra. He set up a new capital at Pyinsa. After his death Arakan continue to be ruled by his descendants.5

Here the interesting thing is Kettathin, the successor of Ngamin Ngadon (a Sak) cannot be a half brother of him or a grand nephew of Sula Chandra as Arakanese chronicles try to say. Pamela says when Kattathin was ruling at Pyinsa, there was a parallel king at Wethali. She refers the Prasasti on the north face of Shitthaung pillar, which indicates an effort of a king of Candra line. The king could have been a legitimate member of old Candra family, attempting to counter act from the old capital (Vesali) the influence of puppet kings (Mro, Sak and Burman) owing their allegiance to Pagan and ruling in the new capital, Pyinsa.6 Pamela Gutman continues to say that the Prasasti on the northern face of Shitthaung pillar is a cry for help from the old capital and the last gasp of an Indianized line and the last Sanskrit inscription in Burma.7 So the puppet king, Kettathin at Pyinsa could not be from the family of Sula Candra. The cause or reason behind the Burmese raid was of course to gain the sovereignty over the land. So the successor on the throne would naturally and logically be a man of their own i.e. a Burmese, not a Klansman of defeated Ngamin Ngadon. Further the name Kettathin and the name of successive kings of his descendants were all Burmese, where as Sula Candra and his descendants had been Indians, and if Kettathin and his descendants had been from Sula Candra family line their name would had been Indianized ones too.

That is why Dr. Aye Chan, formerly from Yangon University history department and an Arakanese himself, said there might have been a great political and cultural change or a great upheaval in Arakan in early 11th century A.D.8

So the question of genealogical and cultural affinity between the people of Wethali and present day Rakhine people is a matter subject, to further researches for scholars. To relate homogeneity between the two groups, in my opinion is short of truth. However we will analyze it further in the next chapters especially in the chapter “transition”.

In this treatise the events of late colonial period and post independence periods are discussed on a lengthy basis. The reader may find many new facts in it.

In the mid of Mrauk-U dynasty (AD. 1430 – 1786) Arakan was on its zenith. Its authority extended to the East Bengal (Arakanese chronicle say up to the border of Nepal) in the west and to Pegu and Marttaban in the east. Yet this empire like-kingdom diminished. It is interesting to study how and why?

Next, the chapters, early Muslim contact with Arakan, Muslim influence in Arakan in late medieval period, and patronizing of Bengali literature by Arakanese kings will portray a picture that Muslims in Arakan are not aliens, as many used to think, but an integral part of Arakan’s socioeconomic life. This little treatise will help the readers to judge the Muslims of Arakan (the Rohingyas) from the right geo-political perspective and understand their historical and legal background. This understanding, I hope, will lead to harmony and unity and finally to prosperity.

Rohingya and Rakhine make the major portion of the population of Arakan. There are some differences between them. But if we judge with broader spectrum we will find a lot of similarities and affinities too. So we must utilize these similarities for our common goods.

Arakan population at present is roughly estimated near about 3 million. Approximately half of this total population is Muslims, who are known as Rohingyas, which literally means settlers of Rowang (alias) Arakan. Arakan formerly was known by various names such as Argyre, Rakhapura, Rakhasa, Rakhasha, Arkhoung, Rakhanj, Rakham, Racham, Recon, Rohang, and Rowang respectively varying on the language of different nations who had had close contact with Arakan. We will find it in the chapters “Etymology of Arakan”.

Finally I have added a new chapter, “The survey of UNHCR”. From this chapter, we can learn the viewpoints of international communities over the socio-economic life of Arakan.

At the end of the book some appendices of illustrative maps, photo copies of coins, historic edifices and Rohingya leaders of early period are attached for better documentation.

Abu Anin
A Researcher of Arakan History Yangon
Dated: November 2002




The physical boundaries of Arakan determined on one hand the extent of control possible by central authority and on the other the opportunities for migration of people and cultures from Bengal on the west and Burma proper on the east. Through out most of her history, the country reached from Lat. 26° 20′ N to Lat. 16° N at the pagoda point and from Long. 92° 20′ E at the Naf River to Long. 95° 20′ E at the crest line of Arakan Yoma. The latitudinal spread varies from about 160 Km in the north to about 40 Km about the latitude of Sandoway narrowing to a point at pagoda point.9

It is a narrow mountainous strip of land along the eastern coast of Bay of Bengal. It stretches north and south, wider in the north and tapering down to the south. It is cut off from Burma proper by a long range of mountains: Arakan Yoma that has some passes to cross along. It has 176 miles long boundary, both land and water with Bengal i.e. now Bangladesh.

Having a long coastal area, its sea communication has been very easy and there were foreign merchant colonies in Arakan. Moshe Yegar, an Israeli researcher says Arakan extend some 250 miles along the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal and the northern part of it today call May yu district was the point of contact with East Bengal. These geographical facts explain the separate historical development of that area, both generally and in terms of its Muslim population until it was conquered by Burmese Kingdom at the close of 18th century. In addition, from the very beginning of Muslim commercial shipping activities in the Bay of Bengal, the Muslim trading ships reached the port of Arakan just as they did the port of Burma proper. And as in Burma, so too in Arakan there is a long tradition of old Indian settlements Bengal became Muslim in 1203, __ In northern Arakan close over land ties were formed with East Bengal. The resulting cultural and political influence was of great significance in the history of Arakan. Actually Arakan served to a large extent as a bridgehead for Muslim penetration to other parts of Burma, although the Muslims never attained the same degree of importance elsewhere as they did in Arakan.10

The present Rakhine State (Arakan) has an area of a little more than 14,000 sq. miles. According to Albert Fytche, from Combermere bay, twenty miles south of Akyab the coast is rugged and rocky, offering few harbors for ships; Kyauk Pru harbor inside the island of Ramree is safe and easy of approach; and at the mouth of Gwa River further south there is a fairly sheltered roadstead and inner harbor easy of access through a channel with two fathoms of water at low tide; the rise and fall of the tide is seven feet only. The coast is studded with fertile islands, the largest of which are Cheduba and Ramree. Owing to the nearness of the mountain range which bounds Arakan, there are not large rivers; the principal ones are the Naf estuary on the extreme west, the Mroo (May Yu) river and the Kaladan River rising some where near the blue mountain in 23° N Lat. Kaladan is navigable for fifty odd miles by vessels of 300 or 400 tons burden, and on the right bank of which, close to its mouth, is situated the town and port of Akyab, the headquarter town of Akyab district and of the Arakan Division.11

In the east of Kaladan there is Lemyo river on which bank were situated all (except Thabaik taung) ancient cities of Arakan. The high ranges of Arakan Yoma extended from Chin Hills to the pagoda point, forming a series of ridges and spurs reaching to the sea the series of rivers, Naf, Mayu, Kaladan and Lemyo have built up narrow alluvial flood plains. The plains are criss-crossed by tidal streams ringed withmangroves.

Agriculture is the main base of economy. The hot wet tropical monsoon climate allows continuous cultivation through out the year.

Most internal and external communication is by water. Today communication with Myanmar proper becomes easier through Ann, Taung Gup, and Gwa passes. There are airports in Akyab, Kyauk Pru and Sandway.

There are about 2 million acres of cultivatable land, a little more than half of which is presently cultivated. The land is fertile with wood and bamboo reserves. There are some natural waterfalls such as Sein Daing waterfall of Buthidaung. There is reserved crude petroleum too. Salt cooking and fishing are other main sources of economy. Sandoway is famous for its Ngapali sea beach recreation center. The official figure of population in 1983 is a little above 1.9 million. Present population may exceed 3 million. There are 17 towns, northern most towns is Maung Daw and the southern most is Gwa. Akyab is the capital of the State (Arakan).


Pamela Gutman, an Australian specialist on ancient Arakan, in her Ph.D. thesis described about the peoples of Arakan as the following. The nature of the population during our period is a complex question and only the broadest outline can be attempted here. The present minority groups Mru, Sak, Kumi and other Chins can be seen to have preceded the Rakhine and the related Chaungtha. A. Phayre noticed that the names of Bilu, or Raksasas, the demon-like creatures in the chronicle accounts of the coming of Buddhist missionaries to Arakan bear a strong resemblance to names common among the Khumi and Chin, and certainly the reputation of some Chin tribesis consistent with the activities of the Bilus. Before the slow drainage and formation of the alluvial plain of the Kaladan valley, the population was confined to limited ecological niches; the ridges, where Taungya agriculture has long been practiced, for now most of the natural tropical rain forest has been replaced by secondary growth and the bank of the streams and rivers where sedentary dry rice and millet productions is possible. These remain the habit of the minority groups today.

Presently the population of Aakan mainly consists of Rakhine and Rohingya. Other minorities are Mru, Sak, Daing Net, Chin, Kaman and Myanmargyi (a) Bruwa. Some of these minorities still live a tribal lives. Most of them have their mainstream clans in Chittagong hill tracts.

MRU: Mruin Arakan numbered 14,000 in the 1931census. Most of them inhabit the northern part of Akyab and the Chittagong hill tracts. Professor Luce considers that the Mru entered Arakan from central Burma, noting that “Linguistic connections with Sak-Cantu, Karen and old Burmese seem certain., a few influences from old Mon likely ”. They are he says essentially hill men, slow in progress from the state of hunters and food gatherers to that of food producers and were never wetrice cultivators. Their original claim to the land is reflected in the Arakanese chronicles, which refer to the Mru as inhabitants of the country when the Arakanese entered it. They are sometimes called Mro, in old Burmese Mru1. Their name for themselves is Maru Ts’a “Children of Men”.12 Arakanese chronicles say there were two or three Mru successive kings in late 10th century. They ruled in Wethali for more than two decades after the last Candra king Sula Candra. In 12th century the Mrus had helped king Datharaza in his search for Mahamuni image.13 This Mrus had some political roles-in Arakan history. Phyare further mentions that once Mrus were a powerful tribe on Kaladan, but were driven out by the Khumis who came from the north.

Most of them presently live on the ridges of Buthidaung, Mrauk-U, Min Bya and Kyauk Taw Townships. They formed a political party in 1990; most of them became Christians recently.

KHUMI: They are neighbors of Mru living on the ridges in Akyab District and western part of Paletwa subdivision. They numbered over 30,000 in 1931 census. About 2,000 Khumi also live over the border in Chittagong hill tracts. They speak a language more akin to the western Tibeto-Burman. Their dialect is nearer to Kukhi Chin than the Mru and regarded them as a Tibetan tribe.14 Now-a-days Khumi has some political alliance with Mru. And they jointly registered a political party before the 1990 parliamentary election.

SAK (THET): U Hla Tun Pru shows some affiliation between the people in Chittagog hill tracts and the Sak in Arakan. According to U Hla Tun Pru the Sak speak a Bengali dialects.15 But Dr. Pamela Gutman says they were probably the next group to move into Arakan. Once they spread over ttle north of Burma, from Manipur perhaps to northern Yunnan, the Sak and the closely reiated Kadu people are fragmented a series of tiny minorities in remote places. Luce describes ttleir Tibeto-Burman language as remarkably pure, as well as old, with little admixture. Pamela Gutman tries to relate this Sak with “Thet” of early Burma. Their numbers in 1931 census was only 691. More than 3,000 Sak live in 14 villages in southern Chittagogn hill tracts, and in others along side Mru and Marmas (Arakanese). The Sak attained higher cultural level than any of the other minority peoples in Arakan. Luce writes it seems from the Burmese chronicles that there were Thets in the Arakan Voma (Macchagiri “the fish mountains”) with whom some early Pagan Kings were rather shame facedly in conflict in particular with Thet-min Kadon, king of Sak. A giant king with a similar name Ngamaung Kadon, appeared in the folk lore of Saingdin valley and waterfall in north Arakan, not far to the east of Dodan. During the Pagan Dynasty the pioneers of the invading Burmans, the Rakhuin, must have been pushing over the passes into north Arakan. Was the giant king really one of the pioneer Burmans whohad met himself the king of the Sak; perhaps it was a result of Burman invasion into central plains that Arakan suffered another Sak invasion, or uprising, in the 10th century. In the 10th century when they are said to have destroyed the Mahamunni Shrine in Arakan. They were pushed to the plain of Arakan in 10th century by invading Rakhine (Burman) and there were Sak insurrection in Arakan in 10th century. When Pai Pru, a Mru king, was attacked by Shan and others he fled away from Wethali in 994 A.D. This time there was Sak upheaval. They grew stronger and their chief Ngamin Nga Don gained the throne of Pai Pru, in Wethali. He shifted the capital to Sambowet. Later, he was attacked by the Burman and he was succeeded by Kettathin, who moved the capital to Pyinsa, 16 on the Lemyo River.

CHIN: Pamela Gutman says the Chins are the Kyekyan of old Burma. They are widely spread and diverse. They usually practice hill cultivation. Professor Luce considered that the Chin might have been in the low land of Burma, east of Chindwin Division from the middle of first millennium A.D. Their infiltration into Arakan had certainly begun before the arrival of Burman Rakhaing. Rakhaing were the last significant group to come into Arakan.17

DAIGNET: Daignet was classed as Sak and their number was 6,159 in 1931 census. But they are mostly regarded to be more akin to modern Chakma of Chittagong hill tracts. They appear to be of Tibeto-Burman origin with strain of Chittagonian blood and speak Bengali. In features they differ from other hill tribes of Arakan. They dress in white and wear their hair at the back of the head and they do not tattoo their bodies. They do not intermarry with other races and speak a corrupted Bengali.18

THE BRUWA: They are also called Mramagyi in Rakhine and Mara Magi in Bangladesh. About Bruwa, Dr. S. B. Kanungo says, the Buddhists of Chittagong belong to three groups; the plain Buddhists, the Magh and the Chakma ————–the plain Buddhists are most closely related to Hindus in appearance, dress and diet than their Magh and Chakma co-religionists.19 They speak a dialect similar but not identical to Rohingya language. There are some differences in vocabularies and accents. Yet they can communicate with one another, without much difficulty. Despite their difference in religion Rohingya and Bruwa, genealogically seem to have a close link in remote past. There are a few thousand Bruwas in Arakan today. SLORC Government designated Bruwa as indigenous race of Myanmar. Arakan politicians try to say Bruwas are from Rakhine group of family. But in language and features Bruwas are more identical with Rohingyas. Unlike the Hindus, Bruwa have no caste distinction and food restriction.

THE KAMANS: They are a branch of Muslims. They are said to be the descendants of palace guards of Rakhine kings. U Hla Tun Pru says the followers of prince Shujah were also merged with them in the unit of archers. They recruited new members from northern India. They grew in number later as some Rakhine personal of the same unit converted to Islam. They speak Rakhine language. They are nearer to Rakhine in all aspects except their religion.20 The Kaman version of their history is not far away from this. More about these Kaman will come in the next chapters. The word Kaman (a Persian word) comes for bow and arrow. Kamanchi means bowman.

RAKHINE: Rakhine is greater in number than other ethnic peoples in Arakan. The composition of Rakhine and Rohingya is roughly half and half in Arakan’s population. Rakhine people is educationally advanced and control almost all government departments in Rakhine State (Arakan) and they have ethnic as well as cultural affinity with Burman and that is a reason they gets upper hand in socio-political life of Arakan. The latest research of Australian researcher of Arakan history, Pamela Gutman, says Rakhine were the last significant group to come into Arakan. The date of their arrival is contentious, the chronicles exaggerating the antiquity of their hold on the land. Both culturally and linguistically the Rakhine are closely related to the Burman, although they regard themselves as the older branch of the race. It is well known the Rakhine language preserves a number of archaisms, particularly the use of r and y, no doubt because of the relative isolation by the Yoma, but the same isolation have also led to the development of new forms.21 Hence there are sayings in Burmese “Ping Reik manaing Rakhine Mey (i.e. Ask the Rakhine for correct spelling)”, and “Rakhine vocabularies are Burman’s glossaries”.

Lincanzo Sangermano says “the Rakhine people is ethnically related to the dominant Burman, which had descended from central Asia, hence their physical resemblance and affinities of language with the people of Tibet.22

J. Layden on the Arakanese language states, the Rakhaing race is admitted to be of the same radical stock as the Burman or Burmans, and is understood to have greatly preceded that nation in civilization they consider the Rekheng as the most ancient and original dialect of the Burma language.23

Today, some Rakhines live in Chittagong hill tracts. They call themselves Mrama. Encyclopedia Britannica narrates; most of the tribal people of Bangladesh inhabit the Chittagong hill tracts in the southeast, the least densely populated area of the country. Of the approximately 12 ethno-linguistic tribes of Chittagong hill tracts the four largest are the Chakma, the Marma (Magh), the Tripura (Tipera) and the Mrus.24

An eminent Rakhine politician and historian U Hla Tun Pru says Arakanese and Burmese have affinities of blood, language and alliance between them indeed; does not a celebrated Burmese classic “Lawkidbitna Nagat” declare.25

w&mh wyg; vlrsdK;rsm;ukd pum;om,m/
ed’gef;jzmvdrfh/ jrefrmwvkdif;/ &ckdifxm;0,f/
b&efawmifol/ ajymvlurf;,H/
ckESpfwefukd jrefrm rkcsa&xGufqav

Meaning “Let me say to hundred of tribes, Myanmar, Taliang, Rakhine, Tavoy, Barem, Taungthu and so called Katyan are all the seven groups counted as Myanmar”.

A related group of Rakhine, speaking an almost identical language, the “Chaung Tha” river son live as their name implies, along the bank of the rivers, principally practiced Taung Ya (Hill) cultivation.26

As Rakhines are educationally advanced there are many historians amongst them. U Aung Tha 00, Mang Aung Piya, Sayadaw U Nyana, San Shwe Bu, U 0o Tha Tun and many others have written Arakan history. But most of them differ in their opinion about the etymology of the term Rakhine. So here I would like to take the official version of BSPP and the analysis of Major Ba Shin and Nai Pan Hla, both of who are from Burma History Research Society (Burma History Commission).

Rakhine is said to have derived from the ancient flame of the land Rakasa (Pali), Rakhasha (Sanskrit). First it became Rakhit. Then Rakhain.27 Both Dr. S. B. Kunango and Pamela Gutman say the name Rakhuin, Rakheng were found in Myanmar inscription from 12th to 15th century. Dr. Kunango says perhaps the name Rakhaing was given to the Arakanese by Burman.28

Formerly in India as well as in the west, Rakhine is known as “Magh”. The new English Dictionary states, that the word Mog, Mogen, Mogue (“Bengali Magh”) appears as name of Arakan and the people there, in fifteen and sixteen centuries.29

Some say Rakhines are called Magh, because they came from Magheda, India. It is true, people from Magheda had been compelled to flee eastwards around first century A.D., some of whom ultimately took shelter in the kingdom of Candras.30

But to postulate the Rakhaing people who entered Arakan in about 10th century, have ethnic relationship with those Moghedi people of first century A.D. is very difficult. Moreover, nowadays linguistic influence and ethnic affinity of Maghdi people are only found in Rohingya not in Rakhine. Historians of Bengal say the dialect spoken in Chittggong originates from Maghadhi Parakrit or Maghadhi Apabharamasa ———-According to S.K. Chatterjee, dialect of Chittagong evolved from Maghadhi Parakrit. This Maghadhi Parakrit overflowed into Chittagong through the progress of Aryanization and infiltration of Maghadhi settlers.31 Here Chittagong language and Rakhine language are quite different. Ethnically Chittagonians and Rakhine cannot be at the same par. Rakhine people do not like to be called Magh. They disclaim the name. So far scholar did not find out the etymology of the terminology “Magh”. It is subject to further researches. Burmese senior politician and writer U Thein Pe Myint writes; on his journey to India in 1942, he found Magh police officer and Magh settlers in the side of India along Myanmar-India border. He further says they (Maghs) are Myanmar-Rakhines and are heavily influenced by Bengali culture.32

ROHINGYA: Presently Rohingyas are not in the official list of so-called indigenous races of Arakan, though they constitute almost half of the total Arakan population. In the context of religion almost all Rakhines are Buddhists, Bruwas and Dainets are Buddhists too. Kamans and Rohingyas are Muslims. Most other tribal races are mainly animist whereas a few low Landers of them are Buddhists. It is found in the late 1980 s that most of the Mru had converted into Christianity.

There were some European hybrids during 17th and 18th centuries, when there were intense European intercourses with Arakan; especially Portuguese were given many privileges during .this period. There were intermarriages, especially with Portuguese. These hybrids were not allowed to take away by Arakanese law then.33 These hybrids today are assimilated in the Arakanese society.

In the words of Albert Fytche, the kingdom of Arakan or Magh, has for many years been the resort of Portuguese settlers. It has thus contained numerous Christian slaves or Portuguese half-breeds; as well as Europeans called from the various parts of the world. It has been a place of refuge for fugitives from Goa, Ceylon, Cochin, Malacca and other Portuguese settlements in India. No persons were better received than those who had deserted their monasteries, married two or three wives or committed great crimes. Those people were Christian only in name. In Arakan they threw off all restraints, their levies were more detestable. They massacred or poisoned one another without compunction or remorse. They sometimes assassinated their ownpriests, and to confess the truth, the priests were often no better than their murderers.

The king of Arakan lived in a perpetual threat of great Mogul. So he kept these Christian foreigners as a kind of advance guard for the protection of his frontier. He permitted them to occupy a seaport called Chittagong and made them grants of land in its neighborhood. They were in no way amenable to government; it is therefore not surprising that their only trade was rapine and piracy. 34

Lastly there are some other minorities such as Hindu, Sanche, and Heins who are very little in number today. Some of them are assimilated to the nearest communities.

The prime object of this treatise is to explore all aspects of Rohingya’s life, which we will analyze in the next chapters. So I am not going into details of Rohingya here.



Arakan has a long coastal Area. It has been open to the Shipping of many countries from the west. It falls on the way from India to Malacca. According to Ptolemy, the 2nd century A. D. geographer, there were about 198 trade centers or towns along the coast of Arakan. He called the country Argyre from Naf River to Pagoda Point. His records mention Parapura a town in the extreme north and Sandoway at the farthest south.35

In Arakan, a number of trading centers were established along the coast, engaged in the export of forest products of the hill tribes. By the beginning of 3rd century this has resulted in the emergence of local chiefs, half remembered, in the early historical portion of Ananda Candra’s prasasti (11.9 -17) as the ancestral monarch whose power extended beyond the limits of the village or group of villages. However, the narrow plains behind the coastal towns of Sandoway, Ramree and Man Aung prohibited the formation of agriculturally; based urban centers; and it was not until the second half of the 4th century A.D.that Dvan Candra Established the city of Dhannya Vati (Dannya Waddi) on the rich alluvial plain of Kaladan Valley.36 (Some say it was not Dannya Waddi but Wethali).

So from the early Christian era there were the presences of many foreign nationals. Many nations had commercial contacts. Each people from different nation called Arakan in its own term. Some names called by different nations are similar with slight difference of accent. The root cause of this difference is difficult to explore, the naming of a place by a nation may base on its myth, language, and culture and on some historic facts.

China is a western term where as Arab called it Sin and we Burman call Tayoke. Why are these differences? In this way we will find in this chapter Arakan has been called by different names historically.

Phayre said the name Rakhaing is traditionally derived from Pali Rakha, Sanskrit Rakhasha synonymous with the Burmese Bilu. The country is named Yakkapura by Buddhist missionaries from India, because of the ferocious nature of its inhabitants.37

Parmela Gutman in her book writes it is interesting to note that the old Tamil word for demon (Bilu), derived from Sanskrit Rakhasha, is Arracan. There appears to be some connection here with Tamil Arracan, “Shallac”, which is said to have derived from the Lexical Sanskrit “Raksa” “Lac”. It may be that Arakan in .the first century Christian era was a major Source of Lac, still a product of its oldest hill tribes. The earliest trade route to Arakan originated in the south of India. Ptolemy, whose informants seem to have obtained their information, on coastline of South Asia from South India, may have been inclined to equate Tamil Accalan or Kannadaaragu with Argyre.38 (South Indian language is Tamil). So early traders from the west (perhaps) got the name from south Indians and the Persian called it Recon and the Arab called it AI-Recon.

Classical geographers referred to South East Asia as the golden land, Chryse and the silver land, Argyre. Ptolemy in the second century A. D. referred Arakan as Argyre, his name for the country stretching from Naf River to Cape Negris.39

Pamela Gutman writes the fragmentary Prasasti on the north face of Shitthaung Pillar written in the mid 11th century A.D. mentions Areka Desa. She further says in the inscriptions of Pagan, Ava from 12th to 15th centuries, the country is referred to as Rukuin or Rakhaing.40 She explains we find in Hobson-Jobson, Srilankan chronicles and Tharanat history; the names in various forms, such as Arakan, Arraccan,Rakhanga, Racchami, Rakhan and Recon. Nidcolo dei Conti in 1420 A.D. called it Raccani where as Babosa quoted in 1516 as Arraccan.41 Srilankan chronicle says Rakhanga, which in Bengali became Rohang, because Bengali pronounces “kh” as “h”. Khan in Bengali is pronounced as Han.

According to Dr. S. B. Kunango, in Persian source book the name Arakan is written as Arkhaunk and in its slight variation.42

The name Rakhine, it seems is of much antiquity. Sir H. Yule wants to identify the country named Argyre in Ptolemy with Arakan, the name being supposed to be derived from silver mines existing then.43

Yule’s assumption is supported by M. C. Crindle and D. G. E. Hall.

In Rashiddudin’s (14th century Indian historian’s) work the name appeared as Rohan. He said the country of Rohang was subjugated to Khan44 (Mongul Khans). Sidi Ali a Turkish navigator belongs to the middle of 16th century wrote it Rakhanj or Rakhang. The authors of Aini-i-Akbri, Bahristan Gaibi, and Siarul Mutha Kharin write Arkhaung, which appears also with a slight change in Alamgir Nama and Fathya-i-Barial.45 In the medieval Bengali works and Rennell’s map the name is written Roshang.46 ————– In colloquial Chittangonian dialect the country is called Rohang; “SH” being replaced by “H” [Still today, we found Hindu Bengali say Roshang, where as Muslim Bengali say Rohang].

Here as people of Chittagong are called Chatghannya, so do people of Rohang are called Rohangya. It is very comprehensive from linguistic point of view of Bengali language.

Medieval Portugue and other European travelers mention it as Recon, Rakan, Rakhanj, Arracao, Oracao, Aracan and Vanlir Schoter writes it Arakan, which is nearest to the present name.47

Ralf Fytch, an English merchant toured India and Burma in the last decade of 16th century. He writes Arakan as kingdom of Ruon. So A. P. Phayre quoting Ralf Fytch, described Arakan as Ruon48, which sounds like Rowang.

Rajamala chronicle (Tripura chronicle) says their king Dania Maneikha conquered Roshang in mid 16th century. His commander was named “Roshang Mardan” i.e. conqueror of Arakan. He returned after keeping Roshang Mardan as Governor of Chittagong.49 In the records of Italian traveler Manucci, it is said Recon, r ferring Persian source.

There are names of places in Bangladesh indicating reference to Arakan. A section of people, east of Shanka River in Bangladesh still today are called “Rowangi” meaning people of Rowang or Arakan. Due to racial suppression, which we will see in the next chapter many Muslims took refuge in Bengal in Rakhine period.

Rohingya classified the Rakhine as Rohingya Magh and Anaukiya Magh, which means Rakhine from Arakan and Rakhine from Anouk Pyi (Bengal). So here Rohingya means settlers of Rohang alias Arakan. Thus Rohingya is synonymous to Arakanese.

There were many many Bengali courtiers in the palace of Arakan Kings.They were encouraged by the Kings to flourish Bengali literature. Daulat Qazi and Shah Alaol were two ministers and writers in the time of both Thiri Thudama and Sanda Thudama in mid 17th century. In their works, Arakan is Roshang or Rohang and its people are Rohingya. Even there was a narrative poetry book in the name of Roshang Panchali.50

Still today there are some people who say Rohingya is a creation. This term has no historical background. This is just an imaginary terminology, created by some political circle. Some say it was given by Pa-Ta-Sa Government. Yet some other say it was given by Thakin Soe, formerly Red Flag Communist Party boss.

What so ever we find researches of foreigners to authenticate the antiquity and historicity of Rohingyas. Gil Christ and F. Buchanan researched about this people and their language. Buchanan was an English diplomat in the Embassy of Michael Syme, in Ava. Francois Buchanan studied the languages of Burmese Empire. He said Burmese language has four dialects, that of Burma proper; that of Arakan; that of Yo and that of Tanasserim. About the languages of Arakan, F. Buchanan writes: I shall now add three dialects spoken in Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of Hindu nation. He details the first (language of Arakan) is that spoken by Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who calred themselves “Rovinga” or native of Arakan. The second dialect is that spoken by Hindus of Arakan. I procured it from a Brahmin and his attendant, who had been brought to Amarapura by the king’s eldest son, on his return from the conquest of Arakan. They call themselves Rossawn, and for what reason I don’t know they wanted to persuade me that theirs was the common language of Arakan. He (Buchanan) further states the last dialect of Hindustani, which I shall mention is that of a people called by the Burman Ayokobat, many of who are slaves in Amarapura. By one of them I was informed that they call themselves Banga, that formerly they had kings of their own; but that in his father’s time, their kingdom had been overturned by the king of Manipura, who carried away a great part of the inhabitants to his residence, when that Manipur was taken last by Burman fifteen years ago. This man was one of the many captives who were brought to Ava from Manipur.

Buchanan said the native Mughs of Arakan dill themselves Yakain, a name given by Burman. By the Bengal Hindus, at least by such of them as have been settled in Arakan, the country is called Rossawn _____ the Mohammedans settled in Arakan called the country Rovingaw, the Persian called Rekon.

Buchanan continued, Mr.Gil Christ has been so good as to examine these dialects, which come nearest to the Hindustani spoken on the Ganges.

They have studied comparatively the three dialects, which appeared in the Asiatic researchers, Calcutta, Vol. 5, 1801. This study of Mr. Gil Christ and F.Buchanan proved the antiquity and historicity of Rohingyas.

In the late 8th century, some ships wrecked Arab having been washed ashore on an Island in the west coast of Arakan, called the land Raham-bri in Arabic, which means the land of Allah’s blessing.51 Later the whole land of Arakan was called Raham-bri or Mukh-e-Rahmi; the same meaning in Arabic. The term Raham-bri is still in vague with slight corruption in Burmese as Rambree.

Arab geographers refer to this place as Jazirat-ur-Rahmi, or Mulk-Rahmi. Here both Mulk and Jazirah means (in Arabic) country. Ibn Khudadbhi, an Arab geographer of 10th century said “Jazirat-ur-Rahmi” come after Sarandip (Ceylon) and contain peculiar unicorn animals and little naked people.52 AI Masudi mentioned it as a riparian country after Sarandip (Ceylon) and on the Indian Ocean. Yacut’s identification placed it as the farthest land of India towards the Strait of Malacca.53 Sulaiman the merchant who lived in the middle of 9th century A.D. mentioned that the king of Rahmi was a powerful ruler with fifty thousand elephants and an army of 150,000. 54

In fact Jazirat-ur-Rahmi of Arab geographers was attributed to the kingdom of Rohang, because it still has elephants in the north.55 Persian was official language of Muslim Indian rulers for many centuries. They used Arab or Persian terminology in naming places. So people in India called Arakan in Persian term Rohang. Besides, many different places, rivers and mountains in Arakan also bear names of Persian or Arabic origin. These include Rambre (Island), Akyab (the capital), Kaladan, Naf, Kalapanzan (rivers) and so on.

In early 12th entury A.D. there was Kamal Chega son of Rama Thonza became king of “Rohang”. During his reign there was war in the country and the Chakmas (Daiknets) migrated to that country.56

It is a fact that Arakan in Bangladesh is colloquially called Rohang, Roshang, and Rowang with a little difference of accent, region wise.

Rohingya is a mixed race. They trace their origin to Arabs, Moors, Turks, Persians, Moguls, Pathans, native Bengali and Rakhine. But some Rakhine people reject the notion that Rohingyas have Rakhine blood or Muslims in Arakan consists of some Rakhines. The real phenomenon is, a great many “kids of Rakhine” are found to have been brought up in Muslim households. Next, there, though very rare especially in the north, are some mixed marriages. Finally there are authentic chronicles testifying mass or group conversion of natives in 15th and 16th centuries. Rakhine Maha Razwin (Great History of Arakan) by Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung, an honorary archeological officer of Mrauk-U Museum, gives a clear description of how Rakhine or natives of Arakan did convert to Islam village by village in the time of Zelata Min Saw Mun, the 9th king of Mrauk-U dynasty. [See detail in Chapter X].

In this context the remark of a British army officer is noticeable. Anthony Irwin, a front commander of Second World War remarked about the ethnic character of Arakan Muslims as follows:————– and to look at, they are quite unlike any other product of India or Burma that I have seen. They resemble the Arabs in name, in dress and in habit. The women and more particularly the young girls have a distinctive Arab touch about them.57

Rohingya language is an admixture of different languages as Rohingya is composed of different ethnic groups. They wrote in Persian alphabets when Persian influence was great in India as well as in Arakan. Some even say the official language of Arakan, since early Mrauk-U period till the coming of British was Persian. However, I don’t have clear proof to testify it, but Burma Gazetteer Akyab District states, about the historic Badr Mokam of Akyab. It says there are orders in Persian in the deputy commissioner’s court at Akyab dated 1834 from William Pam pier, Esq., commissioner of Chittagong and also Dichenson, Esq., commissioner of Arakan, to this effect that one Hussein Ali (then the thugyi “Headman” of Buddawmaw circle) was to have charge of Budder Mukam in token of his good services rendered to the British force in 1825), and to enjoy any sum that he might collect on account of alms and offerings.58 Since official orders in early British time was in Persian, it can be assumed that Persian was official language until then.

But later when Bengali courtiers got high-ranking posts in Arakan palace in 17th and early 18th centuries, Rohingyas used to write their language in Bengali alphabets, many copies of, which are, still in the possession of Rohingya people in Arakan, In remote past i.e. during the Wethali period they used Nagari letters to write as was proved in the inscriptions of that period.

There are region wise names for the Burmans. Upper Burmans are called “Anyatha” or “Pagantha”, lower Burmans are called “Auktha” and people in Arakan are called “Rakhaintha”. On the same pattern, Rohingyas call “Chatghannya” to Chittagonians, “Rambizziya” to Rambrians and “Rohingya” to people of Rohang alias Arakan Proper.

Here one thing, some senior Burmese politicians and imminent personalities such as Saya Chae formerly a member of Myanmar election commission used to raise the question why the Rohingyas are all Muslims? Is there a race with a singular religion? In fact all the native peoples in ancient Arakan were called Rohingya disregard of their faith just as all the people of Burmese extraction in Arakan have been called “Rakhine Thar” by Burmans. Whatsdever there are today in the world so many ethnic peoples whose religion is the same. Further we get the answer of the said question in Arakan itself. In Arakan all Bruwas and Dainets are Buddhists where as all the Kamans are Muslims. So Rohingya’s being all Muslims in no way infringes to their being an ethnic group.

Generally Muslims, all over the world are not called by their ethnic names but only as Muslims. Muslims too prefer to be called Muslims. So in Bosnia, Philippines and in many other places peoples know there are Muslim problems. In fact these peoples involved in problems have their own ethnic origin. The same log worked in Arakan; Rohingyas in the early periods were recorded as Muslims.

This fact reduced the weight of Rohingya’s historicity. However, in the context of socio-political background of Arakan, Rohingya is Muslim and Muslim is Rohingya though there are a few people of other faiths who are also Rohingyas and they indeed have genealogical affinity with Rohingya.

During Burmese invasion of Arakan, ironically, Muslim infantry assisted both Burmese and Rakhine forces. On Burmese side King Bodaw Pya enlisted a Muslim force (originally) migrated from Arakan to Ava in early 18th century), which had served as bodyguard in his palace for years. Settled in 1784, the unit served as a standing army posted to Thandowe (Sandway). Their descendants, albeit few in numbers still live in Thandowe and are called Myedus. The British census of 1931 enlisied 5,160 Myedus in total. From outsiders perspective they cannot be distinguished from their Rakhine neighbors, but by their religious habits. As their ancestors lived near Myedu in the district of Shwebo, they are called Myedu Kalah.59




The early most settle s before Indian or Indo Aryan infiltration into Arakan were said to be Austroloid or proto Austroloid, who were also known as Rakhasa or Rakhasha. These peoples were also described by historians as demons, half man half monsters. So this land formerly was called as Rakhapura, land of Demons by Indian missionaries.60 Buddhist people from north and northeastern India drove out this wild people.The terminology Rakhaing is said to have derived from Rekhasa or Rekhasha. First it became-Rakhait, and then it turned into Rakhaing.61


Arakan chronicles trace its history nearly two millennium back. Mostly their chronicles were based on legendaries. But we have records or inscriptions showing historical facts of last millennium. The most authentic record is Anada Sandra Monument or Shitthaung stone pillar still stands on the ground of old Palace in Mrauk-U. The Dannya Waddy (Dannya Vadi) dynasty of pre-Christian era and the Wethali (Vesali) dynasty of Candra (Sandra) king was said to have rooted from early Christian era. Wethali dynasty lasted until mid 11th century. Judging from the point of their literature and culture, they are said to be an early Indian people, like the one in east Bengal. All eminent historians researching ancient Arakan recognized it.

H. W. Wilson says before 10th century A.D. in Arakan only Indians and Indian culture including the literature were found. Burmese and Burmese cultures are found only after 10th century.62

Major Tun Kyaw 00 (Rtd.), formerly chairman of a political party, in his party’s booklet Vol. VII explains about the setters of early Arakan. He writes it is obvious settlers in Dannya Waddy and Wethali were from central lndia. They are extractions of Indo-Aryan people. The political system of Wethali and Dannya Waddi were autocratic king systems like that of central India. In early period there exist caste systems in Dannya Waddy as Hinduism flourished there.In Wethali period Buddhismbegan to take root in Arakan, caste systems were not found in temples but in social life there still exist some segregated tendencies. The language, literature, culture, religion, food and even cooking systems were similar to that of central India. So these peoples were not called Rakhine in those days, but they were just the peoples of Wethali. Their language was not like that of present day Rakhine and Burman. Rakhines are basically Mongoloid in blood; later they mixed with Kashitriya Indo-Aryans and became the Rakhine race.63

The Arakan chronicles were mostly based on legends. In this regard, R. B. Smart says the early history of the country is involved in mist; the existing records, compiled by the Arakanese, are filled with impossible stories invented in many cases, and in others based on tradition but so embellished as almost to conceal their foundation and all made to show for the glories of the race and of the Buddhist religion.64 U San Than Aung, former Director General of Higher Education Department and an Arakanese himself, recognized that there are in fact discrepancies in chronicles written by Arakanese.

According to D. G. E. Hall, from very early days the older and purer form of Buddhism, the Hina Yana or less vehicle, was established there. It must date from before the arrival of the Burmese in the 10th century, when Arakan was an Indian land with population similar to that of Bengal.65 If we are to point out a people in Arakan today similar to abovementioned Bengali, Rohingya shall not be discounted. Those Bengalis became Muslims by the works of Arabs and other Muslim missionaries.

Maurice Collis, who is generally regarded by Burman as a fair-minded western historian, says the Hindus of early centuries A.D. migrated eastwards via Arakan, founding kingdoms as they went. The present Akyab district being nest door to Bengal, was necessarily the first kingdom they founded and may date before the first century A.D. For thousands of years it was an Indian land, dynasty following dynasty. Then in 957 A.D. the whole area was overrun by Mongolian incursions from the north the Mongolian mixed with the Indians and created the Rakhine race.66 Maurice Collis say this is an answer to his question about the Rakhine race, by U San Shwe Bu, an honorary archeological officer of Mrauk-U Museum: Maurice Collis further says when he asked about the Arakanese language, which is very similar to Burmese, whether the invading Mongolians were Bruman? Collis says (U San Shwe Bu’s) opinion was that; it was a matter for experts, though common sense assumption seemed to be that either the original Mongolians or succeeding waves of Mongolian immigrants imposed the Burmese language on the area.

Maurice Collis asked U San Shwe Bu, and what happened after 957? U San Shwe Bu replied Arakanese history proper then began and lasted eight centuries until the Burmans conquered the country.67

D. G. E. Hall says too, the (present) people of Arakan are, basically Burmese. Writers in the past have applied them the name Mugg (Bengali – Magh), but the Arakanese disclaim the name and apply it only to the product of mix marriages on the Bengal frontier. So far scholars had failed to discover its etymology.68

Rohingyas claim to be the descendants of this early Indian people of Arakan. Linguistically and Genealogically Rohingyas are the only people to have shown affinity with those early Indians in Arakan. Language of early inscriptions in Arakan is much similar to Rohingya language than any other languages in Arakan. Early people were Hindus and Buddhists. Religian alane is nat a factar to. disawn Rahingyas their genealagical link with thase early peaple. At that time Bangladesh presently a Muslim majority state, too was a Hindu or Buddhist dominated region.


The cities or capitals were successively Thabeik Taung, Dannya Waddy (Dannya Vati), Wethali (Vesali) dawn to 11th century. Then came Sambawet, Pyinsa till 1118 A D., Parin 1118-1167, Hkrit (1167-1180), Pyinsa (again) (1180-1237), Launggyet (1237-1433) and Mrauk-U (1433 -1785). All were in Akyab district on or near Lemyo River except Thabaik Taung, which stood on the Yochaung River.69 There are of course some discrepancies of dates between Arakanese and western chranicles.

The authenticity of chronicles written by Arakanese or their correctness is subject to further researches. Still these chronicles say there were three dynasties in Dannya Waddy period. They are:

* Marayu Dynasty (B.C. 3325 – 1507) 57 kings ruled far 1818 years. Note: There were dynasties in the name of Marayu in India, too.
* Kamaraja Dynasty (B.C. 1507 – 580) 28 kings ruled for 927 years.
* Chandra Suriya Dynasty (B.C. 580 – A.D. 326) 25 king ruled for 907 years.70

Then came the Wethali (Vesali) Dynasty. Sometimes it is called Wethali Kyauk Hlega (stone ladder) period. The issue of the root of wethali is contraversial. Some say first Wethali was rooted before Christian era. Some say it was 4th century A.D., the city of Wethali was established. What so ever Wethali and Chandra family have some connections? Perhaps someone from Chandra Suriya family had established first Wethali city, which we can postulate by observing the Shitthaung Stone Pillar. Thus there were Wethali periods in Arakan and it has three phases. That is first, second and third Wethali; most of the historic facts of this period, are found in some inscriptions though Wethali is not yet completely excavated by Archeological Department of Myanmar.

There are variations in the narration of U Hla Tun Pru 71 and U San Tha Aung 72 both of whom are Arakanese, in regard of Wethali periods and times. U Hla Tun Pru says Wethali period extends from AD. 327 to A.D. 818. Where as U San Tha Aung says Wethali period began from B.C. 518 and lasted until 10th century.

U Hla Tun Pru described Wethali as follows:

* DVEN CHANDRA Dynasty (AD. 327 – 557) 13 kings ruled for 230 years.
* MAHAVIRA Dynasty (A.D. 557 – 686) 9 kings ruled for 129 years.
* BALA CHANDRA Dynasty (A.D. 686 – 818).

Further U Hla Tun Pru categorized Arakanese political history as fallows:

* Dannya Waddy period B.C. 3325 – A.D. 327 3, 652 years
* WethaliPeriod A.D. 327 – A.D. 818 491 years
* Lemyo period A.D. 818 – A.D. 1430 612 years
* Mrauk-U period AD. 1430 – AD. 1784 354 years
* Burmese period AD. 1784 – AD. 182 6 42 years
* British period AD. 1826 – AD. 1948 122 years

Bala Chandra period of U Hla Tun Pru is not found in the description of U San Tha Aung which is based on Shitthaung Pillar inscriptions. So here we must accept the fact that there are discrepancies on some date and facts between Arakanese chronicles and inscriptions.73 U San Tha Aung writes it is learned there are 48 chronicles written by Rakhines. Each of them differs in regard of kings and the time of their rule. It is difficult to choose the right one. All these are written in our present day language. So facts of the period prior to 10th century AD are not reliable. Annanda Sandra Stone Pillar of Shitthaung Temple is a valuable record of Arakan history. So we must say these inscription is more authentic and reliable.74

&ckdif&mZm0if tvkd a0omvDacwf at’D 327
ol&D,; r[mpjENm; ESifh tpjyKjyD;
794 plXpjENm;rif;om; irif;iwkH ESifh at’D 794 rSmqkH;onf?

There were at least three breaks in Wethali period: first in early 4th century, second in late 7th century and third in late 8th entury. During these breaks the rule of Candra kings was destabilized, but finally they could reorganize and maintained their family rules.

The Chandras called themselves Chandra Vamshi, descendants from the moon, and they worshipped the moon. After the end of third Wethali the rule of Candra family line was over and the country turned from Indian to Burman. After Sula Candra’s death two Mru successively got the sovereignty of Arakan from 957 A.D.

Arakanese chronicles say Kanraza Gyi the eldest son of Abhi Rajah who founded the kingdom of Tagaung some 3,482 years before Christian era, founded the first Dannya Waddy dynasty. During third Dannya Waddy period about 554 B.C. in the reign of Sanda Thuriya a statue (Image) of Buddha, who flied to Arakan on his Divinely Journey was allowed to erect. But western historians say the reign of Sanda Thuriya was A.D.146 -198. This variation lead to the differences of dates throughout Arakan history between Rakhine’s and westerner’s Chronicles.

Pamela Gutman says the last king of third Dannya Waddy, first built the city at Kan Thon Sint and shortly after moved southwards and built Vesali in A.D. 327.

The city of Vesali 9.6 Km south of Dahnna Vati, is flanked by Rann Chaung, a tributary of Kaladan to the west and the ridge between Kaladan and Lemyo valleys in the east. The city was also known as the city of stone stairs.

According to Rakhine chronicles, first Wethali dates back in 4th entury; second Wethali in 6th and the third Wethali in 7th century. But the inscription on the Shitthaung Pillar says first Wethali rooted in some centuries before Christian era.

The political situation in Wethali found in 4th century became very confused. The king saw some Evil Omens. The control of center deteriorated. But at the beginning of 6th century Bala Candra again maintained the stability. And a king (described in Shitthanung Pillar as Maha Vira) from the west established the third Wethali, but it too lost stability in mid 7th century, which again was controlled by a king of Chandra family Maha Taing Chandra, rebuilt the capital near the old city in 788 A.D. This Wethali or the last dynasty of Chandra kings lasted until mid 11th century. Sula Taing Chandra (A.D. 951 – 957) wasn’t last king of Chandra family in the Wethali as some used to assume. North face of Shitthaung Pillar indicates that there was Chandra Kings even in 11th century.

All students of Arakan history accept Shitthaung Pillar of Mrauk-U, as the most authentic historical record. But some portions of this Pillar are unreadable. Yet scholars have tried to bring the best from the worst. The following are the recorded Wethali Dynasties as shown in the Shitthaung Pillar inscription. This inscription was in Nagari script and Indian language. Dr. John Stan and Dr. Sarcir read it. According to Shitthaung Pillar inscription;

(a) First Wethali Dynasty

Sr: No. Name of King Period of Rule

1 Unreadable B.C. 518 – 398

2 Unreadable B.C. 398 – 278

3 Unreadable B.C. 278 – 158

4 Bahu Boli B.C. 158 – 38

5 Raya Palhi B.C. 38 – A.D. 82

6 Unreadable A.D. 82 – 202

7 Sandra Daya A.D. 202 – 229

8 Anna Waka A.D. 229 – 234

9 Unreadable A.D. 234 – 331

10 Ribia Pwa A.D. 331 – 334

11 Kawer Ram Devi A.D. 334 – 341

12 Uphawira A.D. 341 – 361

13 Zahguna A.D. 361-368

14 Lanki A.D. 368-370 75

The version about Wethali in Arakanese chronicles seemed incomplete. Chronicles say Wethali was founded in 327 A.D. and lasted up to 794 A.D. Only 12 kings ruled during this period. According to them Sula Sandra is the last king.76 Some say Wethali period is from A.D. 370 to A.D. 818.77 Some even say (Wethali) or Sandra rule in Arakan was from 8th to 10th century. To them there were 9 kings from Mahataing Sandra to Sula Sandra.78

But the name of kings and time of their reign mentioned on coins and Shitthaung Pillar are familiar. The records of inscriptions are more authentic.79 So quoting the inscriptions I mentioned the king list of first wethali, which took root in a remote time before Christian era in contrast to the descriptions of other Rakhine chronicles.

The list of second Wethali dynasty according Shittaung Pillar as was read by Dr. Sarcar is:

Sr: No. Names Reigning Years

1 DvenCandra A.D. 370 – 425

2 Raja Candra A.D. 425 – 445

3 Bala Candra A.D. 445 – 454

4 Deva Candra A.D. 454 – 476

5 Yajna Candra A.D. 476 – 483

6 Candra Bandhu A.D. 476 – 483

7 Bhumi Candra A.D. 483 – 489

8 Buthi Candra A.D. 489 – 496

9 Niti Candra A.D. 520 – 575

10 Vizya Candra A.D. 575 – 578

11 Prifi Candra A.D. 578 – 590

12 Prethvi Candra A.D. 590 – 597

13 Dhrli Candra A.D. 597 – 600

During the second dynasty the capital was moved to Kan Thon Sint and later to Wethali, some say to Dannya Vati, which seemed safer. Lying further south, Vesali was even more open to the western influence than Dannya Waddy. More easily reached by over land route, and it also took advantage of increased trade in the Bay of Bengal during 6th cntury and later. When that trade was interrupted by Cola invasion of mid 11th century and increasing incursion of Myanmar from the east; the economic viability of the .city was undermined. The next period was characterized by the establishment of smaller capitals of Lemyo Valley, resulting in the influx of population and cultural influence from the east.80 Dvendra Candra, the founder of second Wethali is said to have conquered the usual number of 10 kings and to have built a city complete with walls and moat. The city can be identified as Dhannya Vati (Sanskrit), Dannya Waddy (Burmese) where the archeological evidence points to occupation in late 5th and early 6th centuries. Nothing is mentioned of the capital shiftment to Vesali, which apparently took place at the beginning of 6th century. The name Chandra Bandhu suggests that he was a re-unifier of the country and he must have ruled in a period of confusion, which led to the move, southwards. The threat of kingdoms emerging in Bengal and Assam following the disintegration of Gupta Empire, and possibly a Sak invation in the east, led to the transfer of the capital to Vesali further south at the beginning of 6th century.81

After Dhrti Candra, the country passed a period of instability, which again was maintained by Mohavira, a king of the same Candra line and from the west perhaps connected with Candras in east Bengal. So here, taking Sarkar’s chronology we have our third Wethali:

Sr: No. Name Duration Regin

1 Mohavira A.D.600 – 612

2 Wiyazab A.D 612 – 624

3 Sevinran A.D. 624 – 636

4 Dharmma Sura A.D. 636 – 649

5 Wizziya Shakti A.D. 649 – 665

6 Dharmma Vizaya A.D. 665 – 701

7 Narindra Vizaya A.D. 701 – 704

8 Dharmma Sandra A.D. 704 -720

9 Ananda Candra A.D. 720

When we study Shitthaung Pillar (also called Ananda Sandra Stone Monument, because it was erected and inscribed by King Ananda Sandra), we find on the east face of the inscriptions, some descriptions, which are assumed to have taken place before sixth century A.D. The inscriptions on the west face are postulated to have written in 729 A.D. North face of the monument is in early Bengali script and is estimated to have written in 10th century. [So here those Arakanese chronicles, which show the end of Candras at early 9th century, is found to be incorrect.]

First dynasty have 15 kings, some of them are unreadable. The second dynasty had 13 kings and the third had from Mohavira to Sulatiang Sandra, 18 kings. The Candra line of kings established their reign first at Dannya Waddy and then in Wethali.

U San Tha Aung says Arakanese chronicle denotes Candra kings ruled Arakan from 8th to 10th centuries. There were successive kings. That succession ceased in 957.82 (This very year a Mro chief, Amarathu, came to power in Arakan. First he makes a capital in Mrauk-U. Then his successor Paipru, attacked by the Shans, fled to Thabaik Taung).83

That 957 was a landmark in Arakan history. Morris Collis Says, it was the beginning of Rakhine (Burman) domination. After making a thorough study of coins, chronicles and ruins of the city, M Collis reached a conclusion that Wethali (Vesali), the Arakanese capital must be regarded not an early Burmese but a late Hindu State.84

On the north face of the Shitthaung Pillar, there exists the list of the kings who ruled at Vesali from about 788 -1050 A.D.85 But we also learned a Mru Chieftain gained sovereignty of Arakan in 957. Hence there were parallel reigns of Chandras and the others (Mru, Sak and Burman), which we will discuss, in next chapters in detail.

Note: The researches of Pamela Gutman say, “in so called Wethali the Candra ruled of course. But the capital was first Dannya Vati and only at the beginning of 6th century, it was shifted to Wethali, further south.

The last lineage of kings from Candra family from 788 to 1050 A.D. as seen in Rakhine chronicles is as follows:

Sr: No. Name Time of Reiqn

1 Moha Taing Candra A.D. 788 – 810

2 Suria Taing Candra A.D. 810-

3 Maula TaingCandra

4 Paula Taing Candra

5 Kala Taing Candra

6 Tula Taing Candra

7 Thiri Taing Candra

8 Seingha Taing Candra A.D. 935 – 951

9 Sula Taing Candra A.D. 951– 957 86

The next kings of Sandra lineage after Sula Taing Sandra are not recorded in Rakhine chronicles but found on the north face of Shitthaung Pillar.

Maha Taing Candra of this lineage restored the Mohamuni as a royal shrine.87 They renovated it many times.

Pamela says the historicity of Chandra dynasty is confirmed by the coins issued by the 4th king to 13th king of second Wethali and the two routine inscriptions. The inscriptions state that 16 kings ruled for 230 years where three short-lived kings were excluded in the list.88 Their rule lasted from A.D. 370 to A.D. 600. Still Mohavira dynasty from A.D. 600 to 720, Bala Candra dynasty and Maha Taing Candra dynasty are also related to the Candras. The capital of these dynasties was Wethali.

There was a period of confusion after Ananda Candra who got the throne in A.D. 720, and before the reestablishing the dynasty by Maha Taing Candra in 788 A.D. In a way Maha Taing Candra is the retainer of Candra dynasty in Arakan though there were attacks from many sides.

The cult of Saivism and Buddhist Tantricism gained royal patronage during the Chandra Rule (788-957 A.D.) in Arakan-Chittagong region. The discovery of Tantrik sculpture in Wethali (Capital of Chandras) shows that, besides Mahayanism, Buddhist Tantricism also gained footing in the kingdom of Chandras.89

The rule of Chandras (788 -957 A.D.) in Arakan-Chittagong region bear witness of the overflow of Saivism and Tantricism. Noticing this Sir Arthur Phayre remarks: From coins still existing and which are attributed to the kings of the dynasty coupled with obscure references to their acts in the chronicles of Arakan. In the chronicles of Arakan it appears probable that they (The Chandra kings) held Brahmanical doctrine.90

The 11th century, however, saw the increasing influence of Burma proper and the gradual adoption of Theravada. However the later culture of Arakan and indeed of Burma proper was to retain many of the political and religious institutions evolved at Dannya Waddy and Vesali.91

So far the Bala Chandra dynasty of U Hla Tun Pru (A.D. 686 – 718) is not found in the narration of U San Tha Aung.Pamela Gutman,too, does not describe the name of Bala Chandra.Nevertheless the chronicles of India and Bengal go into much details of Bala Chandra.

The literary, epigraphic and numismatic sources give evidence of some dynasties of same surnames in Arakan. The Shitthaung Temple Pillar inscriptions supply a long list of Chandra rulers 92 reigning for more than five hundred years in Arakan and its adjoining areas. The first king of this lineage was Bala Chandra who was also the founder of the dynasty. This king Bala Chandra seems identical with king Bala Chandra in Thanarath’s history. The Shitthaung Temple inscription doesn’t specifically mention the territorial jurisdiction of the kings who reigned several hundred years earlier than the time of engravement of the inscription. Tharanath’s history states that king Bala Chandra was driven out of his ancestral kingdom. He established a new kingdom in Bengal. It might be that one of his successors conquered Arakan and established an administrative headquarter there.93 Here Pamela says, the Ananda Candra’s Prasasti even implies that a king from across the Naf River ruled Vesali between 600 and 612 A.D. He might be Mohavira (The so called founder of Wethali) because his capital was said to be on Parapura on Naf.

Here again Mohavira, the first king of third Wethali in A.D. 600-612 was named as king of Purempura, which by adjusting with Ptolemy’s record, localized on Pruma, on the Arakanese bank of Naf River. It was, according to Ptolemy, a commercial center at that time. It is likely that a ruler of this area with its economy based mainly on maritime trade would seek to extend his territory to rich alluvial plains of Arakan when opportunity allowed.94

The inscription implies Candra dynasty collapsed in 600 A.D. Conditions were confused in Arakan with the rule reverting partly to indigenous kings. But Mohavira (A.D. 600) founded his kingships some where in the west (perhaps on Naf River) and contracted the whole kingdom of Vesali, but the dynasty again collapsed in late 8th century, which was reintegrated by Maha Taing Candra.

It is difficult to give a correct picture of the political condition of Chittagong at the time of Muslim invasion in western and northern Bengal. According to Tharanath’s evidence a king named Babla Sandra was the king of Chittagong and Tripura, sometime after the fall of Maghadha at the hands of Turks. It further says that his first son was the king of Arakan.95

According to Tharanath, a Buddhist dynasty ruled in Bengal before the Palas. Their names end in Chandra. He (Tharanath) writes: in the east, Vimla Chandra (Bala Chandra) extended his power to Tirhat and Kamarupa. At this tirpe the elder son of king Harsha ruled Maghadha. But in Shitthaung inscription king Bala Chandra is said to be the first king of the Shri Dharma Rajanuia Vamsa. Scholars express the opinion that King Bala Chandra of Shitthaung Temple inscription is identical with King Bala Chandra of Tharanath narration. According to Mr. Hirananda Shastri, the inscription is written in characters resembling those of the late Gupta Script.96

Shri Jogendra Chandra Gosh tentatively puts the date of king Bala Chandra of inscription “sometime between 647 A.D. and 833 A.D.97 This roughly corresponds to the date of king Bala Chandra of Taranath’s narration. All these evidences and opinions naturally give an impression that king Bala Chandra of Taranath narration and the king of the same name in Shitthaung Temple inscription were identical person….,It is likely that king Bala Chandra Held both Eastern Bengal and Arakan under his away and established his capital at Chittagong, which held central position in (his) empire.98

The cultural history of this period was largely the outcome of multifarious political influence on the country.99

The first principle task of kings at Dannyavati and Wethali was making arrangements for water supply. The king’s secondary role was that of protector of the people in the four quarters of the country of Arakan against the inroads of hill tribes and occasional foreign invaders.100

In regard of culture, Pamela writes: the early inscription on an image of Mahamuni Shrine is in the script used by the Guptas in central India in the second half of the 5th century.While certain central Indian characteristics are retained in the first half of the 6th century,notably in the two Prasasti on the east face of Shitthaung Pillar and the reverse of Suria Image, the form generally belong to the script used in Bengal and Assam during that period – The remaining epigraph, the north face of the Shitthaung Pillar, is again in a script derived from East Bengal in the mid 10th century.

Maha Taing Candra is said to have rebuilt Veasali on the side of an older capital and late 8th century sculptures found there, confirm this. The great hero of the dynasty Sula Taing Candra is said to have sent an expedition to Chittagong in 953 A.D., when the Candras dynasty of southeast Bengal was gaining power and prestige under Sri Caildra.101 Soon after his return he set out for either China or Tagaung suggesting a threat from Ta-Li. After his failure to return, his queen, Chandra Devi, married two Mro tribesmen in succession, indicating that the hill tribes were becoming urbanized and were taking advantage of the confused state of the country. Vesali was abandoned, the country invaded by Shan and Pyus, while the Mons of Pegu occupied the south for eighteen years. A new capital was eventually established at Pyinsa (Panca) with the aid of the Sak (Thet). From around the beginning of the 11th century, Arakan became increasingly Burmanized as can be noticed in the frequent use of Burmese names and titles in the king list of chronicles and the name of Arakanese in the inscription in Pagan.102 The situation is reflected in the archeological remains at Vesali, which show a gradual limiting of Indian influence to the northeast, particularly to Bengal, and an increasing contact with central Burma.

Arakanese chronicles say historians count Wethali period up to 1018 A.D., the end of Mro reign in Arakan. From there the Arakan history proper (or) Lemyo age began. The last king of Mro (some say Sak) age was Ngamin Ngadon 994-1018 A.D. who was attacked and killed by eastern Mongolian (Burman) and was succeeded by Kettathin, who shifted the capital to Pyinsa. His descendants ruled Arakan for next century.103

Concerning about the expedition of Cula Taing Candra to Chittagong, there is a legend in Arakanese chronicles. The most reputed and eminent historian as well as politician of Arakan, U Hla Tun Pru says, the 9th king of Vesali (of Moha Taing Candra’s lineage) Cula Taing Candra in 953 invaded the Thuratan of Bengal; the Thuratan sought to appease his anger by sending him a Princess and a tribute in money. His nobles advised him not to make war with a king who acknowledged his sovereignty. Not to make war means in Burmese “Sitmataik-gong” which later changed into Sittaikgong or Chittagong. He returned without making war. From that time onward the town acquired the name “Sitmathaikgong” which later shortened to Chittagong.104

But latest researches of eminent historians say Cula Taing Candra was in the lineage of Candra family. His culture and language was Indian. His language was not Burmese. Then how can the name of Chittagong take root from Burmese word “Sitmathaikgong” as is described in Arakanese chronicles. Probability of his (Cula Taing Candra’s) speaking Burmese is very faint.

Whatsoever Pamela Gutman says, the mid 11th century was a period of great stress in the country; the dynasty was under pressure from Pagan, where Anawrattha (B.C. 1044 – 77) was attempting to unite Burma for the first time. Both Burmese and Arakanese chronicles refer to his incursion into Arakan, which seem, however, to have eventually retain semiautonomous status. In the west, Candra dynasty of southeast Bengal had fallen, or was about to fall, threatened by the Varmans and the Palas. The Cola raid into Bengal in A.D. 1013 – 23 had also no doubt weakened the Candras; the great Cola raid of Southeast Asian ports in 1025, although apparently not actually included Arakan, would have disrupted her important sea routes.105

By the mid 11th century, the economy was weakened after the Cola raids and a temporary decline in the power of Srivizia in east Bengal, and control of the kaladan valley was threaten by raids from wild tribes and Pala expansion to the East Bengal. The capital (in Arakan) was moved to the east to the Lemyo valley and central Burma dominated Arakan history for the next three hundred years. 106

Here we have seen that up to early 11th century Arakan was politically, culturally connected with India, where as its relation with Burma was deepened from mid 11th century. So there was indeed a transformation politically and culturally. Thus a systematic study of this transitional period and its phenomena are essential to understand Arakan history from its correct angle.



The more deeply we study the history of Arakan the clearer we will see, there was great political and cultural change in 11th century. The latest research of Dr. Pamela Gutman will enlighten us better on this subject. Frankly to admit, the writer of this treatise is much attracted to study history of Arakan by reading her thesis on ancient Arakan. Thanks to Major Tun Kyaw Oo (Rtd.) an Arakanese, who provided me a copy of her thesis, to study for a long period. First of all, let us see what the Rakhine chroniclers say,“The evaluation of Arakan History Vol.I”(Rakhine Pyi Phyitsin Thamine Vol. I) Published by Rakhine State Council in 1984, comments on the destruction of Wethali. It says official excavation of the old Wethali ruins is not completed yet. So the earth doesn’t testify how it (Wethali) ruined. We can only say the following, basing our opinion on the Rakhine Chronicles. Sula Candra, the last king of (third) Wethali perished at Cape Nagerais on his return from Tagaung journey where he lived for three years. This time three Mros (father and sons) got the throne and ruled successively. They erected a Palace at Kettare Taung in Mrauk-U. They also made Sandra Devi, the queen of late Sula Candra, their queen, perhaps for the legitimacy of their succession. But these father and sons were not united. Pyu from the east invaded. King Paipru repels them in 976 AD. (U Hla Tun Pru says, Paipru is the nephew of Amarathu, the first Mro king.(Arakan chronicles indicated the dates always 200 years ahead of other chronicles). Then in A.D. 978 the Shan (Mongolian) invaded again. Paipru was overpowered and could not resist. Finally he had to flee to upper Yo Chaung where he died one year later. The Shan destroyed the city, looted its valuable belongings including the jewelleries from the Mahamuni Temple, and return after 18 years. They took away a lot of inhabitants as captives from Ramree Island too. This time Sandoway was under the rule of Mons, for decades. In this period of chaos, the Sak in the north grew in strength. A Sak leader Ngamin Ngadon107 (Arakanese chronicle say Sula Sandra’s son), got the throne. He shifted the capital to Sambowet, not very far away from old Wethali. The chronicle say Ngamin Ngadon was brought up in the midst of Sak as his father died before. But in 818 (Arakan chronicle), 1018 A.D. (Western chronicles) he was attacked from the east. Pagan king Khin Saw Hnit invaded him for the second time. He was killed in the hands of Eastern people (Burman) by conspiracy. Kettathin a half brother108 of Ngamin Ngadon (U Hla Tun Pru says, grand nephew of Sula Candra) got the throne or enthroned. He shifted the capital to Pyinsa. So, Kettathin’s getting throne in 1018 A.D. is marked by historians as the end of Mro age and counted it as the beginning of Lemyo period.109

U Hla Tun Pru says Ngamin Ngadon fell in the wan with the king of Pagan. Kettathin became king. Arakan nevertheless kept her independence. Kettathin set up a new capital at Pyinsa. After his death his descendants ruled Arakan for next centuries.110 Here we find that Sula Candra was of Candra family, and Candra’s names sound Indian where as the name of Kettathin and all his successors sound Burmese. Further it is not logical that the invading Burman would enthrone a family member of Ngamin Ngadon whom they killed to get the sovereignty of the country. Further if Ngamin Ngadon were the son of Sula Taing Sandra as said in Rakhine chronicles, he would have been brought up by the Mru, not by the Sak, because Sula Taing Sandra’s widow queen Chandra Devi married the Mru, not the Sak.

In this regard Pamela Gutman says, during the Pagan dynasty, the pioneers of invading Burman, the Rakhuin must have been pushing over the passes into the north Arakan. It was the giant king really one of the pioneer Burman, who had made himself king of the Sak.111 Pamela further clears that the mid 11th century was again a period of great stress in the country and the dynasty (Candra dynasty) was under pressure from Pagan, when Anuruddha (B.C. 1044 – 77) was attempting to unite Burma for the first time. Both Burmese and Arakanese chronicles refer to his incursions into Arakan, which seems, however, to have eventually retained semi-autonomous status. In the west Candra dynasty of southeast Bengal had fallen, or about to fall———- and it would have disrupted her (Wethali’s) important sea trade.112

It is difficult to say when they (the Sak) began to cross the Yoma, although their infiltration to Arakan had certainly began before the arrival of Burman Rukhuin, as considerable fighting is recorded between the two groups. 113

Another point of Kettathin’s not being from Sula Candra’s family can be assumed from Pamela Gutman’s research.

She says, the north face of Shitthaung Pillar may therefore have been written by a king who traced his line, if not to the old Candra kings, at least to the family which gained power around the end of 8th century; reestablishing \/esali as the capital and barely managing to survive the tumultuous events of two centuries. The king could have been a legitimate memberof the old family, attempting to counter acts from the old city, the influence of puppet kings owing their allegiance to Pagan and ruling in the new capital of Pyinsa. The Prasasti is a cry for help from the old capital and it was the last gasp of an Indianized line and the last Sanskrit inscription in Burma.114

Here we can see parallel reign in Wethali, with Pyinsa. If the king of Wethali then is from the family of Candra, how can his rival in Pyinsa be of the same family too? So Kettathin being Sula Candra’s nephew is postulated to be a negation.

About the transitional period Pamela writes: From the 9th century A.D. the Mranma must have been infiltrating over the Yoma, where they eventually gained control of low lands and became Rakhaing king of northern Arakan. The Rakhine invasion of Arakan coincides with the first appearance of Candra in Bengal, whose connection with Arakan have often been postulated, but never proved. The Candra dynasty, according to the inscriptions of its kings is said to have originated in Ruhitagiri Bhujamvamsa, “the family ruling of the red mounlainers”.

Today the hills around Vesali are red and, it is likely the “Rohitagiri Bhujam-vamsa” could be euphemism for the Arakanese Candras, unwilling to admit the defttat by the Rakhine in their Bengal scription.115

Pamela remarks, perhaps it was the result of Burman invasion into central plain, that Arakan suffered another Sak invasion or uprising in the 10th century. The Rakhines were the last significant group to come to Arakan……. In old Burmese the name Rakhine First appeared in slave names in the inscriptions of 12th century.116 [Here Dr. S. B. Kunango, a Bengali researcher said the name Rakhine was given by Burman and it was found in 12th to 15th century Stone inscriptions of Tuparon, Sagaing]

The date of their arrival is contentious or controversial. Their chronicles exaggerated the antiquity of their hold on the low land. Both culturally and linguistically the Rakhine are closely related to the Burman.

The transition from Indian to Burman, from Wethali to Lemyo, is of course a phenomenon all students of Arakan history accept. U San Shwe Bu, an archeological officer and writer, said the proper history of Arakan began from 957 A.D. (See into the Hidden Burma by M. Collis). U Hla Tun Pru said for Arakanese and Burmese have affinities of blood, language and alliance between them indeed.117

A more extensive and clearer opinion is given by Dr. U Aye Chan, who himself is an Arakanese. He highlights the point of transition in a Rakhine Tasaung Magazine.118 He writes the Marayu and Dannya Waddy dynasties so described in Rakhine chronicles dated back 2666 B.C. The fact that these dynasties really existed is not certain. At least the dates of those dynasties described in Rakhine chronicles are short of accuracy. However, in the light of Sanskrit inscriptions found in Arakan, we can say, there certainly was a dynasty of Sandra kings from not later than 3rd century A.D. Buddhism flourished there and culturally and literarily they were quite advanced. The north face of Shitthaung Pillar was in Sanskrit with Nagari letters. It’s reading indicates it was written in 10th century A.D. It is further true before Mrauk-U age writing language of Arakan was Sanskrit with Nagairi characters. During the early period not a single inscription, in our present day speaking Rakhine language was found. Vesali was overwhelmed by north Indian culture, which was proved by coins, and inscriptions found there. A stone inscription found in Ngalung village, Sandoway was in Sanskrit, written in 8th century. It was a record in memory of a charity, dedicated to their parents, by two laymen Mega and Thanama Danma. Here it is proved that not only the ruling class but also the public used this Sanskrit. We can imagine here how great was the cultural link between Arakan and north India. We find inscriptions in our present day Rakhine language only during the period from 11th to 15th century. For example, Dasaraza Stone inscription.

This is why we can draw a conclusion that there was a transition from wethali to Lemyo period. Lemyo period in Arakan is contemporary to Pagan period in Burma. In the 9th century when the Pyu are in disarray, Myanmar entered the Irrawaddy valley. It is the time when Nan Shans were attacking (the kingdoms in Burma), the Tibeto-Burman infiltrated into Burma and some of them did enter into Arakan, too. Due to continuous infiltration and incursions of Burmans, Vesali collapsed. Indeed there was a great cultural and political change in Arakan in the mid 10th century. 119 This is the version of Dr. Aye Chan in regard of ancient Arakan history.

So there was a transition indeed. This transition was from Indian to Burman. Though the kings were dethroned or fled to somewhere, their subjects, the Indian or Bengali people remained in Arakan, where their descendants are still found amidst the Burmese (the Rakhines). These are Rohingyas.



Candra kings had been ruling in Arakan since the early Christian era. Dr. S. B. Kanungo of Chittagong University says there was a dynasty of the same name in east Bengal before the Pala invasion of 10th century. He says the lineage of kings surnamed Chandra (Candra/Sandra) ruling East Bengal and its adjoining territories need specific atte.ntion as their seat of administration is stated to be Chittagong. He says incidentally we carne across another lineage of kings’ surnamed Chandra in the Shitthaung Temple inscription of Arakan. According to the chronological table, king Bala Chandra is said to be the first king of the Shri Dharma Rajanuia Vamsa. Scholars express opinions that king Bala Chandra of Shitthaung Temple inscription is identical with king Bala Chandra of Tharanath’s narration. Many other evidences and opinions naturally give an impression that king Bala Chandra of Tharanath’s narration and the king of same name in Shitthaung Temple inscription (in Arakar) were identical person……… It is likely that king. Bala Chandra held both East Bengal and Arakan under his sway and established his capital at Chittagong, which held central position in the empire.120

The Shitthaung Temple inscription does not specifically mention the territorial jurisdiction of the kings who reigned several hundred years earlier the time of engravement of the inscription. Tharanath’s history states that the Bala Chandra was driven out of his ancestral kingdom. He established a new kingdom in Bengal. It might be that one of his successor conquered Arakan and establish his administration there.

The Chandras of both Arakan and Eastern Bengal belong to the same period and both lines were Buddhists in faith; but they patronized Saivism, Trantricism, Vaissnavism and even Brahmanism. Monarchs of both lines used either Nagari (Sanskrit) or the scripts belong to the eastern group, in their coins and inscriptions. The design of coins issued by both these lines has much striking similarities, that one may confuse the coins of one country with those of the other. But there is no evidence to prove that the two royal families were related to each other. The inscriptm of Eastern Bengal have no reference to Arakan and the inscriptions of Chandra of Arakal in their turn have a very faint reference to their counterpart of East Bengal. Modern scholars, however, have endeavored to establish some sort of connection between the Chandra ruler of Vesali and those of Eastern Bengal.121

The first half of 11th century was a period of catastrophe for the two dynasties. In Eastern Bengal the Chandra dynasty was reduced to submission by Rajendrachola, a ruler of the Deccan. The Chandra dynasty of Arakan was overthrown by Pagan ruler of Burma.122

Here the genealogical link of present day people of Arakan with those of Chandra period is a matter of interest and further research.



Rakhine chronicles say the last king of Candra dynasty Sula Taing Candra died in a disaster at Cape Nagerais on his return journey from Taguang in 957 A.D. A Mro chief of Mraw Chaung Amarathu became the king. He married Candra Devi the queen of Sula Candra. Arakan chronicles say he passed the test of Candra Devi, with a magic ring, which was kept with her by king Sula Candra, to test a man to succeed him, in case of his death on his Tagaung journey. Amarathu was succeeded by his nephew Paipru. Towards the end of 10th century the Pyu king of Prome invaded the kingdom, but was unable to bring his army across the Yoma mountains, and a few years later the capital was removed to Kyethre Taung, in Mrauk-U. In 976 A.D. A Shan prince conquered the country. Paipru was overpowered. He fled to Thabeik Taung on the 17th year of his reign. He died there after one year. The Shans occupied Arakan for 18 years. They looted the country, stripped off the Mahamuni its gems. On their return after 18 years, they took away a lot of inhabitants from Ramree as captives.

At the meantime southern Arakan (Sandoway) was under Mon occupation. During this time, the Sak in Saing Daing region in the north mobilized themselves and grew in strength. In 994, Sak leader Ngamin Ngadon became King. He removed the capital to Sambwet on Lemyo River. He could repel an invasion by the Burman. He reigned about 24 years. But during a second invasion by the king of Pagan he was killed. He was succeeded by Kettathin in 1018 A.D. He established his capital at Pyinsa. 123 Rakhine chronicles say Kettathin was a cousin of Ngamin, Ngadon and Grand Nephew of Sula Sandra. [Here, the cause of Burmese invasions was to make a King of their own not to enthrone a clan’s man of Ngamin Ngadon whom they killed to gain the sovereignty of the land. So Kettathin’s being related to either Ngamin Ngadon or to Sula Sandra is a controversial issue, which needs correct research]. The cause of Burmese invasion was not to enthrone a Klansman of Ngamin Ngadon, but to make a Burmese king. The last date of Candra dynasty was 957 A.D. Then the Mro age began from 957 and ended in 1018 A.D. Here is the beginning of Lemyo age. According to U San Shwe Bu, the proper history of Rakhine began from there and it lasted for 800 years. 124

From around the beginning of 11th century Arakan became increasingly Burmanized as can be noticed in the frequent use of Burmese names and titles, in the king lists of the chronicles and the names of Arakanese in the inscriptions of Pagan. The situation reflected in the archeological remains of Vesali, which showed a gradual limiting of Indian influence to the northwest, particularly to Bengal and increasing contact with central Burma.125

Lemyo period began from early 11th century with its capital at Pyinsa (Panca) on Lemyo River in central Arakan.

In the words of Sir Arthur Phayre, Kettathin reigned for ten years and succeeded by his brother Sindathin in 1028 A.D. Sindathin and four of his descendants reigned in succession. In the reign of the fifth, Minpyagyi, a noble usurped the throne; another noble deposed him. But in the year 1051, the son of Minpyagyi, Minnanthu ascended the throne, reigned (for) five years, the third in descend from him, named Mindu was slained by a rebellious noble named Thin Kaya who usurped the throne in the year 1078 A.D. The heir apparent Min-re-bya escaped to the court of Kyansittha, king of Pagan. The usurper reigned for fourteen years, his son Min Than succeeded him in 1092 A.D. and reigned eight years; on his death his son Minpadi ascended the throne. During this period, the rightful heir to the throne, Min-re-bya was residing unnoticed at Pagan: he had married his own sister Su Pauk Ngyo and there born a son named Letya Min Nan. The exiled king died without being able to procure assistance from Pagan court for the recovery of his throne. At length the king of that country, Alaung Sithu, the grandson of Kyan Sittha, sent an army of 100,000 Pyu and 100,000 Talaings to place Letya Minnan upon the throne. This army marched in the year 1102 A.D. and after one repulse, the usurper Minpadi was slain and Letya Minnan was restored to the throne of his ancestors. A Burmese inscription of Stone discovered at Buddhagaya serves to confirm the account given in the history of restoration of Letya Minnan or as he is called in the Stone inscription, Pyu-Ta-Thein-Min i.e. lord of a hundred thousand Pyus. It is evident, from the tenor both of history and inscription, that the Arakan Prince was regarded as a dependant of Pagan king to whom he had, from his birth, been a supplicant for aid; in return for the assistance granted him for the recovery of his grandfather’s throne, he was to aid in rebuilding the temple of Buddhagaya, in the name of Pagan sovereign. The royal capital was established at Launggyat, but that site proving unhealthy; Parin was established in the year 1106 A.D. Four kings followed in quick succession, after whom Gauliya ascended the throne in 1153 AD. He is described as a prince of great power, to whom the king of Bengal, pegu, Pagan and Siam did homage; but his chief claim to distinction lies in his having built the Temple Mahathi,a few miles south of present town of Arakan, (Mrauk-U). The idol, in which was in-sanctity, inferior only to that of Mahamuni.

He was succeeded by his son Dasaraja, who upheld his father’s name, and repaired Mahamuni Temple, which was partially destroyed by Pyu in the time of Letya Minnan. In 1165 he was succeeded by his son Anan Thiri. Due to his cruel rule, a general uprising occurred; he was deposed and killed, and his younger brother Min Punsa reigned in his stead. In the year 1167 A.D. this prince established his capital at Chrit on the Lemyo River. There was a Shan invasion but not successful. He died after 7 years of prosperous reign.

In the reign of his grandson Gama-Yu-Ban a noble named Salin Kabo usurped the throne, but proving oppressive, was murdered in the first year of his usurpation. Midzu Thin, the younger brother of Gamayuba was now raised to the throne. He removed the capital to Pyinsa (for the second time), close to the present town of Arakan. Arakan struck coins in this time. This Prince was surnamed Taing Chit or country beloved. With characteristic extravagance he is said to have reigged over the Burmese dominions and a great part of India as far as the river Naraingana and to the borders of Nepal. The succeeding 10 kings passed like shadows, without anything writing of notice except their short reign. The last of these kings was deposed and his son Letyagyi ascended the throne in 1210 A.D. and he was succeeded by Alanmapru in 1237 A.D. and removed the capital to launggyet. [This Launggyet dynasty lasted until 1406 AD.].

Launggyet Dynasty

King Alanmapru made war upon pagan sovereign and received tribute from the king of Bengal. He died after a reign of six years. His son Razathugyi succeeded him. [Here Rakhine chronicle (Rakhine Razwin Thit Vol II P-342) says in A.D.1128 Chittagong revolted against Arakan, which was suppressed, but again in A.D.1246, there broke a rebellion; Rakhine repulsed it and marched up to Lakchipur and they brought 47,500 captives to Arakan. This chronicle of Rakhine highlights the point that there was Bengali or Muslim population in Arakan even before the founding of Mrauk-U dynasty in 1430.]

In the reign of Razathugyi, the Talaing invaded the southern portion of the kingdom, but were repulsed by Arakanese general Ananthugyi. Nothing worthy of notice occurs until the reign of Nan Kyagyi who ascended the throne in 1268 A.D. This king oppressed the people with heavy taxes, and levied contribution of goods, which he stored up in his palace. By various act of tyranny he incurred the hatred of many influential men; and even the priest whose religion forbids them to notice worldly affairs are represented as inimical to him.Eventually he was killed in the fourth year of his reign and was succeeded by his son Minbilu, who married the daughter of the Sithabin, or commander of bodyguard, the conspirator against the former sovereign. This prince is described as being, if possible, moce hateful than his father. Being jealous to the supposed, high destines of his infant son, Mindi, ordered him to be cast into the river, but the child was miraculously preserved, rescued by fishermen, and was sent to a remote part of the kingdom. These and other similar acts inflaming the mind of the people against the king, he was slain in a conspiracy headed by the Si-Thu-Bin, the king maker, now usurped the throne, out was himself killed in the third year of his reign. The son of Minbilu, named Mindi, was then raised to the throne, but he was only seven years of age.

[A.D. 12th century was an unstable period, usurpers ruled amidst chaos. The public was very much frustrated. Harvey says about this period: settled government was the exception. In the middle of XII century even the famous Mahamuni Image could not be found for it had been overgrown with jungle in the prevailing anarchy.The Burmese under Pagan dynasty (1044 – 1287) successfully established their sovereignty over north Arakan, but not over the south, and even in the north the kings merely sent propittatory tribute and continued to be hereditary kings not governors appointed by Pagan, Here Pamela Gutman also said king Dasaraza 1135-1165 A.D. had repaired Mahamuni Temple which was partially destroyed by the Pyu army of Letyaminnan and was remained neglected. The king had to seek the help of the Mrus to find out the Mahamuni, which was then covered by dense forest].

King Mindi gave general satisfaction, and enjoyed a long and prosperous reign. In the year 1294 A.D. the Shans invaded the kingdom but were repulsed. The king of Thuratan or Eastern Bengal named Nga-pu-kin (Bahadur Khan) courted his alliance and sent presents of elephants and horses. In pursuance to get rid of attacks, from various sites by the Shans, the Burman, the Talaing, and theThet: he personally marched in person in the year 1312 A.D. to repel the Talaing in Sandoway. His uncle Uza-na gyi was sent with an army to attack Pagan. Salingathu, his brother-in-law, advanced into Pegu, and the general Raza Thirigyan was sent against the Thet tribes. The city of pagan was taken, the Talaing were overawed and the expedition against the Thet, after being once repulsed was eventually crowned with success. After this the general Razathingyan subdued the country along the seacoast as far as Brahmaputra River. In the year 1327 A.D. the Pagan sovereign made an attack upon the island of Ramree and carried away a number of the inhabitants who were planted upon the Manipur frontier. After this the Sandoway viceroy having gained possession of a relic of Gautama brought from Ceylpn, by virtue of which he expected to obtain sovereignty rose in rebellion, but was finally reduced to obedience. Soon after this, Mindi died, after a reign of 106 years at the age of 113. Nothing worthy of notice occurred until 1394 A.D., when the reigning sovereign marched to attack the Pagan Empire, the capital of which was established at Ava. During his absence the Governor of Sandoway revolted, and seizing the boats, which had conveyed the king’s army along the seacoast, and were now left on the shore for his return, made the best of his way to Laung Kyet the capital, where he setup king, the king’s infant son, Razathu. The king returned without delay, but his army deserting him he was slain and his son was proclaimed King. The Sitha-bin as the rebellious governor was called, not long after sent the young king to the southern extremity of the kingdom and governed in his name. But becoming unpopular, he was after two years deposed and killed by a noble named Myin Saing-Gyi who in his turn became disliked and had to fly to the Burmese dominions when the lawful king Razathu was restored. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Thinga- Thu. This prince after a reign of three years was murdered by the chief priest of the country in a monastery, with the connivance of his nephew, Min Saw Man; who then succeeded to the throne in the year 1404 A.D.

Worn out by his cruelties the people rose against him and called in the aid of Min Shwe, a king of Ava who dispatched a force of 30,000 men under the command of his son. Min Saw Mun fled to Bengal, found refuge with the ruler of Thuratan, who, being engaged in war himself, could render no assistance. Arakanese chronicles states that when Min Saw Mun was in Bengal the king of Delhi came to attack the chief or king of Thuratan who was greatly assisted by the fugitive; this most probably refers to the invasion of Bengal by Sultan Ibrahim of Joanpur.126

In the absence of Arakan king, Min Saw Mun, there was rivalry between the Burmese and Talaing to control Arakan. R. B. Smart comments the king of Ava had no intension of resigning his grasp on Arakan, whilst the Arakanese had no intension of allowing them (the Burmans) to remain in possession of the country. Aided by the Talaing who formerly occupied Arakan made constant endeavor to drive out the Burman. Attack and counter attack continued for more than a decade. Yet Arakanese did not get the grasp of their country. Thus Rakhine sovereignty in Laungkyet came into an end.

Note: The chronological list of Kings during Lemyo period is not included here.



Before passing to the period of Mrauk-U, the most shining one, in Arakan history, let us first study how Muslims got contact with Arakan in the early days. How Islam spread there. It is a contentious subject for those vvho try to portray Muslims in Arakan as aliens.

I found a booklet named “Bengali in Arakan and their historical problem”. It was a publication of Arakan Democratic Front, a registered political party on the eve of 1990; parliamentary election. The publisher is U Saw Maung. The booklet’s main objective is to portray Muslims in Arakan as aliens or illegal immigrants from Bengal. That very book referring old Rakhine chronicles says; Chittagong revolted in 1128 A.D. and Rakhine had suppressed it; again it revolted in 1256 A.D. which too was suppressed by Rakhine: but this time Rakhine occupied up to Lakchipur and brought 4,700 captives.127 Here is the question; where are these captives or their descendants gone? Of course these captives and their descendants assimilated in the general population of Arakan. Most of them might be Muslims and had mixed up with Rohingya Muslims.

Arabs are the earliest people to travel to east by sea. Through the Arabs, Islam spread across Thailand, Malaya and Indonesia. There are records that these Arabs reached Arakan coast too. In this context R. B. Smart and many other historians say: about 788 A.D. when Maha Taing Candra ascended the throne of Wethali founded a new city on the site of old Rama Waddy and died after a reign of 22 years. In his reign several ships were wrecked on Ramree Island and the crews said to have been Mohammedans, were sent to Arakan proper and settled in villages. [Arthur Phayre calls Akyab and part of Kyauk Pru district as Arakan proper].128 The study of inscriptions of that period says the natives of that time were Indo-Aryans or a people similar to that of Bengal. These natives got the religion Islam from these ship wrecked Arabs. Today they are part and parcel of Rohingya community in Arakan proper.

This is why researchers’ remark Muslim influence on the Arakanese society was not an outcome of some sudden occurrences. It was the result of an age long intercourse between Arakan and Muslim countries that dates back to the period of Arab contact with Arakan. Arakan came into contact with Muslims as early as the ninth century. Arakanese chronicles give references to the Muslim settlement in Arakan during the reign of Maha Taing Candra 788 – 810 A.D.129

Father Farnao Guerreiro, in the beginning of 17th century observed: The moors ——-would always be garibos, that is very submissive with no other desire but to live under his (king of Arakan’s) protection.130 Niccolao Mannnucci, a Venetian traveler says Shah Shujah during his stay in Arakan found many dwellers, Maghul and Pathans. Muslims from lower Bengal contributed much to the ever-increasing Bengali Muslims in the Arakanese kingdom.

The Arakanese call Muslims Kalah. But Muslims introduce themselves as Rohingyas 131 to others. Martin Smith a specialist on Burmese history observes too; Muslims settled in Arakan since 9th century. Name of places, rivers, and towns, such as Ramree, Akyab, Kaladan, Naf and Kalapanzan were connected with Muslims.132

For about eight centuries they (the Arabs) monopolize the trade between east and west. It is from 8th century and it continued down to the coming of Europeans in the first quarter of sixteen century. 133

Further Muslim Fakirs and Dervishes used to visit Arakanese coast, one of widely known facts of this is the existence of Shrine called Badr Makam, scattered along the coastline of Arakan ……..Muslim Saints and sailors happened to land at the coast of Arakan as early as fourteen century.134

Arakanese chronicles give reference to the travel of Muslim mystics in that country in Pagan period. The chronicle referring to an accident during king Anawrattha’s Rule (1044-1077 A.D.) states: When he (an attendant of the king) entered the forest, he found a man possessed of mystic wisdom dead with the marks of violence upon him.135 Dr. Kanungo said the event proved that not only Muslim merchants but also Saints and Dervishes used frequently this port of coast of the Bay as early as the 11th century. 136

The early Portuguese visitors saw the port of Chittagong (then under Arakanese rule) crowded with Arab sails, Duarte-de-Barbosa, Pyrard de Laval and many other European voyagers noticed Arab merchants, staying in Chittagong on trade purposes.137 Chittagong and the ports of Arakan have had close commercia! connections.

D. G. E. Hall points out, in the eastern sea they (the Portuguese) excelled the Moors (Arabs) in both fighting and navigating their ships, and the ships themselves were in every respect, superior to those of Arabs, which were built for sailing only under favorable monsoon conditions.138 So in early 17th century the Portuguese got control of the coast of Bengal- Arakan.

Harvey remarks after 10th century the country was professedly Buddhist, not withstanding the spread of Mohammedanism, which by XIII century had dotted the coast from Assam to Malaya, with the curious Mosques known as Badr Makan. Doubtless it is Mohammedan influence, which led the women to being more secluded in Arakan than in Burma.139

Moshe Yeagar an Israeli researcher states that, in addition from the very beginning of Muslim commercial shipping activities in the Bay of Bengal, the Muslim trade ships reached the ports of Arakan, just as they did the ports of Burma proper. And as in Burma, in Arakan too, there is a long tradition of old Indian settlement ——————– Bengal became Muslim in 1203 ………. in northern Arakan close overland ties were founded with east Bengal. The resulting cultural and political Muslim influence was of great significance in the history of Arakan. Actually Arakan served to a large extent as a bridgehead for Muslim penetration to other parts of Burma, although the Muslims never attained the same degree of importance elsewhere as they did in Arakan.140

This fact is recognized by Myanmar’s present government (SPDC Government), in its
publication of a book “Sasana Yaungwa Tunzepho”, concerning the evolution of religions in Myanmar. It says Islam took root in Arakan since 8th century and from there it spread into
Burma proper.

Further an eminent Myanmar historian once the Chairman of Myanmar History Commission, Dr. Than Tun says, because of north Arakan’s close overland ties with Bengal, Islam penetrated into this side of border many centuries ago. Some Muslim Chieftains and warlords perhaps shifted into Arakan at the aftermath of their political struggle, so as they could settle down there. And perhaps the present day Rohingya in May Yu are their descendants who claimed to be on that region at least for ten centuries. He further remarks in 14th century Chindwin Valley inscriptions, there were names of Muslim Chiefs and Muslim Kings who were in a very good relationship with Ava kings.141

Dr.Than Tun based his opinion on the book “The Phases of old Burma” by G.H.Luce, once a history piofossor ol Rangoon University.

More noteworthy is the narration of Dr.Khin Mauiig Nyunt, a prominent Burmese historian. His narration is an answer to those who tend to deny Rohingya’s deeply rooted ancestry in Arakan. He states the religion of Islam started from Arabia since 7th century A.D. These Arabs reached to the eastern countries not only for trades but also for the propagation of their religion. Because of their preaching, Islam took root in eastern countries including Arakan. Next the Portuguese marauders plundered the villages along the Bengal coast and brought captives from there and sold them in Arakan. These captives included many persons of high birth and good reputation and intellect in Arakan. Rakhine, Arabs and Hindu households bought them for their household works. Most of them were employed in Agricultural works by the Rakhine kings.142

Arabs led the trade with eastern world from the beginning of early Christian era up to
16th century Westerners arrived in this region. (In some cases with help of the Arabs) only after 16th century.143 These Arabs had established trade colonies in Java, Sumatra, Malacca,
Myanmar and Arakan.144 These Arabs had not only established colonies but also founded their
political dynasties, as the case in East Bengal. These Arab colonies in Mrauk-U weie found
even at the time of Shah Shuja and king Sanda Thudama crisis in the 17th century. So Moshe
Yegar remarks during this (Shuja)case all foreigners and Muslim trading vessels were sent
away, so that they would not know what was happening (in Mrauk-U, the capital of Arakan)
Referring to Augustine Priest Sebastian Marique who was in Arakan from 1629 to 1637.
Moshe Yegar says, he saw these were Muslim Captives, Muslim army units, Muslim trade
colonies, and Muslims holding key position in the Kingdom.145

Further, Muslims have their own legendries some are still in records in book forms. There is the legend of one Arab History which conguered a native queen Qy-yapun mainedher and settled in May Yu region making their palace on Qy-yapuri Tonki. i.e. Minglagyi mountain now. There is another legend. It is said a king called Amir Hamzah in Gaulangi area, northern portion of Pruma River, was reputed for his just rule. He tried to expand his borders by fighting with kings in Wethali. But this legend did not say that he ruled or conquered Wethali.146 Next the Shrine of a Saints, Babagyi at Ambary village, Akyab and many others along the coast including the famous Badr Mukan bear conclusive evidences of early Muslim settlement in Arakan

D G E Hall once a Professor of department of Histmy in Rangoon University says, in the reign of Anawratlha. Pagan asserted its authority over Arakan, but after 1287 this lapsed, although Narameikhla established Mrohong (Dynasty) in 1433, there were from time to time Burmese and Mon interferences. Arakan contacts with Mohammedan India were probably closer than those with Burma. None of its river uses in Burman and through out history its water communications with Bengal were much easier than its overland communication with Burma ……… Mohammedanism spread to Arakan but failed to make much impression on its Buddhism. Mrohong had its Sandhi Khan Mosque and its king assumed Mohammedan titles but the predominance of Buddhism was never shaken.147

Maurice Collis and San Shwe Bu rightly says, Arakan being adjacent to Mohammedan Bengal, it might had had a considerable Muslim population even before Mrauk-U dynasty.148

The latest popular politician and writer of Arakan, U Saw Maung, Vice President of Arakan People’s Democratic Front, published a short treatise, where indirectly admitted Muslim presence in Arakan before Mrauk-U. The treatise emphasized the Pathan force came to help Min Saw Mon, betrayed him, and seized power of Arakan for three months and built Sandhi Khan Mosque. Min Saw Mun kept it out of Mrauk-U city due to his belief that non-Buddhist should not be kept inside the city compound.149 If the Pathan commander betrayed Mm Saw Mon and ruled only for three months, how could he build a Mosque with stone in three months? Actually he ruled foi many years.



In previous chapters we have seen how the terminology Rohingya evolved historically. It is an antiquity not an invention of recent past, though in some records Rohingyas has been termed as Muslims. This Rohingyas have their ethnic root in the people of Wethali dynasty. Inscriptions found in Wethali today are very much nearer to the language of Rohingya. The people in Wethali, during the Candra dynasty indeed were Indians rather than Mongolians. Thus linguistically and genealogically Rohingya alone has greater affinity with the people of Candra age. Most writers overlook this historic reality and only try to judge Rohingyas as Muslims, as if they infiltrated into Arakan or they came to settle down there from some alien coun ies. It is true; from cultural point of view this Rohingya got a religion, which is not the product of their birthplace. Genealogically they are bonafide Arakan products. Many centuries ago, the whole Bengal was a Hindu or a Buddhist land. Today 80% of Bangladesh population is Muslim. How did it happen? How did this change take place? The same logic is true for Rohingyas in Arakan, whereas their ancestors were Hindus or Buddhists. We will find in the next chapter “Muslim influence in Arakan”, how the missionary works of Muslim Saints and Preachers had been successful. Arakanese chronicles amply described how did Islam spread in Arakan. Today, a notion that Rakhine has no Muslim is an extremity and short of truth.

From legal point of view, a people living in Arakan, as its permanent homeland prior to British occupation is an indigenous race of Myanmar, no question whatsoever is his religion or his ethnic background. Bogyoke Aung San, father of this nation knew in detail of these Rohingyas. He knew about the communal crisis of 1942. In May 1946 he met Rohingya elders in Akyab. He assured them full guarantee of nationality and protection. Some of the people who met him at Akyab are still alive, though very aged. Assessing from historical and legal point of view Bogyoke had allowed Rohingyas to represent in 1947 Constitutional Assembly. The most remarkable thing is on the very day of Bogyoke’s death, i.e. on 19th July 1947, he had had a special appointment with Muslim M. L. Cs., from Arakan.150 So the conclusion is Muslims of Rohingyas are not aliens but natives of Arakan.


MRAUK-U DYNASTY (1430 – 1786 A.D.)

Some Rakhine chronicles try to divide Mrauk-U period into three phases:

First Mrauk-U From 1430 -1531 A.D.

From Min Saw Mun to Minkaung Raja.

Second Mrauk-U From 1531 -1638 A.D.

From Min Bagyi to Thiri Thudama

Third Mrauk-U From 1638 – 1784 A.D.

From Min Haree or Min Sane to Maha Thamadda

Mrauk-U period is the most splendid time throughout Arakanese history. During this time Arakan’s sovereignty extended to Taung Ngoo and Martaban in the east, up to the borderline of Ganges River in the west. Its kings were said to be Buddhists but most of them, save the kings in the third phase, have Muslim titles. Persian is said to be their official language. But I have no concrete document concerning it. But in early British period office orders were found in Persian. Arakan court system is said to have based on the system of Muslims of Bengal and Delhi. Its relations with external forces, such as Mogul, Portuguese, Dutch, Tripura, Pathan, Mon and Burma was very complex and delicate. It is very interesting to study it.

As we have seen Min Saw Mon fled to Bengal. Laungkyet was under Burmese occupation. Rakhines with the help of Mon tried many times to repel the Bruman but were not successful.

In the year 1426, Gaur Sultan Nazir Shah sent an army headed by Wali Khan (Rakhine chronicle, U Lu Khin). Gaur Sultan was highly satisfied with service Min Saw Mun rendered during his war with Delhi. Min Saw Mun’s military craftsmanship was highly appreciated and the Sultan determined to help enthrone Min Saw Mun in Laungkyet. But commander of the army, Wali Khan who was sent to help Min Saw Mun, betrayed his trust. In collaboration with a Rakhine noble, U Zeka (some chronicles say in collaboration with Ananda Thin, Mayor of Dahlet), imprisoned Min Saw Mun and declared himself king. R. B. Smart mistook this Rakhine noble with a Mon Governor in his description of this event. Wali Khan removed the seat of Government to Parin and built the city. According to Bengala District Gazetteer, Wali Khan introduced Muslim Judicial system there.151 In the year 1429 (that is after three years) two emissaries from the court of Delhi killed him. [In fact it was from the court of Gaur].152 There was Muslim Judicial system, only because there were considerable Muslim inhabitants.

In connection to the betrayal of Wali Khan, U Hla Tun Pru, an eminent historian of Arakan Says: the infamous general Wali Khan eventually make a coup by throwing Narmeikhla into jail. The Sultan of Gaur, however, immediately reacted by sending a new well-equipped army punish the perfidious general. The Sultan was not satisfied until the skin of Wali Khan was converted into a covering for a drum to proclaim his perfidy throughout his dominions by drum beating.153

The second general Sandi Khan took action against Wali Khan, restored Naramekhla (a) Min Saw Mun to his throne in Laung Kyet. Two years later a new capital, Mrauk-U was founded and the Muslim troops (came to help him) settled in the area in numbers. They built a Mosque, known still today as Sandi Khan Mosque, three miles away from the palace. The stones used in building the Mosque were like that of the Palace. The king provided them.154

The turmoil of foreign inroads showed that Laungkyet was ill fated and the omens indicated Mrauk-U as a lucky site. So he decided to move there; though the astrologers said that if he moved the capital, he would die within the year; he insisted saying that if the move would benefit his own people and his own death would matter little. In 1432 he founded the city and in the next year he died.155

About Narameikhla, historians said, “The Arakanese king lived there (in Gaur) for 24 years, leaving his country in the hands of Burmese …….. He turned away from what was Buddhist and became familiar to what was Mohammedan and foreign. In so doing he loomed from medieval to modern, from the fragile fair-land of Glass Palace Chronicles to the robust extravaganza of thousand and one night.156 From this time Arakan became closer to Bengal, culturally and politically. Nevertheless, they remained Buddhist. In this time of Narameikhla, Abdu Min Nyo wrote his famous Rakhine Minthami Ayechan. This writer’s name sound Muslim. Below is a list of Kings of Mrauk-U Dynasty:

First Mrauk-U

Sr.No Name of kings Relationship MuslimTitles Time of Rule

1. Narameikhla (a) King of Laungkyet Sulaiman Khan 1430 A.D.

Min Saw Mun Son of Razathu

1. Min Khari (a) Brother of Sr.NO.1 Ali Khan 1433 A.D.


1. Ba Saw Pru Son of Sr. NO.2 Kalima Shah 1459 A.D.
2. Daulia Son of Sr. NO.3 Maghul Shah 1482 A.D.
3. Sa Saw Nyo Son of Sr. NO.2 Mohamed Shah 1492 A.D.
4. Rang Aung Son of Sr. NO.4 Nuree Shah 1494 A.D.
5. Salinka Thu Maternal Uncle Sikandar Shah 1501 A.D.
6. Min Raza Son of Sr. NO.7 Ili Shah 1513 A.D.
7. Gazapati Son of Sr. NO.7 lIyas Shah 1515 A.D.
8. Min Saw Oo Brother of Sr. NO.7 Jalal Shah 1515 A.D.
9. Thazatha Son of Daulia Ali Shah 1515 A.D.
10. Min Khaung Son of Daulia 1521 A.D.


Second Mrauk-U

Sr.No Name of kings Relationship Muslim Titles Time of Rule

1. Min Bin (a) Son of Min Raza Zabauk Shah 1431 A.D.

Min Ba Gyi

1. Min Dikha Son of Sr. No.1 1553 A.D.
2. Min Saw Hla Son of Sr. No.2 1555 A.D.
3. Setkya Veti (a) Son of Sr. No.2 1564 A.D.

Min Setkya

5. Min Phalaung Son Min Ba Gyi Sikandar Shah 1571 A.D

6. Min Raza Gyi Son of Sr. No.5 Salim Shah I 1593 A.D.

7. Min Khamaung Son of Sr. No.6 Hussein Shah 1612 A.D.

8. Min Hari Son of Sr. No.7 Salim Shah II 1622 A.D


1. Min Sane (a) Son of Sr. No.8 1638 A.D.

Thadu Min Hla

Third Maruk-U

Sr.No. Name of kings Relationship Muslim Titles Time of Rule

1. Kuthala Narapatigyi Great grand son of 1638 A.D


1. Thadu Mintra Son of Sr. No.1 1645 A.D.
2. Sanda thudamma Son 1652 A.D.
3. Uga Bala Son 1672 A.D.
4. Wera Damma Raza Brother 1685 A.D.
5. Mani Thudamma Raza Elder brother 1692 A.D.
6. Sanda Thuna Damma Younger Brother 1694 A.D.


8. Ngatin Nawrahta Son 1694 A.D.

9. Marupai Usurper 1696 A.D.

10. Kala Kandala Usurper 1697 A.D.

11. Naradipati Son of Sr.No.7 1698 A.D.

12. Sanda Wimala Raza Grandson of Sr. No.2 1700 A.D.

13. Sanda Thuria Raza Grandson of Sr. No.3 1706 A.D.

14. Sanda Wiziya Raza Outsider 1710 A.D.

15. Sanda Thuria Raza Son-in-law 1730 A.D.

16. Naradipadi Son 1734 A.D.

17. Narapawara Raza Brother 1735 A.D.

18. Sanda Wizila Raza Cousin 1737 A.D.

19. Thuratan Raza 1737 A.D.

(Kala Ketya Min)

20. Mettras Raza Brother of Sr. No.17 1737 A.D.

21. Nara Abay Raza Son of Sr. No.15 1742 A.D.

22. Thirthu Raza Son 1761 A.D.

23. Sanda Perma Raza Brother 1761 A.D.

24. Aboya Maha Raza Brother-in-law 1764 A.D.

25. Sanda Thumana Raza Brother-in-law 1773 A.D.

26. Sanda Thumala Raza Outsider 1777 A.D.

27. Sanda Thakitta Raza Outsider 1777 A.D.

28. Maha Thamada Raza outsider 1782 A.D

Note: 1 No. 13, 15, 11, 16 and 14, 18 are same name but different persons.

2 Muslim titles are corrupted and Arakanized in some Rakhine chronicles.

3 The list of Kings here is drawn by adjusting U San Tha Aung’s Arakan Coins and Arakan State Council’s History of Arakan Vol. I.

Alongside with this far ranging commercial links with Bengal, close cross-cultural ties were thereafter immediately fastened between the Rakhine kingdom and East Bengal. Because Narameikhla and his family had spent over 20 years in exile amid Muslim culture and as a nominal vassalage of the Sultan of Gaur, the Rakhine kingdom was strongly influenced by Bengal culture. Hence Narameikhla employed Muslim tittles in his coins and inscriptions…….. He had to assign the revenue of his dominions in Bengal to the Sultan of Gaur to meet the expenses of helping him to recover his throne. He was succeeded by his son (in fact, his brother), Ali Khan reigned (1434-1459 A.D) who have adopted a Muslim name, which the Sultan of Gaur recognized in memory of notable services his brother had rendered to the house of Gaur.157

In fact the gradual Muslim infiltration into political and cultural life of Arakan became more forceful during the reign of Min Saw Mun, who with the help of Sultan of Gaur, Jalaludding Mohammed Shah (some say with the help of Nazir Shah) regained his throne.158

Moshe Yegar says Nrameikhla ceded certain territory to the Sultan of Bengal and recognized his sovereignty. As proof of his vassalage and despite being Buddhist, he and his heirs took Muslim tittles in addition to Arakanese tittles. He also introduced Nazir Shah’s system of coins bearing the Kalimah (Verse of Muslim confession of faith) as used in Bengal since the Muslim conquest of 1203. Later on he strikes his own coins, which had the name of the king in Burmese letters on one side, his Muslim title in Persian on the other. Arakan was subject to Bengal until 1531. Her kings received their Muslim titles from Bengal Sultans. Nine vassal kings received Muslim titles. Even after becoming independent of Bengal Sultan, the Arakan kings continued the custom of using the Muslim title in addition to the Burmese or Pali titles. This was because they not only wished to be thought of as Sultans in their own right in imitation of the Mogul, but also because there were Muslims in ever larger numbers among their subjects. Court ceremonies and administrative methods followed the customs of the Gaur and Delhi Sultanate. There were eunuchs, harems, slaves and hangmen; and many expressions in use at court were Mogul. Muslims also held eminent posts despite the fact that the kingdom remained Buddhist.

The Arakan kingdom was closely connected with the Muslim territories to the west in other ways as well. After the death of Narmeikhla, Arakan started expanding northward, and there were regular Arakan forays and raids on Bengal. Early in the 17th century, the Portuguese reached the shores of Bengal and Arakan. At that time, too, the raiding Arakanese ships reach the shores of Bengal. They came into contact with the Portuguese and permitted them to establish bases for operation and also granted them commercial concessions. In return the Portuguese helped to defend the Arakan boundaries in 1576, Akbar the great, Emperor of Delhi, was efficiently ruling Bengal so that Arakan was now facing the Mogul Empire itself and not only Bengal. The Portuguese’s knowledge of firearms and artillery was more advanced than that of Moguls, and Arakan Profited much thereby. Joint Arakan Portuguese raids on Bengal continued until the end of 18th century and ceased entirely only with the strengthening of British naval force in the Bay of Bengal.159

An Arakanese writer Aung Zan says, it is further to be noticed that Ba Saw Pru (Kalima Shah) conquered Chittagong in1459 A.D. and struck silver coins with Persian inscriptions to promote trade with the rest of Asia. The Muslim title of Arakan kings, according to Aung Zan are: Ali Khan (1433-1459), Kalima Shah (1459-1482), Mawku Shah (1482-1492), Mohammed Shah (1492 – 1494), Nuri Shah (1494), Sheikh Abdullah Shah (1494-1501), IIi Shah (1501-1513), Ali Shah (1513 – 1515); and there were Salim Shah I (Minrazagyi) and Salim Shah II (Thirithudamma).160

One Arakanese historian, Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung of Mrauk-U, an honorary archeologist of Mrauk-U museum, in his Rakhine Maha Razawin (Great History of Arakan) says, until the 9th king of Mrauk-U about 145 years, Arakan remained the vassalage of the Sultan of Gaur. In the reign of Zalatta Min Sawmuan the 9th King of Mrauk-U, in 887 B.E., three missionaries from Delhi headed by (Abdul) Qader came to Mrauk-U and propagated Islam, building Mosques in various places. People in groups, village by village converted to that religion, which was later prohibited by Min Bagyi (1531-1551) in response to a complaint from Saya U Mra Wa.161

The early days of the restoration of Mrauk-U monarchy in 1430 equally saw steady influx of population of Islamic faith, chiefly mercenaries from Afganistan, Persia and even Turkey as well as traders from other parts of Muslim world. This influx of Muslim population did not modify significantly the demographic structure of Rakhine kingdom, however, as they were few in numbers.The last mentioned settlers were calling themselves (and were designated as) ROhingyas.162

Moshe Yegar further remarks: Thus one may be warranted in emphasizing that part of the reason for such customs (as introduced by Narameikhla) may be ascribed to the fact that there were Muslims in ever greater numbers among their subjects, a number of them holding eminent posts in the kingdom.163

Maurice Collis says, it took the Arakanese a hundred years to learn that doctrine. (The doctrine of administration of Indian Muslim Sultan) ……. from 1430-1530, for hundred years Arakan remained feudatory to Bengal.164

U Hla Tun Pru, once a State Councilor (The highest state organ) writes: Hamayun the Mogul Sultan of Delhi sent Abdur Kadir as ambassador to recognize his (king Min Bar’s) kingship and to confer on him the Mo ammedan title of Zabauk Shah according to a practice which began with Min Saw Mown, the founder of Mrauk-U dynasty. Min Saw Mown recovered his throne at Laungkyet with the help of Afgan (Gaur) troops, an act of assistance for which he assigned to Nazir Shah (Sultan of Gaur) a long term lease of the 12 towns of Bengal forming the greater part of the Ganges basin in Bengal territory between Ramu and Decca in the east and Murshidabad in the west.165

The notion that there were no Muslim inhabitants in Arakan before or during the Mrauk-U period save a few captive slaves brought from Bengal coastal area is short of truth. These all Muslim populations still discussed here are prior to the bringing of captives from Bengal as well as the followers of Shah Shujah in 1660, who later become the palace guard of Kaman Unit. In this regard, two Persian inscriptions found in Chittagong said to be engraved in 1494-1495 A.D., refer to the names of a Muslim Governor and his subordinate officials holding Persian titles, thus testifying Islamic penetration into Arakan166 before the bringing of captives.

Minkhari (a) Ali Khan (1434-1459)

He succeeded Min Saw Muwn in 1434 A.D. Rakhine chronicles say he occupied Ramu. Perhaps at that time it was no man’s land, otherwise it is not proper to go against the Bengal king who helped them restore their throne in Arakan.

Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalima Shah (1459-1482)

He succeeded Ali Khan. Rakhine chronicles described him to be an efficient king. He is said to have occupied Chittagong. But there is the question that Min Saw Muwn only three decades ago, had given the lease of 12 towns of Bengal to the king of Gaur. It may be that Chittagong then was not under Gaur king. And Chittagong had been under fluctuation of power of Tippera, Muslims and Arakan. For most part of the history it was under Rakhine sovereignty until 1666 A.D., when it was seized by Aurenzeb, the emperor of Delhi, in retaliation of the murder of his brother Shah Shujah and his family, who took asylum in Arakan.

After Sa Saw Pru the successive kings until Min Bagyi (1531-1553) were not very important ones. Nothing much noteworthy was recorded during their reign. They were not strong kings. During this period Rakhine lost the control of Chittagong. Dr. Kunango says king of Bengal had extended his sovereignty onto a portion of Arakan proper during this time.

Minbin (a) Z abouk Shah (1531-1553)

After 1532 the coast, though poor and largely uninhabited, was liable to pillage by Phalaung (Feringyi, Portuguese). It would have been a bad age for Arakan because king Minbin unable to cope with the aggressive Tabin Shwehti, the king of Pegu. Foreseeing trouble, he put the defenses of his capital, Mrohong into repair with a deep moat filled with tidal water. This and the fact that a long seize would have exposed the Burmese to attack from Arakanese craft, were the reason why the Burmese failed to take the city (Mrohong). Minbin kept Ramu and Chittagong in spite of raid there by the Tippera tribes while he was engaged with Tabin Shwehti, and coins bearing his name and styling him as Sultan, were struck at Chittagong. He built at Mrohong the Shitthaung, Dukkanthein, Lemyathna and Shwedaung Pagodas and the Aandaw Pagoda to shrine a Ceylon tooth relics.

Arakanese maintained sea-going crafts, and Chittagong bred a lot of capable seamen. For centuries they were terrorizers in the Ganges delta and at times they hampered effectively the Portuguese shipping. Finally they united with the Portuguese free boaters and thus brought about the greatest period in Arakanese history. The Portuguese subject to no control from Goa, had settled in numbers at Chittagong, making it a thriving port, since the middle of XVI century. It was always held by a brother or faithful clansman of the king, with an Arakantse garrison: every year the king sent a hundred boasts full of troops, powder and ball, and then the garrison and boats sent in the previous year returned home.167

After Minba, Mindikha, Min Saw Hla and Min Setkya ruled successively until 1571. There was ingbility during their time Dr. Kunango says Chittagong was a bone of contention between Muslim king of Bengal, Tippera and Arakan. He says Mohammed Shah conquered Chittagong in 1554 and minted coins in the name of Arakan. But after his death, it fell under Tripura king Daniya Manikka. Finally the Arakanese reoccupied it in 1571. Min Palaung had some trouble with Portuguese He strengthened his defense of Mrauk-U, to protect it from the attack of Burmese and hill tribes. He was succeeded by his son Min Razagyi in 1593.

Min Razagyi (a) Salim Shah I (1593 -1612 A.D.)

He was one of the powerful kings of Arakan. He founded the Parabow Pagoda in Mrohong and employed Debretio in the expedition against Pegu. It comprised land levies, which went over the passes as well as a flotilla from Chittagong and Ganges delta. According to the narration of Dannya Waddy Ayaedawbon, (The upheaval of Arakan) the flotilla consists of 50,000 (fifty thousand) Kalahs. The expedition was successful. It conquered up to Moulmein. [The word Kalah is a Rakhine usage for Muslims. The Muslim force in this expedition built a Mosque at Thantalen quarter at Moulmein, which until today known as Rakhine Mosque. There are also other versions about the historicity of this Mosque. But I think that the one I am referring here is more correct]. Arakan received vast loot, brought back by its raiders from Pegu together with Nanda Bayin’s daughter and white elephant. In this period Dutch East-India Co. seek trade relation with Arakan, but Arakan was found to be in need of naval and military assistance to face the Frenghi of Diang.

On return journey from Pegu expedition, the wise minister Maha Pinnya Gyaw, lord of Chittagong died and was buried by the Hmawdin Pagoda at Negaris; he had served the king from youth up, and his compilation of legal precedents Maha Pinnya Gyaw Pyatton which placed the interpretation of the Manu Dhammathats on a definitely Buddhist basis, was thereafter among the most valuable works of its kind throughout Burma.

The Portuguese became more of a liability than an asset. Debritio, whom U Hla Tun Pru said to be son of Begum Pasida, daughter of Humayun, the Emperor of Delhi, who was offered as a present to King Minba, was playing his own game at Syriam though normally in the service of Arakan, he was suspected of planning to unite with Dianga pirates in a conspiracy to conquer Arakan. So to forestall it Min Razagyi attacked their place and massacred hundreds of Frenghis in 1609. But some years after, Sebastian Gonzalez collected a formidable force and carried a most successful episode against the Arakanese king. But this attack of Portuguese was repulsed by the help of Dutch. Arakan king could seize up the Sandip Island, the center of Portuguese pirates. The followers of Gonzalez had deserted him.

Meanwhile, Min Razagyi was succeeded by the crown prince, Min Khamaung (1612-1622 A.D.). He was once captured by De Britio, but his father was successful to get his release by diplomatic way. He gained the friendship of Dutch. He got rid of the Portuguese in 1617 and occupied Sandwip. Later the scattered Portuguese ceased to be his enemies and became his tools. These Portuguese settled at Chittagong and served the Arakanese king in holding lower Bengal. They centered at Chittagong and worked off their superfluous energy by annual slave raids in Bengal. Harvey said in a single month, February 1627, they carried 1,800 captives from the southern parts of Bengal. The king chose the artisan about one fourth, to be his slaves and the rest were sold at prices varying from Rs. 20 to Rs. 70 a head.168 Min Kamaung was succeeded by his son Min Hari (a) Thiri Thudamma (a) Salim Shah II.

Thiri Thudamma (a) Salim Shah II (1622 -1638 A.D.)

Thiri Thudamma was an efficient king. Arakan prospered much in his time. There were extensive foreign trades. According to Dr.Than Tun, many currencies were in circulation in Arakan at that time. Cowry Shells brought from Maldives were used for petty bazaar transactions. Mogul Tanga and the Riyals were also used. D.G.E. Hall said, in the 16th century Arakan was a sea power of some importance.—————The city of Mrohong was an eastern Venice, like modern Bangkok, a city of lagoons and canals, and connected with the sea by tidal rivers.

Relations with Portuguese again deteriorated. Thiri Thudamma was planning a further dose of medicine with which Dianga (Portuguese strong hold at the mouth of Ganges) had been treated in 1607. Friar Sebastian Manrique, Vicar of Diang, therefore was sent to Mrohong in 1630 to persuade the king to call off the projected attack. His mission was successful, and during his six months’ stay there he got on as such good terms with the king that he obtained permission to build a Catholic Church in the suburb of Daingri-pet for the use of Portuguese mercenaries serving in the Royal Guard. He also saw, like Floris (head of a trade mission of Dutch to Arakan), the Pegu loot, the white elephant and Nanda Bayin’s daughter (then a widow and the grand Dowager of the court). She told him, with deep emotion, the story of her sufferings.

In 1633, Manrique was again in Mrohong this time as the adviser to Portuguese envoy sent from Goa to treat with the king Thiri Thudamma. His stay was a lengthy one, and in 1635, he witnessed the long deferred coronation of the king. In his journal of his travels, he described the situation of Mrohong then in glowing colors. It was a truly remarkable document, and English translation was published in 1927 by the Hakluyt Society. It painted a vivid picture of Mrohong in the days of its prosperity and power. Thiri Thudamma cultivated friendly relations with Dutch at Batavia and persuaded them to open a factory at his capital. They were in urgent need of regular supplies of rice and slaves for their Indonesian settlements, and could obtain large quantities of both in Arakan. The slaves were the fruits of Frenghi raids on Bengal. After Thiri Thudamma’s death the Dutch quarreled with his successor Narapadigyi (1638-1645) and for years withdrew their factory and it was not reopened until the reign of Sanda Thudamma (1652 -1684 A.D).169 Thiri Thudamma was poisoned by his Queen Natshin Mai, and her paramour, Maung Kuttha, the Governor of Laungkyet. Maung kut-tha was imprisoned and Min Sane, the son of murdered sovereign, proclaimed king, but only to be poisoned within seven days by his mother, who by her intrigues succeeded in effecting the release of Maung Kut-tha, who she married, and who ascended the throne and reigned for seven years.170 He massacred a large number of Royal Klansmen and influential ministers; some of them had fled to Chittagong. Kut-tha (a) Narapadigyi was succeeded by his son Thadu Mintra and he was again succeeded by his son Sanda Thudamma (1652 -1674 A.D.).

Sanda Thudamma (1652 -1674)

Sanda Thudamma is celebrated in Arakanese chronicles as one of the noblest of their kings. During his long reign, Arakan pursued a far more enlightened policy towards European traders than its neighbor Burma. Unlike Burma it used coined money. In 1653 he signed a commercial treaty with Batavia, Dutch and trade centers and factories were reopened. Mogul Tanga was used in its ports and its own coinage was stuck. For small Bazaar transaction Cowry Shells, imported from Maldives and sold in the rate of 48 Viss for a Rupee, were used. There were many expertises in Cowry transaction business. These experts were known as “Punch cowry” (expert of Cowry business) in Arakan. There are places, villages and Mosques in the name of so-called Panch Cowry.

Dutch relation with Sanda Thudamma interrupted in 1665, through an incidentfamous in Mogul annals.171 This incident is very important in Arakan history too, because from this time Arakan relinquished its power, never held up its position again as before. So some say it is the beginning of the downfall of Arakanese Empire.

Mogul Prince Shah Shuiah Exiled in Arakan

Shah Jahan, son of Jahangir, grandson of Akbar was the possessor of “Kohinoor” (Mount of light) Diamond, now one of the English crown Jewels, was on the throne of Delhi. He was brought to a close in 1658. He had four sons, Shah Shujah, Aurenzeb, Murad and Dahra. Shah Shujah, Viceroy of Bengal, was involved with his brothers in scramble for the throne, which, arose out of their father’s serious illness in 1657. It was won by Aurenzeb who managed to secure the throne in the following year.172

Shujah was unable to hold Bengal against his brother’s attacks and he fled to Decca and took a ship for Arakan together with his family and a great quantity of treasures, in 1660. Arakan king promised him shelter and ships for the journey. A Portuguese fleet was sent to carry the Prince. The Dianga Frenghi relieved him of much of the treasure before he reached Mrohong. His advertised plan was to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and Sanda Thudamma promised him ships for that purpose.173

Albert Fytche says Shujah embarked with his wife, his three sons and some daughters. They reached Arakan safely but some scoundrels managed to open some of his chests and robbed him of many of his jewels.

Dr. Kunango says, the local ballads (of Bengal) states that Shujah was accompanied by his wife Piara Banu or Pairibanu and his three daughters on his journey to Arakan. His daughters were named as Gulrukh Banu, the eldest; Roshanara Begum, the second; and the third was Amina Begum.174 A contemporary manuscript of Arakan mentions, in the party was a sister of Shujah, Sabe Bee.175

Alamgirnama mentions, Zainuddin, Buland Akhtar and Zainul Abiddin are the names of Shujah’s sons. Gerrit Van Voorverq, the Dutch chief factor at Mrohong mentions Bon Sultan also spelt as Sultan Bang as the eldest son in a letter to the headquarter at Batavia.176

Alamgirnama says the Prince bid Hindustan farewell on 6th May 1660 A.D. On the following day, the day after starting towards Arakan, they met a number of war boats of Arakanese and Portuguese on the way, sent by Governor of Chittagong to assist Shah Shujah and his party, by the order of king of Arakan.177

Khafi Khan (assistant to Mirzumla, commander of Aurenzeb army) said the Prince loaded two boats with his personnel effects; vessels of gold and silver, jewels, treasures and other appendages of Royalty.178

Shujah first arrived at Chittagong and sojourned temporarily there. Almost all contemporary sources, including the Dutch Dag Register, English factor, Alamgirnamah and other travelers such as Bernier and Manucci, all are in agreement that the Prince temporarily resided at Chittagong. From Chittagong to Arakan, Shujah took the land journey. This road, which Shujah took to travel Arakan, is still known as Shujah Road. Shujah Road originates from the left bank of Karnapuli River passes through Bandre, Anawarah and then crossing the Shanka River at Chandpur it meet the Arakan Road near Chatkania.———–This part of the road runs either through the hills or Parallel to the hill ranges. Local traditions ascribed the name of Dulahzara to Shujah’s respite for few hours with the thousand Palanquins (Carriers) carrying the harem ladies. The place where Shah Shujah preformed his Eid Prayer was named as Edgoung.179

Arthur Phayre writes, from thence (Chittagong) they traveled through a difficult country to the Nat River crossing which they entered Arakan. The road through Teknaf is mountainous and extremely hazardous. The local Ballads say the Prince has undertaken land journey for thirteen days and thirteen nights with a troubled mind in a strange land before he reached seashore. On the eastern side of the Naf River, he made a halt for three days. This place on the eastern bank of Naf River, half a mile north of Maungdaw town is still known as Shujah Village.180 Some of the Prince’s retinues remained there because the rest of the journey to Mrohong was safe for the Prince since they were out of the reach of Aurenzeb’s army. These retinues later settled at that place.

On the fourth day, the Prince undertook the sea journey again and finally reached the Arakanese Capital. R. B. Smart says, on the frontier he was received by an envoy who assured him of welcome and on nearing the capital, the Prince, his family and the followers were met by an escort who conducted them to the quarters set apart for them.181

Harvey says he came to Arakan as the king promised to provide him some of his famous ships to take him to Mecca where he wished to die in retirement, at that Holy spot. But when he arrived in Arakan with a beautiful daughter (in fact three daughters) and half a dozen camel loads of gold and jewels, the temptation was too great for king Sanda Thudamma. Such wealth had never been seen in Arakan before, for the Mogul court was one of the most splendid in the world. The king demanded Shujah’s daughter in marriage. Shujah refused for he was a blue-blooded Mogul of the Imperial House, and in any case a Mohammedan lady cannot marry out of her religion. The king told him to go within three days. Having no ships, and being virtually a prisoner Shujah instigated the Mohammedan settlers in the capital to revolt. But the palace guard put them down and Shujah disappeared in the struggle. The king seized his treasures.182

Moshe Yegar, an Israeli researcher, quoting Bernier, a French Physicist who was in India during 1658-1667, writes: Months after months passed, the favorable season arrived, but no mention was made of (the promised vessels) to convey them to Mecca, although Sultan Shujah required them on other terms than the payment of the hire, for he yet wanted not Rupees or gold and silver or Gems. He had indeed a great deal of them; his great wealth being probably the cause of, at least very much contributory to his ruin………..The king turned a deaf ear to his entreaties and made a formal demand of one of his daughters in marriage. Sultan Shujah’s refusal to accede to his request exasperated him to such a degree that the Prince’s situation became quite desperate. What then ought he to do? To remain inactive was only quietly to wail destruction. The season for departure was passing away; it was therefore necessary to come to a decision of some kind.

There were many Mohammattans mixed with the population of Arakan. …… Sultan Shujah secretly gained over these Mohamattans, who he joined with two or three hundred of his own people, the remnants of those who followed him from Bengal, and with these force resolved to surprise the house of the king ……… and made himself sovereign of the country. This bold attempt had certain feasibility to it. I, (Bernier), was informed by several Mohammattans, Portuguese and Hollanders who were there on the spot. But the day before the blow was to be struck, a discovery was made of the design ……..The Prince endeavored to escape to Pegu. He was pursued and overtaken within twenty four hours, after his flight; he defended himself. But at length overpowered by the increasing host of his assailants, he was compelled to give up the unequal combat. They were brought back and thrown into the prison and treated with utmost harshness. Sometime after, the women were set at liberty.183 Harvey said in this struggle Shujah disappeared.

D.G.E. Hall says in the December 1660, some of Shujah’s retinues ran amuck and nearly succeeded in firing the Palace. The Arakanese massacred them and the refugee Prince’s own life was only spared through the intercession of the king’s mother who argued that it was unwise for him to teach his subjects so dangerous a spot as that of killing a Prince.184

Moshe Yegar says in the words of Bernier sometime after the first uprising, however, they were set at liberty and treated more kindly, the king then married the eldest Princess …….. while events were happening; some servants of Sultan Banque joined the Mohammattans whom I have spoken in a plot to the last. The indiscreet zeal of some of the conspirators led to the discovery of the design on the day on which it was to be struck. In regard to this affair, too, I (Bernier) have heard a thousand different tales; and the only fact I can relate with confidence is that the king exasperated against the family of Shujah as to give order for its total extermination. Even the Princess who he had himself exposed, and who it was said advanced in pregnancy, was sacrificed according to his brutal mandate. Sultan Banque and his brother were decapitated with gruesome looking axes, quite blunt and the female members of his ill-fated family were closely confined in their apartment, and left to die of hunger.185 The second source of information of the period is the archives (Degh register) of the Dutch Indian company in Batavia. The company’s representative and director of the Dutch trading post, who was in Mrohong at the time, reported the events to Batavia. He too was not an eyewitness, but wrote according to rumors heard in the city. He described the warm welcome given to Shah Shujah by Arakanese king and his promise to supply the refugees with ships to take them to Mecca. Eight months passed, the promise had not been kept: According to Dutch representative the reason for this was that king Sanda Thudamma asked Shah Shujah for a daughter in marriage. ………. Shujah proudly refused to submit to what he regarded as a grave dishonor and as a result friendly relation between him and the king ruined.

This incident was preceded by an event not mentioned in any source other than the Dagh register. The report tells of an additional group of Muslims who came to Arakan to join Shujah. The ensuing clash between them and some Arakanese ended in the execution of Muslim group, and he was only dissuaded by his mother and some of the grandees from visiting Shah Shujah with the same treatment. In his letter the Dutch East Indian Company representative states that Shah Shujah’s followers were murdered in February 7, 1661 because the Prince intended to escape from the king’s palace and conquer the kingdom of Arakan for himself. During these events all foreigners and all Muslim trading vessels were sent away from Arakan so that they would not know what was happening. The Dutchman also gives two versions of Shah Shujah’s death. One was that he was killed during the first battle; the second that he escaped and was later captured and stoned to death by his pursuers. On the Dagh register of 1664, it reports that, following upon the second plot of Shah Shujah’s son in 1663, two years after the first plot, the sons of Shujah and everyone found wearing a beard in the Moorish fashion had been beheaded.186

On the other hand Arakanese source of that period tells that Shah Shujah was only too happy to give his daughter to the king of Arakan in gratitude for the asylum granted; however, when he saw that he had lost the Mogul throne, he decided to conquer Arakan and make himself king with the help of his own soldiers, the Muslim soldiers in the king’s army, and the Muslim populace. Here these Muslim army and Muslim population are exclusive of archer units of king’s army. So these Muslims are bonafide Burmese citizens in the light of Burmese law.

Sir Arthur Phayre thinks that the Arakanese chronicles conceal their king’s ugly behavior and emphasize the Prince’s abortive experiment to capture the palace by neglecting to mention the preceding provocations of not providing the promised ships, the king’s request to have one of Shah Shujah’s doughter in marriage and his wish to molest the Prince’s riches. A. Phayre quotes no source for this opinion, which is apparently his personnel view, but a decidedly acceptable one.187

Albert Fytche writes, the king of Arakan had been offered a large bribes by Aurenzeb to deliver up Shujah and that he only delayed until he had decided as to the course which would be the most of his advantage. Shujah sent messengers begging that the king of Arakan would give him a ship according to his promise. The king gave a deaf ear to the messengers; he grew cool and uncivil; and reproached Shujah for not having paid him a visit. The fact was, Shujah was afraid to enter the palace; he was alarmed that the king would imprison him; and plunder him of all of his treasures. Accordingly he sent his eldest son to the palace. The young Prince presented the king with rich Brocades, and rare pieces of gold smiths works; he apologized for his father’s absence on the plea of ill health and implored the king to provide the promised ships. The visit proved a failure. Nothing could induce the barbarian king to fulfill his engagement.

Shujah gained secretly a number of Muslims there and joined with two or three hundred of his own men and tried two or three times to capture the palace, probably to make the Prince, King. Each time their plot failed resulting in their disasters. The king of Arakan then, married the eldest daughter.

At the same time the Queen mother of Arakan expressed a strong desire to be married to the eldest son of Shujah. The Mogul Prince was probably disinclined to the union; at any rate he hatched another plot of the same character as the previous one. It was discovered in the like manner. It failed too.188

It is learned the fugitive Prince and his family were highly admired by the people. U Hla Tum Pru writes: in particular, the beauty of the young Princesses was toasted everywhere in the capital as may be seen from the following verses popularly attributed to the young king whose love they had reciprocated.

yv#rf;xifI/ xdyfjyifOD;pGef;/ va&mifxGef;okd@/ wkd@u|ef;tm;vkH;/ ukd,fa&mifzkH;onf/
wifhqkH;0if;ajymif/ vSxGËfacgifrl/ jzLa&mifjzmxGm;/ a&$tom;ESifh jrvm;pdefoG,f/
vukd,fES,fodk@/ -uifbG,fvSwifh/ ajcmufjzpfv$ifhI/ vSjcif;t&nf/ajcmufxyfjynfvnf;/
&Sdrnfrxif/ jrifv#ifukdvkH;oufqkH;wdrf;rwf/ cEWmjzwfvdrfh/ ewfvnf;rwl/ vlvnf;ru/
b,f’gea-umifh/ tvSokd@vGefoenf;?

It was a poetry characterized by local public for the beauty of the Princess.

A rough translation:

Shine as the moon, the foreheads reflect the rays, the whole isle covered with the reflection of their body, excelled in beauty, diamond and Sapphire like golden body, absorbed in moon, lovely second to none. Free from six drawbacks, standard of beauty is incomparable in the world as well as in the heaven, the place of angels. So attractive one cannot take breath; body and soul will depart whence glance at: This is not angel but more than man. Oh! What charity of the past made you so beautiful, we ever saw.

To sum up there might have been three attempts to plot. According to D. G. E. Hall first attempt to coup Arakan palace was in December 1660. Some say there was an uprising on 7th February 1661. I think these two dates concerned to the first plot. The variance is due to the writers. Yet Dutch East Indian Company representative says, some months later some new comers of Shujah’s followers had staged the second uprising, which was repelled by the King’s army. These followers of Shujah, who came sometime later to help him, were either his retinues who remained in Shujah Village, Maungdaw or his former supporters from Bengal. The last plot was hatched by Shujah’s eldest son in 1663. He gained the support of local Muslims. Each attempt failed. Every time there were general massacres of the Muslims in the city. So most of them had to flee to safety, especially to Bengal. In Bengal some of the descendents of these exiles are still found in the name of “Rouwiagn” i.e. people from Rowang. Some re-entered Arakan when British occupied it in 1826 A.D.

The Aftermath of Shuiah’s Assylum in Arakan

D. G. E. Hall says, the news of Shah Shujah and his family reached Delhi. For some time before the last incident, the Mogul Viceroy of Bengal had been sending urgent massages for surrender of the Princes, Sanda Thudamma paid no attention to them and on the occasion of the last massacre even went as far as to imprison a Mogul envoy. Fearing reprisal, he encouraged the Frenghi of Dianga to redouble their efforts in raiding Bengal. Thus in 1664 their galleasses sailed up the river towards Decca, broke up a Mogul flotilla of 240 vessels and laid waste far and wide. The Mogul government therefore decided that the pirate nests must be finally destroyed. Aurenzeb’s maternal uncle, Shaista Khan who had become Viceroy of Bengal prepares to make a supreme effort. Both sides need ships and both plied the Dutch with insistent demands for help. Matters came to a head in 1665, when the Dutch stubbornly clung to their neutrality, Shaista Khan threaten to expel them from their Bengal factories, if they did not at once evacuate Arakan. So one dark night in November of that year they loaded four ships with everything they could carry from their Mrohong factory, and before the king of Arakan realized what was afoot, they were beyond pursuit. Aurenzeb demanded Shujah and his family. The news of their massacre angered him and decided to take action.

Shaista Khan was already attacking the Frenghi outpost on Sandwip Island. A few months later in 1666 he captured and destroyed the formidable port on the mainland that for a century had wrought such devastation to reach Delta land of Ganges. Two thousand of these slaves hunters were themselves sold into slavery. Others were permitted to settle as peaceful citizens at Frenghi Bazaar, twenty miles south of Decca where their descendants are still found.189

Harvey says, the Frenghi accepted the offer (of Shaista Khan) and suspecting that the king (of Arakan) would exterminate their families, deserted to Shaista Khan with their families in forty-two galleys laden with munitions.

In 1666 Shaista Khan’s forces of 6,500 men and 280 boats took Chittagong in thirty-six hours and occupied Ramu. They captured and sold 2,000 Arakanese into slavery. Such of the Arakanese Garrison was escaped and tried to march home, but they were attacked by their former slaves, the kidnapped Mohammedans of Bengal who had been settled on the land.

The fall of Chittagong was a terrible blow to the prosperity of Arakan, and with it, their century of greatness came to an end. Sanda Thudamma’s long reign saw the power of his race passed its zenith and his death is followed a century of chaos. The profit of piracy had gone but the piratical instinct remained, rendering governments, and they continued their sea raid. Chittagong could never be recaptured by the Arakanese in spite of their occasional raids.190 From then on Arakan could never hold up their political supremacy enjoyed before, century long chaos and strife passed, finally Bodaw Paya of Ava, in respond to invitation of some Arakanese, invaded and occupied Arakan in 1786 A.D.

The Kaman Race

The advent of Kaman race in Arakan is a remarkable thing. They are the descendants of a martial race. Today they are designated as an indigenous race of Myanmar. They are mostly educated and served in various civil and military departments as senior officials. Justice U Sei Bu, who executed the trial of Galon U Saw, the murderer of Bogyoke Aung San, was a Kaman from Akyab. Present Deputy Minister of Ministry of Immigration, Major Maung Aung (Rtd.), is U Sei Bu’s son.

Harvey says, Shujah’s followers in 1661 were retained as archers in the guard of the Palace who drew a salary of Rs. 4 a month, equivalent to ten times that amount of present currency (British time). They murdered and set up kings at their will and their numbers were recruited by fresh arrival from upper India. In 1692, they burnt the palace and for twenty years roamed over the country, carrying fire and swords where ever they went. Finally they were broken by a lord who set up as King Sanda Wiziya (1710-1731 A.D.); he deported them to Ramree; their descendants still exist, under the name Kaman (In Persian Kaman means a bow). They speak Arakanese dialect but retain their Mohammedan faith and Afghan features.191 Today all Kamans are found to be Muslims in contrast to the narrations of Rakhine Chronicles that there were Rakhine (Buddhist) in Kaman Units of Rakhine Kings.

Former history professor of Rangoon University Mr. Desai, remarks them as king makers of Arakan.

Here, Arakanese version concerning the Kaman is a bid different but favorably accepted by the Kamans themselves. According to U Hla Tun Pru, Shujah’s followers were experienced archers. The archers who escaped the massacre were later admitted into the king’s bodyguard as special archers unit, called Kaman or Kamanchis (from Persian bow, Kaman; bowman, Kamanchis). Uggabala, son and successor of Sanda Thudamma, was assassinated by his bodyguard of 42,000 strong men, at his own palace, Khraik Town. They burnt down the palace and killed the Queen and other relatives of the king. The force is mainly consisted of a large number of Mogul archers that Shah Shujah had brought with him into Arakan. U Hla Tun Pru says these followers of Shujah were merged with original Kaman units established from the time of king Kalima Shah (a) Ba Saw Pru. Some Rakhine Kamans converted to Islam. Especially in the time of Min Bagyi, Muslim missionaries headed by U Kadir came from Delhi and preached Islam and some Rakhines converted to Islam. Thus today’s’ Kamans are Muslims.192

These Kamans are mostly educated. U Pho Khaing was a British time M.L.C and his daughter Daw Aye Nyunt was Parliamentarian in post independence Burma. Kamans speak Rakhine language and their customs too are like Rakhine. The census of 1931 registered a total of 2,686 Kamans. Islam has no caste system. So marriage among Muslims is freely exercised. There have been ample intermarriages between Rohingyas and Kamans. In the Southern Arakan there have been some instances of intermarriages with the Rakhines too.

The death of Sanda Thudamma in 1684 marked the beginning of a period of anarchy and riot in the kingdom during which the Muslim Kaman units played a decisive role as makers and displacers of kings. These units were being continually reinforced by fresh Afghan mercenaries from northern India. From 1666 to until 1710 the political role of Arakan was completely in their hands. Ten kings were crowned and dethroned. In 1710 king Sanda Wiziya (1710-1731) succeeded in gaining the upper hand over them and most of them were exiled to Ramree. Their descendants live in Ramree and in a few villages near Akyab and still bear the same name.193

In the time of Sanda Wiziya there were a general suppression of Muslims. So 3,700 Muslims along with their families fled into Burma. Ava king, Sane, then on throne, resettled them in twelve towns separately. These places are Shwebo, Mauksoebu, Myedu, Dapeyein, Sagaing, Rameithin, Yindaw, Pyinmana, and Taung Gnoo. Their descendants were recruited in the army of Bodaw Pya. They were employed in Bodaw Pya’s Arakan campaign. They were assigned in Sandoway. Since they were from Myedu of Upper Burma, their descendants in Arakan were known as Myedu Muslims or Myedu Kalahs. In 1931 census their number is 4,681. Muslims have no caste system making social integration easy. Thus these Muslims do not remain as separate caste or race, they formally integrated with other Muslims in Arakan.

When king Sanda Thudamma died in 1684, the Rakhine kingdom became prey to internal disorder. Another 25 kings came to the throne, but none could maintain stability in the Kingdom. So, finally the army of the Burmese king Bodaw Pya invaded the kingdom and deposed the last king in 1785.

Muslim King in Late Mrauk-U Period

Sanda Wiziya was murdered in 1731 A.D. He was succeeded by ten kings, all of whom except Nra Abya had short reigns. The country was gradually falling into anarchy. Chaos arose. The massacre of Muslims by Sanda Thudamma in 1664-1665 were fresh in the mind of Muslims. The Kaman palace guards who were deported to Akyab and Ramree were still active. Here one thing questionable is if the Kaman units of Arakan kings consist of Rakhine Buddhists too, as said by the Rakhine historians, why all the deportees were Muslims? There was an organized uprising of Muslims in 1738 all over the country. We find this fact in the history book, complied by Rakhine State Council. We can say it is an authentic chronicle because Rakhine State has always been very much cautious to mention any role of Muslims in their official documents. Yet that very book mentions: The kings after Sanda Wiziya were more unqualified. So there in 1738, was a countrywide revolt by Kalahs (Muslims). [Rakhines use the term Kalah for Muslims]. It was almost uncontrollable. Only when king Nra Abya (1742-1761) came in power, he tried to stabilize the country, to get rid of the rebellion. It further emphasize it was only in the reign of Abya Maharaza (1764-1773) the country got some stability. In the very Rakhine State Council’s chronicle on page 127, the 19th king of third Mrauk-U dynasty is shown as Kalah Thuratan Raza or Kalah Ketiya Min in 1737. Arthur Phayre in his History of Burma notes that a foreigner, Katra, rules for a short time. Here Kalah Thuratan Raza of 1737 and Kalah rebellion of 1738 might of course had some relationship. It indicates, there was a Muslim king indeed, though his reign, in that chronicle, is shown to be only for months.

Here we can postulate, only when and where there were substantial population, they could try to make a king of their own. The Muslim group who attempted to make a king of their own clans in Mrauk-U was not intruders from any other country. They were permanent settlers of Mrauk-U and neighboring towns. So these permanent settlers are, according to Burmese Constitutions and Citizenship Laws, indigenous race of Burma. Nowadays many without historical background of these people, just judge them by seeing their features and culture, as aliens.

Muslim Title of Arakanese Kings and its Controversy

Mrauk-U dynasty began from 1430 A.D. Narameikhla exiled for 24 years in the kingdom of Bengal under Sultan of Gaur. With the help of Gaur king Nazir Shah, some say: Jalaluddin Shah, Narameikhla regained his throne in Laungkyet in 1430. Next year he shifted his capital to Mrauk-U and Mrauk-U dynasty, the most shining one in Arakan history began. It lasted until 1786 A.D., when Arakan was occupied by Bodaw Pya of Ava. From Narameikhla to Thiri Thudamma (1622 – 1652 A.D.) about 19 Arakanese kings were seen with Muslim titles, in addition to their Arakanese or Pali names.

Arakanese chronicles say Narameikhla had conceded to adopt Muslim titles in obtaining the help of Bengal Sultan. It is more probable that as a sign of vassalage he was bound to adopt Muslim title and he had to hand over East Bengal to Sultan of Gaur. U Hla Tun Pru says it was a tradition from the time of Narameikhla to adopt Muslim titles and the Muslim king of Bengal and Delhi chose these titles, U Tha Tun Aung of Mrauk-U, in his great history (Maha Razwin) of Arakan says, Ambassador U Kadir arrived Mrauk-U to offer Min Bagyi, the Muslim title chosen for him by Emperor Humayun of Delhi. Some say only the vassalage king of Arakan had had Muslim titles. But we find some poweriul kings such as Min Ba, Min Phalaung, Min Khamaung, Min Razagyi and Min Thiri Thudamma also had Muslim titles.

Yet there is another notion that it was just to appease to their Muslim subjects. Some argue that only those king who got hold of Chittagong, kept Muslim titles, to style themselves as the Sultan of Bengal and Delhi. Here for example, Narameikhla and his brother Min Khari (a) Ali Khan did not extend their sovereignty over Chittagong and yet they had Muslim titles. Dr. Kunango justified it by pointing out Ba Saw Nyo (a) Mohammed Shah died in 1494 A.D., after a short reign of two years and was succeeded by Rang Aung, son of Dawliya (a) Mogul Shah. The throne in the very year was captured by Tsalingha Thu, maternal uncle of Rang Aung. The absence of their Muslim name indicates their loss of hold over Chittagong.194 They might lose the hold over Chittagong but research shows that they yet had Muslim titles. Rang Aung was Nuree Shah where as Tsalingha Thu was Sheikh Abdullah Shah.

Dr. Kunango’s argument is that from Rang Aung 1494 to Thazata 1531, the kings failed to hold authority over Chittagong. Their rule was a time of tension and unrest in Arakan. They lost Chittagong to Bengal Sultan Mohammed Shah. The reason for loss of Chittagong, according to Dr. Kunango, is not their having Muslim titles. Again we find Min Raza 1501- 1513 was Ilyas Shah, Gozapati (1513-1515) was Ilyas Shah, Min Saw Oo (1515) was Jalal Shah and Thazatha (1515-1521) was Ali Shah.195 Another version, especially some Muslim writers try to say these kings were actually Muslims in faith. But there is no concrete evidence to prove that they are Muslims. We can just postulate.

The question here is if the Arakan kings adopted Muslim titles to appease their subjects in Bengal then why those kings who lost hold of Bengal too keep Muslim titles. It is clear that there were a vast majority of Muslims in Arakan proper and to appease them the kings kept Muslim titles though they were Buddhists in faith. Even we can see coins in the name of Tsalinga Thu (a) Sikander Shah, Min Raza (a) IIi Shah and Thazata (a) Ali Shah. Their coins were in Persian script.196 These were not Indian coins but struck in Arakan, with the designation of Arakanese kings.

Coins of these Arakanese Kings:

This indicates Muslim influence in the kingdom was great. Even the kings were culturally influenced by Muslims. After Minbin (1431-1453) three successive Kings, Min Dikkha Min Saw Hla, Min Setkya of course did not have Muslim titles. It may be due to their short reigns and incursions of Bengal King Mohammed Shah and Trippera King Oaniya Manikhya. From King Narapatigyi (1638-1645 A.D.) to King Sanda Thudamma (1652-1684 A.D.), their control remained over Chittagong. But they did not have Muslim titles. So the notion that to appease the subjects in Bengal or Chittagong, the Arakan kings kept Muslim title is questionable.

Keeping of Muslim title is most probably to appease their subjects in Arakan proper and partially to show themselves as prestigious as the kings in Bengal and Delhi.

Muslims in Arakan formerly were treated with respect and they were given fair and equal rights. So kings in first and second phases of Mrauk-U dynasties adopted various Muslim cultures including their names. But from late 16th century due to plundering of Bengal coast and bringing of its inhabitants as captured slaves, the social relation between the Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists began to deteriorate. Especially the Shah Shujah crisis had a deep impact on Rakhine and Muslim relation. Discord between the two groups grew greater. Suppressive mechanism was introduced. So called Kaman forces were deported in Sanda Wiziya’s time of 1710-1731 A.D. Hence the kings in late Mrauk-U or third Mrauk-U did not keep Muslim titles at all.

One interesting thing is the coins 197 found in Mrauk-U, indicate the name Tsazatha (a) Ali Shah on reverse side and the Muslim confession of faith on obverse side, which read as follows: The script was in Persian.

Obverse side: Lailaha iIIalah muhammadur Rasulluah, Khalad Allah Mulkahu.

Meaning: There is no god but Allah; Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. May Allah perpetuate his Kingdom.

Reverse side: AI-Rahman Abu AI Muzzaffar Ali Shah Sultan Khallad Allah Mulkahu.

Meaning: Sultan Ali Shah, Father of Victorious and Merciful. May Allah perpetuate his Kingdom.

Diameter of Coin = 29 mm

Weight = 10.17 gm

The kingdom of Bengal Gaur was captured by Mogul (Delhi) king in 1557 A.D. Narameikhla took asylum under Gaur king. If there were any conditions imposed on Narameikhla, it was by Gaur, not by Delhi king. So when there was no Gaur king, Arakan was no longer under any compulsion to adopt Muslim titles. Hence Min Phalaung (a) Sikandar Shah (1571-1593 A.D.), Min Razagyi (a) Salim Shah I (1593-1612 A.D.), Min Khanaung (a) Hussein Shah (1612-1622 A.D.) and Thiri Thudamma (a) Salim Shah II (1622-1638 A.D.) kept Muslim titles voluntarily not under any obligation or compulsion.

Even after becoming independent of the Bengal Sultans, the Arakan kings continued the custom of using Muslim titles in addition to their Pali titles. This was because they not only wished to be thought as a Sultan in their own right in imitation of Moguls, but also because there were Muslims in ever larger numbers among their subjects. Court ceremonies and administrative methods followed the custom of Gaur and Delhi Sultanates. There were eunuchs, harems, slaves and hangmen and many expressions in use at court were Mogul. Muslims also held eminent posts despite the fact that the kingdom remained Buddhist.198

It is true, Muslim culture dominated all aspects of life in Arakanese period. Rakhine Buddhists communicate with Muslims (Rohingyas) in Rohingya language. Thus Rohingyas never felt necessary to learn Rakhine language and further Muslims never think of, or are compelled to think, of keeping Rakhine or Burmese names. Some assume Rohingyas to be fresh aliens, for not being affluent in speaking Burmese and not having Burmese names. In fact it is not for being fresh comers from other country but because of their being bonafide and dominant people of the land, Arakan, preserving their own culture, which had been ever superior.

The notions of Burmese names, speaking fluent Burmese, Burmanization, Citizen and alien and many other, are just the products of post independent period.

The most remarkable thing in Arakan Kings’ period is though they were at odd with Delhi Muslim Kings; Muslims in Arakan proper had never been discriminated and generously honored with high ranking official posts. It was hardly possible the functions of the state mechanism without these Muslims.

To be continue, see Part II


1. Dr. Pamela Gutman, Ancient Arakan P-325. BSPP means Burma Socialist Program Party (The political organ of U Ne Win’s time)
2. Pamela Gutman. Ancient Arakan. Preface. P-II
3. Ibid P-68
4. History of Arakan by Rakhine State Council, 1984, P-71.
5. U Hla Tun Pru; The Sandra Kings of Arakan and their Successors. (History of Arakan a combination of articles).
6. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P- 74
7. Ibid
8. Dr. Aye Chan; Rakhine Magazine Vol. 14. P-197
9. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan 1972 P-3 “Over land contact with Bcngal is possible yia the coastal road passing from Chittagong and Cox Bazaar to Ramu crossing the Naf River near the mouth and by furcating, either along the coast to Akyab or passing over the ridges to Buthidaung on the May Yu river and Paletwa on the upper Kaladan, from which the early cities could be reached by boat or by road. (Pamela P-7)”
10. Moshe Yegar, The Muslims of Burma: Chapter “ Muslim settlement in Arakan ” 1972 P-19
11. Licut. Gen. Albert Fytche, CSI late chief Commissioner of British Burma; Burma past and present Vol. I London 1878.
12. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan; P-10
13. A- Phayre: On the history of Arakan P-34, B- San Shwe Bu ” The history of Mahamuni JBRS Vol.VI P-227
14. Pamela Gutman: Ancicnt Arakan; P-14
15. U Hla Tun Pru: The Minorities of Arakan 1981
16. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P- 15
17. Ibid P- 23
18. Ibid P- 24, See also Burma Gazetteer, Akvab District Vol.A P-91
19. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol.I. P-25
20. U Hla Tun Pru; The Minorities or Arakan 1981 PP. 46-47 Also see “The fall of great Arakanese Empire” by the same author.
21. Pamcla Gutamn: Ancicnt Arakan. 1972. P-16
22. Lincanzo Sangermano: The Burmese Empire hundred years ago; Introduction by john jardine, Third edition Publish in West Minster 1893.
23. J.Layden; On theLanguage and Liturature of Indo Chinese nation,P-Vll, Asiatic Researches Vol. X 1911 PP- 223-224.
24. Encyclopedia Britannica (1994- 1998)
25. U HIa Tun Pru; The Whither, the When, and the Why of Arakanese history (an article 10 Dec. 1958).
26. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P- 16
27. (a) History ofBurma Vol. 1 Compiled by BSPP. (b) Major Bashin, Myanmar Naing Ngan before Annawrahta. (c) Naing Pan HIa (Formerly a member of Myanmar History Commission), article in working Peoples Daily (10/12/77).
28. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol. A 1978
29. Foot note in the article King Berring, JBRS fiftieth anniversary publication No. 11, P- 443.
30. G. M. Gush: Magh Raiders of Bengal.
31. S. K Chatterjee, A History of Aryan special in India.1926. P-205. See also Dr. Kanungo P-42. P-106
32. U Thein Pe Myint; Traveler in the War. Chapter Magh Police Officer, PP 167 – 168
33. Dr.Than Tun: Myanmar Dhanna Magazine July 1999 Issue. P-68.
34. Alberl Fytche; Burma past and present Vol. l PP. 49-50
35. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan PP. 44, 45.
36. Ibid P-3l7.
37. A P .Phayre; On the History of Arakan. Also see Proff. G. H. Luce; The Advent of Buddhism to Burma; in L. Cusins etal(eds).Buddhist studies in honor of I.B. Horner 1974, PP-120, 121
38. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-2
39. Cf..Mc. Crindle’s Ancient India as described by Ptolemy 1885. Reprint in Calcutta in 1927.
40. 963a U.B.194 Sagaing Htu Payon Pagoda inscription obverseII 20-23.804 S (1442 A.D.).
41. Pamela Gutman, Ancient Arakan P-23
42. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol. A 1979.
43. Sir H. Yule, Proceeding of Royal Geographical Society Nov. 1882.
44. Elliot and Dowson: “History of India as told by its own Historians”. P-73.
45. Dr. Abu Fazl. Aini-i-Akbri (Trans: H. Blochman. Calcutta (1871 – 1877). Mirza Nathan, Bahristan Ghaibi; (Trans: Borah, Gohati. (1936).,Shihabuddin Ahmed, Fatiya-Barria (Trans: 1. N. Sarkar, Bodlein Library, Oxford).
46. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol. A, 1979 P-132.
47. Ibid P-133.
48. A-P. Phayre: History of Burma P-34
49. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; Hislory of Chittagong PP 23 – 235.
50. Ibid; chapler II Sect. 3.
51. CH. Mohd; AF Narary, in the Dacca Review: Burma an Arab land in the east P-35
52. Ibn Khurdadbhi: C. P. Cit 65.
53. Al Masudi; Muruj-al-dhahab wa Makaddim al Juwahar.Cairo Edition1938 Vol.II,PP129 – 130
54. Silsilat-al-Tawarikh. Extracts from statement in Elliot and Dowson, Op. Cit. P-5. 5,
55. Dr. S. B. Kanungo, PP 233 – 234.
56. Bangladesh District Gazetteer, Chittagong hill tracts, PP 33 – 34.
57. Anthony Irwin: Burmese Outpost. P-22
58. R. B. Smart Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District Vol. A P-38.
59. Moshe Yegar; Muslims of Bunna, P-120.
60. JASB XXVIII (1864). P-24, Also See: Major Ba Shill, Burma before Anawralta and Burma by Arther Phyare.
61. (a) The history ofRakhine Pyi, compiled by Rakhine State Council in 1982, P-55.,(b) The Culture of National Peoples (Rakhine) BSPP 1976, PP. 149 – 150., (c) History of Myanmar, SSPP Vol. III. P-] 92.
62. H. W. Wilson; the history of Indian people, PP. 189 – 204.
63. Major Tun Kyaw Oo; Party Booklet Vol. VII, PP. 8 to 16. Ahmyothar Party (Who is Rakhine?, Who is Rohingya?, Who is Bengali?).
64. R. B. Smart; Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District Vol. A. P-18
65. D. G. E. Hall; Burma, 1950, P-57.
66. Maurice Collis, Into Hidden Bunna, P-134.
67. Ibid; P-7.
68. D.G.E. Hall, Burma; Hukchinson University Library. 1950. P-57.
69. Harvey; Outline of Burmese History. P-90.
70. U Hla Tun Pru; Sandra kings and their successors.
71. U Hla Tun Pru; (Former member of Myanmar State Council, the highest executive organ in the country) The Sandra Kings of Arakan and their successors (in the history of Arakan, a combination of his articles).
72. U San Tha Aung (Formerly Director General of Higher Education Department); The Coins of Arakan.
73. History of Arakan; Vol. I, Compiled by Rakhine State Council, P-54
74. U San Tha Aung; Annanda Sandra Stone Pillar; Book II. P-2I6.
75. U San Tha Aung: Arakan Coins P-7. (His writing is based on the reading of John Ston). Note: There are slight difference of dates in the reading of John Ston and Mr. Sarcir.
76. History of Arakan by Rakhine State Council (Sep. 1984). P-114
77. Ibid; P-62
78. U San Tha Aung: Arakan Coins. P-7
79. Ibid P-8
80. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-2l
81. Ibid P-43
82. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-40, U San Tha Aung; Arakane Coins P-117
83. Arakan History;Vol.1 Rakhine State Council P-114
84. JBRS 50th Anniversary Publication. 1960. P-488.
85. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-42.
86. U San Tha Aung; Arakan Coins (1979) P-7.
87. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan. P-325.
88. Ibid; P-41.
89. JBRS, 50th Anniversary Publication, (1960) P-487.
90. Ibid P-45.
91. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan, P-225.
92. ASI (1925 – 1926), PP. 146 – 148.
93. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong Vol. A. P-66.
94. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan PP. 44-45.
95. Dr. Kanunngo; History of Chittagong Vol. A. P-71.
96. ASI (1925 – 1926) PP. 146 – 148.
97. J. H. Q. VII (1931).
98. Dr. Kanungo: The History of Chittagong Vol. A P-55.
99. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan. P-321.
100. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan. PP. 48 – 49.
101. A.S.Dani;”Mainamati Plates of Candras”Pakistan Archeology III 1969.PP.34-35
102. (a) Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan, P-73., (b) Phayre; “On the History of Arakan”JASB XIII (1844) P-49, lB 391(29),15(27),42(10),117 (a6),188(23) It is noteworthy that many of the Arakanese mentioned in Pagan inscriptions were slaves.
103. The Evaluation of Arakan History; compiled by Rakhinc State Council Vol. I (1984), P-114. Also see, U Hla Tun Pru; The Sandra Kings of Arakan and their Successors.
104. U Hla Tun Pru: The Sandra king of Arakan and their Successors, (In Arakan history, a combination of his articles).
105. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P – 74 Also See: Codes; Indianized States PP.142 -143
106. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan. P-321.
107. Ngamin Ngadon’s being a son or Sula Candra is a question needed clarification. How can an untutored Sak be a son of Aryan Candra?
108. Again, Kettathin’s being Ngamin Ngadon’s half brother or a grand nephew of Sula Candra is a matter of question. It needs scrutiny for correctness.
109. The Evaluation of Arakan History by Rakhine State Council (1984) P-114.
110. U Hla Tun Pru;The Candra Kings of Arakan and Their Successors.
111. Pamela Gutman;Ancient Arakan.P-14.,Also see 1.H.Luce “Phases of old Burma”.
112. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan. PP.73 – 74.
113. Ibid, P-15.
114. Ibid. P-74.
115. Ibid, PP. 15 -16.
116. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan. PP. I () – 17.
117. U Hla Tun Pm; The Whither. The Whcn and The Why of Arakancse History. (10 Dec. 1958).
118. Dr. U Aye Chan; An article in Rakhine Tasaung (I 975-76). Vol 14
119. Ibid; His article was in Burmcse. I havc tricd my best not to deviatc from the original meaning.
120. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; History of Chittagong. Vol. L P-55,
121. Ibid; Vol. I (1974), PP. 67 – 68.
122. Ibid P-69.
123. R. B. Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District, Vol. A. P-20.
124. M. Collis: Into Hidden Burma. P-7.
125. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan PP. -1-6 – -1-7. P-73.
126. These paragraphs concerning Lemyo period (except those in parenthesis) are the extractions from R. B. Smart’s Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District. Vol. A. where R. B. Smart himself extracted from Arthur Phayrc.
127. Rakhinc Razawin Thit (Rakhine New History) Vol. II P-352
128. R. B. smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District Vol. A. P-20.
129. JASB XIII. (1844) P-36, See also Dr. Kanungo. History of Chiuagong. Vol. I. Chaptcr XI. Scction III.
130. Guerrciro. Farnao: P-196
131. Mannucci; Storia De Magar, Vol. I, P-374 (Trans. By William Irrive, London).
132. Martin Smith; Bunna’s Muslims Border Land sold down the river. C. S. Quarterly 13 (4), P-68.
133. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Vol I. P. III.
134. lbid; Chapter Xl, Sect. 3.
135. Tin and Luce; Op. Cit, P-75. :
136. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Vol.I. P-75. .
137. lbid: P-II3.
138. Hall. Op: Cit. P-239.
139. G.E Harvey, Outline of Burmese History (1947). P-90
140. Moshe Yagar, The Muslim of Burma, “Muslim settlement in Arakan” P, Also see A SPDC government publication, “Sasana Yaungwa Tunzepho” [1997] P-63
141. Dr.Than Tun ; Mrauk-U Rakhine, an article in Kalia Magazine, Aug 1994.
142. Dr. Khing Maung Nyunt, Myanmar prominent professor, An article in University silver Jubilee Magazine
143. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Vol I. P. III.
144. Nafis Ahmed; Muslim Contribution to the Geography, P-121
145. Moshe Yagar, The Muslim of Burma, P. 121, P.
146. (a)M.R Rahman, History of Burmese and Arakanese Muslim in Urdu (1944), (b) Dastance Amir Hamza: A Bengali fable like book written by an anonymous writer.
147. D.G.E. Hall, Burma. PP 57-58 , Bengali in Arakan and Their Historical Problem P-10, Published by U Saw Maung (RPDFparty) 1990
148. M.Collis, Arakan Place in the Civilization of the Bay, JBRS, 5th anniversary publication No.2. P-488
149. Bengali in Arakan and Their Historical Problem P-10, Published by U Saw Maung (RPDFparty)
150. Takkatho Ne Win: Bogyokc Aung San. P- . (Then M. L C. Member .Vir.,lbid Carb from DU ,lbid:1long told the “Titer in Rangoon about this fact).
151. Bengal Disl. Gazetteer: Chittagong 1798, P-63
152. R. B Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District. Vol. A P-7!
153. U Hla Tun Pru: In Rakhine Tasaung Magazine, English section. Vol. 21. (1998), P-148.
154. For a more detailed account in connection this, see D.G.E.Hall. History of Southeast Asia. London Macmillan. 1958. P-328.
155. G. E. Harvey: Outline of Burmcse History. P-91.
156. JBRS Vol II. Arakan Place in the Civilization of Bay P.49
157. U Hla Tun Pru: Rakhine Magazine. Vol. 21, 1998. P-151, See Also: A. Joseph, A Nation within a Nation. P-17.
158. JBRS XV, P-34.
159. Moshe Yegar. The Muslims of Burma. P-10.
160. Aung Zan. The Family Tree and the king of early Mrauk-U Dynasty; Rakhine Magazine Vol. 21. P145.
161. Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung: Great History of Arakan. PP. 40, 41.1288 B.E.
162. P.Nicolas: A Brief Account on the History of Muslim Population in Arakan. An UNHCR compilation. 4 Aug. 1995. P-I.
163. Moshe Yegar: cites Maj. Ba Shin, Coming of Islam to Burma down to 17th century AD. A lecture before Asian History Congress (unpublished) New Delhi 1961.
164. JBRS, 50th Anniversary Publication No.2. Arakan Place in the civilization of the Bay, by M. Collis, PP. 491 – 498.
165. U Hla Tun Pru. The Life and Time of King Minba; an article in a book published by Takkatho Min Lwin.
166. JASP (VI) 1966.p-123
167. All above paragraphs arc extracted from Harvey’s Outline of Burmese History.
168. This slave raids in Bengal will be discussed separately in a special chapter. Also see Harvey; Outline of Burmese History, Chapter Arakan.
169. D. G. E. Hall: “Burma”, PP. 59,60.
170. R. B.Smart Burmese Gazetteer. Akyab District. Vol. A. P-26.
171. D. G. E. Hall; Burma. P-60.
172. Albert Fytche: Burma a Past and Present. P-62.
173. D. G. E: Hall; Burma. P-60.
174. JASP,X (1966) 206, P-60 Contribution by M. A. Siddiq Khan.
175. Ibid: P-206,
176. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong. Vol. PP-305
177. AIamgirnamah; PP. 556 – 562.
178. Elliot and Dowson; VII, P-254.
179. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong. Vol. 1. PP. 305. 306.
180. Ibid; P-307. Also See Purba Bangia. Gitikar: Pt lV NO.2 P-456.
181. R. B. Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District. Vol. A. P-26.
182. Harvey: Outline of Burmese History, PP.95 – 96.
183. Moshe Yeage; The Muslims of Burma, Chapter Muslim Settlement in Arakan (1972), PP. 59 -60.
184. D. G. E. Hall; Burma, Hutchison University Library, (1950), P-61
185. Moshe Yegar Quoted Bernier in his “The Muslims of Burma”.
186. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. M. Yegar extracted these parts from Bernier’s records. D. G. E. Hall: Dutch Relation with Arakan Part II, BRS 50th Anniversary publication No.2, 1960 Yangon. Shah Shujah and the Dutch Withdrawal in 1665.
187. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. P- .
188. Albert Fytche; Burma Past and Present. Vol, I. P-66.
189. D. G. E. Hall; Studies in the Dutch relation with Arakan. Part II (Shah Shujah and the Dutch withdrawal in 1665). JBRS 50th anniversary publication NO.2 (Rangoon, 1960), See also Hall, Burma 1961.
190. Harvey; Outline of Burmese History, P-96
191. Harvey; Outline of Burmese History, P-97
192. U Hla Tun Pru; National Race of Arakan. Sapay Beikman Publishing House, PP. 46 – 48.
193. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. Chapter Muslim Settlement in Arakan. P-26.
194. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, P-153.
195. Mogul Raiders of Bengal by J. M. Gosh, P-56.
196. M. Robinson; the Coins and Bank Notes of Burma, Ed. L. H. Shaw. PP. 49 -50.
197. M. Robinson: The Coins and Bank Notes of Burma. Ed, L. H.Shaw. PP. 49 -50.
198. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. P-19.

To be continue, See Part II

Towards Understanding Arakan History ( Part II)

Continuous from Part I

A Study on the Issue of Ethnicity in Arakan, Myanmar
by Abu Anin


Slavery and slave trade in Chittagong existed simultaneously with those elsewhere in the subcontinent but the practice of slavery and slave trade did appear in its worst from with the coming of Portuguese, the pioneer in slave trade in the early centuries of the modern period.199

Slave trading of Portuguese was a very interesting thing during the Mrauk-U period. They made their settlements in Goa, Sandwip Islands and Chittagong.From mid 16th century onwards; their main trade was slave hunting. The barbarous methods with which the Protuguese, in some cases with collaboration of Magh, procured, transported and sold human being as slaves would over shadow the previous practices of slavery. The mid 17th century historian Shahabuddin Talish gives an wful but vivid description of the human hunting by the Magh-Frenghi piraies of the kingdosn of Arakan. He writes: Arakan pirates both Magh and Frenghi used constantly the route of water to plunder Bengal. They carried off Hindus and Muslims, males and females, great and small, few and many that they could seize, pierced the plums of their hands, passed thin cane through the hole and threw them one above the other, under the deck of then ships. In the same manner as grain is flung to fowls, every morning and evening they threw down uncooked rice from above to the captives, as food.200 Bernier, a French physicist and traveier of that time, writes: Those Portuguese pursued no other business than that of rapine and piracy. They scoured the neighboring seas in light galleys, entered the numerous arms and branches of the Ganges, ravened the islands of lower Bengal and often penotiating foity or fifty leagues up the country, surprised and carried away the entire population of villages on market days, at times, when the inhabitants were assembled for celebration oi a marriage or some of the festivals. The marauders made slaves of their unhappy captives and burnt whatever could not be removed.201

Manucci, another traveler (from Venice) gives the same description as those of Bermer. He says, these inhabitants (Portuguese) inflicted great damage on the islands of Bengal and penetrating with their boats into all parts of the province, carried off men, women and children, gold and silver and when they could get they did not hesitate to carry off babies at the breast along with their mothers.When these babies cried at night they would, with unheard of cruelty, snatch them from their mother’s arms and threw them into the sea.202

Portuguese priest Friar Manrique writes about the slave hunting expedition of his compatriots as follows:-

Here (in Bengal) they (the pirates of Arakan–Chittagong) used to sack and destroy all the villages and settlements on the bank of Ganges to a distance of two or three leagues up streams and besides removing all the most valuable things they found, they would also take captives any people with whom they came in contact.203

Manrique who happened to be in Chittagong in 1630s admitted, “the Portuguese took leading part in the raids of plundering, only occasiunally a few Magh’s Gelias following in their wake.204 The Portuguese wese given especial privileges during the time of Min Phalaung (a) Sikander Shah (1571-1593) and Mm Razagyi (a) Salim Shah (1593-1512) Guerriro writes almost all the ports of Chittagong has been given over to the Portuguese who live there. He (Salim Shah) remitted the duties on trade. He gave stipend who served him and gave facilities to missionaries.205

The people captured by the pirates were in their consideration no better than drumdirven animals. Talish writes of their pathetic as follows: Many high born persons and Syeds, many pure and Syed born women were compelled to undergo the disgrace of slavery, services or concubinage of these wicked men. Talish to emphasize the nature of the piracy reproduced words of a pirate. When Nawab Shayista Khan inquired a runaway Portuguese pirate about their salary, the latter replied. “Our salary was the imperial dominion. We consider the whole of Bengal as our Jagir. All the twelve months of the year we made our collection, i e booty without trouble. We had not to bother ourselves about amias and amins, not had we render account and balances to anybody. Passages over water were our (field) service. We never slackened the enhancement of our rent viz. booty. For years we have left no arrears of their revenue. We have with us papers of the division of the booty village by village for the last forty years. 206

Bernier writes it is owing to the repeated depredations that we see so many fine islands at the mouth of Ganges, formerly thickly populated, now entirely deserted by human beings and other wild beasts.207

Manucci states that these inhabitants (Portuguese) inflicted a great damaged on the islands of Bengal.208

Tallish described the wide spread destruction caused by the Magh-Frenghi plundering raids on the Delta, i.e Bengal as an eyewithness. As they (the pirates) for a long time continually practice piracy, their country prospered and their numbers increased, while Bengal became more and more desolate, less and less able to resist and fight them. Not a household was left on both sides of the rivers in their track from Decca to Chittagong. The district of Bakla, a part of Bengal, lying in their usual path was formerly full of cultivation and yielded every year a large amount to the imperial Government as duty on its betel nuts. They swept it with the broom of plunder and abduction leaving none to inhabit a house or kindle a fire in the entire tract.209

According to Manrique, a Portuguese, the raiding was pronounced to be just the Provincial Council of Goa. The Portuguese government as well encouraged her people and defended this practice. During the five years (1629 – 1634 A.D.), I spent in the kingdom of Arakan; some eighteen thousand captives were brought to the port of Diang and Angarcale.210

The importation of the slaves into the kingdom of Arakan produced far-reaching results. With the constant arrival of a large numbers of captives the size of the population of the kingdom of Arakan increased considerably. Sometimes the imports of such wretched victims reached such greatness that according to an estimate between 1621 and 1627 A.D. the Protuguese brought to Chittagong 42 000 slaves.211

Burmese chronicles also testify this slave trade of Protuguese in Arakan. In the siliver Jubilee Bulletin of Rangoon University History Research Department, it is described to have brought about three thousand slave every years.U Hla Tun Phyu, an Arakanese senior politican, in his Arakan’s treasure troves he describes amoung the slaves there were several technocrats, they were not allowed to be exported. So in this regard relation between Arakan King and the Dulch turned sour. He futher describes the number of captives and the name of boats carried them from 1624 to 1666. He emphasizes the trades of Arakan then was in the hands of Mohammedans, Hindus and Armenians.212

According to Dr. S. B. Kiinango in Arakan proper these captured Muslinis accounted for no less than one sixth of the total population. The Muslims in Arakan are known as Kalas who are supposed by Sir Arthur Phayre to be of Bengali descents. He writrs the Arakanese (Magh) appear to have sent a number of inhabitants of Bengal into Arakan as slaves whence arose the present Kalah (foreigners) population of the country which formed 15% of the whole population. Arakan Muslims preserve the language of their ancestors for colloquial purposes, but always use the Burmese in writing. They have also adopted the dress of the country with the exception of the Gaung-Boung or headdress.213

The number of these Kalah people settling in the valley of the greatest river of Arakan was so great that it is said that the river. “Kaladan”, is named after Kalahs or foreigners. 214 In this connection Albert Fytche Says, Kaladan, i.e. limit or border of the Kalah or western foreigners St. John thinks the name is derived from Dan, a place; and Kola, a foreigner as it was on this river that the kings of Arakan located their Bengali slaves.215

Foreign travelers of that time say these captives were subjected to most cruelly and hard labor Bernier writes that Shah Shujah during his armed rebellion against the Arakanese king in 1661 gained the local Muslims who were mostly of slaves origins [In fact these people were not slaves by descends but forced captives) The abortive coup proved calamitous to the Muslims who suffered much at the hands of Royal troops.216 Shah Alaol, a Muslim minister of Sanda Thudamma, and eminent poet and writer, was also one of the sufferers. He was imprisoned and kept in a miserable condition but later released by the request of other Muslim ministers and courtiers.217 In this period, on the ground of showing sympathy to the fugitive Mogul Prince, Muslims were massacred. Some say all who wearing a beard in a Moorish fashion were beheaded. Thus thousands of Muslims had to flee for safety into Bengal. These exiles or their descendants in East Bengal until todays aie known as “Rowengi” i.e. people from Arakan.

Here Shah Alaol (Allah wall) was the most famous and reputed Bengali writer of 17th century. Most remarkable thing is all his works were done in Arakan, under the patronizationof an alien king. He too was one of the captives, kidnapped in his boyhood days, during aboat journey with his father. He was kidnapped by the Portuguese: his father was killed in the short fighting. Finally he was brought to Arakan. As a talented man, he soon rose to prominence as a member of Royal bodyguards (Sarwar). His literary genius soon attracted the notice of the Muslim noblemen of the Royal court under whose influential support, the poet wrote his important works.218

R. B. Smart writes: The Arakan king in former times had possession of all along the coast as far as Cnittagong, and Decca and many Mohammedans were sent to Arakan as slaves. Large numbers were said to have been brought by Min Razagyi (1492-1512) after his first expedition to Sandwip (Island), and the local history relates that there were some Arab settlements in Arakan. (Today), they differ but little from the Arakanese (Magh) except in their religion and in the social customs which their religion directs,in writing they use Burmese, but amongst themselves employ colloquially the language of their ancestors. Long residing in this enervating climate and the examples set them by the people among whom they have resided for generations have had the effects of rendering these people almost as indulgent and extravagant as the Arakanese themselves. They have so got out of the habit of doing hard manual labor that they are now absolutely dependant on the Chittagonian coolies, to help them over, the most arduous of their agricultural operations: Ploughing, reaping and the other earth works.219

Portuguese relation with Arakan grew well in the liine of Min Razagyi (1593-1612).For some times there arose some problems during the reign of Min Khamaung (a) Hissein Shah (1612-1622 A.D.). But they served the Arakan king. In the words of Harvey, they served the Arakanese in holding Sandwip Island. Noakhali, Bakergunje and Sandarband and in raiding up to Decca and even Murshid Abad………. In a single month in February 1727, they carried off 18,000 captives from southern parts of Bengal; the king chose the artisans about one fourth to be his slaves, and the rest were sold at prices varying from Rs. 20 to Rs. 70 per head. They would pierce the hand of their captives: pass a string of cane through the hole, and filing them under the deck, strung together like hens………. Sometimes the Maghs would sail back to the coast where they have captured their prisoners and wait till the village brought out sufficient present to redeem their kinsmen from the ship. This they call collecting revenue and the Portuguese among them kept regular account books. Their activities decreased when the English began to police the coast, but even in 1795, they were plundering the king of Burma’s boats off Arakan. Laden with his customs dues 10% in kind. They have regular forts in the mouth of Megna River, and here and there a few of them settled in the Ganges Delta, for a little colony of 1500, speaking Arakanese and wearing
Burmese dress, still survive on four or five islands in the extreme south-east of Bakergunje.220 These Arakanese were repatriated into Arakan in the time of U Ne Win. Most of them settled in Akyab District now.

In the journal of Mannqne; a Portuguese priest, English translation of which was published in 1927 by Hukluyt society: He says the Frenghi brought no less than 34,000 slaves annually to Dianga.221

Manrique was quoted by Morice Collis to have witnessed a plundering boat by himself, where he found the captivcs’ language has many Persian and Arabic words, some boatmen were also Muslims, where his efforts to convert thern into Christianity was not successful. During his stay in 1626-1637, he witnessed 18000 captives brought by Frenghis. 222

These captives were settled in special areas guarded by Muslim soldiers.223 These captives were employed in several occupations. First, the kingdom of Arakan was a sparsely populated area, which required human labor for agriculture. A large number of these slaves were employed in agricultural actives. From Friar Manriques account, we come to know that a number of their captives were employed in the hllage of the land under the Portuguese tenancy. The Magh, as stated by Talish, employed all these captives in agriculture and other hind of services.

Secondly: All able bodied captives were reserved as rowers for the plundering ships. Bernier writes, those who were not disable by age, the pirates kept them in their service in training them up to the love of robbery and practice of assassination.

Thirdly, the captive women were appointed either as wives, concubines or household servants. Among the lot the young and fair looking women captives were lucky to be in better position.

Fourthly; a large number of these captives were kept in the service of the king, Governors, Landlords, and people of upper class society. Of these slaves, Arakanese kings would pick out the best either in physique or in skill and employed them directly in his own service.

Fifthly; a great number of the captives were sold in the open market.224 The Dutch mostly bought and employed them in their Indonesian settlement.



We have seen in eaily Chapters, present day Rohingya of Arakan, have a close genealogical and cultural link with the people of Wethali and Dannya Waddy periods Their contacts with Islam, according to Arak;inese chronicles trace back 8th century A. D.

Islam reached into the coast of Arakan fiom late 8th century A.D. Muslim traders and missionaries got continuous contacts with Arakan and Islam got rooted in Vesali from 8th century It grew larger in Lemyo age. The court bard of Mm Saw Muwn, Abdu Min Nyo wrote the famous poetry book “Rakhine Minthami Ayechan” is assumed to be a Muslim of late Lemyo age. But in present writings Abdu Min Nyo is found to be wiilten as Badu Min Nyo, a Rakhinized form. Whatsoever we don’t have substantial proofs to prove Abdu Min Nyo’s being Muslim, though his name sounds Muslim.

The gradual Muslim infiltration into political and cultural life of Arakan became more forceful during the reign of Min Tsaw Mwun, who with the help of Gaur king Sultan Jalaluddin Mohammed Shah (some say Nazir Shah) regained his throne in Arakan.225

According to G. H. Luce, once Professor of History in Rangoon University, in 14th century stone inscriptions of Chindwin. Aiakan kings were mentioned with Indian titles, and they were Muslims. He said when Muslims seized Bengal in eany 13th century; they penetrated up to Rakhine border. Undoubtedly Patti Kara (Comilla) was destroyed by them. They battled with chief and tribes around the border area. In this context many chieftains and followers turned Muslims, and perhaps some of them had shifted to the Burmese side of the border.226

Dr Than Tun, formerly chairman of Burma History Research Society, postulates the present day Muslim settlers in the northern Arakan might be descendants of those early people, because they (The Rohingyas) claimed to he in that part of Burma for more than a thousand years. If not thousand years it might at least be eight hundred years. 227

Although it is through legend, it is consensus among the Rohingya that there were little kingdoms of Muslims at many places in northern Arakan. The date and timing of their existence was not in accurate records. According to legend, Alia Beg of Baguna, Buthidaung, Mohammed Hanif of Minglagyi Mountain and Amir Hamzah of Golungi (Upper Pruma Valley) were of those kings. There are some legendary-like books (called Puthi in Rohingya dialect) narrating all detail affairs of these kingdoms. The legend of Hanifa, who conquered the tribes of Kayapuri (a tribal queen) and married her. They ruled over that area, having their palace on Minglagyi Mountain; local name until today of two peaks on Minglagyi Mountain are Hanifa Peak and Kayapuri Peak. There is still a Puthi (Legendary Book) book in the people’s hand, which described all the affairs of King Amir Hamzah of Gaulangi. It says Amir Hamzah tried to penetrate into inner Arakan, and there were wars with the kings of Wethali. But there is no proof that Amir Hamzah conquered Wethali. The Valley of Pruma is still locally known as Gaulanqi.

In medieval time, Arakan became closely related to Bengal. Historians say, along side with far ranging commercial links with Bengal, close cross-cultural ties were thereafter irremediably fastened between the Rakhine kingdom and Bengal.228 Because, Narameikhia and his family spent over 22 years in exile amid Muslim cultures and as a nominal vassalage of Sultan of Gaur, the Rakhine kingdom was strongly influenced by Bengal culture. Hence Narameikhia employed Muslim titles in his coins and inscuplions; albeit he and his subject remained Buddhist. He had to assign the revenue of his dominions in Bengal to the Sultan of Gaur to meet the expenses of helping him to recovet his thione. [But later we find in Rakhine Chronicles, Min Khari occupied Rarnu and Ba Saw Pru got control of Chittagong. This indicates Narameikhia: the first king of Mrauk-U dynasty had had no dominions in Bengal]

He was succeeded by his son (in reality his brother) Ali Khan (a) Min Khari. Thereafter nine Rakhine kings continued to be subject to Bengal until 1531, thus receiving their titles (i.e. Shah, Sheikh or Khan) as vassals of Bengal Sultanate. It is equally noteworthy that even after becoming independent of the Bengal Sultanate eight kings of the early Mrauk-U dynasty continued to use Muslim titles by traditions whilst court ceremonies and administrative methods continued to follow the customs of Sultan of Gaur. Thus one may be warranted in emphasizing that part of the reason for such customs may be ascribed to the fact that there were Muslims in ever greater numbers among their subjects, a number of them holding eminent posts in the kingdom.229 It is worthy of note that Muslims fulfilled official tasks in the Royal court throughout Mrauk-U period. They served in administration in the army and in various economic activities. Hence the Rakhine King Thiri Thudamma 1622-1638 had appointed a Muslim Counselor/Doctor. 230

Subsequently the Arakanese Kings employed Muslim civil servants. For example, controllers of Muslim quarters called Kaladan i.e. foreign dwellings were Muslims bearing the titles of Kalahwun. 231

The early days of the restoration of Mrauk-U monarchy in 1430 equally saw a steady influx of population of Islamic faith, chiefly mercenaiies from Afghanistan, Persia and even Turkey as well as traders from other parts of the Muslim world This influx of population did not modify significantly the demographic structure of Rakhine Kingdom, however, as they were few in numbers. The last mentioned settleis were calling themselves (and were designated) as Rohingyas.232

This group being predominantly Sunnites (despite the existence of some Shiite traditions) and high caste merchants, soldiers and nobles, belong to the king’s suite.Then ational nexus between Rohingya and the Rakhine kingdom was flowing from a higher legal nexus, i.e. the nominal vassalage of Rakhine kings to the Sultan of Gaur, which guaranteed Muslim subjects to be treated as equals to the Buddhist. Indeed a uniform treatment was applied for equal subjects of the king and as a result (albeit for their religion which they maintained). Rohingya easily merged with the existing Rakhine culture. Such acculturation is clearly exemplified by e.g. the change in dress [The fact that Muslim females lost the Indian Sari for Rakhine Thami (Sarong). Bazu (top) and Shawl (Scarf))], and other customs, which were the copies of customs followed by the local population such as consulting Astrologers, certain traditions relating to the engagement of the couples, to a certain extent the belief in Nats (Spirit) etc. 233

Muslim Subjugation: Muslim subjugation of Arakan from time to time undoubtedly increases the Islamic influence in Ihat country. In Poituguese sources give indirect evidence of Arakanese submission to the Hussein Shahi rulers of East Bengal.234 Here Dr Kunango, a specialist on Chittagnno history, says there was Muslim rule on a part of Arakan. After Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalimah Shah (1459-1482) and the successive kings Daulya (1462-1492), Ba Saw Nyo (1492-1494), Rang Aung (1494) and Salingha Thu (1494-1501) were very weak kings. They lost Chittagong and did not have Muslim titles (other sources say these kings, too had Muslim titles). Dr Kunango says Arakanese chronicle supplies indirect evidence of the Hussein Shahi’s occupation of Chittagong. In this period political situation in Arakan was deplorable and helpful to project of Bengal Sultan to subjugate Arakan. De Barros shows a large territory comprising southern Chittagong and a portion of Arakan under the jurisdiction of Codavascao (Khuda Baksh Khan). This is not possible unless Arakan had been brought into obediance. 235

Again in 16th century after the powerful monarch Min Bin (a) Min Bagyi (a) Zabouk Shah, chaos arose in Arakan. Bengal Gaur king Mohammed Shah Sur occupied Chittagong and a part of Arakan proper. Mohammed Shah Sur’s General forced Arakan king (perhaps Min Dikka (1553-1554) or Min Saw HIa (1554-1555) to submit to the authority of Bengal Sultan. Perhaps the Pathans conquered the principality of Ramu and some portion of modern Akyab Division. He ordered the striking of coins in 1555 A.D. The mint of these coins mentioned as Arakan. Eminent numismatist such as Mr N. B. Synyal, defending the reading of the coins hints that Mohammed Shah’s conquest of Arakan was real. He pointed out that the afore coins were not only the specimen of Mohammed Shah’s Arakan coins, but the coins preserved in British Museum also indicate the same reading. In this connection Dr. Kunango referred to Numismatists, Rodgers Lamepole, and Wright who expressed the same idea about the coins of Mohammed Shah, which were minted in the name of Arakan.236

It has been already observed that the conquest of Arakan by Mohammed Shah was followed by a prolong war with Doui Minikka of Tippera for about a year Chittagong was annexed by the Tippera king in 1556 after Mohammed Shah’s death. It was then under Tippera king for a decade. But Chittagnng was a bone of contention among Muslims, Tripura and Arakan.  So it again after nearly a decade had fallen under Arakan’s control.

It is narrated in an Aiakan chronicle, so called Dannya Waddy Areydowpon, that there was an uprising of Kalah and Thet [in the time of Anulunmin]. General Damma Zeya was sent to put down the uprising in Bengal Damma Zaya repelled the Kalas from Chitlagong within five days but the Kalahs resisted from Decca A battle near Lakchipur was ensued and finally the Kalah Prince was defeated, and his army ran away in disarray. Then Damma Zeya marched up to Murshidabad and the king Dehlippa Shah retreated to Rum Pasha’s country.Kalah Prince was captured. He along with the body was sent to the king. General Sein Key was kept there to supervise Kalah Pyi and Damma Zeya returned with the captured Prince and half of his men. The Prince was given treatment. When he was cured, appointed as Governor of Akyab. His men were disarmed and put in the group of (Mauleik), household servants. Some were substituted in the Daingwin Ka group of Talaing and Kekyinn. There were a lot of Kalahs deployed on vanous works of life. Altogether 47,000 Kalahs were assigned on various special tasks and registered them for tuture records.237 Here it is a matter of perusal why a Prince who became war captive was appointed as Governor. Further this chionicle, which is regarded as to be the most authentic one, emphatically described, there were about 50.000 Kalah (Muslim) force in the army of Min Razagyi (1593-1612) in his campaign against Pegu and Martaban (Moulmein).

Assessment of other Arakanese Historians: As I have said, Arakanese historians were very cautious in mentioning the bright side of Rohingya. Nevertheless we find many valuable facts in their writings.

San Shwe Bu says Arakan being adjacent to Bengal and having greater intercourses, no doubt there were Muslims in Arakan even before Mrauk-U dynasty.238 U Aung Tha Oo says it is a fact that because of Muslim missionaries, some of Arakanese had converted to Islam.239 U HIa Tun Pru, a historian as well as a senior politician says during the reign of Min Bin (1531-1551 A.D.) three missionaries headed by U Kadir, from India arrived at Mrauk-U and did missionary works where as many Arakanese accepted Islam.240 Bon Pauk Tha Kyaw, an eminent politician of Arakan in his book “The Danger of Rohingya to the Union”, which was distributed amply before the election of 1990, categorized Arakan Muslims in three groups.

Group (1): Those captives who were taken away by Bodaw Pya’s army.

Group (2): Those who ran away to Bengal.

Group (3); Those who remained in Arakan.

Despite his attempt to highlight that Muslims in Arakan are latecomers from India or Bengal, he had to recognize their existence even before Burmese era.241 Major Tun Kyaw Oo (Rtd.) emphasized Rohingyas were not aliens but they are twins with Rakhine. He says early Aryan who entered Arakan branched into two groups One worshipping the Sun and the other worshipping the Moon. Candras of Wethali age were of those who worship Moon and some of them converted into Islam. The languages found in the inscription of Wethali age are very much nearest to the present day Rohingya language.242

Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung, honorary archeological officer of Mrauk-U Museum (Rakhine) writes: Min Saw Mun got back his throne with the help of Gaur Sultan and he shifted the capital to Mrauk-U in 1430 A.D. Arakan remained as vassalage of Gaur until 1531 A.D. In the time of ninth Mrauk-U King, Zaleta Saw Mun,three missionaries, Kadir, Musa and Hanu Mean from the country of Rum Pasha (Delhi Empire) came to Arakan to propagate their religion, Islam. They built Mosques all over the country and preached their religion among the people, daily. Some people believed in their faith and it spread all over the country. People converted in groups. They gave gifts to the king and he was very friendly with them. The preachers brought later other ministers from Delhi and Kadir built a Mosque at Baung Duet. Mrauk-U and other preachers, too, built such Mosques throughout the country. Their religion flourished much. But Saya Mra Wa raised a complaint with the king, at the time of Mm Bagyi, alarmed the king about the spread of new religion. Here the king stopped the missionary works. 243 [It is a translation of original Burmese book. Here utmost care is given not to deviate from the original meaning].

This missionary work and the spread of Islam in Arakan is not a strange thing. It is well known to all Burmese historians. We find these phenomena in Dannya Waddy Razwin Thit and in the works of U Ba Than, U Kyi, U Ba Shein, Dannya Waddi Sayadaw U Nyana and many others.

Commentaries of Foreign Writers: Dr. Kunango highlights, the favor shown by the Arakan king and courtiers to the Muslims, led to the growth of Muslim nobility in Arakan. According to Guerreiro a certain Rumi exercised a considerable power over the king. The works of Daulat Qazi and Alaol (Two Muslim ministers since the time of Thiri Thidamma (1632-1653 A.D.) give references to a number of Muslim nobles: e.g. Lashker Wazir, Asnraf Khan, Quraishi, Magon Takhur, Sulaiman, Syed Musa, Syed Mohammed Khan, Naverez Mujlis, Syed Shah etc. who held responsible posts in Arakan administration.244

Dr. Kanungo further says by quoting Shah Alaos works; Arakanese rulers patronized learned Muslims. Muslim influence made a deep mark on the society and administration of Arakan. Poet Alaol works referred to the participation of Muslim nobility in the coronation ritual of the Arakanese monarch. Naverez Mnjlis, a senior minister officially conducted the investiture ceremony of King Sanda Thudamma. The minister formally pronounced statements regarding the solemn duty and responsibilities and urged the new king to follow these. After the conclusion of the ceremony, the sworn king paid respect to the minister.245

Dr. Kanungo narrates, the contemporary sources state that Muslim officers like Qazi, Lashker Wazir, Chaukidars, Karbaries, etc. were frequently employed in the Arakan Government, Muslim manners and antiquities were introduced in the court of Arakan.

Portuguese priest, Manrique while he was staying in the court of Arakan, noticed that the visitors were required to pay Taslim, a Muslim mode of respect, before the king. He himself had to pay Six Taslims age by one, when he went to see the king. Manrique observed the differed coronation ceremony of Thiri Thudamma in 1632. He saw the arm forces that took part in the ceremony were composed of Muslims There were special Elephant and Horse Units exclusively of Muslims. He described the green velvet dress and bright swords of the armed units, in an interesting way. He further says the personeal Physician of the king was a Muslim and he had a great influence over the king. The king conversed with Manrique in Indian language.246

Niccolao Manucci, a noted Venetian traveler, in India from (1653–1703),in his Slona De Mogor Vol. I threw light on the Muslim population of Arakan. Muslim’s populations of Arakan roughly consist of four categories: namely, the Bengali, other Indian, Afro-Asian and natives. Among them the Bengali formed the largest of total Muslim population of Arakan. The inflow of captive Muslims from lower Bengal constituted much to the ever increasing of Bengali Muslims and they were called Kalahs by the Alakanese (Magh). Arakanese Muslims themselves introduce as Rohingyas to others.247

Thus Muslim culture and language had a dominant character in Arakan. Muslims can communicate in their own dialect with Rakhine until Buimese independence. Post independent period took a different cultural and linguistic trend. Rakhine and Burmese languages began to take dominant position. In the time of Arakanese kings and during the British period Muslim did not feel necessary to learn Rakhine language. However, Muslims who lived in the midst of Rakhine, speak Rakhine language well. So Francois Buchanan, a diplomat in Michael Syame’s mission at Ava in 1795 studied the languages of Burma, where he found two dialects, very much similar, in Aiskan, one Rovinga language, spoken by Muslims and other Rosswan language spoken by Hindus of Arakan. According to Buchanan both are much identical and of Indian stocks. He said he procured this from an Arakan Brahman and his son whom he met in Ava and they weie brought there (Amarapura) by the eldest son of Bodaw Pya on his return from Arakan episode This Brahman explained him the importance of their languages (Rovingo and Rasswan) in Arakan as a common language of Arakan. Buchanan expressed his wonder, “I don’t know why he (The Brahman) repeatedly says that theirs is the dominant language of Arakan.248

The study of this British diplomat leads us to the conclusion that Rohingya are not recent entrants into Burma, but a deeply rooted community in Arakan even before Burmese occupation of Arakan in 1786 A.D

When Bengal was seized by Mogul emperor Akbar in 1572, from the hand of Afghan king, many Muslim high-ranking officers had to flee into Arakan kingdom where they were warmly welcomed and offered high-ranking official posts. In early Mrauk-U period a steady influx of population of Islamic faith, chiefly meicenaries from Afghan, Persia and even from Turkey as well as traders from other parts of the Muslim world reached Arakan.249 Dr. Kanungo adds to it that Arakanese required their (the exile’s) services in fighting out the enemies, the Mogul and the Portuguese, all of who were the enemies of Pathans too. Due to their martial vigor they were appointed to the responsible posts such as Rwaza, Kyunza, both meaning headman.250 In this connection Bernier, a French Physicist who lived in India nearly for a decade says, “although the king of Rakhan be a gentile, yet there are many Mohammedans mix with the people, who have either chosen to rctire among them or forcibly brought from Bengal as slaves.251 The growth of Muslim population in the kingdom of Arakan was due mainly to the bringing of a large number of captive Muslims by the Magh (the name formerly known to the westerners) and Frenghi pirates from lower Bengal.

D.G.E.Hall’s assessment is, Mohammedanism spread to Arakan but failed to make much impression upon its Buddhism. Mrohong had its Saudi Khan (Historic) Mosque and its kings assumed Mohammedan titles, but the predominance of Buddhism was never shaken.252 He further remarks from the early Christian era Buddhism spread into Arakan. At the same time Islam took root through the Arabs. This fact is obviously seen in the existing of Muslim religious buildings along side with its Buddhist ones.

Official Version: The state sponsored publication, during U Ne Win’s “Ma-Sa-La” period says though Arakan kings were Buddhists, they gave freedom to all other religions such as Brahmanism. Christianity, and Islam; thus from Wethali to Mrauk-U ages, Christian and Muslim religious buildings were allowed to build allover the country.253

Present SLORC/SPDC Government also recognizes this existence of Muslims from early period. In its publication “Sasana Rongwa Tunzepho”254 in 1997, it says, Islam spread in Arakan from 8th and 9th centimes. It got its route into Burma proper through Arakan. Duringthe reign of Ava Sane Min in 1709 A.D., more than three thousand Muslims from Arakan absconded into Burma [It is perhaps due to the suppressive measures of Arakan King Sanda Wiziya (1710-1730)] These Muslims were settled in 12 different places such as, Taungoo, Yamethin, Nyaung Yan, Yindaw, Meik Htilar, Pintalae, Taphetswei, Bodi, Thazi, Setottaya, Myedu and Dipeyin.255

U Khin Maung Yin of Bassein College says, this group of people due to their martial character, later, recruited by Bodaw Pya in his army and they were employed in his march to Arakan.256 These recruitments of Arakanese Muslims were also found in Bodaw Pya’s official Gazettes, with their particulars. The recruits from Myedu were posted at Sandoway where their descendants were until recently known as Myedu Muslim. They numbered 4,681 in 1930 British census.

Bodaw Pya’s Muslim recruits took active parts in the first Anglo-Burma war. Perhaps there were many Arakanese Muslims in Bandoola’s army. Some even assume Bandoola to be a Muslim from Dapyi Yin. But no concrete proofs for this claim is found. These Muslim force fought tail and nail. For example Abdul Karim (a) Bo Maung Gale heading five hundred men stationed at the south of Theingyi Talk. They fought the enemy man to man with their horses. He was a military expert but caught up by the British. He was offered high-ranking post. But he did not betray, and did not take side with the British. Many other Arakanese Muslims did pay active military services. So at the request of these Muslim forces, king Ba Gyi Daw allowed them to build two Mosques in Rangoon, one in Peinetgon quarter and the other at the side of present day Aung San Sport Stadium. The latter presently, is known as “Tachanpet Bali”. These Mosques are still Rakhine Pali or Ball in their registration.

When the British removed its garrison from Mrauk-U to Akyab in 1826, they found a few modern temples in Akyab, which are interesting in as much as their architectural style is a mixture of Burmese turreted Pagoda and the Mohammedan four-cornered minaret structure, surmounted by a hemispherical cupola The worship too is mixed, both temples were visited by Mohammedans and Buddhists and Budder Mokan has also its Hindu votaries. The Budder Mokan is said to have been founded in 1756, by the Muslim in memory of one Badder Aulia, whom they regard as an eminent Saint.257

Further Dannya Waddy Areydawbon, narrated there were Muslim settlements and Muslim Mrowun (Mayors) in Akyab. Despite all these historic records all Muslims in Arakan today are subject to official discrimination and treated as aliens.



Many Rohingyas, in remote places, cannot speak Rakhine or Burmese language properly, not because they are recent entrants but because, historically they were in full freedom to develop their own language. Until Burmese independence their language, informally, was the common language of communication at least in northern Arakan. Their dialect most similar but not identical to Chittagonian, was very influential in the time of Magh (Rakhine) reign. Dr. Kanungo says politically Chittagong was subjugated by Arakan, but culturally it was Arakan, which was greally influenced by a stronger culture and a more powerful language.

A number of competent Bengalis were appointed to high Government posts.258 People of all ranks enjoyed the literary beauty of Bengali works. One of the foremost factors for the phenomenal growth of Bengali literature in the view of Dr. Anamul Haq was the superiority of Bengali language on the Arakanese.259

Dr.Sukumer Sen rightly says, from this time Bengali was accepted at the Arakan court as the chief cultural language,mainly because many of the high officials of Arakan came from Chittagong and other neighboring territories whose mother tongue was Bengali.260

Arakanese rulers, especially in 17th century gave encouraging support to the cultivation of Bengali literature. Their king’s enthusiasm inspired the same feeling in their Bengali courtiers under whose care and guidance, some gifted Muslim poets wrote many of their master pieces.261 It is really amusing to note that the Bengali literature was being cultivated in a foreign country under the patronage of alien rulers. The most interesting of all is that being in deadly hostility with the Moguls in their foreign relations the Arakanese monarchs at home granted the greatest privileges to the Muslims, extended patronage to the Islamic culture and gave influential support to the Muslim poets in their literary persuits.262

Dr. Sukumer Sen writes Daulat Qazi, the most gifted poet of medieval Bengali literature, under the aegis of Ashraf Khan, the commander in chief of the king’s army, translated “Laura Chandrani“, a romantic tale of northern India. But he could not live to finish that piece, which was completed by another Bengali author. It was a famous and widely read book in Arakan and copies are found in the hands of many Rohingya. Another gifted but comparatively little known poet of the court of Raja Thiri Thudamma was Mardan, author of Nasira Nama, but little is known about the poet’s carrier fiom his works. But it is said he is Arakanese by birth. By far the most widely known poet among the Arakanese court Poet was Alaol. In his early life his poetical potentiality attracted the notice of Suleiman, an Arakanese courtier who requested the poet to complete the work of Laura Chanda Rani, which had been left unfinished by his illustrious predecessor Daulat Qazi. With the completion of this work, his poetic fame spread all over the kingdom Magon Siddiq Takur, an influential Arakan courtier of literary merit, requested Alaol to translate the well-known Peisian romantic poem on Saiful-Mulk-Badiyuzzamal, into Bengali. Unfortunately for the poet the patron did not live long to see the work finished. The untimely death of Magun Takur, so much overpowered the poet with grief that he practically gave up writing anymore. Luckily for the poet Mohammed Musa, Commander of Royal Army appeared as a rescuer who saved the poet from grief and distress. He assured the poet of genuine help and requested him to get through the work. It was accordingly done under the care of same pation. The port translated the Poet Nazami’s “Hafta Payakar” into Bengali. Another work is the translation of Tuhfa of Yusuf Gada, a Persian writer.

After suffering a great deal at the hand of Arakanese king (Sanda Thudamma) in connection with his alleged collaboration with Shah Shujah s revolt against the Arakanese ruler, the poet again took his pen under the protection of Nevuiez MujIis (Sanda Thudarnina’s chief minister) and translated Poet Nizami’s (another) work, named Iskander Nama into Bengali as Sikander Nama. (In the early nights of dry season, whenever they got leisure time, Rohingyas used to recite and listen, in big gathering, this Sikander Nama, almost in every village. And the gathering is usually entertained with betel, tea and cheroots, where as in some cases the owner of the house where they gathered served them with a feast. It has been a life tradition in Rohingya of Arakan).

It is an admitted fact that Alaol is the greatest figure among the 17th century Bengali writers. As many sided genius as he was, he showed high power of imagination, mastery of versification, profound learning in both Islamic and Hindu scriptures and skill in a number of languages. He was proficient in writing Puthi and Pardavati to an equal degree.

An interesting feature of the history of Bengali literature is that in 16th century, the Hindu poets took a leading part in the cultivation of Bengali literature, under the patronization of Muslim rulers, but in 17th century the Muslim poets came to the forefront in the cultivation of Bengali literature under the patronization of non-Muslimrulers in an alien country, Arakan. It is generally amusing to note that the greatest poet of 17th century was a Muslim (Alaol), who wrote high Sanskritized Bengali where as the greatest poet of 18th century was a Hindu, Bharat Chandra,whose language is marked by a profuse use of Pcisian diction.263

Alaol patron Magoh Takur also, was a poet of no small merit. The title of Takur was conferred on him by Arakan ruler who used to confer that title on persons of the highest rank and distinction. One of his poetical compositions was the Chandra Vati, a story of love between Prince Barbhan with one Princess Chandra Vati. Magon Takur died most probably in 1660.

Another important Muslim Poet and writer was Abdul Karim Kandakhar. He said his great grand father, Rasul Mia, was a custom officer under the Arakan king, while his grand father, Masan Ali, was an interpreter at the port where foreign ships and merchants used to come. Abdul Karim’s father Ali Akbar also was a man of learning. Abdul Karim under patronage of a wealthy merchant, Siddiq Nana Atiabar, translated into Bengali a Persian work entitled Dulla Majlis in 1789. Previously he had composed two other works, Hajar Masail, Tarnam Anjari, also on the basis of Persian work. Abdul Karim in his Dulla Majlis mentioned the village of Bandar, Mrohong, where they regularly, gathered in Mosques and discussions on learning and religion took place.264

Poet Alaol’s father was a courtier of Majlis Qutub of Faridpur (Bengal). Once while going by boat through one of the rivers in lower Bengal, the father and son were attacked by the Portuguese pirates. The father was killed during the battle that ensued while Alaol was wounded and taken prisoner. Later on he found himself in Arakan, where he had been a cavalry officer of Arakan king. Besides being a good soldier, however, Alaol was a great scholar, poet and musician, having perfect command of a number of languages: Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali and Hindi. Soon his qualities attracted the notice of Magon Siddiq Takur, who was chief minister of two successive Arakan kings from 1645-1660. Alaol’s grave (Burial site) is still found with a little tomb in Myauk Taung village, Kyauk Taw Township.There was a Muslim village before 1942 communal riot. Under Magon Siddiq’s patronization Alaol wrote many books.



The present day Rakhme as is explained in chapter one and two, couldn’t be genealogically the same as to the people of Dannya Waddy and Wethali dynasties. Those early people were Aryan in descends. They claimed to be Candra Bamshi, descendants from the moon. After all they are Indians, very much like to the people of Bengal. The scriptures of those early days found in Arakan, indicate that they were in early Bengali script and hence the culture there also was Bengali

Dr. Kanungo says the Shitthaung Temple Pillar supplies a long list of Candra rulers, reigning for more than five hundred years. The first king of this lineage was Bala Chandra who was also the founder of the dynasty. The king Bala Chandra seemed to be identical with king Bala Chandra of Tharanath’s history. The Shitthaung Pillar inscription doesn’t specifically mention the territorial jurisdiction of the kings who reigned several hundred years earlier than the time of engravement of the inscription. Tharanath’s history states that king Bala Chandra was driven out from his ancestral kingdom. He established a new kingdom in Bengal II might be that one of his successors conquered Arakan and made it his administrative headquarter there.265

The possibility of a connection of whatsoever kind between the Chandra dynasty of Arakan and the Chandra dynasty of East Bengal belonging to the same period cannot be ruled out. The kings of both lines were Buddhist in faith…………..Monarchs of both of these lines used either Nagari (Sanskrit) or the script belonging to the eastern group in their coins and inscriptions. The designs of the coins issued by both of these lines have such a striking similarities that one may confuse the coins of one country with those of other. But there is no evidence yet to prove the two Royal families were related to each other. The inscription of Chandra of Eastern Bengal have no reference to Arakan and the inscriptions of Chandra of Arakan in their turn had a very faint reference to their counterpart of East Bengal. Modern scholars have so far endeavored to establish some sort of connection between the Chandras of Wethali and those of East Bengal.266

A Copper plate discovered in Nasir Abad Chittagong, in 1874 A.D. indicated the names of some rulers: it shows Porushutama Modhumattana Deva, Vasudeva andDamodara Deva as the rulers. These rulers were Visnuvite in their faith and claimedthemselves Chandra Vamsi or descendants from the moon.267

In these contexts, we find rulers in both Arakan and East Bengal were Chandra Vamsi. The public in both sides were the same. The present day Rakhines who are proved, in previous chapters, as Tibeto-Burman are difficult to put at the same par with the people of Chittagong today or with the people of Wethali period of Arakan. Bruwas and Rohingyas of Arakan today have greater possibility to have genealogical and cultural relationships with those people of Wethali age. Descendants of the Chandra in East Bengal are Bengali today.So descendants of the Chandras in Arakan should also logically be the same Bengalis. Bengali affiliated peoples in Arakan are of course Bruwas and Rohingyas today.

Although western historians proved Rakhine to be a branch of Tibeto-Burman, who entered from 10th century A.D., some Arakanese try to tiace their origin in the west rather than in the east. The Arakanese are in average a bit taller and appear stouter. R B. Smart says they appear to have gradually imbibed of the physical as well as the moral and social characteristics of the natives of India, with whom they have, for at least centuries, much intermixed. They are darker than the Talaing and perhaps rather darker than the Burmans and the type of countenance is as much Aryan as Mongolian.268

Arakan maritime communication is exposed to the west for many centuries. From the early Christian era to the modern time foreigners have had contacts with Arakan. Many of who got the chance to establish little colonies and settlements. There were instances where intermarriages took place with foreigners. Arakan kings had to prohibit taking out the off springs of these mix-marriages. But Thiri Thudamma (a) Salim Shah II 1652-1682 allowed the Dutch to take away their off springs of their mix marriages.269 The off springs of mix-marriages with Buruwas and Hindus usually became Buddhist and Rakhines. We cannot deny the fact too; many women captives brought from lower Bengal were made housewives and concubines, who might have produced children vvilh Indian complexion.

R. B. Smart further says the childien of mix-marriages between Hindus and Arakanese tend to become assimilated by the Arakanese in their first or second generation.

Some Arakanese try to trace their origin in Maggheda, India. But researchers say the dialect spoken in Chittagong originates from Maghadhi Parakrit or Maghadi Aphabhramasa.It is characterized by penetration of a large number of indigenous and foreign words. In early Christian era, after the time of king Ashok, Hindu revivalist suppressed the Buddhists and many had fled into the east. From this migrant people of Magheda, Chittagonians got ample vocabularies.According to Dr.S.B.Chatterjee, the dialect of Chittagong evolved from Magadhi Parakrit or Eastern Indian Parakrit, which was cunent in Magadha and its adjoining areas in ancient period.270 So the Rakhine people whose language is quite different with Chittagonian cannot be put at the same par Next Rakhine people who are said to enter Arakan only after 10th century A.D., cannot be ethnically linked with the Magadhi people who migrated to the east, including Arakan, in the early period of Christian era.

So Rakhine were formerly called Magh not because they are descendants of Maghadhi people, but indeed because of other reasons which are subject to further researches by scholars.



As we have seen in pievious chapter, political situation in Arakan after king Sanda Thudamma, began to deteriorate day by day, save a short period of Sanda Wiziya’s reign from 1710 to 1731 A.D. Looting arson and chaos spread all over the country People from Arakan proper discontented with the rule of a king from Ramree race. So, some of them invited Bodaw Pya of Ava to help them dethrone. Maha Thamada, the Ramree king.

Burmese forces under three Princes invaded Arakan frorn three sides Arakanese army near Kyauk Pru was defeated at the hand of Burmese naval force and the Burman advanced towards the capital and took possession of it, meeting with hardly any resistance. In some cases the crowds, village by village, came out to welcome the advancing army with dance and bands. The country was annexed and Maha Thamada Raja was taken prisoner to Ava, where he died shortly after.

Burmese divided Arakan into four administrative parts, each was governed by a governor. The divisions were Akyab, Ramree, Sandoway and Ann. Here Governor (Myo Wun) of Ramree was Sayagyi U Nu of Shwebo, a Mislim, perhaps a descendant of 3,700 Arakanese Muslims who fled to Ava in early 18th Century.

But not very later the very men who invited the Burman were leading insurgency against them. Chan Byan who is usually styled king Berring in the official account of this period, the son of the very man who invited Burman into Arakan, twice raised a revolt, and his standard was joined by most of the respectable Arakanese families; but the rising was finally suppressed and those who could do so escaped to Chittagong Hence Chan Byan continued intrigues till he died in 1815. During this time large numbers of the inhabitants escaped into Chittagong and other parts of lower Bengal.271

In D.G.E. Hall’s words, in 1798 there occurred a further abortive Arakanese rising and in consequence, another exodus of refugees. It was estimated that there was no less than 50,000 of them in the Chitlagnng district. So desperate was their plight that in 1799. Captain Hariman Cox was sent to superintend relief measures and died there while engaged upon his difficult task. Hence that place began to be known as Cox Bazaar.272

For each division of Arakan, Bodaw Pya appointed a Governor and Mayors for towns.This was a time when British and French were competing to penetrate into the market of Burma. Both want to monopolize Burma, which British felt impossible without military occupation. So British were watching for a chance to intervene in Burmese affairs In the meantime Arakanese insurgency at the border lead the two sides into dispute. Some frequent border skirmishes occurred. Burma demanded the expulsion of Arakanese but British denied it. There were diplomatic initiatives to defuse Ihe tension, but was not very fruitful

At the time of Bodaw Pya’s occupaiion, Arakan’s population was about three hundred thousands. Thousands of Muslims and Buddhists were herded away to Burma as captives Mahamuni Image, too, was carried away Burmese rule then was very cruel, heavy taxation,forced labor were enforced. So there were armed resistance, which invited further cruelties and consequently more people had to flee (into Bengdl).273

D.G.E.Hall says the problem of Chin Byan and Burmese incursion in pursuit of the rebels continued until Chin Byan died in 1815 A. D..274 Forced labor to work on Meiktila Lake and Mingon Pagoda and to serve against Chiengmai were called. Thus people deserted Arakan and it was overgrown with jungles, there were nothing left to be seen but utter desolation, morass, pestilence and death.275

The Burmese claimed the surrender of all fugitives. British denied on ground (that) all are not criminals; some are political refugees and simply harmless people fleeing from death. Although British took some actions against the rebels they could never catch NgaChin Byan, lord of Saing Daing, Akyab District, the leader of 1797 and many subsequent risings. For seventeen years he had led his people gallantly, but he never had a chance because he had relied on the other leaders for nothing save to fail him, out of jealousy at the critical moment.276

In the meantime, British noticed Burmese effort to get contact with Maharajas of India and French maneuvers to obtain closer relationship with Burma.

In the reign of Bagyi Daw 1819 – 1837, the grandson and successor of Bodaw Pya, there arose the problem of Manipur. Cachar and Assam, which was then under Burmese rule and British, had declared Cachar as its protected state. At the same time, in September 1823, a territorial dispute over Chamapuri (Shahpuri) island at the mouth of Naf River arose.Thus hostilities on both Cachar and Arakan front let to open war. British declare war on 5th March 1824. Burma confronted with an army of 60.000 men, headed by Maha Bandoola.277 It is said Maha Bandoola recruited many combat experienced men from Arakan, most of whom were Muslims. It is learned and passed mouth to mouth up to us by our older generations that Yusuf Ali son of Roshan Ali, was one of the recruits.
Shwe Dah Khazi (a) Abdul Karim Qazi of Minbya resisted the British, too, where he became prisoner of the British army and was put in Calcutta jail.278

On 11th May the British entered Rangoon form the sea with 11,500 men mostly Madras sepoys. Bandoola retreated from his Panwa campaign, transferred his forces to Rangoon. It was rainy season; British could not advance much for months. But in the battle of Danubyu, Bandoola was killed by a British shell, and his hosts fled on the spot. The British occupied Prome in April 1825 and Pagan in February 1826. By the treaty signed on 24 February 1826 at Yandobo, a village in Myingyan, the Burmese ceded Arakan and Tenasserim and paid an indemnity of Rs.

During the reign of Bodaw Pya Muslims were allowed to settle their social and religious disputes in accordance with their religious veidict. There was a king’s decree in this regard, which was known as “Bodaw Pya Pyandann”. Under this decree many religious judges in the name of Qazi were officially appointed. One of the famous Qazi was Abdul Karim of Minbya, who was honored with a Gold Sword by the king. Thence he was called Shwe Dah Qazi and still there is a Mosque built in Minbya in the name of Shwe Dah Qazi. He was also offered gold betel box, which still is in the possession of his great grand daughter, daughter of Thakin Zainuddin, Principal of National High School, Akyab. Throughout Arakan there were many Qazis who exercised their role even during the British period.   The Government appointed them and provided them with seals of their office. These seals are still found in Arakan. The recently Famous Qazis were Qazi Obeidul Haq of Sein Oo Chamg, Kyauktaw and Qazi Maqbool Ahmed of Sein Oo Byin, Buthidaung.

The reason for the conquest of Arakan was mostly attributed to Bodaw Pya’s vast plans of ambition to conquest another crown. The same strive prompled him to extend its empire westwards, as he planned to possess himself of the British India and even attacked the great Mogul [I cannot say how far it is true because it is the assessment of the western riters]. It is true that he first refused the request of Arakan King’s son to assist him against he authors of rebellion. Yet new trouble and dissentions had then arisen in the Mrauk-U, hich prompted king Bodaw Pya to take this opportunity to invade its antagonist, i.e the akhine kingdom.280

Another version equally reported by some Rakhine prisoners brought as slaves into urmese empire, was that Mrauk-U inhabitants were grossly deceived by the Burmese: for hey said that upon the approach of the army, heralds were sent forth to ask the cause of their coning where unto answer was made that they came to worship and honor with due solemnity to the great idol (Mahamuni) venerated in their city.281



I am not going to discuss in detail the military aspect of the Anglo-Burmese war, British maritime and land attacks overwhelmed the Burmese. Burmese retreated across the mountain into Pegu. Arakan was captured. There was an Arakanese force along with the British in the Arakanese front. Bandoola again began to resist British advance from Rangoon. There were fierce battles for months. Bandoola was killed by a shell of British at Danupyu British advanced up to Pagan in February 1826. British advance was ended at Yandabo, a village in Myingyan on 24th February of 1826 with a treaty, by which Arakan and Tenassserim became British territory.

Shortly afterwards, when the main body of British troop was withdrawn, one regiment was left in Arakan and a local battalion was raised, partly to keep law and order and partly to repel the incursion of wild tribes occupying the hills For several years the country was more or less in disturbed state and within two years establishment of a native dynasty was plotted for. The leaders were three men: Aung Kyaw Ri, a brother-in-law of Chin Byan, Aung Kyaw San, his nephew; both of whom had rendered assistance to the British army and received appointment under British Government, the other is Shwe Pan, also a British official. In 1827 attempts were made to tamper with the men of local battalion. But British controlled it and action was taken. In 1836, another rebellion broke out but was suppressed. From time to time until early 20th century a number of insurrections broke out, all of which were branded as dacoity and suppressed all.

Arakan was ruled by the Governor of British India. At first Chiltagong commissioner controlled it, and then a separate commissioner was appointed

According to the report of first British commissioner, the population of Arakan in 1826 was about one hundred thousand. It was almost a depopulated area. But following the British occupation, people soon flocked in, mainly those who escaped before and during the war.The country became more settled and immigration increased. People seemed joyful to come back to their home.

More or less rule of law prevailed. British administration took firm root. General census was taken every ten years. Agriculture was extended. Economic growth took momentum. Workers from Chittagong began to flock into Arakan. Thus the census returns showed an increase. Ethnic races save Hindus and Muslims were recorded on ethnic basis in census. Hindus and Muslims were altogether shown under the column of religion. There was no question of national and non-national because all are under British rule. Here the increase in Muslim population is mainly due to the inclusion of seasonal laborers who used to come from Chittagong area. But in late colonial period the nationality question rose in political atmosphere. So Arakanese Muslims, becoming aware of their nationality protested to the Government to record them separately as Burmese nationals. British Government failed to separate natives and seasonal workers in census. But from 1921, only some Burmese speaking Muslims were shown as Arakanese Mohammedans or Kamans. Non-Rakhine speaking natives still remained in the census as Muslims along with the alien workers. The British deliberately or unknowingly, made a mistake not to separate the non-Rakhine speaking Muslims of Arakan who had been living in the country for many centuries. In the words of British researcher Gil Christ and Francois Burchanan, they are deeply rooted community and their language was dominant in Arakan even before British occupation.282

In some cases British census are not accurate and reliable. About the reliability of British census, a British officer was quoted by Martin Smith as follows:-

British censuses are found to be very unreliable. While the basic Ethno-Linguistic Categories still in use today are British in origin, many of the British methods of survey proved unsatisfactory in Burma.In various Government censuses and reports there were constant shifts in criteria for what was deemed an ethnic group. As one of the frustrated British officers noted in an appendix to the 1931 census, some of the races and tribes in Burma changed their race almost as often as they changed their clothes. Simply asking the question mother tongue as opposed to language ordinarily used in the home produce, a dramatic 61% increase in the population of Mon in Burman between the census of 1921 and 1931.283

The increase of census return in Arakan was due to seasonal workers who are also included in the census, disregard of the place of their native. But in the same census reports, we find that these workers mostly from Chittagong District were not settlers but they returned once the season of works is over. R. B. Smart says the first lot that comes, arrive in time for ploughing season and with the exception of a few who obtained further employments, returned to their home. The next lot and by far the Iarger number arrive in time for reaping transport and handling of the paddy at the mills and at the port of Akyab…….. After the reaping the laborers execute such earthwork as has to be done, some proceed to the mills or find employment on boats while others return home. By the middle of May the season in Akyab is over and thereafter only a few stragglers rernain.284

So it is crystal clear, that the inclusion of seasonal laborers in the census should not be a reason to deny Rohingya, their bon-a-fide ancestry and nationality in Arakan. To have more light in this regard there are assessments of western researchers. Richard Adiof and Virginia Thompson, in their minority problems in South-East Asia, categorically described the Chittagonian workers in Arakan to be different from immigrants who used to come into Burma from India. They say the Indians, who came to Burma, are businessmen, office workers and coolies and they, more or less settled permanently in Burma, unlike the Chittagonians in Arakan who return back after the working season.285 In census male population is greater than female because all the workers are male.

Further, there were foreigners act of 1864 cind the registration of foreigners act of 1940. Burmese immigration acts are very harsh from the beginning: so no foreigners dare stay permanently without registration. Thus, in Arakan too, there were thousands of registered foreigners, most of who returned during the 1942 communal riots and the others after the advent of U Ne Win’s military Government, which had confiscated all businesses of foreigners. In Arakan, there are still some foreigners though few in number, most of who are aged now.

An Arakanese politician of high reputation, Bonpauk Tha Kyaw, in his book distributed among all political parties in 1990, described the population of Arakan at the time of British occupation to be only about 100.000. According to him this consists of 60.000 Rakhines, 30,000 Muslims and 10,000 Burmans. This ratio indicates one Muslim for every two Rakhines. These Muslims of pre British periods according to all constitutions and citizenship laws of Burma are Burma’s genuine citizens. That was why from the time of Bogyoke Aung San’s Government up to the advent of SLORC Government. Rohingyas were never subjected to get registered as foreigners. There are hundreds and thousands of Rohingya villages in Arakan; all Rohingyas had been registered since 1951-1952, under Myanmar population registration act of 1949 and Myanmar population registration rule of 1951. Article 33 of said rule prohibited foreigners to be registered under these acts and rules. Under these acts and rules all Rohingyas got their National Registration Cards in contrast to foreigners who have to take Foreigner’s Registration Cards under the clauses of foreigner registration rule.

Today Rohingyas are not issued Nationality Scrutiny Cards under new citizenship law of 1982. But section 6 of that new citizenship law reads those who already became citizens before the enforcement of this law in 1982, are citizens too. Hence Rohingyas are deserved to obtain the Nationality Scrutiny Cards as they have been enjoying full citizenship since Burmese independence.

In British time social and economic life in Arakan developed up to some extent Government schools were opened in every Town.But what the British encouraged is Urdu schools for Muslims. This separation of education made Rohingyas handicapped from social integration with their sisterly people Rakhine and led them to be barred from government employment after independence. There was a section of educated Rohingya, including Thakin Zainuddin, the Principal of National High School, Akyab, who opposed the Urdu school system. But they were not successful.

1942 Communal Riot

It is a tragic event. It has racial and political aspects. Many people have its detailed records Karballah-l-Arakan, in Urdu written by Advocate Khalilur Rehman of Akyab and the diary of Thakin Zainuddin, Principal of National High School, Akyab, are self-experienced and eye witnessed records. But these copies are not in my hand today. Some writers are found to be bias. Some try to exaggerate: only the accesses of other party while concealing their own misconducts. I would try to be fair and neutral. I cannot go into detail as it may effect some quarter and perhaps it would mean airing old hatred. So here most of the narration will be the extraction from the writing of Bonpauk Tha Kyaw,an Arakanese and Moshe Yegar, an Israeli;A few short paragraphs will be from some British officers and U Thein Pe Mymt’s writings.Some paragraphs are condensed by extracting from various pages of Bonpauk Tha Kyaw’s“On the Route to the Revolution (Tawlanrey Khariwai).”

Bonpauk says there was all Arakan National Unity Organization. It was headed by Sayadaw U Sein Da, U Tha Zan HIa. U Aung Zan Wai, U Kyaw Oo and many others. Basically it is a Rakhine patriotic but moderate organization. In early 1941, at the Kyauktaw conference they decided to take side with Japan because Japan was coming in collaboration with BIA.286 Thakin Soe attended the conference as a representative of GCBA headquarter, Rangoon.

When in late 1941, BIA entered Burma and Japan bombed some towns in lower Burma, British forces had withdrawn; law and order deteriorated. So Indians in Burma side began to flee westwards in flocks. Many of them look the route of Taung Gup pass to fetch steamer in Akyab, where steamers go to Calcutta weekly. Many ran away from Maungdaw, Buthidanug route to Chittagong. Foreigners in Arakan, too, fled along with them.

Arakanese on the whole are more advance than other minorities in Arakan and they had a very close link with the Burmese Leadership of that time. They were fully cooperating with Burmese politicians.

Bonpauk writes; at that time there were Rajput and Karen forces in Akyab while main forces of British regular army were withdrawn to Maungdaw north.The administration of Arakan was trusted with one U Kyaw Khaing an I.C.S.(Lawyer). He was empowered with martial law authority. He now is a Major. But there happened to be a vacuum of systematic Government. Rule and order deteriorated in Arakan. There were police stations in the towns with a few police personnel. Unscrupulous gangs took law in their own hands. Chaos and terror spread all over Arakan save Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, where still the influence of British army remains, Bonpauk says Japan first bombed Akyab on 23rd  March 1942. The Karen force left behind by the British was highly disheartened. They wanted to return to Rangoon. As Japan was bombing Akyab, the Karen force ran in disarray. This time I (Bonpauk) made friendship with some Karen constables. During heavy bombardment, I entered Plauk-Taung military and police cantonment where no inmates at all and I found a lot of new rifle bullets. For further collection of weapons and bullets from the Karen force, I made secret arrangement with Ko Maung Sein Tun and U Pinnya Thiha (Sayadaw). I became very friendly with a jail warder too. And through him I got contact with Naghani U Tun Shwe and ex-minister U Ba Oo, who were in jail 287then.

Bonpauk further says, once there was a heavy bombing. I got some weapons and ammunition (from Plauk Taung Cantonment) and I put them in Ko Maung Sein Tun’s house at south Shwe Bya. Later I transferred them for so many tunes to Laung Che Chanug (perhaps in Min Bya) along with the Karens, with four oared wooden boat. At that time there was military rule (of U Kyaw Khaing) at Akyab. Dwellers in the downtown ran away to the countryside. Akyab was a deserted city.288

In many towns in Arakan, civil administration had collapsed. Sayadaw U Gandama, in Mrohong:U Thein Kyaw Aung, U Kyaw Ya, U Pan Tha Aung, in Min Bya, and U Tun HIa Aung in Pauk Taw established their own military administrations. British administration remained in Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw only. In the meantime Muslim and Rakhine riot had started from Rakchaung village in Myebon Township and Pann Mraungyi Chaung village in Min Bya.289 In Min Bya we (Bonpauk and his comrades) did not find U Pinnya Thiha. So I did gathered some 400 youths and explained them not to make communal strife, which will only serve the British, who want to divide us.

[From other sources it is learned it was early April of 1942 and was a very serious period. Arson, looting, burning and killing were on their height. Pan Mraung Gyi bazaar in Minbya Township, where almost all shopkeepers were Muslims, was burnt down.]

But the rioting gangs have their own militants. I was not successful to persuade them. The gang leader U Shwe Ya arrested me and put in the police station of Minbya. [This means though there were police constables, they had no authority.] However, we were later released by the intercession of Thauk Kya Aung, a schoolteacher, who had some influence in those areas.

At that time civil administration was totally finished. U Kyaw Khaing, empowered with martial law was wandering throughout the district with his Rajput and Gurkha force. He shot down any suspected man on his way. He came to Minbya. He redeemed the money taken away by Thakin force from the treasury from the town’s elders. As I was in police custody we saw the Major (U Kyaw Khaing) in front of the station at 9:00 PM. We were so much frightened. But the Myo Paing (T. 0) U Maung Tha Pru was clever enough and courageous enough to persuade the Major to go out of the station. He, the Major, was a cruel man, drunk all the time. He returned with his M.G.B boat at the same night. This is the time when BIA army camped in Ponna Gyun.

At the mean time communal riot in Kyauktaw was on its height. U Thauk Kya Aung, the headmaster, help arranged a meeting with Thien Kyaw Aung, the ringleader of the not activities. Our meeting in Minbya with these militant leaders, U Thein Kyaw Aung, U Kyaw Ya and many others were not very successful but hundreds of their followers had accepted our opinions, not to fight amongst ourselves. The ringleaders were boasting to have killed 200 (two hundred), 300 (three hundred) Kalahs personally. However, after two, three days’ crucial negotiations, the militant leader agreed to undergo a training course for their followers.290

So we (Bonpauk and colleagues) arranged some military training for the militants, so as to use in the Anti-British campaign. Meanwhile BIA headed by Bo Rang Aung arrived at Minbya. U Thein Kyaw Aung and his followers amalgamated with us, including the army of Bo Rang Aung. Ko Mya was designated for Arakan administration. We marched to Ponnagyun and camped at Kyauk Seik. The Japanese force arrived too, where some skirmishes with the remnants of British patrolling along with steamer were heard

[Since Bonpauk was collaborating with riot ring leaders such as U Them Kyaw Aung and U Kyaw Ya, Muslims suspected him to have his hands behind the riot activities. In the same way as police force in the towns were inactive or do nothing to control the rioting, their boss U Kyaw Khaing is assumed to have encouraged the rioters. It was a real consensus amongst the Muslims then]

U Kyaw Khaing, the martial law administrator of Arakan seized all licensed guns from Muslims. During this time he went by his M.G.B steamer to Buthidaung, perhaps to give guidelines to the police force there and put some money in the treasury of Buthidaung, which seemed more secure place for theGovrinment money.

This period was very unstable. Law and order was in the hands of unscrupulous rioting leaders. It was a time when the Law of jungle ruled. Thousands and thousands of refugees from inner Arakan reached Butnidaung area. Minority Rakhines in Maungdaw and Buthidaung became targets of their retaliation.

On his (the D C’s) return jouiney, his steamer was ambushed by the Muslim refugees (who escaped from inner Arakan) near Guda Prang, a village in the south of Buthidaung. U Kyaw Khaing (the D.C) was injuied and later died on the steamer. It proceeded to Akyab. To the agony of fate, when the M. G B steamer reached near Ponna Gyun it was fired by BIA. So his steamer turned back where Dr. Aung Tha HIa jumped down into the river and died with bullet injuries.

From Kyauk Seik, BIA continued its march to Akyab through Amyint Gyun, Kyak Khaing Dan and Thekkebyin. There, BIA could seize Plauk Taung cantonment and Akyab imperial bank. All British remnants fled away. In Akyab along with Bo Rang Aung’s BIA force, we tried to defuse the riot and held discussions with Muslim leaders. First we met with advocate U Yasin and he promised full co-operation in regard of relaxing the riot. But the riot situation in Buthidaung and Maungdaw area was serious.291 [Rakhine Minority on the west side of May Yu river was terrorized and in some places there were mass killings by Muslims especially by those who came from inner Arakan and villages in the east of May Yu River were deserted, most of which were burnt down by Rakhine armed gangs of looters. Mass killing of Muslims occurred in Apauk-Wa mountain pass, Lan Gwein village, Rathedaung and Sein Thay Byin, Buthidaung.]

This time Bo Rang Aung arranged Arakan and Akab district administration at a meeting in the primary school in Rupa Quarter, Akyab. U Tha Za HIa, U Aung Tun Oo, U San Tun Aung and U Pho Mya Sein were the members of District Administration. Arakan State administration was trusted to Ko Mya. Township administrations in other towns were also formed. At the meantime U Thein Kyaw Aung assured us that they would not attack any native Muslims. Japan force (though late for some weeks) too, arrived at Akyab.292

Here U Pinnya Thiha (Sayadaw) brought news that thousands of Rakhines at Buthidaung were at the point of death, and were rounded up by refugees and local Kalahs (Muslims), and that it was our duty to rescue them. So Bo Rang Aung, his assistant U Mya, U Pinnya Thiha, the leaders of Arakan National Unity Organization and myself (Bonpauk) secretly arranged some arms and ammunitions to send to Buthidaung for the helpless Rakhines. We loaded these weapons on a steamer (of Arakan Flotilla Company) at Sekroo Kya Jetty at night. Ko Nyo Tun was on the steamer. But before the daybreak, Japan force arrived and seized all arms and ammunitions and Ko Nyo Tun was saved only by repeated intercession of Bo Rang Aung.293 [This sort of transporting of weapons, secretly, and many other activities such as co-operation with those militant rioters, led the Muslims of Arakan, to suspect Bonpauk and his associates to be biased and to be Godfather of the 1942 communal riots.]

We learned from U Kyaw Khaing (D. C) that money from all treasuries of Arakan State was transferred into the treasury of Buthidaung. After his death British administration in Buthidaung and Maungdaw too, were paralyzed. Hundreds of Rakhine in Buthidaung Township were killed by refugees and local Muslims. But situation in Maungdaw was a bit better. Rakhines there got the help of some (British) officials, and some had resisted the attack of Muslims and most of them were able to ciuss into the British area in India.294 [These refugees were camped at Dainaspur, India).

We further learned that British occasionally used to come into Maungdaw town, in its military excursions. Yet we decided to go there and try to make peace.

So a BIA unit headed by Bo Rang Aung himself proceeded to Buthidaung. In this mission, Ko Myint, Ko Tha Tun Oo (BCP Rakhine State EC), U Pinnya Thiha, U Pho Khaing. Advocate U Yasin and myself (Bonpauk) were accompanied. [Here Bo Rang Aung took two persons, native of Buthidaung, to help guide them the way. One was Haji Mohammed Sultan of Sein Nyint Bya and the other was U Ba Khin (a) Ashab Uddin of Rwat Nyo Daung] The steamer of Bo Rang Aung reached Buthidaung without any resistances or disturbances. We (Bonpauk and party) got the money in Buthidaung treasury. Some coins scattered on the floor of treasury were distributed among the Daingnet Refugees. Arms from the police were also seized.

On the other side, it is said so called Arakan militant groups had made arrangement not to attack the bon-a-fide Muslim villages in inner Arakan. [In these connections Muslim sources said there was an signed agreement between so called Rakhine National Unity Organization headed by U Tha Zan HIa on Rakhine side and U Zainuddin, Headmaster of National High School, Akyab, Headmaster U Syed Ahmed and U Azim Uddin (Dwashi) on the Muslim side]. But later this treaty of bond, not to attack each other, was broken. [Aliens or nationals, all Muslims indiscriminately became target of attacks. Kywe Oo Chaing and Apauk- Wa Rohingya villages were burnt-down. These villagers suffered much in men and materials.A great many refugees, from Myebon, Minbya and Mrohong gathered at Khaung Dauk – Alegyun village. They had an arrangement to resist any aggression. They fenced the village with big logs of wood. They had some firearms too. A big encounter or reciprocal fighting broke out there. Some days passed and Muslims could not withstand the attacks with rifle and had to runaway in disarray. Thousands were killed there. No one got proper burial. Those trying to cross the Kaladan River near Radanabon (Naariyong) village, too, were chased and most were killed at the bank and across the nver].

Again to go back to Bo Rang Aung s mission, Bonpauk Tha Kyaw says he (Bo Rang Aung) was not happy with Thein Kyaw Aung and other militant groups. Thein Kyaw Aung was about to get death sentence, but I succeeded in saving U Thein Kyaw Aung.At Buthidaung he tried to maintain law and order. He discussed the ways to defuse communal tension. He proceeded to Maungdaw next flay Despite my warning, he went and held a big mass meeting on the football ground of Maungdaw high school. But it was disturbed by some Kalah (Muslim) refugees. Firing broke out and the meeting was collapsed. A BIA officer and two Rakhine constables were killed. Bo Rang Aung and party had to rush back to Bulhidaung. 295 [Muslim sources say in fact it was an act of British remnants. There were British forces in Maungdaw area; where as Boli Bazaar was British Headquarter then. There were reciprocal firings. As a result some persons on both sides were killed, including a son of Mulvi Abdur Rahman, who was also a member of Bo Rang Aung’s mission. In this connection Bo Rang Aung took some retaliatory actions in Buthidaung. Some elderly Muslims from nearby villages of Buthidaung were killed at night on the football ground of Buthidaung. Further, U Ba Khin, Haji Mohammed Sultan and one Thnevi Marakame, an influential Muslim landowner of Akyab, who took refuge in Buthidaung, were detained and took away to Akyab, the station of BIA].

There, in Buthidaung situation was tense and contused Bo Rang Aung decided to return back to Akyab. He was retreating to Akyab next morning. He and his party got onboard a steamer. The Rakhines in the town became veiy desperate. They were highly frightened. [They heard a rumor that Bo Rang Aung is leaving next morning. So they made complete preparation to go along with Bo Rang Aung by steamer.] In the morning crowds of Rakhine rushed into the jetty and were trying to get on onboard the steamer of Bo Rang Aung. So we (Bonpauk and party) had to depart the steamer from this jetty. The crowds streamed upon another steamer. Being heavily loaded tins steamer, some hundred yards off the jetty, capsized and drowned. Almost all the passengers estimated about three hundred, along with their belongings drowned in the river, and most were died. [Some sources say the steamer was shot by the Chinese community in Bulhidaung who were not allowed to board on]

Bo Rang Aung arrived at Akyab camped at the house of rice mill owner U Kyaw Zan. 296 [There Thanevi Marakan, Haji Mohammed Sultan and U Ba Khin were also kept in confinement. Later, after some days these three persons were released the intervention of Japanese, perhaps to whom Mr Sultan Mahmood (Ex-Health Minister) approached for their salvation].

Bo Rang Aung got order from Ranyoun Headquarter to retreat back to Rangoon. So we got back to Minbya, then the Arakan headquarter of BIA.

In Minbya, Thakin Soe, Thakin Thein Pe Myint, thakin Tin Mya and U Tin Shwe arrived. U Thein Pe Myints program was to go to India to get contact for anti-fascist operation. But most Arakanese leaders did not accept the idea to fight Japan, whom very recently they welcomed with flowers, band and music. Thus Bo Rang Aung and party, instead of staging any guerrilla operation against the Japanese, quietly returned to Rangoon.

Sayadaw U Sein Dan of Kyauk Nwa Village, Myebon, was a patriot. He fought personally against the British. But when Bo Rang Aung letreated to Rangoon, U Sein Dah was arrested and kept in Kalama Taung by Japanese. The reason behind this arrest, according to Japanese was, the riot (and burning down) of Rak Chaung Muslim village of Myebon was the work of U Sein Dah and the bandit leader Maung Tha Oo acted only on his direction. But later, by the effort of U Pinnya Thiha and some others he was released.297

[The Muslim version of 1942 riot is a bid different. They feel it was not an accidental event. It was an organized campaign aimed at making Alakan exclusively a Rakhine State.They say this sort of massacre and burning down of villages, at the same time in every town of Akyab District could not accidentally occur.]

About this communal riot, Moshe Yegar, an Israeli, writer observes: during the period of British rule, disaffection between the Buddhist population and the Muslims, in Arakan, developed for the same economic and social reasons that caused similar hatred between the two groups as in the rest of Burma. The accumulated tension reached an explosive point at the time of British withdrawal before the advancing of Japanese forces. Gangs of Arakanese Buddhists in Southern Arakan, where the Buddhists are in majority, attacked Muslim villages and massacred their inhabitants. Whole villages were sacked and their inhabitants were murdered. Some Arakanese nobles attempted to pievent the wholesale massacres, but without success. Muslim refugees streamed to Northern Arakan where the majority was Muslims and some 22,000 even crossed the border and fled to India [The figure in fact was about 100,000, and they were camped by British at Rangpur refugee camp.] The refugees (from inner Arakan) reaching Maungdaw incensed the local Muslim majority with their stories (of horror) and the latter began to mete out similar punishment upon the Buddhist minority in their midst. The act of mutual murder soon caused the Buddhist population in Northern Arakan to flee, even as the Muslims had fled from the south. It was in this manner Arakan became divided into two separate areas, one Buddhist and the other Muslim.

The Japanese invaded Arakan in the mid of 1942; they occupied Akyab on 7th May and controlled the whole region of Buthidaung and a half the region of Maungdaw in late 1942. [Northern side of Maungdaw was still under British control, making Boli Bazaar their military headquarter]. With the help of local Muslim leaders they (the Japanese) established two peace committees, one in Buthidaung and the second in Maungdaw. These committees were primarily engaged in enquires in public affairs, since the court had ceased to operate when the British left. [The chairman of the Peace Committee of Maungdaw was Headmaster of Maungdaw High School, Mr. Omrah Meah and of Buthidaung was Mr. Zahiruddin]. The Japanese ruled in this area until the beginning of 1945. Most of the Muslims were pro British and many of them joined the services of reconnaissance and espionage on the other side of the border or in underground activities [Yet there are Muslims, especially educated ones, who at the first hand help the Japanese and got capital punishment at the hand of British, e.g. Mr. Kala Meah of Kwindaing Village. Bulhidaiing]

In order to strengthen their stnuding in the region and to encourage Muslim loyalty, British had published a declaration granting them a status of National Area. This entire area was re-conquered by the British at the beginning of 1945 [During British re-entry into Northern Arakan, there occurred fierce battles, ground as well as air, at Ngakhaung Du, Maungdaw and Ngakindauk, Senswpra and Gupi in Buthidaung. After near about six months of battles the Japanese had retreated]

The British, too, had set up peace committees and organized civil administration, which functioned until Burma was granted independence in January 1948. In this administration most of the office holders were local Muslims. [For example, U Farooq Ahmed, U Lukhman Hakim. U Abul Bashar from Boli Bazaar Area and U Abdul Gaffar and U Abul Bashar from Buthidaung were Township Officers of that time].

After the end of the war and during the following years the region’s Muslim population increased greatly. Thanks to the immigration of Chittagong who arranged for the return of refugees in the wake of British re-entry as well as to the return of thousands of Arakanese Muslims refugees who had (in 1942) fled fiom the south of Arakan and who returned to the north after the war.298

This refugee repatriation was undertaken by successive Burmese Governments until Pa-Sa-Pha-La period of U Nu. Red Returnee Cards issued in the time of Bokyoke Aung San are still in the hands of some refugees of that time.

Thanks to the Government and people of Japan, whose timely arrival in Arakan had saved thousands of lives and millions of loss of materials. Japanese arrival defused the tension and ceased the riots.

A British army officer who worked in Arakan front writes in his book that Arakan before the war had been occupied over its entire length by both Muslims and Maghs (Rakhines). Then in 1941 the two sects set to and fought. The result of this war was roughly that the Maghs took over the southern half of the country and the Mulsims the north half.299 He futher says Muslims who had fled from the suuth in 1942 preterred returning to the north of Arakan and settling down there.300 [In inner Arakan, nearly 100,000 Rohingyas lost their lives, being the victims of above said communal riot]

According to U Thein Pe Myint, a Burmese politician, there was a competition between BIA and Japanese in occupying Arakan first. Each tried to seize town ahead of the other. Two BIA battalions, one headed by Bo Rang Aung and another by Bo Min Khaung marched to Arakan in the absence of advanced transport facility. But they were able to reach up to Akyab ahead of Japanese. When Japanese approached to Arakan, Bo Min Khaung retreated to Rangoon.301 U Thein Pe Myint further writes; at Sandoway we discussed the program of our anti fascist people’s war with our comrades. It is reasonable, people from Akyab do not recognize the people of Sandoway and Gwa as Rakhine but as Burmans because their dialect is not different from Burmans and they do not wear bright red and dark green clothes as the Rakhines. We were provided enough rations for our motorboat journey from Sandoway to Akyab, by comrade Ko Kyaw Yin and otheis. On the journey the cooking of Chittagonian boatmen was very delicious.

This time there was Japan force in Akyab. Bo Rang Aung made his headquarter at Minbya, so we decided to proceed to Minbya wher we can obtain help from Bo Rang Aung to cross the bolder (to India)

In Minbya we were kept under the care of Bo Min Lwin. Bo Rang Aung went to Akyab to discuss his retreat to Rangoon with Japanese. But we found Ko Tha Kyaw (now Bonpauk Tha Kyaw), who was suffering from diarrhea, there. In Bo Rang Aung’s headquarter Thakin Soe, Thakin Tin Mya, Thakin Tin Shwe and myself discussed anti-fascist tactics. Next day Thakin Soe and Thakin Tin Mya returned. We were handed over for our journey to the border to Ko Nyo Tun (Ex-Minister) and his brother Ko Tun Win. On 12th July 1942, we proceeded for our journey. It was time of communal riot between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslims. Muslims were helped by Kalah (Indian) British force. So to use in case of need we took some gaskets and rifles from Bo Rang Aung and put them in our boat. Bo Rang Aung, U Pinnya Thiha and Ko Nyo Tun tried to relax communal not and it decreased up to some extent. Yet, as precautionary, step we took some Casket rifles from Bo Rang Aung.302 Next day we reached Kyauktaw and from there we proceeded to Paletwa.

In late 1941, there was British rule, only in Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw. There was Rajput English force, too. Some say Rajput army men helped the Muslims and the Muslims started the riot with the guns they got from Rajput army. But to judge from practical point of view the riot was not started from Muslim majority area of Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw. It actually started from Myebon and Minbya where Rakhines were in majority.

More lhan 100 (one Hundred) Muslim villages in inner Arakan, uprooted during this communal riot and Muslims there were unable to resettle in their original places. These people mostly resettled in the Northern part of the State. This uprooted population would be more than two hundred thousand. So, Northern Arakan today becomes a more thickly populated area.

In the same way, most of the Rakhine, in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, who fled during the riot, took their settlement in inner Arakan. Later many Rakhine people, who do not want to return, sold down their lands to the Muslims.

During this short period of 1941 – 1948, there were several administration in succession. After British, there came the rule of militant riot mongers; then came the rule of BIA, which was again replaced by Japanese administration. In 1945, British entered again, and established a new administration.

One British army commander says, we were to cross Apauk-Wa pass, east of Rathedaung, on our re-entry into Arakan, but the pass was blocked with human skeletons.303

British reentered to Arakan. Muslims in the Northern Arakan had helped them. They recruited a battalion, from amongst the local people, in the name of Victory Force. In appreciation of these V. Force, a British army Officer remarked, “They are hardy and diligent people……… were they to got together, were they to be regimented, and trained, I would go so far as to say that I would soon take a battalion of them into the fighting line as any other native battalion that I have seen or fought with ……..they are living in a hostile country and had been hundreds of years there, and yet they survive. They are perhaps to be compared with the Jews…….a nation within a nation. Without these people we would have been blind and deaf. With them we have eyes and ears and continual entertainment. They make wonderful materials for fair-minded and far seeing colonizer…………Their future is in our hand. We have a chance of making a happy people and a fair state out of the Arakan. Any fairness, any kindness will be repaid us one hundred told. I would very often wonder whether the fairness and help that they have shown us will be repaid as fully as it would have been, had the boot been on the other foot.” 304

From late 1942, the British tried many times to reoccupy Arakan or some part of it or to repel the Japanese from there. The whole year, 1944, saw actions between the two armies in the northern Arakan; so fierce and rare, found nowhere in the annuals of military history. British and Japanese forces fought hand in hand in many places. Though British forces are man to man, no match to the Japanese, with British military superiority and with the help enjoyed from the anti fascist force of Burma, British army was able to reoccupy Kyauk Pyu and Sandoway in late 1944. On August 6th and 9th 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed; Japanese forces had to withdrew.

Due to this rioting and years long war on their land the people of this area, especially the majority Muslims had to suffer a lot in every sphere of their lives.

Note: [In this chapter the passages in parenthesis are my own research findings from other
sources, especially from the Muslims]

Muslim Role in the Freedom Movement:

Here, by Muslim, I mean Kaman, Myedu and Rohingya. There are two categories of Muslims in Arakan. One speaking Rakhine dialect and the other speaking Rohingya dialect. But both have close ethnic and cultural affinity. We see the same phenomenon amongst the Karen and Mon of Burma proper. Many Karen and Mon people do not know how to speak in their respective ethnic languages Anyhow. Muslims being minority, their role in connection with their freedom movement was not as great as the one of Rakhine and Burman. Further the role they played was not recorded or belittled in the post independence political literatures. There were many Muslim individuals who took leading role in the struggle. U Ba Shin of Sandoway was one of the eleven student leaders who decided to stage the first student strike of 1920. U Tun Sein, also from Snndoway, was first University Student Union Chairman. Thakin Zainuddin of Kyauktaw was the first Principle of Akyab National High School. U Pho Khaing of Akyab was an active member of “Do Bama Asie Ayone” His daughter Daw Aye Nyunt too took active part in Thakin movement and it was said she had a special relationship with Bo Rang Aung, commander of BIA in Arakan front. Advocate Yasin, Molvi Abdur Rehman, Tanevi Marakan, Gain Maiakan were also active leaders in Arakan, who were engaged in freedom movement activities in Arakan. Gain Marakan and Sultan Mahmood were E. C. members of all Arakan National Unity Organization.

When Ba-Ma-Ka (Burma Muslim Congress) took active part in Pa-Sa-Pha-La, its branch in Arakan, took part in Arakan branch of Pha-Sa-Pa-La, too.

Muslims groups in many towns resisted British occupation at the very beginning in 1825. So in the war report of first Anglo-Burma war, we found Qazi Abdul Karim of Minbya was arrested and kept in Calcutta jail. Elderly people still say, Bandoola had recruited many Muslims, rank and file, from Arakan.

There were many whom British had……….. given capital punishment for helping the Japanese force when first entered Bulhidaung. The death sentence of Ustad Kala Mean, of Kywin Daing, Buthidaung was a famous case. He was shot to death in Boli Bazaar, the headquarter of British army then. Farooq Raja of Sein Daing, Buthidaung was honored with a revolver by the Japanese for his service in maintaining law and order in that area after British withdrawal. Muslims of Northern Arakan firstly afraid of the Japanese, but after some months, they became familiar and friendly with Japanese.

U Thein Maung of Myebon and another U Thein Maung of Kyauk Pru were also active and senior participants in Thakin movements. There are many Rohingyas who got the prize of “Naing Ngan Gonyi” and “Lutlat Yei Mokun”: U Kadir of Minbya is still alive.

Further there are a lot many unrecorded individuals who worked with local nationalist.

It is locally said the famous Mujahid leader Bo Qassim was once the assistant of Bo Kra HIa Aung, Chairman of so called (Underground) Arakan National Unity and Independence Party.

British Re-Entered into Arakan

British had its forward outpost at the other side of the Naf River They re-entered into Arakan in late 1944. They organized an army in the name of Victory Force (V-Force), with recruits from local Muslims of Arakan. Marshal Slim says, though they were initially untrained, later along with the whole front, the V-Force became important and valuable part of intelligence framework for the Blitish.305

British made a declaration, whereby: the status of a Muslim area was promised. They set up an interim administration. The peace committees of Japanese time, with Muslim leaders as their heads, were preserved. Such political prominence once again accorded to the Muslims, they helped them to reinstate the area and take the lead until 1948. Worth of notice is the fact that whilst the Rakhine returnees preferred the south of Rathedaung, the Muslims preferred to the north of Rakhine.306 By 1945, the demographic structure of former Akyab District had suffered a major upheaval, and Muslim had outnumbered in most part of the district. British forces fought fierce battle against the Japanese. The impact of war was great on the people of Northern Arakan. British were successful in penetrating into Southern Arakan in late 1944 and early 1945. Japanese army retreated sometime with heavy casualties.

Arakan at the Eve of Independence

With the advent to the power of Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPL) and General Aung San in 1947, Rakhine Muslims (or) Rohingyas demanded an independent region with a large degree of autonomy within the Union of Burma. Before independence, there were a lot of Indians in Arakan. Some of them had voiced the notion of separation. But the Rohingyas did not favor it. Jinnah himself assured General Aung San that he was not in support of the plan.307 Burmese Government, however, turned a blind eye to the demand of Muslim outcry. Rakhine the foe of Rohingya during the war was taking the administration. Rakhines replaced the vast majority of Muslim local notables and civil servants installed by British. Some Rakhine internally displaced during the communal riot of 1942 were returned and Muslims who occupied their land, removed. Rakhine hardliners strongly suggested expelling these Muslims to India. All these acts of Pre-lndependence period, as many had assessed, led the Muslims to an uprising, which we will study in a separate chapter.

In March 1946, General Aung San visited Akyab, where he assured the Muslim leaders; advocate U Pho Khaing, advocate U Yasin. advocate U Khalilur Rehman and Sultan Mahmood (Ex-Health Minister), of the full national rights in post independence Burma. Most interesting and note worthy is the fact that on the very day of Bokyoke Aung San’s martyrdom, he had a special appointment with Muslim M.L.Cs. from Northern Arakan, Mr. Sultan Ahmed of Maungdaw and Mr Abdul Gaffar of Buthidaung, in connection with the nationality and political status of Muslims or Rohingyas of Arakan. He (Bokyoke) had also assigned Sultan Mahmood and U Aung Zan Wai to go Maungdaw and Buthidaung, so as to organize the public there for Pa-Sa-Pha-La (AFPFL).

Aung Zan Wai of Arakan styled as sole representative of all Arakan peoples, where U Razak claimed to represent all Muslims of Burma. At the same time, Arakan or Northern Arakan was not in the scheduled area or hill administration. Thus Rohingyas lost the chance to attend the historic Pinlon Conference of nationalities of hill regions and plain dwelling Burman, which deprived them of their future political guarantee. In practice, Rakhine Aung Zan Wai acted against the interest of Rohinya and Muslim Razzak did nothing good for the Rohingyas either.

On the eve of independence most of the Rakhine leaders were more co-operative with the Burmese leaders. They did not want to displease the Burmese leaders with whom they always show affinity of race and cultuie. Then motive perhaps, was to deprive Rohingyas of their political lights through the help of Buimese leadership. Thus Rakhine did not demand separate statehood on the time of independence and in the framing of first Burmese constitution.

But after the independence most of the pre-independence time leaders became aged or died. Now the Ra-Ta-Nya group of Arakan came to the front to demand statehood for Arakan. Demand and counter demand of statehood continued Rohingya M. Ps. opposed the statehood for Arakan along with the M. Ps from Sandoway District M. P Abul Bashar from Buthidaung south put his recommendation to let them live in the sea rather than in a pond. He said unitary system is the sea where state means a pond. He said unitary system was better for a country like Burma, so as to secure its solidarity.308 Another upper house member from Buthidaung, Mr. Abdul Gaffar asked the parliament to supply them arms and ammunitions to fight against the Mujahids. He said Rohingyas are neither separatists nor fundamentalists. Once the Government treats them fairly and equally they (Rohingyas) are the first to fight the Mujahids.309

This Mujahid broke out immediately afler the independence. In the prevailing situation of discriminatory actions said above,the Muslims faced some more adverse actions and antagonistic surrounding, as the Communist and P. V. 0. branches of Arakan went underground in 1948. The Muslims feeling insecure organized an arm revolt in the name of Mujahid, though many Muslims at the same time did not want to involve in unlawful anti-state activities. This was one of the main reasons the Mujahids had to surrender, later.

On the other hand various study commission appointed by the Government had had tested the public opinion throughout Arakan concerning the issue of Arakan State. But on 2nd March 1962, General Ne Win took over the state power by a coup. Parliament was dissolved and the question of Federalism and Statehood for Arakan came into a halt.

British Census

The population figures in British censuses became an important factor, in political deliberation of post independence Burma. Sometimes the figures are highlighted to disgrace Rohingyas and to deny them indigenous status.

The first population census taken in Burma was in the year 1872, and the next one was in 1881and thereafter once in ten years. 1941 census was not completed due to the eruption of the war. Censuses in 1953 and 1954 were partial and confined to selected regions in several places.

In the first census, two major groupings of Muslims were found, each one of which had several subdivisions: Indian Muslims and Burmese Muslims. The first grouping included Muslims from Indian region of Surat, Bengal and Madras Burmese Muslims were found mostly in Arakan, Tavoy and Mergui. [Upper Burma was not included in the first British census]. The Arakanese Muslims then numbered 64.000 (Sixty-four thousand) or about two third of total number of Burmese Muslims, which were 99,846 [Today these also are deprived of National Scrutiny Cards]. The percentage of Muslims in Tavoy and Mergui was also high. They were likewise Malays there.

The second census included much more detailed information on the Muslim population and revealed an increase in the Muslim population in every district except that of Northern Arakan. [In this lesser increase, there included the returnees, who left Arakan in previous political strife].

The census in Burma was always taken as a part of general census of India. Muslims were categorized Sheikh, Syed, Mogul, Pathan and so on as in Indian census. In 1891, Muslims of all Burma numbered 253,640 where as 204,846 were listed under the title Sheikhs, out of whom Burmese Muslims (Including Arakanese) are shown to be only 24,647, which in first census was over 60,000. It was impossible (This was inefficiency of census taking. In fact, Arakanese Muslims are neither Sheikhs nor Sayids, nor Pathan, nor Moguls.They are just Rohingyas or Arakanese Muslims].

The census of 1901 and 1911, both went on the former line of Indian census taking. In these, the Muslims of Akyab were 33.66% or over a third of the region’s population. It is here (in Akyab) that over 44% of all Burma’s Muslims were concentrated. In examining the Muslim population distribution in the urban and rural areas, it is important to pay attention to the Akyab region where a great many Muslims were engaged in Agriculture. Except from this one area, the rural Muslim population did not even reach one percent of the rural population of the country. [In British census, Immigrants from India are said to be traders, office workers and laborers. Especially the immigrants in Arakan were mostly seasonal laborers. Most of these workers, traders dwell in urban areas, in contrast to the Arakanese Muslims (or) Rohingyas who mostly lived in rural areas professing agriculture].

In 1911, when Muslims of Akyab included, 31.15% of the Muslims were urban and it made up 13.4% of the total urban population of the country. When Akyab was excluded, the urban Muslims percentage became 58.35% [This variation indicates that Muslims in Akyab region were mostly dwellers in rural area unlike the immigrants who chose to dwell in towns.]

1921 census shows, Muslim populations of 500,592 out of which one forth are Burmese Muslims embracing Zerbadies and Arakanese Muslims. Beginning with the census of 1921, the categories in use in India – Sheikhs, Sayyeds etc. were dropped in Burma.In 1921, the number of Arakanese Muslims reached the figure of 24,000, which differed with previous census. The discrepancies were due to the concept of the “term”. The Arakan Kamans were for the first time listed separately, there were 1,054 men and 1,126 women. They were all Muslims except for ten men and four women, who were Buddhists The Arakanese Muslims were the second largest subdivision of the category “Burman Muslim” after the Zerbadees.

The 7th and last complete census was held in 1931. Total Muslim population was 584,839 representing 396,504 Indian Muslims and 186,861 Burmese Muslims (including Arakanese Muslims) 41% of Muslims were to be found in the single region of Arakan. (Since 1921, Muslims from Arakan demanded not to mix them with foreign Muslims but the British Government did not comply with their demand. (See census report of 1931].

Even the Muslims who were very much like Rakhine were included in the category of Indian Muslims in 1921 census. In 1931 they became Burman-lndian. The census table shows that 68% of the Muslims are Indian and only 30% belonged to the Burmese-Muslim group. The majorities were Zerbadees and Arakanese Muslims, while remainders were Kamans and Myedus. [But today almost all Muslims from Arakan disregard of their origin are degraded to the status of Foreigners],

Census figures were not correct, because in 1921 census, many Arakanese Muslims were listed as Indians. In 1931 census, many Arakanese Muslims claimed Bengali as their mother tongue, although the Zerbadess usually were shown as Burmese or Arakanese (depending on their residence) as their mother tongue. [Here it is obvious that Rakhine speaking Muslims of Arakan were also regarded as Zeibadees]

The Burmese Muslim grouping included Zerbadees, Arakanese Muslims, Kamans and Myedus. Most of the Arakanese Muslims were in Akyab region. But there were large number of them to be found in other regions as well: in Chittagong 1,597 and in Sandoway 1,658. Their total number in 1931 was 51.615. (This is not real number, because Rohingyas were categorized as Indians. The number of Kamans was increased from 2,186 to 2,886; they were concentrated in the region of Akyab and Chiltagong. [l cannot understand why Moshe Yegar mentioned Chittagong to home some Kamans whereas we see the Kamans dwell mostly in Arakan]. The Myedus increased 4,991 to 5,160.

In the partial census of 1954, the figures shown in the villages of Arakan were 56.75% Buddhist and 41.60% Muslims.310

Here are two points to remark. One is the census return of Arakan where seasonal laborers, who usually return to their birthplace, were included Dr. Than Tun named them as a floating people because they used to come on season of woik and return when the season is over.311 Second point is the Majority Muslims of Arakan were mixed up with Indians both ethnically and religiously. Further it is probable that the census activities of that time did not penetrate into the remote hilly areas of Northern Arakan as was the case in connection of hilly regions of Chins and Kachin States.

To sump up, Arakanese Muslims are a major portion of Burmese Muslims. This name sounds national naturally. Since there is no entity as Burmese Muslim in Burmese social and political arena when Burma Muslim Congress (Ba-Ma-Ka) was expelled from Pha-Sa-Pa-La in 1948 on ground of its name being religiously affiliated, there is no Arakanese Muslims too. So those Arakanese Muslims have to choose their ethnic name Rohingya rather than religious name Arakanese Muslim. Rohingya is nothing but an antiquity of Arakan. Last thing we can observe the censuses of British period were always changing. The number of population and races or ethnic groups found changed up from census to census.312



In previous chapters we have obviously seen the facts, which show Rohingya’s deeply rooted historic existence in Arakan. In other word Arakan is Rowang and Rohingya is Arakanese. So Rohingya’s existence in Arakan is as old as the land itself. Let us go into detail so that we have a clear vision of this subject.

Historical evolution and geographic situation always affects the life of a people.Arakna’s political link with India had been deeper, greater and longer than that of with Burma proper. Geographers plainly remark that Arakan is a continuation of Chiltagong plain and is separated by Arakan-Yoma range from Burma Culturally too, until 10th century, everything in Arakan from language, religion and scriptures to ethnic people, were all Indian. The cultural and ethnic characteristics of ancient Arakan are today found in Rohingyas and the Buddhist Bruwas of Arakan only.

A researcher of ancient Arakan history says dividing Rakhine coast from the rest of Myanmar, the Rakhine Yoma mountain range historically has been a barrier between Myanmar and Indian subcontinent. Hence the range, not only functions as a climate barrier (cutting off the south-west monsoon rain from central Myanmar) but historically functioned as natural obstacle against permanent settlement of Muslims dwellers and further as a visible and accepted fracture between the two subcontinents. The latter therefore preferred to settle down on the shores of the Naf River and along the coast of Bay of Bengal.313 So another author rightly concluded,these geographical facts explain the separate historical development of that area Arakan until it was conquered by the Burmese kingdom at the close of 18th century.314

The 20th century witnessed an acceleration of history of some sorts: where Rakhine Muslims and Buddhists alike had a massively out (only) once per century in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, namely: clash between Prince Shah Shujah and the Mrauk-U king (Sanda Thudamma) in 1664, Burmese conquest of Arakan in 1784, first Anglo-Burmese war in 1824.The recurrent of displacement occurred in the 20th century, with four massive exoduses, namely second-world war, the Mujahid rebellion in the 1950s, the exodus of 1978 (Operation Dragon King, “Nagamin”) and the recent 1991 outflow.315

These occurrences of human fluctuations indeed have some cultural as well as ethnic effects on both sides of the border. There are today a great many Rakhines in Chittagong area, despite their massive official repatriation by U Ne Win’s Government, where as there are Bengalis in Arakan indeed. The Rakhines adopted a life suitable in Bengali environment, where as the Bengalis in Arakan are too acculturated to Rakhine situations. The Bengalis in Arakan today hardly be said to be identical with those in Bangladesh.

In official rhetoric and publications Rakhine Muslims (Rohingya) are said to speak Bengali. This, however, reveals inaccurate, as the Bengali language spoken in Decca, does not belong to the same stock of language in Arakan and has a very few in common with the language spoken in Northern Rakhine State. More correctly the local language spoken by Rakhine Muslims is a Chittagonian dialect, an idiom spoken in Bangladesh region, bordering Rakhine State. Whilst being very close to the Chittagonian dialect, it is by no means identical. For example, the Rakhine Muslims dialect is indicative of historical residency in Myanmar, as it approximately includes as much as 10 – 15 percent of Rakhine words and expressions.316

A factor most worthy is that Arakan and Chittagong from the early Christian era to the end of Mrauk-U dynasties, for many, many centuries had been under the same rule. Sometimes there were political fluctuations. D. G E. Hall says that Arakan managed to maintain itself as an independent kingdom until almost the end of the eighteenth century, mainly due to its geographical position ………  From the very early days the older and purer form of Buddhism, the Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle, was established there. It must date from before the arrival of Burmese in the 10th century, when Arakan was an Indian land, with a population of similar to that of Bengal ………..  And although before the establishment of Mrohong by Narameikhia in 1433, there was from time to time a certain amount of Burmese and Mon interference.Arakan’s contacts with Mohammedan India were probably closer than those with Burma. None of its rivers rises in Burma and throughout its history its water communications with Bengal were easier than it’s over land communication with Burma. When Bengal was strong its rulers received tiibute fioin Arakan; at other times Arakan claimed tribute from parts of Ganges Delta. This fluctuation of power affected Chittagong, which was held alternatively by one side or the other.In 1459 it came into the hands of Arakan, which held it until it was finally annexed to the Mogul Empire in 1666. Monammedanism spread to Arakan, but failed to make much impression upon its Buddhism. Mrohong had its Sandhi Khan Mosque and its kings assumed Mohammedan titles, but the predominance of Buddhism was never shaken.317

Burma share borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Various ethnic minorities along all these borders dwell. Most of these minorities have their mainstream clans across the border on the other side. For example, Kuki Chins, Zhomi and Naga on the Indian border: Wa, Kukeng and Zinphaw on the eastern border and Chakmas and Bruwas on the Bangladesh border, all of them today, are amongst so called 135 ethnic minorities of SPDC Government. All of those people’s mainstream cmlans live beyond the border in adjacent countries. Some of them have their own Autonomous States in Bangladesh, India and China.\/Vhen Senior General Thant Shwe of Myanmar visited Yonan Province of China in the year 2000, Kachin females in their Kachin national dresses lined up along the street to give rousing welcome to the General. Even Shans in South-East Shan State speak a Siamese dialect In Arakan the Chakma and Bruwa too speak Chitlagonian dialect.318 Genealogically and culturally Bruwas have a very close affinity with Bengalis. Yet U HIa Tun Pru put Bruwa at the par with Burmese speaking Rakhine, and said Bmwa is from Rakhme’s ethnic stock. Then, what about the miliions of Bruwas in Bangladesh? Would they be from Rakhine ethnic stock too? Next, ihe Chakmas of Chittagong hill tracts have their own autonomous region. The Chakma, whom we called in Myanmar Dainet, too, speak Bengali.319 Yet all these peoples are designated as Burmese indigenous peoples. This logic is not applied in the case of Rohingyas, who have further more long inter-relationship with Arakan. Without mentioning Rohingya, Arakan history, both ancient and modern cannot be said to be complete.

Sayadaw Winmala writes there have been political and cultural link between Arakan and Bengal for centuries. So almost all ethnic people in Arakan have an affinity with their clans in Bengal, especially the Bruwas speak the same language as Chitagomans.320

If we accept all these different minorities, with their affinities with clans across the borders, why don’t we want it to apply in the case of Rohingya? Indeed. Rohingya alone has a more deeply rooted connection with Arakan as we have seen above and previous chapters. The world today has many instances of such phenomena: Malays in Southern Thailand, Vietnamese in Cambodia, Nepalese in Bhutan and many others in Europe. These all can co-exist peacefully and honorably in their respective residency. I hope this sort of harmony would prevail in Arakan, too.



Since early settlers of Arakan were Indo-Aryan or a people similar to that of Bengal, Rohingya cannot disclaim their genealogical link with Bengali. As time passed, sociopolitical situations have also changed during last centuries. In this context, Rohingya too evolved as an ethnic entity with its own characteristics. In a broader perspective, all are Myanmar, but there still are some separate branches of Myanmar. So we can say Rohingya can be defined as a branch of Bengali but their existence is in Arakan alone; Arakanese alone are, in another word, called Rohingya.

A Senior British military officer remarks: the Arakan Muslims are generally known as Bengalis or Chittagonians, quite incorrectly. [……….] They resemble the Arabs in names, in dress and in habit. [………..] As a race they have been here for over two hundred years and yet survive. They are perhaps to be compared with the Jews, a nation within a nation.321

Foreign observers remarks: In official rhetoric and publications, Rakhine Muslims (Rohingyas) are said to speak Bengali. This however reveals inaccurate, as the Bengali language spoken in Decca does not belong to the same stock of language and has very few in common with the language spoken in Northern Rakhine State. More correctly the local language spoken by Rakhine Muslim is a Chittagonian dialect, an idiom spoken in the Bangladesh region bordering Rakhine State. Whilst being very close to the Chittagonian dialect, it is by no means identical. For example; the Rakhine Muslim dialect is indicative of historical residency in Myanmar, as it approximately includes as much as 10-15 percent Rakhine words and expression.322 Even Chittagonian could not understand the dialect of Rohingyas who resides in inner Arakan Rohingya and Chittagonian can communicate with some adjustment of words, phrases and style of expression. Rohingya dialect is influenced by Arabic, Persian and Rakhine words where as Chittagonian dialect is influenced by Sanskrit and Bengali.

Bengali wears long sleeved loose shirts, keeping it out of their Longyi or Pant where as most Rohingya wear shirts, with collar, keeping the lower part under their Longyi Rohingyas have a traditional shirt caller “Entheri” more similar to today’s Malaysian shirt.Female dress differed much Rohingya women do not wear Sari, as the Bengalis, but a Burmese women’s shirt-like Bazu or Blouse, with a shawl on their heads. Young girls wear woolen belts, where elderly women wear Zali (Khah-Gyo), a flat locally woven cotton sheet. Most elderly Rakhine women, too wear this Khah-Gyo, especially in the rural areas.

Further there is a slight difference in physical features. In Bangladesh itself, the people of Chittagong have fairer skin than the people of other districts. Here these fair skinned Chittagonians compared with Rohinnya, appeared in average darker. Most Rohingya have Tibeto-Burman features too. It is perhaps due to some (though rare) mix-marriages, adoption of Rakhine children and some conversions in the early period.

Concerning the dresses of Rohinyya a prominent Burmese writer and politician, U Thein Pe Myint says: I put up at Ko Tun Win’s house at Kyauktaw. At that time there Muslirn-Rakhine communal riot was going on. So we had to take care not to fall in between and I bought a Pathi cap (Muslim cap) and kept my beard unshaved. Next morning when we were sitting in the parlor of Ko Tun Win’s house, a man appealed in strange dress; now a day no one wears this sort of dress. The man was about 25 years old. He wore a dark-gray Dhoti (Tongshay Petso) a Taing-mathein like shirt (a shirt with long sleeves but without color). He had Gaungbaung-like headdress of thin cotton cloth. He did wear moustache and a beard I did not understand the subject they discussed as they talked in Arakanese. When I inquired about him: Ko Tun Win answered he was our Arakanese Muslim. It is learned that in villages of Arakan many more people still did not discard early Myanmar-like dresses. When I saw this Muslim with headdress of thin cotton sheet, I thought of whether it was better (for me) to imitate like Burmese Muslim with my Pathi cap (in this period of riot). Here I realized that Arakanese hold tight and preserved old Burmese culture and tradition.323

Rohingya foods have much influence of Rakhine cooking style, where some Rakhine too have adopted the Rohingya cooking styles in some cases. The procedure of marriage, engagement and feeding feast diffet, a lot. There is no infant marriage amongst Rohingyas.

The sports of “Hlay” (Row Boat) racing, wrestliny, and the race of Buffalo have special Rohingya characteristics. Voluntary roofing of houses, transplanting of paddy turn by turn, in villages were a traditional custom in Rohingya Group hunting and fishing, but distributions to all in the villages-were also a tradition until recently Rohingyas have their own musical instruments. They have “Baittali” (song of wisdom) and “Khabita” (Rhetoric) competitions and many outdoor sports and games for children’s enjoyment. Many decades ago there were Persian song competitions.

In fact Rohingya have some selection and rejection of professions. Few Rohingya do sanitary works and hair cutting: cloth washing and shoe repairing professions are also disliked.

In personal behaviors Rohingyas are a bit rough and easily get tempered. Most Rohingyas are pious but not fanatics. Reciting “Puthi”, “some love and war stories” in the early night of their leisure time, too is a hobby of Rohingya.



The Arakanese Muslims (Rohingyas) are Sunnite despite some preponderance of some Shiite traditions among them. Under their influences many Muslim customs spread to the Buddhist, such as for example, segregation of their womenfolk. Writers and Poets appeared among the Arakanese Muslims, who called themselves Rohingya, especially during the fifteen to eighteen centuries, and even there were some court poets at the court of Arakanese kings.324

The poets and writers wrote in Persian and Arabic or in a mixed Rohingya language, which they developed among themselves and which was a mixture of Bengali, Urdu, and Arakanese (Rakhine). The language is not as widely spread today as it was in the past and it has been largely replaced by Burmese. Their Artists also developed the art of Calligraphy. Some manuscripts has been preserved but have not yet been scientifically examined. Miniature pointing in the Mogul style also flourished in Arakan during this period. The Muslims who came to Arakan (There were native Muslims too) brought with them Arab, Indian and especially Bengali music and musical instruments Persian songs are sung amongst Rohingya by this day.325

This is how the Rohingya preserved their own heritage from the impact of the Buddhist environment not only as far as their religion but also in some aspects of their culture.326

Again, an eminent history researcher, Dr. Than Tun says, because of North Arakan’s close overland ties with Bengal, it is found that after Bengal became Muslim in 1203, the resulting cultural and political influence of the Muslims was of great significance in the history of Arakan.327

Of interest, none-the-less is an ancient stone carved with Arabic letters, which can still be seen at Mrauk-U National Museum. While some remnants of this ancient culture can still be detected in today’s life of Rakhine Muslims, it is decidedly striking to realize that most of this culture was lost due to massive displacements of population (Four times in 20th century) which contributed to fade out; if not annihilate, the cultural fabrics. Yet there are many who acculturated to Rakhine society.328

Historic edifices and monuments are found through out Arakan. I would like to describe only their political aspects, as their archeological aspect is not within the scope of this treatise.

  1. Badar Mokam:     The exact date of the abode is uncertain. British records say it was founded in A.D. 1756. (I think it is the date of the construction of the Mosque adjacent to the abode], by the Muslims of Akyab in memory of one Bader Aulia, whom they regard as an eminent Saint (It proves the presence of Muslims in Akyab in 18th century]. Colonel Nelson Davis in 1876. Deputy Commissioner of Akyab said, some 140 years ago, two traders from Chittagong on their way back from Negaris, constructed the Cave and also dug a well there. It was because one of the traders was instructed in his dream to do so. There were orders in Persian in the Deputy Commissioner’s Court at Akyab, to the effect that one Hussein Ali, then (Thugyi) headman of Buddamaw Circle was to have charge of the Badar Mokam in token of his good services rendered to the British force in 1825. 329 [This signifies two things: One, Persian was until then official language of Arakan and the other that there were Muslim settlements in Akyab before British occupation, a fact which some circles try to deny.] This Badar Mokam comprised two Caves and a Mosque. Archeological descriptions of these are not detailed here.
  2. The Sandhi Khan Mosque: R. B. Smart says, two and a half mile southeast of the palace (Mrohong) is another non-Buddhist temple. It is a Mohammedan Mosque, called Sandhi Khan, built by the followers of Min Zaw Mun (First Mrauk-U King) after he had returned from 24 years of exile in the Suratan (Sultan) country form A.D. 1406 to 1430. South of the road, which leads to the Alezay Ywa, there are two large tanks with stone embankments; between them is the Mosque, surrounding by a low stonewall. The temple court measures 65 feet from north to south and 82 feet from east to west, the shrine is a rectangular structure 33 feet by 47 feet: it consist-of an ante-room, an inner chamber, which is 19 feet square. Passages lead into the ante-room from the temple court from the north, south and east, while from the west side of the ante-room a passage leads into the inner and principle chamber; the passages arch vaulted the arch consisting of a series of wedge-shaped stones. The inner chamber is lighted by narrow openings in the north and south walls, the ante-room is vaulted, but outside the roof over it, is a slanting plane from the copula of the central chamber to the eastern front wall of the building which is only 9 feet high: the ceiling of the chamber is a hemispherical low copula constructed on the same principle as the domes in the Shitthaung and Dukhanthein Pagodas. The whole shrine is built of well cut stone blocks, but it is absolutely bare of all decorated designs.330. This Mosque is one of the invaluable heritages of Rohingya.But recently it was demolished and used for a military camp. This act is in violation of 1982 UNESCO convention of which Burma is a party too.
  3. Maijjah Mosque:   It is situated about three miles east of Mrohong. It was built with well-cut stones. Perhaps it was built by U Musa; a missionary came from Delhi, in the time of 9th King of Mrauk-U, Zaleta Saw Mun.
  4. Alam Lashkar Mosque:  It is at the Pann Mraung village of Minbya The term “Lashker” indicates army and perhaps it was built by one of the army officers of Mrauk-U Kings.
  5. Shwe Dah Qazi Mosque: It is at the Kyit Taung Village of Minbya. It is obvious from the name that it was built by Qazi Abdul Karim, who was awarded Shwe Dah(Gold Sword) by Bodaw Pya, and was known by the name Shwe Dah Qazi.
  6. Adjacent to the palace: there too was a Mosque and a tank with stone embankment.It was known as Nan Oo Mosque and Nantha Kan respectively. The tank still exists where as the Mosque was abolished some years ago.
  7. Babagyi Mosque and Temple: on the bank of Kandawgyi (Lake), Akyab, Musa Dewan Mosque of Nazir Village cemetery. Akyab; Qazi Mosque of Kyauktaw Town are other historic buildings and hentages of Muslims.
  8. According to the record of Encyclopedia Britannica 1994 – 98 the Rakhine Pali (Mosque) in Yangon is the oldest Mosque in Myanmar. Tachan Pel Mosque, near Aung San Sport Stadium was also built by Rakhine Muslims during the time of Myanmar Kings.
  9. Shrines or Temple of Saints of early periods are found in Buthidaung too; Peer Khalasi Meah’s Temple in Baguna Village, Akram All Shah Dargah at Mrongna Village, Sikander Shah Dargah at Buthidaung Town are still preserved by local Muslims.
  10. There is another Mosque at Khyaik Talan Road, Shwedaung Quarter, Moulmein. It is known as Rakhine Mosque nowadays. There are different versions of its history.Some say it was built by some Arakanese Muslims from Rangoon in 18th century. The real fact is in the invasion of Rakhine King Min Razagyi (1595 -1612) to Pegu and Muttama; there consisted about fifty thousand Muslims forces (According to Dannya Waddy Aredopon and other Rakhine chronicles). The Muslim force built that Mosque in Moulmein.
  11. Coins: Coins in early Arakan were in Indian script and with sign of Civism and Hinduism. Coins of Mrauk-U period are of Muslim designs, some bearing the confession of Muslim faith and in Persian scripts.331
  12. Literature:  Literature in Arakan changed along wilh its political evolution. During Dannya Waddy and Wethali periods, the language of the people was Indian. They wrote in Nagari script as in East Bengal.Almost all inscriptions stone, copper or votive, were either in Pali, Sanskrit or in a language used in Bengal. Burmese inscriptions are found after 10th century A.D.332 In this late period, especially in Mrauk-U period, Persian was also used widely. Most of King’s courtiers were Muslims who preferred to keep record or write in Peisian. Many books are found in Rohingya language but in Persian scripts. Many copies of these manuscripts are still preserved in the hand of Rohingyas. Some are found in Calligraphic form. During 17th and 18th centuries courtiers and senior officials were mostly of Bengali literacy merit. They wrote Bengali books, and Rohingya language in Bengali script. The development of Bengali literature was encouraged by Rakhine Kings.333

During British period Urdu was introduced and Urdu schools all over Arakan were established. But this Urdu language preferred by Indian Muslims in Burma proper, too was a foreign language for Rohingya. Thus Urdu made them much backward. It was of no use in post-independence Burma. Many Urdu educated persons had to quit their Government services. New job opportunities for Urdu learners were nil. Now-a-days Rohingyas learn and write Burmese.

  1. Stone and Copper Plate Inscriptions: According to Dr. Kanungo, a copper plate was found in Chittagong in 1857 indicating the names of some Muslim ministers of Arakan and its high-ranking Muslim officials. Another stone inscription with Arabic letters is said still to be preserved in Mrauk-U Museum.334 Again there is another stone plate of 3 ½’ x 2′ was discovered Thara Ouk Village, Mrohong. It consist,eight lines of Persian script which indicate that Arakanese Kings engraved 23 tons of gold some where prescribed in the stone plate.335

Still more interesting is the discovery of stone inscriptions, by G. H. Luce, formerly History Professor of Rangoon University.Dr.Than Tun, an eminent historian of Myanmar in his article, Northern Rakhine, in Kaliya Magazine, August 1994, said the Chindwin Stone inscription of 14th century, preserved in Tuparun Temple, Sagaing, testify that there were Muslim Kings, with Indian names in Arakan.These kings, he said, had a very good relation with Ava Kings.

So all these inscriptions show the antiquity of Rohingya people and these are regarded to be their cultural heritages.

  1. Ananda Sandra Stone Monument or Shitthaung Temple Pillar of Arakan:   This Pillar was erected by King Ananda Sandra in 8th century. It has an extensive record of life, culture and successive kings of ancient Arakan. It is an invaluable heritage of Arakan, which Arakanese people regard to be very authentic and they are proud of it. So mentioning it here under the headline of culture of Rohingya may draw some indignant and criticism from some circle. Though Rakhine people say this monument is their historical heritage, my reason to mention it here is the language thereon, is different from Rakhine people but similar to Rohingya language.

This Pillar contains records from ancient to 10th century A.D. This and many other inscriptions found in Arakan are in Nagari alphabets, and the language thereon is very much nearer to Rohingya language. So Rohingyas say that they have had historic connection with these ancient inscriptions.

This inscription was first read by Dr. John Ston of Oxford University in 1935-1942. Later it was studied by Dr. D. C Sircir. Dr. Ston’s transliteration was later copied by U San Tha Aung and Dr. Pamela Gutman. Though, I cannot directly take the meaning of the sentences on the pillars. I found almost all vocabularies there are pronounced as if what we find in Rohingya language today. The script on the east face of the pillar closely resembles what of 6th century Gupta copper plate of Bengal.336

Correct and actual reading is not possible, because some writings were defaced. Pamela Gutman says, the Paleography of the inscriptions suggests that most forms derive from the Gaudia or Proto Bengali style prevalent in Bengal, retaining some old forms side by side with later developments and also introducing a few forms in contemporary West Indian scripts. An almost complete alphabet can be reconstructed by comparison of the inscriptions with the inscriptions of the Candra dynasty of Bengal.337

Let us make a comparative study of these inscriptions on the north face of Shitthaung Pillar from Pamela Gutman’s writings:

The first inscription occupies seven lines. Only the last letters can be read, which are Cakarari, Caturddasame, Raksoka and Krtarajyah.

Eighth line begins with Svasti Sri? Meaning, Village Sri?

Certain sections of next inscription have three columns, i.e. left side column, middle column and right side column.

Left Side Column

1-40   idan         maya                Krtam   – This way we love

1-41   iva           damsadesa                   – This vicled country

1-42   Areka      desa                 vijayam – Victor country Araka

(It is the name of the country in 11th century).

In the Middle Column

Yaksapura – raja      King of Raksapura (It is ancient name of

Arakan as called by Indians

In the Right Column

There are:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>·         <!–[endif]–>ha manarajah (Sim)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>·         <!–[endif]–>ghya (ya) sri Govindra Candra

<!–[if !supportLists]–>·         <!–[endif]–>devatam karta (in)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>·         <!–[endif]–>tattasya deva

In the last of the column

There is:

 Agni pradesa – –    Agni – Meaning not clear

Pradesa – a country or a foreign country.338

All these words and phrases are very similar to Rohingya dialect. We can see a comparative study of vocabularies, taking it from Pamela’s transliteration and translation of North Face of Shitthaung Pillar.

Verse No. 4

Text of Pillar    Rohingya         Rakhine           English

Talon                Tarto                 Tonauk Then

Jagata               Jagat                Kabba               World

Varsam             Vasar                Hnaik                Year

Satam               Shat                 Thara                Hundred

Bhupalo            Bhupal              Aashin              Strong one

Verse No. 5

Tena                 Tene                 Thu                   He

Krtm                 Karten               Loukthi              did

Rajyan              Rashtri              Oukchoukthi      reign

Verse No. 6

Nama                Naame              Amee shi          Named

Raja                  Rajah                Bayin/Min          King

Jani-a-Sakat      Janatre Pyithugo/Ludugo To Public

Toto Raja Lok Janitasa   Raja Tara Jane   Bayin Mya Thie thi The Kings Knows

Verse No. 7

Ikam                 Ekk                  Thaik                One

Thasmad           Tharfar              Tohnauk            Then

Verse No. 8

Nitiri Vikramap   Nitirnote            Thara Thapyint   Justly

Verse No. 52

Deni                  DeniDeni           Nezin                Daily

U San Tha Aung, Director General of Higher Education Department, also transliterated these inscriptions in Burmese letters. A comparative study of numerals contain in the inscription bring us to the conclusion that Rohingya numerals and the one in the inscriptions are the same. For example;

Verse No.         Numerals in     Rohingya         Rakhine


17,41                Dhuwi               Dhui                  Hnaik

13                     Therai               Teen                 Thaong

31                     Pansa               Pans                 Ngaa

25                     Chau                 Sau                  Khrouk

14,16,26,30       Chaat                Chaat/Hantti      Khunaik

35                     Dhuwa Dosh      Dosh Dhui         Sehnaik

9, 22,115           Vish                  Vish/Khuree      Hnasei

35                     Thirish               Thirish               Thonsei

55                     Panchas           Panchas           Ngasei

and many others are also similarly pronounced in Rohmgys dialect.339

Here notable things are:

  1. The verses were transliterated from defaced scripts.
  2. I have difficulties to produce correct pronunciation from the transliteration.
  3. So I cannot transliterate or translate the whole sentence or the whole inscription in Rohingya language.

So far, a rough study of this transliteration of Pamela Gutman made me to comprehend that the language of the inscription is different a lot from Rakhine language and very much nearer to the Rohingya language. So I bring this Shitthaung Pillar inscription under the headline of Rohingya’s culture. I think a scientific study in this regard by scholars is a need of time.



Under the agreement signed by General Aung San and British Prime Minister Ettaly, on 27th January 1947, Burma was to gain her independence soon. But this agreement required getting the consent of peoples in scheduled areas or hilly regions. So after his return from England, General Aung San convened a historic conference at Pinlon, Southern Shan State, gathering all minorities from the hilly regions. Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin and many others signed an agreement to take independence together with the Burman’s of plain area. This time Rakhine leaders did not demand statehood for Arakan, though they had demanded it in the round table conference of London, from November 1931 to January 1932. Thus when Burma became independent on 4th Junuaary 1948, Arakan became a Division of it. For smooth running of the country Burmese Government enacted many laws and acts, from 1947. Some of them are:

  1. Union of Burma, Constitution, 1947.
  2. Burma Immigration Emergency Provision Act 1947.
  3. Burma Independence Act 1948
  4. Union Citizenship Act, 1948
  5. Foreigners Registration Act, 1948.
  6. The Residence of Myanmar Registration Act. 1949.
  7. Burma Immigration (Detention) Rule of 1951.

Almost all of these laws were intended to safeguard national interest and to classify status of peoples residing in Burma. In British period all, citizens, national peoples and foreigners, enjoyed equal rights. But after independence interest of the nationals or national peoples are considered to have priority and in this regard, all above Laws and Acts were enacted. Remarkable thing here is Muslims from Arakan State, despite their affinity with Bengal, were given full citizenship rights. This Muslim people comprises of almost half the total Arakan population. From 1947 Constituent Assembly of General Aung San, to the 1990, SLORC sponsored Parliamentary election, the Muslims or Rohingyas got the right to elect and to be elected. I believe this alone is sufficient to recognize Rohingya’s citizenship today.Since independence Government provided schools, hospital, medical centers and post offices in the midst of Rohingyas. All facilities, due to citizens, were provided by the Government to Rohingyas. Rohingyas more or less were allowed to get into Government services including the military service. Rohingyas were issued Burmese Passports to travel to foreign countries.They all were issued N. R. Cs. under said Residence Registration Act and its subsequent rules. According to the said rule, section 33. no foreigners can be issued this N R.Cs.

There were some sorts of discriminations, suppressive mechanism and some undue harassment against this Rohingyas during the periods of former Governments. But the whole community was not denied citizenship rights. There were freedom of movement, ownership, profession and worship. All children can study in government schools and qualified ones can join the Institutions and Universities including Professional ones.

Mujahid Movements: 

It is a hot question in the context of Arakan history. Some used to brand them as separatists, where some other said they were extreme racists. Now a day some are going to say they are alien to Burma. But the speeches delivered by responsible and top military dignitaries of that time, at the surrendering ceremony of Mujahids, proved they (the Mujahids) are not aliens but part and parcel of Burmese society. The former notions too, are proved wrong by their deeds, later. In fact one of the main reasons of Mujahid arising is that they felt insecure in the environment of armed groups, as on the eve of independence, both the branches of BCP and Pyithu Yebaw went underground in Arakan. Some Rakhine nationalist such as U Kra HIa Aung, Sayadaw U Sein Dan were also at preparation to stage armed struggle for Arakan Statehood. So in that prevailing situation Muslims too thought, it was right time for them to equip themselves with arms.

Moshe Yegar says, after world war two, the Muslims of Arakan had, again, a separate history, similar to their situation in previous periods. The dominating feature in the events befell the Muslim community of Arakan, in the post war period was, undoubtedly the armed rebellion,known as Mujahid’s rebellion (Mujahid means warrior in a Holy War, Jihad). This movement was localized in the north of Arakan, in the region of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and that part of Rathedaung, which borders with East Bengal.

With the transfer of regime to AFPFL and particularly, after Burma was granted independence, a great many Muslim officers and officials were dismissed and replaced by Arakanese Buddhists. These latter tried to rehabilitate the deserted, ruined Arakanese villages. Part of the Arakan population uprooted during the communal riot at the beginning of the war was returned, and the Muslims who had grabbed their land were removed. These arrangements together with the remembrance of British promises unfulfilled – to establish a national area – led the Muslims to acts of sabotage against the Government.

Most of the population in this area (North Arakan) is Muslim. During the period of British rule disaffection between the Buddhist population and the Muslims in Arakan developed for the same economic and social reasons that caused similar hatred between the two groups as in the rest of Burma.340 [This led to 1942 communal riots and later to Mujahid movements). Here one thing Moshe Yegar did not dibcuss in this book is about the leadership of Mujahids.

Mujahid Leadership:    

I found in my study, the main actor of this movement was one Kawal Jaffar Ahmed, a poet and vocalist educated in Rangoon. He was in Rangoon on the eve of independence. He observed the political situation then and returned to Arakan. He attracted the youths there with his nationalistic songs. He was a native of Kagyal Pek Village, Buthidaung. He mobilized a lot of young men and those government servants ousted by the new government, then. Kawal Jaffar’s lieutenants were C.L. A. Rashid and Abdul Rashid of Bogyi Chaung, whose father was known as Anthora Raja (Limped Chieftain), for his defense of Buthidaung area, in 1942, from the attacks of Rakhine armed gangs intruded from inner Arakan. The other senior Mujahids were Abbas of Thindaung Village, Shafi of Tannmay Village, Buthidaung and Saleh Ahmed of North Maunydaw and schoolteacher Sultan Ahmed of Myothugyi Village, Maungdaw. Within a few years disunity erupted amongst them. Kawal Jaffar was killed by his men and their group was divided into many branches under different leadership. A group led by C.L.A. Rashid made their base at Saing Daing Mountain and he was killed in a major army operation around 1953 and 1954. Another group let by A. Rashid. Abbas and Saleh Ahmed controlled the area north of Buthidaung and Maungdaw. The other group, led by so called Major Qassim, who was famous, perhaps, for his notoriousness control Rathedaung, Maungdaw South and some area around central Maungdaw. He was a cruel and rough man. He served with the British army during the war. He suppressed his own people. He forcibly took contributions or ransom money from the public. He married a lot of young girls. So fathers of fair-looking young girls, had to flee into the towns or to the other side of the country. His cruelty and uncivil deed are still narrated today in local ballads also called “Honla”, which are recited by group of women, especially on the occasion of marriage ceremonies. He forcibly married a young girl, in her early teenage, named Tayoba, daughter of a respected Mulvi Sikander of Tetmin Chaung, Buthidaung. But her father was successful to bring her back from her school in Chittagong with the help of the car driver of Toyuba, by a risky conspiracy. She was married second time to an Immigration Officer and now she lives in HIaing Tharyar Township, Yangon. There is a very popular “Honla” (Ballad) about this Tayuba’s affair with Bo Qassim, which is especially recited by women in groups on the occasions of marriages. Today many Arakanese Muslims are found to have established on the western side of Naf River who fled there during this Mujahid movement.

Major Qassim established his headquarter at Minglagyi Mountain; the attack of Government forces could not remove him from there. But in 1954, Burma got understanding with Pakistan and Major Qassim was arrested in Chittagong. There his followers disintegrated. Many second-class leaders with their own followers roamed in that area for years.They continued to loot and terrorize Muslims and Buddhists alike. Among them were Ragi Ullah and Mutafis, who surrendered in May 1961. Another gang leader was Thurab Ali who did not surrender but after some years fled into East Pakistan. Then Abdul Rasheed surrendered in June 1961. Again two notorious gang leaders Syed Ahmed in Maungdaw north and two brothers Abul Samad and Abul Qassim in Burhidaung north insurrected for years. Abdul Samad was killed during his military raid into the downtown in 1959 and his brother Qassim too was killed in military operation in 1961.

This time northern Arakan became a peaceful place without insurgency. Military administration, in the name of May Yu frontier administration was introduced. Dacoits and thieves were cleared off. People could sleep now leaving their house doors open. People were happy; prosperity began. Peace, tranquility and happiness prevailed there in its real meaning. People admired much to the administrators of that time. But this atmosphere did not last for many years. In about 1969, tnere again a group of insurgent gathered in the west side of Rathedaung, led by one, Zafiar. Later there was another Zaffer too. He was also known as B. A. Zaffar. B. A. Zaffar was a graduate of Rangoon University. He joined with former Zaffar in 1971, after Bangladesh Liberation war. But, they could not resist the major operation from Government side in 1974 and both fled into Bangladesh, where both of them later died. These are Mujahids ranks and files.

What The Mujahids Did:

Moshe Yegar says the rebellion (in 1948) spread quickly, for the central Government was busy putting down the rebellions that broke out in other places in Burma and was unable to devote itself to Arakan. In the beginning the Mujahids even co-operated with Arakanese rebellion that erupted in the south. The two rebel organizations came to an agreement whereby, after the defeat of the AFPFL regime in Arakan, the region would be divided into two independent states. Sober Muslim leaders tried on the one hand to influence the rebels, to desist from their undisciplined behavior, on the other hand to explain to the Government that the rebellion was the work of a handful of individuals, that the vast majority of Arakanese Muslims did not support them and were themselves among the victims of the rebels; and that actually the blame for this rash of rebellions was to be placed at the feet of the Government itself for the mistakes made in handling the sensitive situation, and of the Arakanese leadership for its successful inciting which increased the embittered elements within the Arakanese Muslim community and the hate between the Buddhists and the Muslims. They (the Muslim leaders) further explained that the revolt was contrary to the percept of Islam and that there was no justification whatsoever for the declaration of Jihad.341 There were indeed some Rohingya leaders, who in 1948 demanded arms from U Nu (then Prime Minister) to enable them to fight the rebels, and they repeated this demand again in 1950 and 1951; their demands were not met. In any case they accused the Government of failure in putting down the revolt, a failure that made it impossible for many of these Rohingyas to avoid surrendering to the rebels, being forced to help them against their will, under armed threats against which they had no defense ……… The Government also made attempts to negotiate with the rebels. In July 1948, the Government delegation came to hear them out; the rebels claimed that Rohingyas were indigenous. Sons of Arakan, descendants of Muslim settlers of hundreds of years ago, differing from neighboring Chittagonians despite the similarities in language, culture, race and the identity of the religion. The propaganda of the extremists among the Arakanese attempted to identify them (The Rohingyas) with the Pakistani Muslims.342

Why Mujahid Movement Edured:     

Moshe Yeyar writes; Muslims were not accepted for military service. The Government replaced the Muslim civil servants, policemen and headmen by Arakanese who increasingly offended the Muslim community, discriminating against them, putting their elders to ridicule, treating them as Kalahs and even extorting money and bribes from them, and arresting them arbitrarily. The authority made no efforts at all to correct the wrongs against the Rohingyas by mean of educational facilities and economic improvements. The Arakanese (Rakhine) conducted propaganda against the Rohingya, accusing them of being Pro Pakistan and aspiring to annexation to Pakistan, and cast suspicion upon their loyalty to the country The Immigration Authorities imposed limitation of Movements upon Muslims from the regions of Maungdaw, Butnidaung and Rathedaung to Akyab. The Muslims were not resettled in the villages from which they have been driven out in 1942, with exception of villages they left in Maungdaw and Buthidaung regions. Some 13,000 Rohingyas still living in refugee camps in India and Pakistan where they had fled during the war, were unable to return; as for those who managed to return, they were considered illegal Pakistani immigrants. The properties and lands of all these refugees have been confiscatedThe Mujahids took arms only after all their protests and complaints brought no result. They demanded that all these injustice be corrected and that they be allowed to live as Burmese citizens according to laws and not be subject to arbitrariness and tyrany.343

Mujahids and the Government:        

All the attempts to hold talks together failed.The rebels made rapid progress and banished the Arakanese villages that had been resettled. There were heavy fighting against army units and police patrols in the region, which for a long time had been under virtual seize. In June 1949, Government control was reduced to the port of Akyab only. Whereas the Mujahids were in possession of all of northern Arakan,and the other groups of Arakanese rebels had other districts in their control. Because of paucity of regular troops the Government formed a special Arakanese territorial force; they performed many acts of cruelty against the Muslims; and the rebels, for their part returned the full measure of acts of cruelty against the Arakanese 344 (the Magh).

In 1950 Prime Minister U Nu accompanied by Pakistani Ambassador Aurengzeb went to visit Maungdaw.In the wake of this visit, several changes in the personnel of government departments of the region took place. Senior officials and army units were replaced.345 [This means Pakistani Ambassador, Aurangazib, was taken there to assure him that Muslims there were treated fairly and equally, like other minorities of the country]. [BTP units who acted excessively against the Muslims, were replaced by Kachin Rifle, under Captain Kinzamon.]

But, relation between Burma and Pakistan in 1953, turned sour again. Accusations and counter accusations were appearing daily in Newspapers. .Mujahids in fact got free access to the other side, because it was impossible to guard effectively the long border.Perhaps Mujahids enjoyed some support from across the border and there were considerable numbers Arakanese Muslims settlement in Pakistan side of the border indeed

Moshe Yegar writes: In the years from 1951 thorough 1954 Government forces annually conducted large-scale campaigns against the Mujahids. But the Mujahids kept their grip tight on the region. In 1954 the Mujahids again increased their action and reinstated their superiority over the region. Arakanese Buddhist Monks proclaimed protest (Staged hunger strikes) in Rangoon against Mujahids.As a result of this pressure, the Government launched an extensive campaign in November (in the name of operation Monsoon). The major centers of the Mujahids were captured and several of their important leaders were killed. Since then, their threat had been vastly reduced. [During this, C. L. A. Rashid, a very popular leader of the Mujahids, who took his strong hold near Saing Daing waterfall, east of Buthidaung, was killed. He did not retreat despite warning of several times from the public as well as from military officers in the operation. He resisted from his camp for several days and lastly he was killed. His followers disintegrated and later joined with the other Mujahid groups.] Their ranks broke up into small units, which continued to loot and terrorize Muslims and Buddhist alike, especially in remote regions difficult to access. The Mujahid discontinued their organized fighting against the armed forces: some of them went in for smuggling rice from Arakan to Pakistan, where rice was scarce. This Mujahids levied various taxes on the public. The Burmese Government accused the Mmahids of encouraging illegal immigration into Arakan of thousands of Chittagonians from over populated East Pakistan. But Rohingyas leaders denied this accusation and claimed that not only was there no such immigration at all, but that the authorities invented the story so as to prevent the Rohingya refugees from returning from Pakistan, on the excuse that they are Chitiagonians.346

………. In early 1954 Major Qassim, the most widely known Mujahid leader was said to have been arrested in Pakistan. But he was not handed over to Burma. After his release from jail, Qassim remained in Chittagong where he runs a hotel to this very day. Qassim’s followers although scattered, set up a camp for their families on the Pakistani side of the border and continued their revolt by smuggling rice by plundering until July 4, 1961, when 290 Mujahids of the southern Maungdaw (led by one Ragi Ullah) surrendered at the hand of Brigadier Aung Gyi, then Deputy Commander in Chief of Burma. Then in 15 November 1961 another, but strongest group of Mujahid, numbenng a few hundreds surrendered. Thus Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung area became peaceful, free of insurgency. This second group of Mujahids was led by Abdul Rashid of Bogyi Chaung, Buthidaung. They also handed over two senior Mujahid leaders, Saleh Ahmed and Shafi, to the Government who were reluctant to surrender.

What Made Mujahid Surrender:

There are many factors connecting this issue. Of course the arrest of Major Qassim in East Pakistan caused disintegration in his followers. Yet there were other large and strong groups especially the one led by Abdul Rashid and Saleh. Almost all Mujahid leaders occasionally used to go into Pakistan; Pakistan can arrest them anytime. She did not do it. The arrest of Bo Qassim might be to maintain friendship with Burma, but the main reason was the complaint local public had lodged against his cruelties and uncivil activities.

The growing of military strength of Burma army is considered to be a reason that caused the surrender of Mujahids. Indeed there were yearly major operations, but they never could remove Qassim from his encampment on Minglagyi Mountain. Again there arose Mujahids in late 1960s, especially in Buthidaung and Rathedaung area.It was led by one Jaffar and they survived for years.

The principle factor that led to the surrender is “the lack of public support” to them. The public including their leadership, firmly believed the words of senior officials of May Yu frontier administration. The leaders and elders of Rohingya fully accepted the notion that May Yu will be a peaceful and developed place in the Union and their future is bright forever.Rohingya leaders, who tried for frontier administration, now, believed they would actually enjoy equal right, as the other races do. So they pressed the Mujahids to surrender.

At the same time Major Tin Oo was a very efficient administrator. He appointed Wazi Ullah as logistic officer.Wazi Ullah acted as a go between.Wazi Ullah was a very clever man, whom British military officer Major Anthony Irwin praised as he worked as an interpreter of him (the Major). Wazi Ullah succeeded in convincing the Mujahids that the Government took full guarantee of protection for the Muslims and the future of Arakan Muslims bright. Wazi Ullah conveyed the promises of Frontier Administration officials and the opinion of Rohingya leadership. Mujahids believing all these and seeing the decrease of public support day by day, decided to surrender group by group. Thus Rohingyas of Northern Arakan saw the surrender of Mujahids and admired the promises of Brigadier Aung Gyi, on behalf of the Government,

Did the Rohingya Public cooperate with the Government:     

Believe it or not, according to my assessments Rohingyas are the most law-abiding people in Myanmar. They do not like people who take law in their own hands. They seek justice through judiciary. So the Muslims in Arakan have more cases in courts than other people. Government taxes and loans are always most completely paid by them. Official records of Myanmar will testify this fact.During the Second Worid War there were ample strayed arms in the area, but Rohingyas did not keep them in their possession only because they feared the law.

Here Mujahids in the eyes of Rohingyas are out laws. They did not admire them. But they had to pay the taxes levied upon them and shelter them because the public was armless. Some Muslim leaders cooperated with the Government whole-heartedly.These comprise Abdul Salam,headman of the town of Buthidaung, Abdul Hamid, headman of Seinyinbyin Village, Buthidaung and they received “Awards of President” (Thamada Su) from the Union President. There formed a police force mostly comprising local Muslims. The officers were Mr. Abul Qassim and Mir Ahmed. They fought brilliantly against Mujahids around mid 1950s, many Mujahids were captured alive and many others surrendered during this period. So Police Inspector Abul Qassim and P.S.0 U Mir Ahmed were conferred “Yethura” awards by the Government. Both are still alive in Maungdaw.

May Yu Frontier Administration:      

May Yu frontier area comprises Maungdaw,Buthidaung and part of Rathedaung,where Rohingyas are in majority was announced by Prime Minister’s office in early March 1961, as one of its special administrative departments.The head of the Department was Colonel Saw Myint. Commissioner for May Yu frontier was Major Tin Oo and S. D. 0 was Captain Zeya Kyaw Htin, La Santu. Both were efficient administrators. The people respected and loved them for their fair and just administration. Still today elderly people talk about their fair mindedness and pray for them. In May Yu frontier four Sub Townships were created; They are Alelhan Kyaw, Kyein Chaung, Kyaung Daung and Zedi Byin. Frontier administrators communicated with the Mujahids through some special liaison officers and local elders. Believing the promises made by the administrators, the Mujahids surrendered group by group The leader of the last Mujahid movements, Qassim of Buthidaung was killed in an ambush by the military in 1961 near Buthidaung Town, in his native village, Ywama. Now peace and tranquility prevailed.Summers are noisy and busy with traditional games, sports, festival and Pwes. Rohingya youths were recruited for official jobs, vocational training courses for Rohingya Students had been arranged. Rohingya Language as a language of national indigenous race began to be broadcast from Burma Broadcasting Services, twice a week for ten minutes each commencing from 15th March 1961. Stories concerning Rohingyas true faith to the Union and their being Burmese Indigenous race took the front pages of Newspapers, Periodicals and Magazines including the “Tatmadaw Khityae Sasong”, a Military Journal issued under the control of Defense Ministry.

People were physically and mentally healthy in this period. Today people miss this period and wish to have the same, a peaceful and enjoyable life, and some expect that the present Military Government like their predecessors in earty 1960s, may create an atmosphere like that for Rohingyas in Arakan.

Rohingyas were allowed to form various social organizations.Thus there were Organizations such as Rohingya Jamiyatul Ulema, United Rohingya National League, Rohingya Youth Association, University Rohingya Student Union, which was on par with other naitonal races. Further, there were some organizations in the name of Arakanese Muslims.

The Issue of Rakhine State:   

As we have said Rakhine people did not demand Statehood on the eve of independence. But a cry for an Autonomous State grew up in post independent period. The main political rivalry was between AFPFL and Rakhine Ra-Ta-Nya (Rakhine Regional Party). Muslim M. Ps. from the north joined with the M.Ps.of AFPFL in the south. This became a great obstacle in gaining the Statehood for Arakan. Here Roningyas had not their own political party. They contested in the Parliamentary Elections of 1947,1951and1956 as independent or as an affiliated group of AFPFL. Moshe Yegar says: Because of the deep seated suspicion existing, U Kyaw Min. leader of this (Rakhine Party), failed in all his attempts, after the 1951 elections to win over the Muslim Members of Parliament from Arakan State to form all Arakan faction within Parliament, with the promise of securing their rights as Muslims in the coming new State to be constituted.

In the Constituent Assembly, the Arakanese Muslims had always four or five representatives. From 1956 election these members were influenced by Sultan Mahmood of Akyab, who became Health Misnister in 1961 in U Nu’s Pa-Ta-Sa Cabinet. Sultan Mahmood was clever and influential enough to monopolize the political life of Muslims in Arakan.

There had been many commissions formed to study the case of granting Arakan Statehood. These are: Rees William’s Commission in 1947, U Nyo Tun’s Commission in 1948, Sir Ba Oo Commission in 1948, Kelly’s Commission in 1950. No Commission yield up any result.

But when AFPFL was divided into two factions in 1959, the prospect of achieving Statehood became brighter. Both factions wanted the support of Arakanese M. Ps. After winning 1960 election, U Nu’s Pa-Ta-Sa Government again appointed an Inquiry Commission to study the affairs of Arakan State. This time Muslim opinions differed. Some objected the idea of Statehood for whole Arakan and propose to exclude Northern Arakan and keep it “under central Government.” Some supported the Statehood provided full safeguard for Muslims in the State are guaranteed.347 The second version of Statehood was proposed by the Organization of Arakanese Muslims affiliated to Sultan Mahmood, then a Parliamentarian from a constituency of Buthidaung. They demanded proportional quotas in official posts, which the Rakhine people were not ready to share.

Arakan State did not come into existence yet. On the 1st May 1961, the province of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and the Western Portion of Rathedaung was set up into May Yu Frontier Administration. It was under Frontier Administration Department in Prime Minister’s office and controlled by military officials. It was not autonomy for the region and was out of the jurisdiction of Arakan Division. This new arrangement earned the support of Rohingya leaders, especially as the new military administration succeeded in putting down the rebellion and bringing order and security to the region.

At the beginning of 1962, the Government prepared a draft law for the establishment of the”State” of Arakan and in accordance with the Muslims demand, excluded the May Yu District.The military revolution took place on March 2, 1962. The new Government cancelled the plan to grant Arakan the status of State but the May Yu district remained subject to the special administration that had been set up for it.348

Later, from 1st February 1964, the May Yu District was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs.The facilities Rohingyas enjoyed during military rule began to decrease gradually. BSPP (Burmese Socialist Program Party), the only party the Revolutionary Governmeni had formed and allowed to grasp the whole life of the area. Rohingya, except a few axe-handle-like persons, are not allowed membership in the BSPP Party. This BSPP had played one-sided game, to exploit and spoil the Rohingya community, until it was dissolved in 1988.

Surprise Check on Muslim Villages:  

Though Rohingyas or Muslims were formally accepted as nationals, theic were strict checks on their movements. Immigration officials deliberately harassed them to get bribe money.Some times there were check operations on ground of suspected illegal immigrants. Sometimes these operations caught people and arbitrarily jailed them. Some of these died in Insein Jail, because they were not accepted by Pakistan and some had to seek self-deportation only after independence of Bangladesh. Most interesting is, in one case the Supreme Court set aside orders of deportation against a group of Arakanese Muslims rounded up by Immigration authorities in 1959 in a drive against illegal immigrants, ruling that in a country like Burma with so many minority groups there might be people who do not speak Burmese and whose customs were different from the Burmese, but who nevertheless were Citizens (The Guardian Newspaper, October 27, 1960).



On March 2, 1962, General Me Win seized power in a coup, abolished the constitution and dissolved the Parliament. Now all power of the State rested in his Revolutionary Council. In February 1963, this regime nationalized all banks and a few weeks later all businesses save very little retail selling ones. The special administration of May Yu region was abolished and was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs from February 1964.

Rohingya’s social and religious associations were not permitted in his new process of re-registration. Rohingya language broadcasting program as a national race or as an ettinic language, from BBS (Burma Broadcasting Service) was cancelled from October 30, 1965. Unscrupulous elements of Rakhine people were given a free hand in dealing with Rohingyas. Disgracing and harassing to Rohingya is allowed to do freely. Hooliganism and gang looting became a routine activity in towns; state mechanism of forced transmigration or transportation was introduced. Rohingya households were forcibly deported to places where they originally got the NRCs (National Registration Cards).Discriminations were found in public jobs.Local Rohingya servicemen were transfared to remote places or to Inner Burma. Opportunity for new public jobs became very rare. Harassment on travel, especially on checkpoints, Jetties and Airports became very harsh. Most NRCs, on checkpoints were seized and torn down.

Many Rohingya Villages from Minbya, Mrauk-U, and Kyauktaw were forcibly shifted wholesale to Maungdaw and Buthidaung area.These villagers left everything behind and faced a lot of hardships in their new places. Some young men of these expellees had made secret contact with ex-Mujahids, and therein an underground-armed movement restarted from about late 1968. In this situation some educated persons were organized by one Jaffar (B.A) of Buthidaung, and crossed to the other side of the border with his followers. Since then, this group had been doing some anti-State propaganda against the Burmese Government. During liberation war of Bangladesh, Jaffar (B.A.) came with some of his supporters into Arakan and joined there with the armed group led by another Jaffar, also known as Jaffar Thani. They got some advanced arms from war-wrecked Bangladesh. Arms were very plenty in that period.Even Party Unit (BSPP) of Maungdaw had collected a lot of modern firearms, for that reason,Unit Chairman Captain U Kyaw was later taken action.

This time efforts were made to get military co-ordinations between the Rohingya armed groups and the Rakhine armed groups in inner Arakan. Armed group led by Bo Kra HIa Aung and Kyaw Zan Ri’s Communist Branch of Arakan are said to have gained some agreements of understanding with the group led by Jaffar (B.A.).

The insurgent group of Jaffar (B.A.) got hold of the area for about three years. This group, too, failed to gain the support of local people. When a major operation in 1973 was launched against them, they did not resist it and gradually fled into Bangladesh. Some say the arms were surrendered to the Bangladesh Government. From then on there has been no insurgency in May Yu region until now. But, Jaffar (B. A) and other persons organized some anti-State Organizations in the names of RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization) and RPF(Rohingya Patriotic Front) in foreign land. They have been carrying only some propaganda works abroad. The Rakhine insurgent groups led by Bo Kra HIa Aung, U Kyaw Zan Ri (Red Flag Branch) and other Communist Branches, too, surrendered in 1980s. Thus Arakan as a whole became peaceful and devoid of insurgency. The last group roamed around the border area also surrendered in 1999 and they were settled down in Northern Maungdaw.

Under 1974 constitution, Arakan became a State. Chairman of Arakan State Council was Commodore U Kyaw Maung, who married a daughter of Kyaw Mra Aung Chaudhary of Teknaf. Bangladesh. There were a lot of Bangladeshi (Formerly East Pakistani) persons serving in various departments of Myanmar as they were regarded as nationals by Sanguine. Arakan State had conspired a tragedy against the Rohingyas. Then a Pyithu Luttaw (Parliament) Member from Buthidaung Constituency, U HIa Kyaw Aung submitted a report in Pyithu Luttaw session that there are seventy thousand illegal immigrants in Buthidaung alone. Thus the Government had introduced an operation (Operation Dragon King) in February 1978. It started on February 13th from Akyab. Villages were surrounded up at night. Thousands of Rohingyas from surrounding villages were herded to an empty warehouse of Agricultural Department and many were kept in the compound under bare roof. Next day roars and agitations broke out there. Armed personnel tried to calm down the agitators and being unable to control the mob, they fired on the mob. Two Muslims were killed and a lot many were injured. The group rounded up the day before ran away; they were not chased and (or) rearrested. But later some Muslim elders were arrested and jailed on the charges of complicities in this agitation of escapees. The operation again started in Buthidaung on 16th March 1978. There, too, were indiscriminate arrests under various clauses of immigration acts. People were jailed through summary trials in mobile courts. A huge temporary jail adjacent to Buthidaung Town was built, which actually became a means of terror for public. Thus people felt, absconding from the operation would be better than facing jail term. Parents became very much anxious about their young unmarried daughters. Thus people began to flee into Bangladesh. First Bangladesh blocked the exodus. But later seeing some absconders being killed and injured at Taung Bru police station, Bangladesh allowed them to cross the border. About two hundred thousands were sheltered in camps along the border.First Burma denied them to be Burmese citizens or residents. Foreign diplomats were invited there in the first week of May and shown around the area, the diplomats understood the cause and effects of the operation.

But, later Burma and Bangladesh got understanding through reciprocal visits of missions, and an agreement of repatriation was signed on 7th July 1978.The refugees were being repatriated where the UNHCR came to help the refugees on humanitarian ground. The refugees had been repatriated and most of them were resettled in their original places. This refugee crisis drew the attention of the world. Since then many researchers have been writing on Rohingya problem.

Rohingyas got five seats in 1990 SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) sponsored election. For reasons known to SLORC, restriction on Rohingya’s movement was enforced from late 1991. Permanent military cantonment and barracks were being constructed for dozens of military battalions, in Buthidaung Town alone.349 Order of porter and ration reached to a village from various army and police units at the same day Porters, who were kept in the camps for some continuous days got infection of cerebral malaria and died within days. Insulting and humiliating to Muslims irrespective of their social status grew day by day. Villages were removed and agricultural lands were confiscated for military installations and so called new establishment of Rakhine model villages. These all led to second exodus of people to Bangladesh in early 1992. This time, too, more than two hundred thousand Rohingyas, who for their poorness and illiteracy, some people tried to assume to be recent Bangladeshi entrants, streamed into Bangladesh and were sheltered in many refugee camps temporarily built for them along the border. This time, too, Burmese Government first said that no Burmese nationals fled to Bangladesh. Next she said that so called refugees were no more than those who returned to their natives.But in mid 1993 (perhaps in August) an agreement to repatriate the refugees was reached between Myanmar Government and the UNHCR High Commissioner in Geneva. Repartriation process began in late 1993. Now all refugees save a few thousand had been repatriated. UNHCR and many other NGOs are presently contributing helps to the refugees. UNHCR has been trying to reintegrate the refugees in the society. Funther UNHCR has been maneuvering for the issuance of National Identity Cards to the returnees as well as to the local Rohingyas in Arakan. So called National Scrutiny Cards under U Ne Win’s 1982 Cili/rnship Act were until now not issued to any Rohingyas, UNHCR efforts in this regard, so far is not successful yet.

Jaffar (B. A.) died in 1986 in Chitlagong. His associates and remnants of former Mujahid who fled into Bangladesh reorganized themselves but did not get unity, and became two separate groups, ARIF and RSO. ARIF was headed by Mr. Noor Islam: a LLB graduate from Rangoon University and RSO was headed firstly by Saiful Islam and later by Mohammed Yunus, a medical doctor, graduated from Institute of Medicine, Yangon. Neither group has any activity inside Burma save an excursion by RSO in May 1994, which coincide with a cyclone on 27th May, and met still retaliation from the Government. Most of the infiltrators were killed and the rest fled away.

In the uprising of 1988, (General) U Ne Win resigned and first U Sein Lwin became the head of the State. Within a short period the power was handed over to Dr. Maung Maung. Both were unable to put down the uprising. Law and Order was deteriorating day by day. Thus on 18th September 1988 the Army headed by General Saw Maung took power of the State. The army in the name of State Law and Order Restoration Council imposed Martial Law and gradually succeeded in suppressing the uprising.

SLORC Government sponsored a Parliamentary election on 27th of May 1990. National League for Democracy (NLD) came victorious with 82% turnout. Arakan State has 26 seats. Arakan League for Democracy won 11 seats. Among the rest, 9 seats won by NLD, 4 seats by NDPH,350 one seat by Mro-Khami Party and last one by Kaman Party, respectively.



It is difficult for general concern to understand the legal status of Rohingya. Majority does not know the Geo-Political and historical background of Arakan. To generat Burmese; a Burmese is a Buddhist.If a pure Burmese happeies to be a Muslim, he is regarded as a Kalah of a foreigner. Here, Rohingyas are Muslims, their complexions are different from general Burmese, so they are generally seen as foreigner of descendants of foreigners which means Rohingyas are regarded as non- nations.

However, Bokyoke Aung San, father of the nation and leaders of post independence period studied the affairs of all minorities in the nation and generously accepted Rohingyas as an indigenous race of Burma at the same par with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon and Rakhine.

In early British census Rohingya, Karman, Myedu and Chitlagonians or Bengalis were all censured under the column of Muslims. Sometimes Alakanese Muslims were categorized as Sheikhs and sometimes they were put under the column of Indian Muslims. Arakanese Muslims protested not to mix them with foreign Muslims. So in 1921 census only some Rakhine speaking Muslims were shown under separate column as Arakan Mohammedan. Then again in 1931 census Myedu and Kaman only were separately listed, whence the Rohingya still remained under general Muslim headline. Yet Rohingyas are not foreigners in independent Burma. Grounds for this claim are:

  1. In 1864 Foreigner Act was enacted and again it was amended as Foreigner Registration Act in 1940 and then came out Registration of Foreigners Rule in 1948. But Rohingyas, who settled in Arakan Village-wise, were not subjected to registration as foreigners.
  2. In 91 department administrations of late colonial period British election law had provision for the representation of Indians in Burma. Rohingyas from north Arakan were allowed to represent as Burmese, but not as Indians.Their representative U Pho Khaing and U Gani Marakan had competed not as Indian, but as Burman. U Aung Tun Khaing and U Shwe Tha were other contesters, who were Rakhmes.
  3. Further in the Constituent Assembly of Bokyoke Aung San, Sultan Ahmed from Maungdaw, Abdul Gaffar from Buthidaung and U Pho Khaing (a) Nasir Uddin from Akyab got elected as Burmese citizen representatives. The most interesting thing is on the very day of Bokyoke Aung San and his colleague’s martyrdom, there was an official appointment at noon with these Arakan State Representatives.351
  4. Under 1947 Burma Immigration (Emergency Provision) Act, no foreigner can enter the Union of Burma without any lmmigration Permit issued by the controller or by any official authorized to issue such permits or a valid Passport duly Visaed or endorsed by or on behalf of the President of the Union [Here a foreigner can enter secretly to Arakan bul it is not easy for him to take permanent settlement in the midst of a functioning mechanism of Government.]
  5. Here again, there are the Immigration (Detention) Rules of 1951,in Burma.Under this rule any foreigner found entered the country illegally can be deported. There were instances of annulling deportation orders by Chief Court of Burma, in the case of some Arakan Muslims,352  who were arrested and sentenced for some years on conditions of deporting after the jail term.
  6. There is the Union Constitution of 1947. Section 11 of this Constitution expressed: any of the indigenous races of the Burma means the Arakanese, Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, (Kayah), Mon or Shan races and such racial groups as has settled in any of the territories included within the Union as their permanent home for a period anterior to 1823 A.D. (1185 B.E.). [Thus Rohingyas whose residency in Arakan rooted so many centuries back, fall under this category of the indigenous race].
  7. The Union Citizenship Act of 1948:     

Citizenship is a right to have rights. Section 3 (1) of this Act stipulates again Section 11 of the Constitution. Section 4 (2) reads: any person descended from ancestors, who for two generations at least have all made any of the territories included within the Union their permanent home and whose parents and himself were born in any of such territories shall be deemed to be a citizen of Union. [If Rohingyas were not recognized as indigenous race as said above in Article 11 of the Constitution, they at least enjoyed citizenship under this Section of Citizenship Acts. Many Rohingyas in post independence period won the charges against them by immigration in Court, by showing clearance under this Section].

  1. Issuance of National Registration Certificate:  

This is the most authentic document concerning Rohingya’s citizenship. In parallel with the Union Citizenship Act, the Residents of Burma Registration Act was enacted in 1949, followed by its executing Rules in 1951. Accordingly, all people residing in Myanmar were required to register either as residents or foreigners. To these two categories corresponded two novel documents, National Registration Cards (NRCs) and Foreigners Registration Certificate (FRCs) (under 1864 Foreigners Act and then amended in 1940 as Foreigners Registration Act), for residents and foreigners respectively.NRCs were issued to all residents(mainly citizens) whilst registered foreigners(under Foreigners Registration Act and Rule of 1948)were issued FRCs.There was no third category of people in Burma, then. As a result, NRCs were used as a proof of nationality or citizenship.

Here Burma Residents Registration Rules of 1951. Section 33, stipulates, what so ever this Rule cannot be applied to foieigners except the case in Section 29 and 31.

Section 33 Article; A say Foreigners who were registered under 1940, Foreigners Registration Act should be accepted as a registered under this rule, and their FRCs should be regarded as if issued undei this rule.

Note: Section 29, stipulates to carry the registration cards in case of traveling outside residing town.

Section 31, stipulates, in case of failure to abide by this rule, one is subject to face to legal action under Section 6 Article 2 of Bunna Resident Registration Act.

In practice, too,the NRC holders had the right to possess immoveable properties,the right to public jobs,insurance,social security and professional educations.Rohigyas have been enjoying all these rights since independence up to 1990.

The most noteworthy thing is that the first town in the Union to issue this NRC in 1952 was Maungdaw. People in that area did not approach to immigration and Registration offices, individually or in groups to obtain the document in illegal way. But the official under special project got to the grass root villages and issued the Cards to the villagers. Then how can we say, people obtained NRCs by bribing the local officials. So the notion that Rohingyas in Arakan acquired NRCs by hand is not reasonable at all.

All NRC issued in earlier years bear no additional remarks. A remark stating, “holding this certificate shall not be considered as a conclusive proof of as to citizenship” was sealed later on NRCs. The reason behind this extra remark sealed later is best known to the authorities.Perhaps one of the objectives of 1978, Dragon King Operation was to stamp the above remark on all NRCs.

  1. Issuance of Naiional Passports:

Since independence, Muslim from Arakan States obtained National Passports to travel abroad. In the Iast few decades, pilgtims lo Makkah, frorn Rakhine State, got Passports of the Union of Bunna, too. Under international law, the possession of such document is a proof of nationality.

  1. Eligibility to Elect and to he Elected:     

In international laws,only citizens can compete in national elections.Burmese Constitution and Election Laws piohibit foreigners fiom the right to elect and to be elected. The criterion to run for election is not only that the candidate is a full citizen but also both of his parents must be citizens too.353

Noteworthy thing here is, there were several general elections of Pyithu Hluttaw from 1946 to 1990’s SLORC sponsored election. In all these elections Rohingyas of Arakan or Muslims of Arakan enjoyed both rights, to elect and to be elected.

Here is a List of MPs Period Wise;

Year     Position            Name of Candidate       Area Reprsented


1936     M. G. C.            Mr.Gani Marakan           Buthidaung+Maungdaw

1946     M. L. C.                        U Pho Khaing (a)           Akyab West

                                    Nasir Uddin

M. L. C.                        Mr. Sultan Ahmed          Maungdaw

M. L. C.                        Mr. Abdul Gaffar Buthidaung

1951     M. P.                Mr. Abdul Gaffar Buthidaung North

M. P.                Mr. Abdul Bashar           Buthidaung South

M. P.                Mr. Sultan Ahmed          Maungdaw North

M. P.                Daw Aye Nyunt (a)         Maungdaw South


1956     M. P.                Mr. Ezar Meah               Buthidaung North

M. P.                Mr. Sultan Mahmood      Buthidaung North (By-election)

M. P.                Mr. Abul Bashar             Buthdaung South

M. P.                Mr. Sullan Ahmed          Maungdaw North

M. P.                Mr. Abul Khair               Maungdaw South

M. P.                Mr. Abdul Gaffar             Both Maungdaw and Buthidaung

(Upper House)

1960     M. P.                Mr. Abul Bashar             Buthdaung South

M. P.                Mr. Sultan Mahmood      Buthidaung North

M. P.                Mr. Abul Khair               Maungdaw South

M. P.                Mr. Rashid                    Maungdaw North

M. P.                M. A. Subhan                Both Maungdaw and Buthidaung

(Upper House)

Ma-Sa-La Period (BSPP)

Year     Designation                 Name of Candidate      Region Represented

1974     Hluttaw Member Dr. A. Rahim                 Maungdaw

            Hluttaw Member Mr. Abul Hussein           Buthidaung

1978     Hlttaw Member              Mr.Abdul Hai (a) Maungdaw

                                                U Tun Aung Kyaw

Some others: etc;-

SLORC Sponsored Elections

1990     Hluttaw Member Mr. Fazal Ahmed           Maungdaw South

U Chit Lwin (a)Ibrahim    Maungdaw North

U Tin Maung (a)             Buthidaung South

Noor Ahmed

U Kyaw Min (a)              Buthidaung North

Anwarul haq

U Shwe Yat                   Akyab

During the Ma-Sa-La period, in all level of election: Village Tracts, Townships, and State or Division Councils: Rohingyas got the right to represent there. In the last Pa-Ta-Sa Cabinet of U Nu,Health Minister was Mr. Sultan Mahmood, M. P., from Buthidaung North.

To sum up, until recently Rohingyas enjoyed full citizenship rights. So they naturally are Burmese citizens. By 1982 Citizenship Law too, they are citizens also, because Article 6 of this law stipulates as one who is a citizen at the commencement of this law is also a citizen. Albitrarily depriving one’s citizenship or degrading one’s citizenship status, I hope, is contrary to international laws and norms. The reason behind denial is self-interpretation of 1982 citizenship law. They say Rohingya is not in 135 ethnic groups. Ma-Sa-La had designated lately. Though Rohingyas residency in Myanmar might be for centuries, yet they have to apply for naturalized or associate citizenship.Gaining of this degraded status is also subject to the approval of highest authority.

Presently TRCs or White Cards as it is called, Temporary Registration Cards have been issued to Rohingyas in North Arakan. UNHCR official say according to the explanation of Department of Immigration, TRCs can be regarded as a step towards granting citizenship to Rakhine Muslims.354 According to Burma Resident Registration Rule Section 13, a-1, TRC is a substitute for NRC for a temporary reason.

After all, UNHCR in its assessment of the situation, remarks, “one would be incorrect in asserting that because there exists no formal citizenship nexus between Rakhine Muslims and Myanmar Naing Ngan,this population is living in a legal limbo.In fact there exist a wide series of genuine affective links between the two above mentioned. Historically the national nexus between the Rohingya and Rakhine kingdom was following from a higher legal political nexus, i.e. the nominal vassalage of the Rakhine King to Sultan of Gaur, which guaranteed Muslim subjects to be treated on equal footing with the Rakhine Buddhist.355

  1. Degrading of Nationality Status:

Despite profound rationale and historical as well as legal proofs, Rohingyas today are barred from gaining Citizenship Scrutiny Cards. Their nationality status is made a subject of suspicion. Many happened to incline to believing the fabricated or distorted stories concerning Rohingyas. But, the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 in its Article No. 15 says; everyones has the right to a nationality, none shall be arbiharity deprived of his nationality, and  no one be denied the right to change the nationalty.

As we have seen in early chapter Rohingyas had been full-fledged citizens of Myanmar, through out its history up to 1990 SLORC sponsored Parliamentary election.So losing this status pertains to theuncler of rights Universally considered jus cogens, which may not to be limited, curtained or infringed for any reason of national emergency, national security, sovereignty or national unity. As to the rights expressed in Article 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there can be no derogation as far as denationalization is concerned.

According to Children Rights Convention, every child has a right to citizenship Myanmar is a party to this Convention. She signed and ratified it. Myanmar had enacted Myanmar Children Law; in 1993 Section 10 of the said Law stipulates that every child shall have the right to citizenship in accordance with statuary language of existing laws. Since Myanmar is a party to the (Children) Convention, she is obliged under Article 7, to afford nationality to every child born on its territory, in particular when the child would otherwise be stateless. The rigorous nature of the restrictions imposed on NRC, TRC holders of Arakan leaves little doubts that the concerned authorities seek to relegate such persons into positions of inferiority partcutarly not only in the sphere of political affairs but also in the economic realm.356

UNHCR annual report remarks, Myanmar and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on November 05,1993, Article 5 of that MOU Says returnees will enjoy the same freedom of movement as all other nationalities in Rakhine State……… But the second part of the sentence, “in conformity with existing laws”………., bring us to the earth. What these laws are? This is the legal basis for movement restrictions that currently applied in Northern Rakhine State. These regulations are:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.       <!–[endif]–>Section 10 of the Foreigners Registration Act of 1940, which stipulates that foreign residents in Myanmar have to request a license to leave their place of residence; and

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.       <!–[endif]–>Section 11 of the above act of 1940, which elucidates, in this context, every such license shall state the name of the person to whom the license is granted, the nation to which he belongs, the district or districts through which he is authorized to pass or the limit within which he is authorized to travel, and the period of travel and so on

It has been well noticed that improving the legal status of Muslims in this region is the first step towards social and economic development. Culturally, socially or simply humanely the consequences of a weakened legal status of Muslims population in north Arakan State are many. They touch every realm of life.357 It should be tackled in a fair way, without neglecting the historical and legal background of this population of Arakan.



Do the Rohingya have the right to be Burmese citizens? Do they fall in the norm and from of Burmese indigenous category? It is a question most people raise at least in their mind. To be straight to the point, Burma has neither during the reign of Burmese kings nor during the period of British rule, any specific legal corpus slipulating the rights and duties of Burmese: it neither had any law concerning the issuance of identity documents whatsoever. So when we speak of citizenship or national race, we have to start from the laws. [Here all laws enacted in Burma could not be interpreted to satisfy the need and wish of minorities.]

Burmese laws concerning citizenship are neither jus sanguini nor jus soli, it is a mixture of both. So we cannot say to be Burmese citizen, one should be a Biiddhist or from so designated group or tiibe. Since Bunna is a muti-racial country, peoples of different iacial and cultural background live here. So all these peoples should be accommodated in the family of national races; For example, in India, Nagas in east are ethnically and culturally very much different from the Malwaris in the west. Yet all have the same status and equal rights.

Taking into consideration these points, all previous Governments in Burma, treated Rohingyas as Burmese nationals. Though there had been some occasional discrimination, on the whole Rohingyas were provided with full citizenship rights.

Some major proofs of recognizing Rohingya as citizens, by successive Government are as follows:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.       <!–[endif]–>British first ruled Burma under the Governor of India. Next there was a Governor for Burma.Then in late colonial period there was a Governor’s Council, represented by all racial groups including Indian and European residents in Burma. Where Indian population reached the quota prescribed in the Council’s regulation, there was an Indian Constituency. Thus Akyab, where was a vast Indian populace, got an Indian Constituency for the Governor’s Council.There was a Nationality Constituency too. All other Constituencies in Arakan were nationals. Thus the representative elected from Maungdaw, Buthidaung was a National Representative. Mr. Gani Marakan of Akyab represented Maiingdaw and Buthidaung in 1936 election. The competitors of that period with Gani Marakan were U Shwe Tha and U Aung Tun Khaing both of who were Rakhines. A Rakhine candidate never tried to be a representative of foreigners. This is a proof that Muslims from northern Arakan were regarded as Burmese nationals, even in British period.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.       <!–[endif]–>In the legislative, Hluttaw of Byoke Aung San, which had drawn first Burmese Constitution, Rohingyas too, got the chance to represent, which indicates. Bokyoke Aung San, father of our independence, accepted Rohingya as Burman. Their being Kalahs (Muslims) did not infriuge in their being Burmese citizen. M.L.Cs. of that Hlutttaw were U Sultan Ahmed from Maumidaw. U Abdul Gaffar from Buthidaung and U Pho Khaing (a) Nasir Uddin from Akyab West.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.       <!–[endif]–>In 1950, Prime Minister U Nu took along with him Ihe Ambassador of Pakistan, Mr. Aureng Zeb, to Maungdaw and Buthidaung, where he (the Prime Minister) arranged mass public meetings and assured the Ambassador as well as the local public that Burma regard these people as genuine Burmese citizens and henceforth no discrimination will ever occur in this area.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.       <!–[endif]–>We have,Burma Residence Registration Act of 1949, under which NRCs were issued only to Burmese citizens.The most notable thing is Maungdaw was the first town in the Union to issue the NRCs. The teams of Immigration and Manpower or National Registration Department got down to the grassroots villages to register and issue these NRCs. No one came to the town office to obtain that NRCs by fraud or bribe. According to the Rules of said Acts, foreigners can not be issued NRCs. So having NRCs is a proof of Rohingyas 358 being Burmese citizens.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5.       <!–[endif]–>U Nu, the Union Prime Minister, on the radio speech relayed from BBS (Burma Broadcasting Service) on 25th September 1954 at 8:00 PM explained that the people living in Maungdaw and Buthidaung regions are our national brethren.They are called Rohingyas.359

<!–[if !supportLists]–>6.       <!–[endif]–>Both Prime Minister U Nu and then Defense Minister U Ba Swe in November 03, 04 1959 made public speeches to the mass public gatherings in Maungdaw and Buthidaung. There, they assured the public that the government was clean and clear in regard of Rohingya’s Burmese citizenship. They told Rohingyas were at the same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>7.       <!–[endif]–>A notification is issued on November 20, 1961 by Frontier Administration Department, under Prime Minister’s office designated May Yu Frontier Area as a Rohingya majority region and emphasized that Frontier Administration was introduced only to uplift the socio-economic life of these people.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>8.       <!–[endif]–>Rohingya language was relayed from BBS for ten minutes two times per week in its indigenous races’ broadcasting program, from 15 May 1961 to 30 October 1965.360

<!–[if !supportLists]–>9.       <!–[endif]–>“Sarpay Beikman” is a Government controlled publishing house. Government censored well its publications, especially the volumes of Myanmar Encyclopedia. In Myanmar Encyclopedia Vol. 9. 1964, on page 89, the historic narration was given in detail concerning Rohingya.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>10.   <!–[endif]–>Khityae Sasaung. a bulletin of Defense Ministry, in its Volume number 12, at 6 and 9 dated 18/7/61 and 8/8/61 respectively, carried long stories concerning Rohingya. It described northern Arakan, a place of Rohingya majority where some minorities, Khami, Mru, Dainet and Rakhine, too.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>11.   <!–[endif]–>The groups of Mujahids, one on 8/7/61 and the other on 15/11/61, surrendered. Both surrendering ceremonies were chaired by then Brigadier Aung Gyi, Deputy Chief of Staff.The speeches he made on those occasions were produced in a booklet, named “Future of May Yu”.These booklets are in the hands of many people today. Summarizing his speeches, we get the following points.

He said, “The people in this district (May Yu) are Ruhingya. On the other side of the border, there are Muslims too. They are Pakistanis. Muslims in Arakan side are Rohingyas. Some ethnic people live on the both sides of the border, not only in this border, but also in our borders with India, China and Thailand. For example Lisu, Eikaw, Lawa live in Kachin State where as then main clans are in China. In the same way we have Shan in Burma, whereas in China there are Tain Shans too. There are Mon, Karen, Malays in Burma as well as in Thailand. On the Indian border, there are Chin, Lishaw and Naga. These people settled down on Indian side of the border as well. So, frankly speaking people living in this May Yu region are our national brothers, and one of our national minorities. So it we had any wrongs in the past, forget them. From today, you all are our Union citizens. Feel yourself as our family members, not strangers.” He further explained many other things.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>12.   <!–[endif]–>High School Geography of Ma-Sa-La period indicates in a map of Burma, the scattering of national peoples, where northern Arakan is spotted as a region of Rohingya settlements.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>13.   <!–[endif]–>Traditionally, Union Day celebrations on 12thof February have been yearly celebrated in a grandeur manner, under the sponsorship of the Government Representatives of Union races have been invited as State Guests, there Rohingya representatives too were invited in 1960 and 1961 Union Day Celebrations. Next a cultural exhibition and a sport race, were allowed to be shown and pertermed in Theinbyu Sport Ground, Yangon, on 1960 Union Day.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>14.   <!–[endif]–>The last and most important reference of Rohingya’s historically in the book “Sasana Ronwa Htunzepho” published by SLORC Government in 1997. In its chapter of “Islam” the book pointed out that Islam spread in Arakan since 8th century A. D. It was highly rooted there, and from there it futher spread into inner Burma.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>15.   <!–[endif]–>In Rangoon University, there were Ethnic Student Associations. Rohingyas also got registration of their Association in 1959 – 1960 and 1960 -1961 academic years. Registration Numbers are: 113/59 Dec 13 1959 and Rg 7/60 Sep 17, 1960 respectively.

These all are some proofs for those who suspects Rohingyas in their being genuine citizens of Burma. Still some may say Ihese allare not the decree, notification declaration or decision of the highest organ of the Slate. No such documentations ever appeared in Burma in regards of so-called 135 indigenous peoples of Burma (save the original eight ethnic races whose names were mentioned in Burmese Constitutions). If the rest of all can be indigenous races without any decree or notification, why not Rohingyas, too?



In the aftermath of 1992 refugee problem, many NGOs entered Arakan and have been working there. Especially refugees have been repatriated under UNHCR’s supervision. Only a few thousand refugees remained in Bangladesh, whose case is under negotiation between Myanmar and Bangladesh. UNHCR has its yearly reports. Further some of its senior officials have compiled some thesis concerning the Rohingyas. These comprise “a nation within a nation”, by A Joseph: “Analysis of the livelihood situation of the Muslim population in Northern Arakan State”, by Andersen. “A brief account on the history of Muslim population in Arakan” by P. Nicolas.

Their study seemed to be many folds.Their thesiste contain various viewpoints: The official version, the Rakhine version and the version of Rohingya themselves…………. According to UNHCR’s documents an increasing number of Rakhine Muslims have shown willingness to acquire formal citizenship. It said recent survey indicated 70 to 80% interviewees declare that holding Myanmar citizenship is first on their list of priorities. Further 60 to 90% declare that they consider themselves as nationals of Myanmar 361 ………….. According to UNHCR the Rakhine version is: The indigenous races of Myanmar have no Muslim religion.362 Finally the official (SLORC and SPDC Governments) version in regard of Rohingya is: The so-called Rohingyas never belonged to the national races or national racial groups of Myanmar. The Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar historically, politically or legally nor do they in any way represent any segment of the population in Myanmar including those professing the Islamic faith. The so-called Rohingya is an invention of insurgent terrorist organization like Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) and Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF). Both organizations are alien to Myanmar in form and content and are largely supported from abroad.363 Again Minister for Foreign Affairs, U Ohn Gyaw, in 1992 opined: “Persons, who could not produce an Identity Card, should have a problem”. He further said “It is a rubbish thing that people have left Myanmar: These people who are in the refugee camps in Bangladesh are perhaps from Decca, but not one single person has left Myanmar” This reflects the official position concerning the Rohingyas and Rohingya refugees. Myanmar Government is ready to register or issue Registration Cards to Rohingyas, but reluctant to issue them either NRCs or so-called Citizen Scrutiny Cards.364 But their words have no consistency and later they accepted the refugees. UNHCR survey in 1998 reflects the perception, sense of belonging. It says their interviewees claim to be Burmese nationals.One of the returnees says. “Now I feel they are wrong in saying that we are foreigners”.365

Here in these connections UNHCR official, observed as follows: One would be incorrect in asserting that, because there exist no formal citizenship nexus between Rakhine Muslim and the Myanrnar, this population is living in a state of legal limbo. In facts there exist a wide series of genuine effective links between the two above mentioned. To name a few:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.       <!–[endif]–>The mere fact that returnees revealed themselves of Myanmar National protection is an unmistakable nexus and decidedly a peisuasive one.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.       <!–[endif]–>The fact that Rakhine Muslims have enjoyed habitual residence rights for generations and continue to do so

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.       <!–[endif]–>Formal and informal taxes are paid to the local authorities

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.       <!–[endif]–>Participation for social security system for those Rakhine Muslims who were working (in Public Departments)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5.       <!–[endif]–>Massive participation in the nation wide election of 1990, a right normally reserved for citizens

<!–[if !supportLists]–>6.       <!–[endif]–>Some legal documents: the author had a chance to review and testify that Rakhine Muslims are nationals of the Union of Myanmar.366

UNHCR annual protection report said that the Rakhine Muslims are not stateless persons per se. Since they were granted some residency right on the territory of Myanmar Naing Gnan.The report further said, the contention that Rakhine Muslims presently residing Arakan Slate are, all descendants from illegal immigrants who entered Burma in the past decades because of the irresistible thrust of over population in Bangladesh and search for “greener Pasteur” is deemed incorrect, specially in view of the fact that Muslim settlements in this area can be traced back to 1430 A.D.367 Albeit not being formally recognized as citizens, Rakhine Muslims enjoy most of the historical, cultural and leyal characteristics of Myanmar nationals. Historically the national nexus between Rohingya and the Rakhine Kingdom was flowing from a higher legal and political nexus i.e. the nominal vassalage of the Rakhine Kingdom to Sultan of Gaur, which granted Muslim subjects to be treated on an equal footing with Rakhine Bhuddists.368 UNHCR also remarks that there is a formal link between their NRCs and citizenship.

UNHCR further remarks: As outlined above, the 1982 Citizenship Law is based on an official position, which encourages amalgams between immigrants and old settlers. In that context, mutual respect is strongly discouraged in day-to-day interactions between communities……… Practically, any Muslim looking person, or one with Muslim name, is a suspect of being an intruder, or even a member of insurgent groups. Being not a citizen, the average Muslim is subject to all sorts of frustiations particularly at checkpoints, being called “Kalah”.

Yet some expressed doubt that there might be some illegal immigrants of recent decades. The truth is that life in Arakan for a Muslim is very restricted and humiliating. It is unimaginable that Bangladeshi would enter into this antayonistic atmosphere. In contrast thousands of Rohingyas gradually have been leaving Arakan for permanent settlement in other Muslim countries since Burmese independence. Further in recent decades there, proper Government mechanism has been functioning well. It is unthinkable for a foreigner to settle there and acquire residency documents.

Whatsoever, the final assessment of UNHCR is a breath of relief for Rohingyas? It says first priority should be given to the issue of nationality for, without nationality not only Rakhine State development is conceivable, but the perfect root cause for future massive displacement will be maintained at the dawn of 21 century. It is serious and positive attentions must be given to the problem of incorporating Rakhine Muslims as full and equal citizen into Myanmar Nalion.369



Foreign historians regard Chronicles written by Rakhines to be exaggerated and based on unrealistic legends. These (Rakhine) chronicles say during the period of Wethali Dynasty, Chittangong or East Bengal was for sometimes under Arakan Kings. It emphasized Arakan Kings such as Gaulia, Mitzuthein (a) Taing Chit, Anu Lun Min, Alawmapru and Min Htee, in Lemyo period too, extended their sovereignty over 12 towns of Bengal. Again in Mrauk-U period, though the founder, Min Saw Mun (1430-1433) handed over Bengal to King of Gaur, for the help in regaining the Arakan Throne, his successor, Min Khari (a) Ali Khan (1433-1459) is said to have reoccupied Ramu. His successor Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalimah Shah is said to have gained control of Chittagong. Historian U HIa Tun Pru writes Min Bin (a) Zabauk Shah (1531-1551) extended his Kingship up to the Ganges River and to the border of Nepal. He writes Min Bin fought war against Mogul Emperor Humayun, who was defeated and made peace with Rakhine King by offering his daughter Begum Pasida. U HIa Tun Pru says, the famous Debrito or Ngazinkha who controlled Syriam and tried to revolt against Arakan King was not a Portuguese but a son of Min Bin, born of Begum Pasida. This version of U HIa Tun Phyu does not conform to that of western chronicles. Foreign historians cautiously accept this notion.Sir A.Phayre remarks that this is the characteristic extravagance of Arakese chroniclers in regard of the achievements or their monarchs.

In this connection i.e. on the relation of Arakan and East Bengal D.G.E.Hall, formerly Professor of History in the University of Rangoon, comments “In the reign of Anawrahta, Pagan asserted its authority over Arakan, but after 1287 this lapsed; and although before the establishment of Mrohong by Narameikhia in 1433, there was from time to time a certain amount of Burmese and Mon interference, Arakan’s contacts with Mohammedan India were probably closer than those with Burma. None of its rivers rises in Burma, and throughout its history its water communications with Bengal were much easier than its overland communications with Burma. When Bengal was strong, its rulers received the tribute of Arakan; at other times Arakan claim tribute from parts of the Ganges Delta. These fluctuations of power effected Chittagong, which was held alternatively by one side or the other. In 1459 it came into the hands of Arakan, which held it until it was finally annexed to the Mogul Empire in 1666.

Bengali researcher Dr S.B.Kanungo discusses more elaborately on this subject in his Ph.D.thesis i.e. The History of Chitlaoony Vol. I; He writes Chittagong in the early Christian century might form an independent Kingdom, but it definitely ceased to do as such from the 10th century A.D. Since that time Chittagong not indisputably known to have formed independent Kingdom.In fact its history is but the history of a particular province of its suzerain powers such as Arakan, Tripura, Bengal. Chittagong was like a bone of contention amongst the Muslims,Teppera and Arakan who strove for supremacy for the seaport. It has always been a disputed possession amongst the Muslims, Tippera and Arakan. So its boundaries could not be determined in ancient and medieval times.

Aryanization of the district began from the time of introduction of Hinduism and Buddhism.The Arab contact with Chittagong goes as far back as the 9th century A.D. The sturdy and warlike race of Afghans had once held sway over Bengal. Their authority extended not only up to Chittagong but as far south as Arakan. 370

According to contemporary Portuguese chronicles, Chittagong hill tracts and a portion of Arakan were included in the Kingdom of Huseein Shahi rulers. The boundaries of the province of Chittagong greatly fluctuate during the Pathan period. Though Sultan Mahmood Sur carried his victorious campaign over up to Arakan proper, his successor could not claim the territory south of Shanka River as part of their dominions. Numismatic sources state that the Pathan army of Mohammed Shah Gazi entered Arakan.371 It was perhaps after the death of Min Bin (a) Zabauk Shah (1551-1553).

Dr.Kanungo further narrates, the relalion between Chillagong and Burma especially its subject province Arakan is as old as the history of the district. The repeated Arakanese aggression in the district undoubtedly influenced the course of history.From late 16th century to the mid 17th century Chittagong was under the long and almost continuous rule of Arakanese Kings.372

The legacy of Arakanese regime over Chittagong was further described in a very interesting way by Dr.S.B. Kanungo; He says the close contact between Chittagong and Arakan from time immemorial down to the end of Alakanese Regime (in 1660 A.D.) has left distinctive marks on almost every aspect of society and culture of the district.

The name Marma, by which the Maghs of Chittagong hill tracts introduced themselves to others, is derived from Myanmar (or Burma), the national name of Burmans, which is only the vocal corruption of the written name.373

Traces of Magh homesteads (bhita) are still seen all over the district (Chittagong) especially the tract lying to the south of Kanaphulli (River). Many of the place names in Chittagong are of Arakanese origin. Not only the names of places but also some Burman terms, for example, Phora (Lord Buddha), Kyans (Temple), Phungyi (Priest), Rauli (Clergy) and words of such kind had made their way into the common use of Chittagong District. The Arakanese influence on dress, food, social customs etc. is also noticeable. The Arakanese Era or the Magh Era was widely prevalent in Chittagong before the introduction of Christian era by the British Government. Though the Al Hijrah and the Bengali Era were in vogue, the Arakanese was by far the most popular till the end of 19th century.374

Dr. Kanungo continues, “Arakan in fact, a continuation of Chittagong Plain, was neither purely a Burmese nor an Indian territory till the 18th century A.D.  Referring to the geographical position of the country, Sir Henry Yule very aptly remarks that Arakan bears much the same relation to Burma that Norway did to Sweden.375

Shut off from Burma by a hill range it is located far away from Indian capitals. Chiefly for its location, it is not only remained independent for the most part of its history but also endeavored to expand its territory in the surrounding tract whenever opportunity came and Chittagong was the first country to be the victim of the territorial ambition of the Arakanese Monarchs. The land, which is called Arakan by foreigners, is called as Yakaing orYekeen or Rakhiang, 376 by its own people. From the word Rakhasa (Pali) or Rakhasha (Sanskrit), the name Rakhine derived. Rakhasha are a kind of demigods in Indian mythology.

Dr. Kanungo says Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalima Shah occupied Chittagong, but his successor again lost the control of it. So they did not have Muslim tittles. When Arakan King in Mrauk-U period occupied Chiltagong, they gave much facilities to the Portuguese, so as they can be used against Arakanese enemies, Muslims in the west and Tippera in the east. But the Portuguese were not Ioyal, they betrayed the Arakanese Kings many times: they even tried to seize power in Arakan proper. In 1602 A. D. the Portuguese revolted against the Kingdom of Arakan, but was putdown successfully by King Minraza Gyi (a) Slim Shah I (A.D. 1593 -1612).

Arakanese King Mm Bin (1531–1551) again occupied Chitlagong and other so-called 12 towns of Bengal. Chillagong always had been a bone of contention between Tripura, Arakan and Muslim. After Min Bin it again fell in the hands of Muslim Kings of West Bengal and Tripura. But again in the time of Mm Phalaung (a) Sikander Shah fell under the reign of Arakan and it remained under Alakanese rule continuously about a century until the time of Sanda Thudamma (1652-1674 A.D.)  Arakanese Kings always keep their son or some close relatives to take care of Chitlagong.

There in 1660s, arose a crisis between Arakan King Sanda Thudamma and exiled Mogul Prince Shah Shujah. At the aftermath of Shah Shujah crisis, Mogul Emperor Aurenzeb invaded Chiltagong and occupied it in 1666.

The flight of Shah Shujah to Arakan made the Emperor so much mentally disturbed that he directed Mir Jumla, to follow the Prince even up to Arakan if necessary. But Mir Jumla’s death put a temporary halt to the proposed invasion of Arakan. Bernier says the massacre of Shah Shujah and his family by the Arakanese, greatly angered the Emperor. The Mogul had an ulterior design that of attacking the King of Rakan, and punishing him for his cruelties to the Sultan Shujah and to his family. Having determined to avenge the murder of those illustrious personages and by a signal example, to teach his neighbors, that the Princes of the Royal blood, in all situations, and under all circumstances must be treated with humanity and reverenced.377 So Aurenzeb entrusted Shaisia Khan with the task of conquering Chittagong from the Arakanese.

According to Bernier it was scarcely practice-able to march an army from Bengal into the Kingdom of Rakan owing to the great numbers of rivers and channels that intersect the frontier. So Shaista Khan rebuilt a Naval force with three hundred ships and equipped with materials. He had also well prepared infantry and artillery forces.

The Mogul first captured Sandwip Island on 12th  of November 1665 A.D. In this event the Dutch at Batavia sided with Mogul because they were rivals of Portuguese who were favored much by successive Arakan king.378

After outbreak of Anglo-Dutch war in 1665 both became desirous to assist the Nawab, obviously to gain his favor. Then the Nawab felt embarrassed as to from which of the contending parties he would seek help At last lie no lonyr’i fell in need of their help.379 Later the Portuguese too deserted the Arakanese. Kamal, 380 a son of former King of Arakan, who had taken shelter in Dhaka during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, was also directed to go with Mir Murtaza, with a band of the Maghs who lived in Dhaka, on the assurance that he would be made chief of his tribe. Thus the Maghs at Chittagong were attacked from all side in January 1666. The Portuguese rendered excellent services in the naval attack. The imperial forces by land and sea encircled the fort of Chittagong on 26th January. The garrison (of Arakan King) after making a greal exertion found that they could not resist the Mogul army; and at last sought safety. The fort was set on fire and it was the sunset of the Maghs.381

According to the estimate of Sir A. P Phayre, the war booty consisted of more than twelve hundred pieces of cannons: most of them jingles carrying balls not exceeding one pound. About two thousand were made prisoners and sold as slaves. According to Alamgirnama, 1026 guns made of bronze and iron, many matchlocks and Jumburaks, mush shot and powder and other artillery materials and three elephants were captured.382

Mir Murtaza chased the fleeing Maghs. The Mir after traveling difficult roads, dense jungles and terrible rivers at the end of 12 days arrived within one mile of Ramu. Next day at noon he stormed the fort. The Arakanese King’s brother named Rawie, who held the Government of the place tried his best to oppose but being war stead he fled with the garrison to a jungle close to a hill near the fort. Mir Murtaza giving chase captured many and seized 80 guns, many musket and other war materials. But the Mogul did not marched further, and later retreated even from Ramu. Despite many times efforts by Arakan to gain control over Chittagong, they lost it forever. Hence Chittagong was annexed to Bengal.

With the death of Sanda Thudamma the resplendent Majesty of the Arakanese Monarchy came to an end. Under his unworthy successors the power and prestige of Arakanese Kingdom steadily declined. Between the fall of Chittagong (in A.D. 1666) and the accession of Sanda Wiziya (1710 A.D.) there were ten reigns averaging two and half years each. Three kings reigned for one year only, while two did not reign for more than one month each.Between Sanda Wiziya and Nara Abaya (1742 A.D.) the average reign was under two years. So insecure a policy, in the view of Mr. M. S. Collis, is little removed from anarchy.383

A long Arakanese rule of nearly a century made Chittagong a part of Arakan territory and it would have continued to be so if the conquest had not taken place. As a result of the conquest, Chittagong was again unified with Bengal, and the loss of Chittagong made Arakan henceforth, an exclusively Burman territory.

The Arakanese neo-Muslims such as Rohang Muslims, Kaman Muslims etc. live mostly in the southern frontier of the district. The Kamanchi are supposed to be the descendants of the followers of Shah Shujah.384

The loss of Chittagong was a great blow to the prestige and splendor of Arakanese Empire. She henceforth, never could maintain her original image, and Arakan was finally annexed to Burman by Ava King Bodaw Pya in 1786 A.D. Sir Jadunath Sarkar remarks such is the fate of nations that prefer ease to exertions, the acquisition of wealth to patriotic sacrifice and leaves their national defense in the hands of aliens.385

Although Chittagong was politically a part of the Arakanese Kingdom, culturally it remained a part of Bengal. The Arakanese rulers in spite of their belief in Buddhism not only patronize the Hindu and Muslim cultures but also encourage the settlement of these peoples in the Kingdom. The Portuguese activities in Chittagong developed intensively during the Arakanese rule …….. During their time Chiltagong earned notoriety as a center of slave hunting expeditions and slave trade in which they (the Portuguese) took a leading part.386



Through out history there have been communal strife and wars. Especially in feudal age, this sort of communal unresl, community wise exoduses frequently occurred in almost everywhere in the world. In the same way there were exoduses of Muslims in Arakan too. Especially there were four exoduses occurred in 20th century alone. To name the exoduses serially are as follows:

  1. In 1660 A.D. there arose the crisis of the Mogul exiled Prince Shah Shujah.Muslims in the Kingdom were accused of siding with Shujah and suppressed and massacred. Consequently thousands had to flee into Bengal. It was the first exodus, as far as we trace the history.
  2. In 1710 A.D. King Sanda Wiziya suppressed the Kaman archers, who took the politics of Arakan in their own hands.The Kamans were Muslims and the general Muslims as a whole suffered much.This time Muslims had to flee to Bengal as well as to Ava. In Ava King Tsane,protected them and settled them in 12 different towns in separate groups.387
  3. According to the chronicle of Rakhine State Council, published in 1984,there was a Kalah (Muslim) uprising in the whole country in 1738 A.D. This uprising continued for years because the Kings of that time were very weak and the country was unstable.However successive Kings had ruthlessly suppressed and massacred the Muslims.Thus many had to flee into Chittagong Province, then under Mogul Empire. This is the third exodus.
  4. The fourth exodus occurred during the reign of Bodaw Pya. This time both Muslims and Rakhines flocked into Bengal Arakan, this time, was almost deserted. Most of these refugees returned when British occupied Arakan in 1825 A.D.
  5. The fifth exodus was due to a great panic of communal disharmony in 1942. As British withdrew from Arakan ahead of Japan’s entry, at the vacuum of Government, there arose communal killings. Being destitute, about 100,000 Muslims crossed Naf River into the British area, who were sheltered at Rangpur refugee camps. Some Rakhine, about 10,000, who were blocked at Maungdaw and dared not cross Buthidaung area, fled to India. These Rakhine refugees were sheltered by British at Dainuspur refugee camps. After the war, under official arrangement between the authorities of Bengal and Burma, these refugees (save a few thousand) were repatriated. Most of these returnees took their settlement in northern Arakan. Already a densely populated area.388
  6. The sixth exodus occurred in post independent period Both Mujahid and the army, especially the BTF (Burma Ternional Force) oppressed the public on accusation of complicity with their opponents. Wealthy respectable people were arrested, tortured, disgraced and killed, and villages were burnt down by BTF. Mujahids too, demanded various taxes and ransoms. In this doorned, gloomy period, mostly well to do people, to save their wealth, life and dignity took refuge in East Pakistan then. Most of this group did not comeback: settled permanently on that side and assimilated with the people there.
  7. The most extensive exodus was due to the harshness of Dragon King Operation in 1978. Nearly 300.000 fled to Bangladesh. But later repatriated under a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Burma.  First Burma denied them to be Burmese citizens or residents. Later signed the agreement on 7th July 1978 to receive the refugees back, as they were residents of Burma and finally repatriated all.
  8. The last and the eighth exodus occurred in late 1991 and in early 1992. In that year 10 to 14 battalions of army took permanent establishment in Buthidaung Township alone. For the construction of their cantonments and new model Buddhist villages and new Pagodas, villages were removed.Thousands of hectors of land were seized. Forced labor and heavy portering introduced. Many died of infection of Cerebral Malaria on return. Thus people felt in great predicament and choose the way to Bangladesh for shelter. But this time the refugees were repatriated under a MOU signed between Burma and UNHCR Head Office. Most of them have been repatriated. NGOs from many quarters came to Arakan to help the refugees. But still there are some refugees left in Bangladesh camps whose case is under negotiation between the two Governments. This time the returnees got ample help from UNHCR and other NGOs. They are working for the reintegration of the returnees and development of the refugee area. But the question of their nationality right remained unsettled.

These all exoduses occurred not due to any natural disaster or catastrophe. All are man made. The expatriates during the time of Rakhine Kings dared not return until British occupation. After British annexation of Arakan, most of the early refugees came back to their native land where as many had taken permanent settlements in Chittagong and nearby Districts.



Historically Arakan has many names. Most of the names are nearer in pronunciation. Different people who had contacts with Arakan pronounced its name in their own languages, which sound a bit different from each other. Rakhasa,Rakhasha, Rakhapura were the names called by Indians.  Arkhaung, Rakhanj, Rakham, Recon, Rachami and Rakhang were mostly used by Armenians, Moors, Arabs and Persians Recon, Rakan, Rachan, Rakao, Arkao and finally Arakan were the names found in the records of Dutch, Portuguese, French, Italian and English peoples.

Rakan, Rakham, Rohang and Roshang were found in medieval Bengali, Tripura and Indian literatures. People in Arakan (mostly the Muslims, Hindus and Bruwas) called their country Rowang or Rohang or Roshang. From Rohang, its people are Rohingyas. Perhaps there are many instances in the world, that countries and peoples are called by different names. For example, Sri Lanka is also known as Ceylon, India is known as Hindustan or Bharat, China is known as Sinn and Tayoke: people once known as Talaing are today Mon; the same is true for Kayah, who were once known as Karenni. Even Myanmar of today once officially was Burma.

Thus Rohingya’s name too, can be traced in other names such as Kalah (called by Rakhine and Burman), Muslims, Arakanese Muslims or even sometimes Burmese Muslims.These all terms are not appropriate racial names. The terms Rakhine derives from Rakhine Pyi, Arakanese from Arakan and Rohingya from Rohang.So here, Rohingya,Rakhine and Arakanese are synonymous, meaning the same thing, dwellers of Arakan. Since all ethnic groups in Arakan adopted a name for their own. Muslims too adopted their name as Rohingya instead of Muslim.In deed, the Hindus of Arakan today, who can trace their ancestry to the early Arakan period, are also Rohingya. For present day people of Islamic faith in Afeikan, the term Muslim and Rohingya are very often alternately used. Both denote the same entity ……………

In pre-independence period Muslims in Burma as a whole used to call themselves Myanmar Muslims or Burmese Muslims. In many literatures or history books, we find Arakan Muslims as main component of Buimese Muslims. Muslims in Arakan due to their socio-geographical differences used to regard themselves as Arakanese Muslims, in another word they used to show a separate entity from Burmese Muslims.

From the very beginning of the independence Myanmar Muslim, as a racial group is objected in Myanmar polilical and Ba-Ma-Ka (Burma Muslim Congress) was expelled from AFPFL (Pha-Sa-Pa-La) because its name shout not base on religion.According to Burmese political concept, an ethnic people’s name should not base on religion. Then the stand of Arakanese Muslim, as separate community became the subject of question too. And they happened to prefer their original ethnic name, Rohingya rather than being called either as Bengali or as Rakhine Muslims.

As we have studied in earlier chapters, Rohingya is a mixed race, where the culture of native Bengali has a major influence, because Arakan has historically close intercourses with East Bengal and Arakan Kings encouraged Muslims to preserve the culture, language and literature of Bengali. So dialects of Rohingya too have much Chittagonian influence, though it composes of Aiabic, Persian, Urdu and Rakhine vocabulanes Chittagonian and Rohingya dialects have some similarity, but not identical. Racial admixlure is a historical and worldwide phenomenon. There are instances that diffeient races speak the same language and people of the same race speak different languages. This too is true in case of present day Rohingya.

In 1826 A .D. the population of Arakan was only one hundred thousand. This comprises 60.000 Rakhmes, 30,000 Muslims and 10,000 Burmans. 389

This figure out one Muslim for every two Rakhines. In 1973 census the population of Arakan was a little over 1.7 million, which in 1983 grew into over 2 million, Estimation for today is about 3.5 million. Calculating on the Butish racial ratio i e. 2:1 will bring about more than 1 million Muslim population.The actual Muslim population at present doesn’t exceed above ratio.So the accusation that many have lately entered fiom Bangladesh is seemed to be incorrect. The reality is about one third of Arakann Muslims have left Arakan and took permanent settlement in foreign countries, where too, they are aliens.

Muslim population in northern Arakan is very thick because Muslims from the south got it as their haven and chose their settlement there after Second World War.

Religious edifices, names of the places, islands, rivers, and villages and other historic events proved that Rohingya is of antiquity. Rohingya’s presence in Arakan should not be judged only from the religious perspective; it should be assessed from the ethnic point of view, which traces their origin into the people of Welhali.

Rohingyas are faithful to their country. They never betrayed their land. They were faithful to Arakanese Kings and protected them. The splendor of Arakan or Mrauk-U period was due to their service and dedication to the Kingdom. Nowadays too, they are the most law abiding people in Myanmar. They are peace loving and desirous of having a proper and rightful place in the family of Myanmar peoples.

Abu Anin

A Researcher of Arakan History

Yangon, Union of Myanmar.

Date: Nov., 2002,


  1. Abul Fazal, Alama: Ain-i-Akbari Vol I Trans H. Blochman, Calcutta, 1873; Vol 2 & 3 Trans S H S. Jarrett Calcutta. 1891
  2. H. M. Elliot & J Dawson. History of India as told by its own historians.
  3. Kazim. Mohammed. Alamgirnama Trans by J N Sarkar.
  4. Nathan Mirza. Bhanstnn i Glinitu Tians M I Borah Gauhati, Government of Assam 1936
  5. Talish Shahabuddin Ahmed; Fathya-i-lbbriya, Supplementary text in Bodlein Library, Oxford, Trans by J N Saikar
  6. Sri Rajamala (or) Tripura chronicles. Ed  K P Sen
  7. Barhosa, Duarte. The Book of Barbosa Vol II Trans by M. L. Dames, London, Hakluyt Society (1921)
  8. Guerreiro, Father Feinao. The Relations (Jahangir and Jesuits) Fragmentary Trans by C H. Payne
  9. Manrique, Fray Sebastian,Travel of Fray Sebastian Manrique 2 Vols.Trans by C E. Eckford Juard + H Hosten. London. Hakluyt Society (1926 – 27)
  10. Bernier, Francois, Travel in the Mogul Empire (1656 -1668). Ed Archibald Constable, New Delhi
  11. Manucci, Niccotao. Slona Do Mogoi Tians by William Irvine. London
  12. Ghosh, J. M . Magh raiders id Bengal. Calcutta; Bockland Pvt Ltd.
  13. JASB; Journal of Asiatic Society of Bangladesh/Bengal
  14. JASP; Journal of Asiatic Society. Pakistan
  15. AR, Asiatic Researches
  16. JBRS, Journal of Burma Research Society
  17. Thompson, Virginia and Richard Adlof. Minority Problems in Southeast Asia, Calif. Stanford University Press, 1955
  18. Siddiq Khan, M; Journal of Asiatic Society of Pakistan. (JASP) Vol. VII 1962
  19. Siddiq Khan, M ; Muslim intercourses with Burma
  20. ASI, Archeological Survey of India
  21. AR; Asiatic Researches

Note      The rest, especially the Burmese references can be seen in the footnote I believe most of the Authors and reference books not listed here above are familiar with our Burmese readers.


  • A-1.    A map in the book Muslim contribution to the geography by Dr Nafis Ahmed. London. indicating Arakan as a well known region to the Muslims since 8th  cenluiy AD P-121
  • A-2    A map showing South-East Asia dining 500 and 1500 A D as appeared in the Time Atlas of World History indicating Arakan as an independent Muslim kingdom
  • A-3    A map showing cultural divisions of South-East Asia in 15th century A.D. as appealed in the Time Atlas of World Histoiy indicating Arakan as an Islamic Stale by Geoferry Banadough P-133                                                                        
  • B-1    A photograph of Kawal Jaffar Ahmed, the founder of Mujahid movement.
  • B-2    The photographr, of Mr Sultan Mahmood, Ex-Health Minister, in U Nu‘s(Pa-Hla-Sa) last Cabinet and photographs of Mr.Ahdul Gaffar and Mr.Abul Bashar,Parliament Secretaries.
  • C-1    Coins of ancient Arakan indicating Indian culture and coins of Mrauk-U period indicating Persian characters and Muslim names of Arakanese Kings. Some coins also contain Muslim titles of Arakanese Kings and the verse of Muslim confession of faith that is the Kalimah. These photos are taken from U San Tha Aung’s Arakan “Coins”.
  • C-2    A stone insciiption with Arabic script found in the compound of Theingyi Taung Pagoda and preserved in Mrauk-U Museum
  • C-3    Sandhi Khan Mosque built in 1433 AD at Mintayabyin, Mrauk-U by Muslim army who came to help enthrone Narameikhia (The founder of Mrauk-U dynasty)
  • C-4    Majah Pali (a) Musa Pali built by an Indian missionary, Musa, in the time of 9th  King of Mrauk-U (1513-1515 A .D.). It stands at Maungthagon Village. Mrauk-U.
  • C-5    Historic Budder Mokam on the southern edge of Akyab Island built in 1756 in memory of the eminent Saint Allahma Shah Badder Uddin well known as Badder Aulla who visited the area in mid 14th century.

Continous from Part I




  1. Dr. Pamela Gutman, Ancient Arakan P-325. BSPP means Burma Socialist Program Party (The political organ of U Ne Win’s time)
  2. Pamela Gutman. Ancient Arakan. Preface. P-II 
  3. Ibid     P-68 
  4. History of Arakan by Rakhine State Council, 1984, P-71.
  5. U Hla Tun Pru; The Sandra Kings of Arakan and their Successors. (History of Arakan a combination of articles).
  6. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P- 74
  7. Ibid
  8. Dr. Aye Chan; Rakhine Magazine Vol. 14. P-197
  9. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan 1972 P-3  “Over land contact with Bcngal is possible yia the coastal road passing from Chittagong and Cox Bazaar to Ramu crossing the Naf River near the mouth and by furcating, either along the coast to Akyab or passing over the ridges to Buthidaung on the May Yu river and Paletwa on the upper Kaladan, from which the early cities could be reached by boat or by road. (Pamela P-7)”
  10. Moshe Yegar, The Muslims of Burma: Chapter “ Muslim settlement in Arakan ” 1972 P-19 
  11. Licut. Gen. Albert Fytche, CSI late chief Commissioner of British Burma; Burma past and present Vol. I  London 1878.
  12. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan;  P-10
  13. A- Phayre: On the history of Arakan P-34,  B- San Shwe Bu ” The history of Mahamuni JBRS Vol.VI P-227
  14. Pamela Gutman: Ancicnt Arakan;  P-14
  15. U Hla Tun Pru: The Minorities of Arakan 1981
  16. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan   P- 15 
  17. Ibid      P- 23 
  18. Ibid      P- 24,  See also Burma Gazetteer, Akvab District Vol.A  P-91
  19. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol.I. P-25
  20. U Hla Tun Pru; The Minorities or Arakan 1981 PP. 46-47 Also see “The fall of great           Arakanese Empire” by the same author.
  21. Pamcla Gutamn: Ancicnt Arakan. 1972. P-16
  22. Lincanzo Sangermano: The Burmese Empire hundred years ago; Introduction by john jardine, Third edition Publish in West Minster 1893.
  23. J.Layden; On theLanguage and Liturature of Indo Chinese nation,P-Vll,  Asiatic Researches Vol. X 1911 PP- 223-224.
  24. Encyclopedia Britannica (1994- 1998)
  25. U HIa Tun Pru; The Whither, the When, and the Why of Arakanese history (an article 10     Dec. 1958).
  26. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan   P- 16 
  27. (a) History ofBurma Vol. 1 Compiled by BSPP. (b) Major Bashin, Myanmar Naing Ngan before Annawrahta. (c) Naing Pan HIa (Formerly a member of Myanmar History Commission), article in working Peoples Daily (10/12/77).
  28. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol. A 1978
  29. Foot note in the article King Berring, JBRS fiftieth anniversary publication No. 11, P- 443.
  30. G. M. Gush: Magh Raiders of Bengal.
  31. S. K Chatterjee, A History of Aryan special in India.1926. P-205. See also Dr. Kanungo            P-42. P-106 
  32. U Thein Pe Myint; Traveler in the War. Chapter Magh Police Officer, PP 167 – 168
  33. Dr.Than Tun: Myanmar Dhanna Magazine July 1999 Issue. P-68.
  34. Alberl Fytche; Burma past and present Vol. l    PP. 49-50
  35. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan PP. 44, 45. 
  36. Ibid   P-3l7.
  37. A P .Phayre; On the History of Arakan.  Also see Proff. G. H. Luce; The Advent of Buddhism to Burma; in L. Cusins etal(eds).Buddhist studies in honor of I.B. Horner 1974, PP-120, 121
  38. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-2
  39. Cf..Mc. Crindle’s Ancient India as described by Ptolemy 1885. Reprint in Calcutta in 1927.
  40. 963a U.B.194 Sagaing Htu Payon Pagoda inscription obverseII 20-23.804 S (1442 A.D.).
  41. Pamela Gutman, Ancient Arakan P-23
  42. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol. A 1979. 
  43. Sir H. Yule, Proceeding of Royal Geographical Society Nov. 1882. 
  44. Elliot and Dowson: “History of India as told by its own Historians”. P-73.
  45. Dr. Abu Fazl. Aini-i-Akbri (Trans: H. Blochman. Calcutta (1871 – 1877). Mirza Nathan, Bahristan Ghaibi; (Trans: Borah, Gohati. (1936).,Shihabuddin Ahmed, Fatiya-Barria (Trans: 1. N. Sarkar, Bodlein Library, Oxford).
  46. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; History of Chittagong Vol. A, 1979 P-132.
  47. Ibid P-133.
  48. A-P. Phayre: History of Burma  P-34
  49. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; Hislory of Chittagong  PP 23  – 235.
  50. Ibid; chapler II Sect. 3.
  51. CH. Mohd; AF Narary, in the Dacca Review: Burma an Arab land in the east P-35
  52. Ibn Khurdadbhi: C. P. Cit 65.
  53. Al Masudi; Muruj-al-dhahab wa Makaddim al Juwahar.Cairo Edition1938 Vol.II,PP129 – 130
  54. Silsilat-al-Tawarikh. Extracts from statement in Elliot and Dowson, Op. Cit. P-5. 5, 
  55. Dr. S. B. Kanungo, PP 233 – 234.
  56. Bangladesh District Gazetteer, Chittagong hill tracts, PP 33 – 34. 
  57. Anthony Irwin: Burmese Outpost. P-22
  58. R. B. Smart Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District Vol. A P-38.
  59. Moshe Yegar; Muslims of Bunna, P-120.
  60. JASB XXVIII (1864). P-24, Also See: Major Ba Shill, Burma before Anawralta and Burma by Arther Phyare. 
  61. (a) The history ofRakhine Pyi, compiled by Rakhine State Council in 1982, P-55.,(b) The Culture of National Peoples (Rakhine) BSPP 1976, PP. 149 – 150., (c) History of Myanmar, SSPP Vol. III. P-] 92.
  62. H. W. Wilson; the history of Indian people, PP. 189 – 204.
  63. Major Tun Kyaw Oo; Party Booklet Vol. VII, PP. 8 to 16. Ahmyothar Party (Who is Rakhine?, Who is Rohingya?, Who is Bengali?).
  64. R. B. Smart; Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District Vol. A. P-18 
  65. D. G. E. Hall; Burma, 1950, P-57.
  66. Maurice Collis, Into Hidden Bunna, P-134.
  67. Ibid;  P-7.
  68. D.G.E. Hall, Burma; Hukchinson University Library. 1950. P-57.
  69. Harvey; Outline of Burmese History. P-90.
  70. U Hla Tun Pru; Sandra kings and their successors.
  71. U Hla Tun Pru; (Former member of Myanmar State Council, the highest executive organ in the country) The Sandra Kings of Arakan and their successors (in the history of Arakan, a combination of his articles).
  72. U San Tha Aung (Formerly Director General of Higher Education Department); The Coins of Arakan.
  73. History of Arakan; Vol. I, Compiled by Rakhine State Council, P-54
  74. U San Tha Aung; Annanda Sandra Stone Pillar; Book II. P-2I6.
  75. U San Tha Aung: Arakan Coins P-7. (His writing is based on the reading of John Ston). Note: There are slight difference of dates in the reading of John Ston and Mr. Sarcir.
  76. History of Arakan by Rakhine State Council (Sep. 1984). P-114
  77. Ibid; P-62
  78. U San Tha Aung: Arakan Coins. P-7
  79. Ibid P-8
  80. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-2l
  81. Ibid P-43
  82. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-40, U San Tha Aung; Arakane Coins P-117
  83. Arakan  History;Vol.1 Rakhine State Council  P-114 
  84. JBRS 50th Anniversary Publication. 1960. P-488.
  85. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P-42.
  86. U San Tha Aung; Arakan Coins (1979) P-7.
  87. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan. P-325.
  88. Ibid; P-41.
  89. JBRS, 50th Anniversary Publication, (1960) P-487.
  90. Ibid P-45. 
  91. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan, P-225.
  92. ASI (1925 – 1926), PP. 146 – 148.
  93. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong Vol. A. P-66.
  94. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan PP. 44-45. 
  95. Dr. Kanunngo; History of Chittagong Vol. A. P-71.
  96. ASI (1925 – 1926) PP. 146 – 148.
  97. J. H. Q. VII (1931).
  98. Dr. Kanungo: The History of Chittagong Vol. A P-55.
  99. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan. P-321.
  100. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan. PP. 48 – 49.
  101. A.S.Dani;”Mainamati Plates of Candras”Pakistan Archeology III 1969.PP.34-35
  102. (a) Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan, P-73., (b) Phayre; “On the History of Arakan”JASB XIII (1844) P-49, lB 391(29),15(27),42(10),117 (a6),188(23) It is noteworthy that many of the Arakanese mentioned in Pagan inscriptions were slaves.
  103. The Evaluation of Arakan History; compiled by Rakhinc State Council Vol. I (1984), P-114. Also see, U Hla Tun Pru; The Sandra Kings of Arakan and their Successors. 
  104. U Hla Tun Pru: The Sandra king of Arakan and their Successors, (In Arakan history, a combination of his articles).
  105. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan P – 74 Also See: Codes; Indianized States PP.142 -143
  106. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan. P-321.
  107. Ngamin Ngadon’s being a son or Sula Candra is a question needed clarification. How can an untutored Sak be a son of Aryan Candra?
  108. Again, Kettathin’s being Ngamin Ngadon’s half brother or a grand nephew of Sula Candra is a matter of question. It needs scrutiny for correctness.
  109. The Evaluation of Arakan History by Rakhine State Council (1984) P-114. 
  110. U Hla Tun Pru;The Candra Kings of Arakan and Their Successors.
  111. Pamela Gutman;Ancient Arakan.P-14.,Also see 1.H.Luce “Phases of old Burma”.
  112. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan. PP.73 – 74.
  113. Ibid, P-15.
  114. Ibid. P-74.
  115. Ibid, PP. 15 -16.
  116. Pamela Gutman: Ancient Arakan. PP. I () – 17.
  117. U Hla Tun Pm; The Whither. The Whcn and The Why of Arakancse History. (10 Dec. 1958).
  118. Dr. U Aye Chan; An article in Rakhine Tasaung (I 975-76). Vol 14
  119. Ibid; His article was in Burmcse. I havc tricd my best not to deviatc from the original meaning.
  120. Dr. S. B. Kanungo; History of Chittagong. Vol. L P-55,
  121. Ibid; Vol. I (1974), PP. 67 – 68.
  122. Ibid P-69.
  123. R. B. Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District, Vol. A. P-20.
  124. M. Collis: Into Hidden Burma. P-7.
  125. Pamela Gutman; Ancient Arakan PP. -1-6 – -1-7. P-73.
  126. These paragraphs concerning Lemyo period (except those in parenthesis) are the extractions from R. B. Smart’s Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District. Vol. A. where R. B. Smart himself extracted from Arthur Phayrc.


  1. Rakhinc Razawin Thit (Rakhine New History) Vol. II P-352
  2. R. B. smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District Vol. A. P-20.
  3. JASB XIII. (1844) P-36, See also Dr. Kanungo. History of Chiuagong. Vol. I. Chaptcr XI. Scction III.
  4. Guerrciro. Farnao: P-196
  5. Mannucci; Storia De Magar, Vol. I, P-374 (Trans. By William Irrive, London).
  6. Martin Smith; Bunna’s Muslims Border Land sold down the river. C. S. Quarterly 13 (4), P-68.
  7. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Vol I. P. III.
  8. lbid; Chapter Xl, Sect. 3.
  9. Tin and Luce; Op. Cit, P-75. :
  10. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Vol.I. P-75. .
  11. lbid: P-II3.
  12. Hall. Op: Cit. P-239.
  13. G.E Harvey, Outline of Burmese History (1947). P-90
  14. Moshe Yagar, The Muslim of Burma, “Muslim settlement in Arakan” P, Also see A SPDC government publication, “Sasana Yaungwa Tunzepho” [1997] P-63
  15. Dr.Than Tun ; Mrauk-U Rakhine, an article in Kalia Magazine, Aug 1994.
  16. Dr. Khing Maung Nyunt, Myanmar prominent professor, An article in University silver Jubilee Magazine
  17. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Vol I. P. III.
  18. Nafis Ahmed; Muslim Contribution to the Geography,  P-121
  19. Moshe Yagar, The Muslim of Burma, P. 121, P.
  20. (a)M.R Rahman, History of Burmese and Arakanese Muslim in Urdu (1944), (b) Dastance Amir Hamza: A Bengali fable like book written by an anonymous writer.
  21. D.G.E. Hall, Burma. PP 57-58 , Bengali in Arakan and Their Historical Problem P-10, Published by U Saw Maung (RPDFparty) 1990
  22. M.Collis, Arakan Place in the Civilization of the Bay, JBRS, 5th anniversary publication No.2. P-488
  23. Bengali in Arakan and Their Historical Problem P-10, Published by U Saw Maung (RPDFparty)
  24. Takkatho Ne Win: Bogyokc Aung San. P- . (Then M. L C. Member .Vir.,lbid Carb from DU ,lbid:1long told the “Titer in Rangoon about this fact).
  25. Bengal Disl. Gazetteer: Chittagong 1798,  P-63
  26. R. B Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District. Vol. A P-7!
  27. U Hla Tun Pru: In Rakhine Tasaung Magazine, English section. Vol. 21. (1998), P-148.
  28. For a more detailed account in connection this, see D.G.E.Hall. History of Southeast Asia. London Macmillan. 1958. P-328.
  29. G. E. Harvey: Outline of Burmcse History. P-91.
  30. JBRS Vol II.  Arakan Place in the Civilization of Bay P.49
  31. U Hla Tun Pru: Rakhine Magazine. Vol. 21, 1998. P-151,  See Also: A. Joseph, A Nation within a Nation. P-17.
  32. JBRS XV, P-34.
  33. Moshe Yegar. The Muslims of Burma. P-10.
  34. Aung Zan. The Family Tree and the king of early Mrauk-U Dynasty; Rakhine Magazine Vol. 21. P145.
  35. Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung: Great History of Arakan. PP. 40, 41.1288 B.E.
  36. P.Nicolas: A Brief Account on the History of Muslim Population in Arakan. An UNHCR compilation. 4 Aug. 1995. P-I.
  37. Moshe Yegar: cites Maj. Ba Shin, Coming of Islam to Burma down to 17th century AD.  A lecture before Asian History Congress (unpublished) New Delhi 1961.
  38. JBRS, 50th Anniversary Publication No.2. Arakan Place in the civilization of the Bay, by M. Collis, PP. 491 – 498.
  39. U Hla Tun Pru. The Life and Time of King Minba; an article in a book published by Takkatho Min Lwin.
  40. JASP (VI) 1966.p-123
  41. All above paragraphs arc extracted from Harvey’s Outline of Burmese History.
  42. This slave raids in Bengal will be discussed separately in a special chapter. Also see Harvey; Outline of Burmese History, Chapter Arakan.
  43. D. G. E. Hall: “Burma”, PP. 59,60.
  44. R. B.Smart Burmese Gazetteer. Akyab District. Vol. A. P-26. 
  45. D. G. E. Hall; Burma. P-60.
  46. Albert Fytche: Burma a Past and Present. P-62.
  47. D. G. E: Hall; Burma. P-60.
  48. JASP,X (1966) 206, P-60 Contribution by M. A. Siddiq Khan.
  49. Ibid: P-206,
  50. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong. Vol.  PP-305  
  51. AIamgirnamah; PP. 556 – 562.
  52. Elliot and Dowson; VII, P-254.
  53. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong. Vol. 1. PP. 305. 306.
  54. Ibid; P-307. Also See Purba Bangia. Gitikar: Pt lV NO.2 P-456.
  55. R. B. Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District. Vol. A. P-26.
  56. Harvey: Outline of Burmese History, PP.95 – 96.
  57. Moshe Yeage; The Muslims of Burma, Chapter Muslim Settlement in Arakan (1972), PP. 59 -60.
  58. D. G. E. Hall; Burma, Hutchison University Library, (1950), P-61
  59. Moshe Yegar Quoted Bernier in his “The Muslims of Burma”.
  60. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. M. Yegar extracted these parts from Bernier’s records. D. G. E. Hall: Dutch Relation with Arakan Part II, BRS 50th  Anniversary publication No.2, 1960 Yangon. Shah Shujah and the Dutch Withdrawal in 1665. 
  61. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. P- .
  62. Albert Fytche; Burma Past and Present. Vol, I. P-66.
  63. D. G. E. Hall; Studies in the Dutch relation with Arakan. Part II (Shah Shujah and the Dutch withdrawal in 1665). JBRS 50th anniversary publication NO.2 (Rangoon, 1960), See also Hall, Burma 1961.   
  64. Harvey; Outline of Burmese History, P-96
  65. Harvey; Outline of Burmese History, P-97
  66. U Hla Tun Pru; National Race of Arakan. Sapay Beikman Publishing House, PP. 46 – 48.
  67. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. Chapter Muslim Settlement in Arakan. P-26.
  68. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, P-153. 
  69. Mogul Raiders of Bengal by J. M. Gosh, P-56.
  70. M. Robinson; the Coins and Bank Notes of Burma, Ed. L. H. Shaw. PP. 49 -50.
  71. M. Robinson: The Coins and Bank Notes of Burma. Ed, L. H.Shaw. PP. 49 -50.
  72. Moshe Yegar; The Muslims of Burma. P-19.
  73. Dr. Kanungo; History of Chittagong, Chapter XII Section II P-320. 
  74. Shihabuddin Talish, Fathya Abbria. P-183
  75. Bernier. Travel in the Mogul Empire (1656-1668 A.D.) Trans A Constable. OxfordPress 1916. P-176
  76. Nicolao Manucci: Storia de Mogor. Vol A Trans Willian Arive P-171
  77. Manrique: Travel in Mogul Empire. P-285
  78. Ibid: P-185
  79. Guerriro: P-185
  80. Talish: Fathya Abbria. P- 175,
  81. Bernier: travel in Mogul Empire P- 175, See also in Albert Fytche: Burma Past and Present Vol. I PP.60-61
  82. Manucci P-371
  83. Talish: Fathya Abbria P-184
  84. Manrique: P-286
  85. Father Delanoit; Catholic Encycloprdia. qt. Campos. Op.cit. P-100
  86. U Hla Tun Phyu ( Formaer State Countolor of Myanmar, Arakan’s Treasure Troves( Raakhine Pyi BandhaTaik) P-60
  87. JASB Vol. X (1841) P- 681
  88. Dr.Kanungo: P-330
  89. Albert Fytche, Chief Commissioner of British Burma. Burma Past and Present. Vol.I. P-263
  90. Bernier: Travel in Mogul Empire. P-114
  91. Dr. Kanungo. P-330
  92. Talish. Fathya-i-Abriya. PP. 209 – 210
  93. R.B. Smart: Burma Gazetteer. Akyub District. Vol A  PP. 86-87
  94. Harvey: Outline of Burmese History. PP 93-94
  95. D.G.E. Hall, Burma P-59
  96. Morice Collis: The Land of Great Image
  97. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma. P-20.
  98. Dr.Kanungo: The History of Chittagong Vol.I P-333
  99. JBRS: Vol XV. P-34
  100. G.H. Luce. Phases pf Pre Pagan Barma Languages and History. P-95
  101. Dr. Than Tun: North Arakan ( an article in Kalya magazine in August 1994.
  102. D. G. E. Hall. A Hislory of South East Asia London Mac Millan 1958. P-328
  103. JASP. Vol II. Dccca I957, (b) Captain George Sorrel’s mission to the court of Amarapura (1793-1794),(c) U Myo Myint:. History of Burma. PP 73-74
  104. M A Siddiq Khan op cit. P-251. cited by Moshe Yegar op. cit. P-20
  105. Major Bushin: op. cit. The coming of Islam into Burma down to 17th century.
  106. P.Nicolas: A Brief Account on the History of Muslim Population in Arakan. [UNHCR 4 Aug. 1995]
  107. A.Joseph: A Nation within Nation [UNHCR] P-4
  108. Dr.Kanungo: History of Chittagong Preface P-XI
  109. Ibid:  P-163
  110. Ibid:  Vol.I PP- 193-194, See also: Rodger Lamepole Catalogue of India Coins. P-56
  111. Rakhine Syadaw Pya: Dannya Waddy Areydawbon.
  112. M.Collis and San Shwe Bu: Arakan’s place in the Civilization of the Bay (JBRS) Vol.XXIII.P-493
  113. U Aung Tha Oo: History of Arakan. Myayadana Press. Yangon (1954) P-132
  114. U Hla Tun Pru: The Indigenous Races of Arakan (1998)P-
  115. Bon Pauk Tha Kyaw: Union of Myanmar and the Danger of Rohingya [unpublished but distributed amongst over 200 political parties in 1990]
  116. Major Tun Kyaw Oo(Rtd)President of Amyotha Party.  History of Arakan and the Life of Rohingya, Party publication No.6. 1990 P-29
  117. Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung: Great History of Arakan. P-74
  118. Dr.Kanungo: History of Chittagong. Vol.I Chapter XI, section 3, P-292
  119. Alaol: Sikandar Nama. P-27
  120. Maurice Collis: The Land of Great Image. PP-291-292
  121. AR: Vol.I 1801, P-237. Also see Dr.Kanungo, History of Chittagong.PP. 291-292
  122. Sec: Asiatic Researches. Calcutta 1801.Vol. V (A comparative study by F.Buchanan about the languages in Burma Empire)
  123. A.Joseph: A nation within a nation. A Profile of UNHCR in Arakan. He quotes Col.Ba Shin, Chairman of Former Myanmar History Commission.
  124. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong…………….. P-201
  125. Bernier: Travel in the Mogul Emprire. P-iii
  126. D.G.E. Hall: Burma. P-64
  127. National Culture and Habits (Rakhine) Published by Ma-Sa-La Party Central Committee, July 1976. PP- 149-150
  128. Means Townards Uplifting of religion
  129. Sasana Yongwa Tunzepho….SLORC Publication. 1997 PP 65-67
  130. U Khin Maung Yin: Bassein College Khit Myanmar Pyi Ti P-36
  131. R.B Smart… Burma Gazetteer Akyab District. Vol. A PP 36-37
  132. Dr.Kanungo: History of Chittagong Vol. I Chapter XI, Section 2. P-571
  133. Dr.Anamul Haq:Muslim Bengali Literature P-144
  134. Dr.Sukumer Sen: Islamic Bangali Shahista P-15
  135. Dr.Kanungo: History of Chittagong, Vol.I Chapter XI Section P-572
  136. Ibid:  P-293
  137. These paragraphs are from Dr.Kanungo’s History of Chittagong Vol.I Chapter XI PP-572-574
  138. Dr. Mohamed Maher Ali: The history of the Muslims in Bengal Vol.I B PP-865-868
  139. Dr.Kanungo:History of Chittagong, Vol.I P-
  140. Ibid.      P-68
  141. Ibid.      P-177
  142. R.B Smart… Burma Gazetteer Akyab District. Vol. A PP 82-83
  143. Myanma Dhanna Magazine, July 1999. An Article by Dr. Than Tun. P-69
  144. Dr.Kanungo: History of Chittagong. P-120
  145. See R.B Smart and Harvey’s
  146. D.G.E. Hall: Burma. Chapter Arakan
  147. King Berring. A Contribution in JBRS Vol.II P-445
  148. D.G.E. Hall: Burma. P-102
  149. Harvey: Outline of Burmese History. PP. 154-155
  150. Ibid:      PP. 155-156
  151. Ibid:      PP. 163-164
  152. Captain Robertson: The First Anglo-Burma War Record
  153. Extracted from Harvey’s Outline of Burmese History. PP.165-166
  154. Vinccnzo Sangermano: Burmese Empire Hundred years Ago, Published at West Minster in 1893. PP. 69-70
  155. Ibid:      P-71
  156. Asiatic Researches Calcutta: Vol. 5 (1801). P-237
  157. Martin Smith: Burma: Insurgency and the politics of Ethnicity(1989).P-34
  158. R.B Smart. Burma Gazrtteer, Akyab District. Vol. A. P-100, Also see: British Burma Census Report.
  159. Richard Adlof and Virginia Thompson:. Minority Problems in Southeast Asia. Stanford University 1955
  160. B.I.A. Short from of Burma Independence Army
  161. It is a narration of Bonpauk Tha Kyaw and I means Bonpouk Tha Kyaw (See Htawhlanyei Khayiwei. PP. 60-61
  162. Ibid.      P-61
  163. Ibid.      PP. 68-69
  164. Bonpauk:Tawhlanyei Khayi wei P-76
  165. Bonpauk:Tawhlanyei Khayi wei P-86
  166. Ibid.      PP 79-80
  167. Ibid.      PP 89-90
  168. Ibid.      P-91
  169. Bonpauk:Tawhlanyei Khayi wei P-91
  170. Bonpauk:Tawhlanyei Khayi wei PP 94-95
  171. Ibid.      P-147
  172. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma.Chapter Arakanese Muslim
  173. Anthony Irwin: Burmese Out Post P-21
  174. Ibid.      P-27
  175. U Thein Pe Myint: Traveler During the war. Aye Kaba Media(1999) P-122
  176. Ibid.      P-138
  177. Major L.Phillips: The Raiders of Arakan P-30
  178. Anthony Irwin: Burmese Out Post P-25
  179. Field Marshall W. Slim.  Defeat into Victory P-147
  180. Irwin: Burmese Out Post P-27
  181. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma. P-27, (a)Abdul Gaffar, a M.P from Buthidaung, Press Conference; April3.1960, (b) This demand of separation was foiled by sending Mr.Rashid, former Minister of U Nu’s cabinet,who himself was an Indian immigrant and who assured Mr.Jinnah, on behalf of Bokyoke Aung San, that Rohingyas would enjoy full constitutional safeguards as a national minority.(See Moshe Yegar)
  182. Myanmar Political History: compiled under the supervision of SLORC. Vol.3( From 1958-1960).Chapter Arakan. P-192
  183. Mr. Abdul Gaffar: Press Conference. April 3, 1960.
  184. These paragraphs except those in parenthesis are extracted from Moshe Yegar’s” The Muslims of Burma”
  185. Dr.Than Tun: Trade in Arakan. Anarticle in Myanma Dhanna Magazine. July 1999. P-71
  186. See it on Page 88
  187. A.Joseph: A nation within a nation (An UNHCR study record 1998)
  188. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma(1972) P-18
  189. A.Joseph: A nation within a nation (An UNHCR study record 1998)
  190. A.Joseph: A nation within a nation (An UNHCR study record 1998) P-29
  191. D.G.E Hall: Burma. PP 57-58
  192. U Hla Tun Pru: National Races of Arakan. 1981. P-33
  193. Ibid.      P-34
  194. Pathein Sayadaw Winmala: Hill Tribe Races of Myanmar.1320 B.E PP 14-15-16.
  195. Anthony Irwin: The Burmese Outpost P-34
  196. A.Joseph: A nation within a nation (An UNHCR record)
  197. U Thein Pe Myint: Traveler in the War(Sittwin Khayi Thac) P-142
  198. Major Ba Shin: Formerly Chairman of Burma Histon Commission. The coming of Islam into Burma down to 17th century; See also Moshe Yegar. The Muslims of Burma.
  199. Moshe Yegar. The Muslims of Burma. Chapter Muslim Settlements in Arakan.
  200. Ibid:
  201. Dr.Than Tun: Mrauk Rakhine (Northern Rakhine). An article in Kaliya Magazine. August 1996
  202. A. Joseph: A nation within a nation. UNHCR’s Research Records 1998. P-46.
  203. R. B Smart. Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District Vol A P-38.
  204. Ibid.                 PP. 61-62.
  205. See: Coins of Arakan; U San Tha Aung. Director of General of Higher Education Department.
  206. Dr. Aye Chan: History Department of Rangoon University (An Arakanese himself) in his article in Rakhine Tasaung Vol. XIV. 1966-67.
  207. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong. Vol I. 1972 PP 571- 574
  208. Annual Report by Director of Archcological Research Department. 1959-60.
  209. Botataung Daily Newspaper. Nov. 3. 1969. P-5
  210. Pamela Gutman: Ancint Arakan P-33.
  211. Ibid.      P-68                  
  212. Ibid.      PP 70-71
  213. U San Tha Aung. Annanda Sandra 8th century Wethali King Book.No. II P-215.
  214. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma. Chapter Arakanese Muslims P-96
  215. Abdul Gaffar: A Parliament Member: In his Press Conference Statement on 03 April 1960. Emphasized his objection to am idea of unity with Pakistan
  216. Moshe Yegar. The Muslims of Burma. Chapter Arakanese Muslims. P-101
  217. Ibid.      PP 99-101
  218. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma.Chapter “Arakanese Muslims”. PP 99-100.
  219. Ibid.      PP 90-100
  220. Ibid.      P-101
  221. Moshe Yegar: The Muslims of Burma. P-101
  222. These paragraphs are extracted from Moshe Yegar’s “The Muslims of Burma”.
  223. See: Military presence in Buthidaung and its impact by UNHCR Office, Maungdaw.
  224. NDPH means National Democratic Party for Human Rights and it represented North Arakan.
  225. Thakatho Ne Win: Bokyoke Aung San
  226. See. Moshe Yegar. The Muslims of Burma( Chapter Arakanese Muslims)
  227. Pyi Thu Hluttaw Election Law 1991; Section 6(a) and Section 10(f)
  228. A Joseph. A nation within a nation, a UNHCR compilation, 1998, P-34
  229. A Joseph. A nation within a nation, a UNHCR compilation, 1998, P-17
  230. Ibid.      P-10
  231. A Joseph. A nation within a nation, a UNHCR compilation, 1998, P-10
  232. A seal canceling the guarantee of nationality preserved by NRC’s was affixed on it. Some years later
  233. Explanation of U Nu’s radio speech .5th Sep. 1954. P-3
  234. Golden Jubilee Bulletin of BBS
  235. A Joseph: A nation within a nation, P-1
  236. Ibid:      P-19
  237. UN DOC. E/CN 4/1993/62 P-175,

(Official note of permanent mission of Myanmar to UN in response to the allegations made by special rapporteur for Myanmar in 1992) a nation within a nation, P-19

  1. A Joseph. A nation within a nation, P-33
  2. Ibid.      P-37
  3. A Joseph. A nation within a nation, P-17
  4. Ibid.      P-9
  5. Ibid.      P-14
  6. A Joseph. A nation within a nation, P-47
  7. Dr. S. B Kanungo. History of Chittagong. Preface.PP. iv-ix
  8. J .A. S. P. Vol VI. 1966. P-123
  9. Dr. S. B. Kanungo. History of Chittagong. Preface.P-viii
  10. Dr. S. B. Kanungo: History of Chittagong.P-296.

Also see: JASB XIII (I844) P-24 and Emil Forchammer. Arakan.Rgn. 1891

  1. Dr. Kanungo: History of Chittagong. P-298
  2. JASB.XXVI(1857) PP. 1.2
  3. Dr. Kanungo. History of Chittagong. P-230;

See.also JASB XIII. I847 P-24 where the word Rakahing is desribed as corruption of Rek-Khaik, described from Pali word Rakha which in its popular signification means a monster half man beast. Thw country was named Yek-Kha-pura by Buddhist missionaries from India.

  1. Dr. Kanungo. History of Chittagong. P-360
  2. Bernier              P-180
  3. Fathiya-abarria               P-193
  4. Probably he was a son of Min Sane, who was deposed by Narapadigyi in 1638 A.D
  5. AN (Studies)                  P-2S,

Dr. Kanungo. History of Chittagong;  PP -77. 378

  1. Ibid.                  P-380
  2. JBRS (50th  Anniversary Publication 1960) P-497
  3. Dr. Kanungo. Historv of Chittagong. PP 478-479
  4. Dr. S.B. Kanungo.History of Chittagong. PP-390-391
  5. Ibid. Preface. PP. viii-ix
  6. Sasana Rongwa Tunzepho. Published by SLORC in 1997
  7. See Moshe Yegar. The Muslim of Burma
  8. Annual report of Arakan Administrator;  Mr. Paton

Towards Understanding Arakan History ( Part III )

Picture and Image


A map in the book Muslim contribution to the geography by Dr Nafis Ahmed. London. indicating Arakan as a well known region to the Muslims since 8th cenluiy AD P-121



A map showing South-East Asia dining 500 and 1500 A D as appeared in the Time Atlas of World History indicating Arakan as an independent Muslim kingdom





A map showing cultural divisions of South-East Asia in 15th century A.D. as appealed in the Time Atlas of World Histoiy indicating Arakan as an Islamic Stale by Geoferry Banadough P-133


Coins, Photograph and Stone inscription



Indicates the Prophet’s Mosque of Madina, Saudi Arabia





In the square of the center, it is the verse of declaration of Muslim faith i.e. the Kalimah


 Note: There is no explanation about these coins in U San Tha Aung’s ” Rakhine Coins”




A Stone inscription with Arabic script found in the compound of Theingyi Taung Pagoda and preserved in Mrauk-U Museum.




Sandhi Khan Mosque built in 1433 A.D at Mintayabyin, Mrauk-U by Muslim army who came to help enthrone Narameikhla ( The founder of Mrauk-U dynasty)





Majah Pali (a) Musa Pali built by an Indian missionary Musa in the time of 9th king of Mrauk_U 1513-1515 A.D. It stands Maungthagon Village, Mrauk-U.





Historic Budder Mukam built on the southern side of Akyab Island in 1750 in memory of the eminent Saint Allama Shah



A Short History of Rohingya and Kamas of Burma

M.A Tahir Ba Tha (translated by A.F.K Jilani, edited by Mohd. Ashraf Alam)

Editor and Publisher’s note

A SHORT HISTORY OF ROHINGYAS AND KAMANS OF BURMA” is an English translation and edited version of “ROHINGYAS AND KAMANS” of Mr. M. A. Tahir Ba Tha. The Rohingyas and Kamans of M. A. Tahir Ba Tha is a landmark in the history of Rohingya people. History is dynamic; not static; it is a process of change and movement in time.


The book was first printed and published in Burmese in 1963 and it was the only printed history book of Rohingyas by a Rohingya in Burmese. The Board of Directors of the Institute of Arakan Studies, Bangladesh consider it an honour to publish the book in English in the name of “A SHORT HISTORY OF ROHINGYAS AND KAMANS OF BURMA” and present it to the readers and researchers of Rohingya and Arakan, both at home and abroad. Retaining the original contents of the book we have endeavoured to convey a sense of history as a continuing process. We have taken pains to incorporate the results of the most recent research and some maps of political events and changes in political geography.

It may be mentioned here that till today we have not found a full, comprehensive history of Rohingyas and Kamans either in Burmese or in English so far. So, the Directors of the Institute requested to Mr. A.F.K Jilani to translate Mr. M.A. Tahir Ba Tha’s “The Rohingyas and Kamans” into English. He had done it without hesitation and delay. The Board of Directors of the Institute of Arakan Studies, Bangladesh express their sincere thanks and gratitude to Mr. A. F. K. Jilani and their valued members and partons who have helped them generously, by providing much needed funds to publish this book. The Institute has decided to publish more on Rohingya and Arakan gradually and to restore them for future Generation.

This book is primarily a discussion on the history of Rohingyas and Kamans. The motive in this presentation and translation is the circulation of Rohingyas’ views on their history to the people of Burma and Bangladesh particularly and the world at large.

We shall consider our efforts rewarded if the readers find this modest attempts of mine to be of some use in knowing the Rohingya people who are still far behind the time.

Mohamed Ashraf Alam




The history of Rohingyas and Kamans, by M. A. Tahir Ba Tha, deals the advent of Rohingyas in Arakan since 7th century A.D. He has explored an enormously wide field in digging up many materials from various sources.

According to history, Islam reached Arakan before 788 A.D. and it attracted the local people to come to the fold of Islam en masse all over Burma. Since then Islam had played an important part towards the advancement of civilization in Arakan. From 1430 to 1784 A.D. Arakan was a Sultanate. Muslims and Buddhists lived side by side for centuries with amity and concord as one family and ruled the country together.

The position of the Muslims of Arakan was glorious during the time of Mrauk-U Empire but their position was down trodden during the 40 years of Burmese occupation. During British rule too, they had been discriminated and blindfolded by the British so much so that none of the Muslims could hold a single high position in the government. As they were the conqueror of the Muslim Moghul Empire, the British politically kept the Muslims of subcontinent and that of Arakan uneducated, unhealthy and undeveloped.

The British played divide and rule in Arakan, with the result that many of the Arakanese Buddhist brethern bear hatred against the Muslim Rohingyas and threat them as “Kalas” (foreigners). This hatred should no longer be bred in the Union of Burma as it had been brought up in the nursery of British imperilism. Unfortunately, the same policy is now adopted by the ruling military junta of Burma.

The Rohingyas of Arakan have been together as an indigenous race in a group from time immemorial. Still, their sister community, the Rakhine Maghs, intentionally branded Rohingyas as the illegal immigrants from a neighbouring country. Their false allegations reputed by M. A. Tahir Ba Tha by writing articles in the Daily Mirror, Kaba-Alin and the Guardian Magazines of Rangoon in 1960s. When he was transferred to Myitkyina city of Kachin State, as a Bank manager, he was requested to write a book on the History of Rohingyas by the Executive Committee members of the United Rohingya National League (U.R.N.L), Myitkyina. At their request this book “History of Rohingyas and Kamans” was written in Burmese by M. A. Tahir Ba Tha and duly published by the United Rohingya National League of Myitkyina, Burma.

Moreover, with the collection of M. A. Tahir Ba Tha’s articles from the Guardian Magazines and the Kaba Alin Magazines. “A Short History of Rohingyas” was compiled and published by the United Rohingyas National League of Rangoon in 1960.

M. A. Tahir Ba Tha is a native of Rohingyadaung village of Buthidaung Township. He is now residing in Ran-goon with his family passing his retired life. He wrote- another book entitled “FAITHFUL ROHINGYAS” but unable to publish. His articles and booklet on Rohingyas played important source of documents for the historical background of Rohingya nation.

The Institute of Arakan Studies, Bangladesh, requested me to translate the History of Rohingyas and Kamans, by M. A. Tahir Ba Tha. On their request, I have translated it with my poor knowledge of Rohingya history and English literature. If this translation could contribute for the history of our people, then I will be satisfied with my work. I expect the blessing of Almighty Allah.

A. F. K. Jilani


Author’s Preface

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

“Verily never Will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (The Holy Quran, Sura 13:11)

As I am neither a perfect historian nor a man of literature, my presentations of the historical references and the placing of the sentences, phrases, idioms, words may be in crude positions. If so, my earnest request to the esteemed readers is to read it in correct and smooth way. As per above Quranic verse I tried my best to dig up many materials from various sources. I write this booklet at the request of the United Rohingya Nationlal League of Myitkyina, Burma with the object of enriching the knowledge of the history of Rohingyas and Kamans to all citizens of the Union of Burma.

M. A. Tahir Ba Tha


Chapter I


The Union of Burma with an area of about 2, 61,610 sq. miles was born on 4 January 1948. It is a multi-national, multi-cultural and multi- religious country collectively owned by various peoples and ethnic races. About 60% of the country’s populations are non-Burmans mostly in-habiting in the states/provinces. They are Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon, Pa-o, Palaung, Padaung, Naga. Lahu, Akha, Wa, Rohingya (Arakanese Muslim), Rakhine (Arakanese Buddhist) and many other indigenous races.

Arakan is the north-western province of the Union of Burma. It is a narrow mountainous strip of land with 360 miles coastal belt from the Bay of Bengal. It is bounded by Bay of Bengal on the west, Chin Hills on the north-east. It borders 176 miles with the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 48 miles of which is covered by river Naf and is a natural physiographic unit clearly divided from the rest of Burma by the mountain range of Arakan Yoma running north to south.

Arakan covers an area of about 20,000 sq.miles. The Arakan Hill tracts district (5235 sq.miles) bordering India and southern most part from Kyauk Chaung river to Cape Negaris were partitioned from Arakan mainland without the native people’s concern. Arakan is now reduced to 14,200 sq. miles.

Arakan is blessed with geographical diver-sities. In all, there are seven rivers in Arakan. They are the Naf, the Mayu, the Kaladan, the Lemro, the Ann, the Taungup and the Sandoway.The four major navigable rivers are the Naf, Mayu, Kaladan and Lemro and all they are situated in the Northern Arakan. All these four rivers are tidal and easily navigable all the year round. Akyab is situated on the seacoast at the mouth of the Kaladan River and it is the Capital of Arakan since 1826 AD.

Arakan is inhabited by two major ethnic races, the Rohingyas and the Rakhines (Maghs). The Rohingyas are Muslims and the Maghs are Buddhists. At present, the Rohingyas and the Maghs stand at almost in equal proportion with about two lacs tribal people [Saks, Dinets (Chakmas) and Mros (Kamis)]. The Rohingyas are mostly concentrated in the riparian plains of Naf, Mayu and Kaladan. Arakan is the only Muslim majority province among the 14 provinces of Burma. Out of the 7 million Muslim population of Burma half of them are in Arakan.

Under different periods of history Arakan had been an independent sovereign monarchy ruled by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. After Bengal became Muslim in 1203 A.D., Islamic influence grew in Arakan to the extent of establishing Muslim vassal state begining in 1430 A.D. Muslim’s rule and influence in Arakan lasted for more than 350 years until it was invaded and occupied by Burmans in 1784 A.D. Then the British occupied Arakan in 1824 A.D. annexing it to former British India. When Burma was seperated from British India in 1937, Arakan was made a part of British Burma against the wishes of its people and thus finally Arakan became a province of independent Burma in 1948.

Rohingya is not the people who suddenly appeared in Arakan. According to the historical evidences, they were descendants of the Arabs who arrived 1200-years back.

Rohingyas and Kamans are the two people of Arakan who profess Islam. In the following chapters we will study and discuss the coming of Arab Muslims, the Tibeto-Burmans, the Pathan Muslims from Bengal and the Moghul Muslims from India to Arakan. Then we will trace the ethnic identity of ethnic Rohingyas and Kamans.

Chapter II


The Arab Muslims first came into contact the Indian Subcontinent and South-East Asia through trade and commerce. From the times long past, spices, cotton fabrics, precious stones, minerals and other commodities from South and South-East Asia were of great demand in the oriental and European countries. The Arabs as a seafaring nation almost monopolized this trade between the South and South-East Asia on the one hand the oriental, north African and European countries on the other. The Arab merchants carried goods to the ports of Mascot and that of Siraf on the two sides of the Persian Gulf, Basra, Yemen, Jeddah, Quizum (Suez), for exchage with the goods of the merchants of the Middle Eastern, Central Asian. North African and European countries. For about eight centuries they monopolized the trade between the East and the West. The Arabs were born traders, and after the introduction of Islam they became a great maritime people. Their profound knowledge in navigation, in the science of latitude and longitude, in astronomical phenomena and in the geography of the countries they visited made them unrivalled in mercantile activities in the Indian Ocean for centuries together.

The Arabs used to write about the places they had visited which indicate their arrivals at East and the West of the world.

The land Jazirat-al-Rahmi or Rahma mentioned by Arab geographers of 9th and 10th centuries may have been referred to the kingdom of Raham (God blessed land) corrupted later to Rohang / Roshang / Roang. Ibn Khordadzbeh(844-48 A.D.),a Persian traveller from Basara (in Ferrand) said that Jazirat-al-Rahmi came after Sarandip (Cyelon) and contained peculiar unicorn animals and little naked people. Arab geographers, Persian travellers and marchants such as Sulymen (851 A.D.) Yaqubi (880 A.D.), Ibn al Fakih (902 A.D.), Masudi (943 A.D.), HudulAl-Alam (982 A.D.) and Marvazi (1120 A.D.) also referred Delta region of Burma and Arakan as Rahama. They and many other travellers used route over Arakan yoma to travel to Burma and then to China.

But Ibn Batuta wrote the name of Arakans as Arkan, derived from the Arabic word Al-Rukun. The authors of the Ain-i-Akbar, Baharistan-i- Ghaibi and Siyar-ul-Mutakherin wrote it as Arkhang, which appears also with a slight change in Alamgirnama and Fathya-i-ibria is close to the name Arakan. In the medieval Bengali literary works and Rennell’s map the name of Arakan is written Roshang. To the Portuguese and other European travellers mentioned it Arracan, Arracoo, Orrakan, Arrakan and Van Linscoten writes it Arakan which is nearest to the modern name. The British government turned Arakan from Arkan. As a matter of fact the name was given by the Muslim Arabs. The meaning is land of peace.

The celebrated 17th century Arakan court poet Sayed Shah Alawal who composed the famous ballad on the lamentations of Ameena, the youngest daughter of the ill-fated Moghul prince Shah Shuja after his death, amply mentioned about the kingdom of Rohang and Rohingyas. The poet similarly referred to Rohang and Rohingyas in his two other popular ballads: Saiful Mulk Badiuzzamal and Sikander Nama. Also Arakan court poets Qazi Daulat in his book Lorchandrani O Satimaina 1622-30 A. D, and Mardan in his book Nasib Nama 1631-38 A.D, Arakan was mentioned as Roshango country. From all the above facts and evidences it has become crystal clear that the indigenous name of Arakan was Rohang, a term used first by Arabs.

Also, Arab Muslim traders had good contacts with Arakan, Burma, Indochina, Indonesia, Malay etc. with their trade and they propagated the religion of Islam in those countries. The arrival of Mohammad Hanif son of Hazarat Ali to Arakan is also narrated in a book written in 16th century by Shah Barid Khan named Hanifa O Kaiyapuri.

“In 680 A.D. after the war of “Karbala”. Mohammad Hanif with his army arrived at Arabshah para, near Maungdaw in the Northern Arakan, while Kayapuri, the queen of cannibals ruled this hilly deep forest attacking and looting the people of Arakan. Mohammad Hanif attacked the cannibals and captured the queen. She was converted to Islam and married to him. Her followers embraced Islam enmasse. Mohammed Hanif and queen Kayapuri lived in Mayu range. The peaks where they lived were still known as Hanifa Tonki and Kayapuri Tonki. The wild cannibals were tamed and became civilized. Arakan was no more in danger of them and peace and tranquility prevailed. The followers of Mohamed Hanif and Kayapuri were mixed up and lived peacefully. The descedents of these mixed people are no doubt formed the original nucleus of the Rohingyas in Arakan.”

The regular contact of Arab Muslims with Arakan came through trade and commerce during 8th century A.D. and since Islam started spreading in the region. After advent of Islam in Arabia, the Muslims followed the footprints of their fore-fathers in trade and commerce. These Arab Muslim merchants made regular contact with Arakan. In those days the Arabs were very much active in sea-trade, they even monopolised the trade and commerce in the East.

After the death of Prophet Mohammd (S.M), in 712 A. D. there was a dispute between the Arab king and king Dehir of Sind of west India on a Arab trade ship which arrived at the port of Gipal. The Arab General Mohammad Ibn Kasim conquered the Sind with an army of six thousand. Since that time a large number of Muslims began to arrive in India.

Mr. Harvey wrote in the History of Burma that the Muslim built up mosques and Bader Mokans in India, Arakan, Burma, Malayu, Indonesia and China. Arakan became prosperous with the trade of Arab Muslim traders. From 7th century to 16th century the Arab Muslims were very powerful and they were master of trade from Persian Gulf to Indonesia.

Country of Raham or-Arakan hed been an independent for many centuries due to its geographical location with occasional short breaks. It was ruled by various legendry Indian dynasties and made their capital at Dinnawadi (Dhanyavati), Vesali, Pinsa, Prin, Krit, Launggyet and Maruk-U along the river Lemro. According to M. S. Collis, “in 788 AD, a dynasty, knowns as Chandras, founded the city of Vesali in North-Arakan. This city became a noted trade port to which as many as a thousand ships came annually……. their territory extended as far north as Chittagong…Vesali was an easterly Hindu kingdom of Bengal….”

In 8th century while Arakan was ruled by Maha Chandras of Wessali Kyauklayga dynasty and Burma was ruled by Pagan Pikthonmin – many Arab traders arrived at Ramawadi, Wessali, Thaton, Muttama, Syriam and other ports. These were written by the Arabs in their diaries after 800 A.D. In their diaries they recorded that they found precious stones, spices, peafowls tails, rhinoceroses’ horns, etc. in Arakan and Burma.

According to the British Burma Gazetteers and Burma Gazetteers (Akyab District) published in 1879 and 1957, “about 788 A.D. Mhataing Sandya ascended the throne, founded a new city (Vesali) on the site of old Ramawadi and died after a reign of twenty two years. In his reign several ships were wrecked on Ramree island and the crews, said to have been Mohamedans, were sent to Arakan Proper and settled in villages. They were Moor Arab Muslims.”

Those Arab crews sought sympathy of the people of the island, uttering the Arabic word “Rahma”. So they were called Rahma people. The Rohingyas of Arakan are also the descendants of these Arab people. Those Arab crews and traders were sheltered at Ramree, the king ordered to bring them to Arakan proper as Ramree was small and danger of over population. The king was very sympathetic towards them. They settled in Arakan and some turned from traders to farmers.

In course of their trading activities in this part of the world the Arabs colonised in and around Arakan first and afterward begin to penetrate interior part of Burma. They paved the way for the influx of Muslims Saints, Sufis, Faqirs and Sages in Arakan and East Bengal. Those Sages used to visit the remote conners of the provinces only to preach their true religion Islam among the infidels and to dedicate their lives to the service of humanity and the oppressed and suppressed people of the land. The superior moral character and high missionary zeal of those followers attracted large number of people towards Islam who embraced it enmasse.

The Arabs presence in Arakan continued upto the 17th Century A.D.,when European traders sailed to the Eastern Seas. The Arabs developed a port city in Arakan known as Akyab. The Arabic version Ak-Ab means ‘Place of a river meeting the sea.’ The Arabs also extended their trade from the Red Sea to China.

There is no doubt that the following river Kaladan, Lemro, Mayu or Kalapansi and Naf are Arabic. The Arabs also name the Island as Rambree Island and Chowdoba Island.

The Arab Muslim married the indigenous women and Islam spread among the local people.Their children were engaged in the service of the kings of Arakan. Afterward they migrated to the fertile valleys of Lemro, Kaladan, Mayu and Naf. They also migrated to other places which we called today Akyab, Kyaukpyu, Kyauknimaw and Sandoway townships.

Chapter III


Before 10th century, Arakan was inhabited by Hindus. At that time Arakan was the gate of Hindu India to contact with the countries of the east. Morris Collis writes in his book “Burma under the iron heels of British” that the Hindu ruled Arakan from first century to 10th century. Hindu civilization and literature spread all over Arakan d’-”ring this long thousand years. After the vanishing of the Hindu civilization there still remain the names, Danyawadi, Ramawadi, Maygawadi and Dwarawadi, the four-Wadis given by Hindus. Temples built by Hindus, coins melted by Hindus and the stone inscriptions written by Hindus were still to be found in Arakan.

According to A.P. Phayre and G, E, Harvey, History of Burma state that: “The capital of Arakan was successively Thaveiktaung, Dinnyawadi, 25 kings (146-746 AD) and Vesali, 12 kings (788-994)-AD) dawn to eleventh century. First Pyinsa (Sandawut), 15 kings (1018-1103 AD), Parin, 8 kings (1103-1167 AD), Krit, 4 kings (1167-1180 AD), Second Pyinsa, 16 kings (1180-1237 AD), Launggyet, 17 kings (1237-1433 AD)and Mrauk-U, 48 kings (1433-1785 AD).”

Shiri Gupta hill is 20 miles north of Mrohaumg. Mahamatmuni Image (the Great Image of Lord Buddha) is on that hill. This place is older than Vesali. The place was established by Hindus. Mahamatmuni image was built by the king Sandathuriya (146-198 A. D.).There were Hindu gods around the image of Mahamatmuni. These images of gods indicated that Arakan was a Hindu land until 10th century. Those Hindus might be Bengalees.

The image of Mahamatmuni was ruined when Arakan was attacked by Mongolians or Tibeto-Burmans in the year 957 A.D. Morris Collis also wrote that the image was renovated while Arakan was feudatory to Pagan’s kings of Burma. The ruins of the city of Vesali can still be found at the place five miles north of Morhaung City.

The city of Vesali was founded in 788 A.D. by king Mahataing Sandya. This was the beginning of the Chandra dynasty. They were Hindus but professed Buddhism. Vesali was a prosperous sea port of Arakan. Over one thousand foreign ships used to visit the port annually. Most of them were Arab ships. Before the arrival of Islam, the people of Vesali professed Hinduism and Buddhism. Later, they abandoned Hinduism and professed Buddhism and Islam.

Inside the palace compound of Vesali there were many stone plates inscribed in Nagris. The Vesali kings also melted coins with cows, Nandis and shred of flower and Nagris letters. The coins of Vesali was melted with Bhraman civilization.

Vesali was razed in 957 A.D. with the invasion of Tibeto-Burmans. The Tibeto- Burmans killed Sula Candra, the last king of Vesali dynasty, and Amia Thu of their tribe was throned. Within a few years the Hindu of Bengal was able to throne their Pala Dynasty. But the Hindus of Vesali was unable to restore their dynasty because of the invasion and migration of Tibeto-Burmans were so great that their population overshadowed the Vesali Hindus.

Morris Collis wrote that since 957 A.D. Tibeto-Burmans cut Arakan away from India and mixing in sufficient number with the inhabitants of the Vesali, created that Indo-Mongoloid stock now known as Rakhine. The Rakhine Maghs descended from the mixture of Tibeto-Burmans (Mongolians) and Vesali Hindus (Ayrians). Nowadays, many Rakhine Maghs claimed to be more Ayrian than Mongolian. But the date 957A.D. may be said to mark the appearance of Rakhine Maghs and their history.

The last Tibeto-Burman king of Vesali Ngapinngaton in 994 A.D. shifted the capital from Vesali to Sanbawet on the delta region of Lamro river, some 15-miles southeast of Vesali city, for easier communication with Burma. For centuries numerous dynasties ruled the country, each with its own city but always in the same locality. Many kings ruled the country, but no coins were melted by them. These kings had good contact with the Pagan dynasty of Burmese kings. Later they had been feudatory to Pagan kings. Burmese civilization came to Arakan through the Bu-Rwak-Manyo mountain pass. Pegan, the city state of Burman herself had modified their religion from the Mahayanist to the Hinayanist form of Buddhism and modification was transmitted to Arakan during the 11th and 12th centuries. Rakhine Maghs resemble more to Burmans less to Hindus. Their religion became less Mahayanist and more Hinayanist.

The Arakanese Buddhists called themselves Rakhine and their country Rakhinepyi. Accoring to Sir A. P. Phayre’s History of Burma, the word is a corruption of the Pali Rakkhasa (Skt. Rakshasa) meaning “ogre” (Burmese bilu) or guardian of the mansion of Indra on Mount Meru. Before 12th century, there was no Burmese literature in Arakan, but Sangada (Sanskrit) literature was found with Nagaris letters. Burmese literature arrived in Arakan during 12th century. In regard to Rakhine Maghs language. Sir Arthur Phayer wrote that, Rakhine Maghs are the descendants of Tobeto-Burman. There is no difference between Rakhine Maghs and Burmans except a little in their languages.

The Rakhine Maghs of today are basically Burmese, though with an unmistakable Indian admixture. Although mainly Buddhist, they have been influenced by long centuries of contact with Muslims Bengal. Phonetically Rakhines have 42 syllables; that is eight syllables less than Burmese. Their is language is Burmese with some dialectical difference and an older form of pronuciation, especially noticeable in their retention of the “r” sound, which the Burmese have changed to y’. The Bengali refer to them by the name Magh, a word adopted by 17th century European writers and written “Mugg”. Rakhine Maghs are generally short-temper, vociferous and undiplomatic. They consider their homeland as the father or fatherland. They looked upon the Wednesday as sacred for they belive that their country was founded on that day. In ancient times Rakhine’s national dress was to that of Bengal, more or less. As to marriage the Rakhines favour ‘cross-cousin mirrage’. That is marriage between the children of a woman and those of her brother or vice versa.

Hence the Buddhist of Arakan known as Rakhine Maghs are mixed blooded race descended from Aryan

of Magadah of Bihar, India, Mongolian, and Tibeto-Burman.

Chapter IV


In addition to Arab Muslims, many Muslims from India also arrived and settled in every nook and cranny of Arakan. They were Gauri Pathans from Gaur, the capital of the Sultan of Bengal. Previously, the Indian Muslims had only contact with Arab Muslims and had no relation with Rakhine Magh people of Arakan because they were non-Muslims and they thought that they (the Maghs) were wild hilly people.

At that time the Bengal Sultanate was ruled by the Pathan Muslims with their capital at Gaur. When Narameikhia took refuge at the court of Gaur the relation between Arakan and Bengal started.

The circumstances which made Arakan turn from the East and look west to the Moslem States were political. When Longgeret dynasty’s last king Thingathu died, Narameikhia, the son of his elder brother Razathu, ascended the throne of Longgeret. Saw Pu Nyo, the sister of Anandathein (the governor of Dallah) was the most beautiful woman of Arakan at that time. Narameikhia had developed weakness for her. Being unable to control his lust for her, he took her as his queen after forced divorce from her husband which made annoyed Annandathein. He took it as an insult to the courtiers and entire people and to himself. So, he sought assistance from Ava king Min Khong-I of central Burma who succeeded the Pagan dynasty.

King Min Khong considering the previous infiltration of Arakanese king Hla Ra Giri to Yaw,Saw, Long Shay, the request of Annada Thien and his own lust for expansion of his country, sent his 13 year old son Min Ye Kyaw Swa, as the head of 30,000 soldiers, to Arakan. Min Ye Kyaw Swa conquered Arakan in 1404 A.D. and the deposed king Narameikhia fled to Bengal and took refuge at the court of king Ahmed Shah at Gaur. That kingdom had been independent of the sultanate of Delhi for eighty six years ago.It was one of the many sovereign states of the world-wide Moslem polity. His younger brother Naranu fled to Hantha Wadi and took refuge at the court of Mon (Talaing) king Razadirize.

When the victory of Min Ye Kyaw Swa was conveyed to King Min Khong, the king gave his daughter, Shwe Pyi Chan Tha, in marriage with Ahnawratha Saw, the governor of Kalay, and sent him to Arakan and called back his son. But his tyrannic rule was unbearable to the people of Arakan. Naranu requested help from Mon king Razadirize. King Razadirize sent Mon and Muslim army – both land and naval forces to Arakan. They conquered Arakan. Anawratha Saw and Shwe Pyi Chan Tha were taken to Hanthawidi where the former was put down to death and the latter was made queen. Naranu ascended the throne of Longgeret.

When bad news was heard by the king Min Khong, he sent again Min Ye Kyaw Swa to Arakan. Min Ye Kyaw Swa conquered Arakan again. Naranu fled to the upper reaches of Kassapa Nadi (Kaladan River). In this way Arakan became the battle field of Burmese and Mon. Lastly, Mon won the battle.Thus Arakan fell under the subjugation of Mon.

While Narameikhia was serving at the army of Sultan Ahmed Shah, the Indian king of Delhi (according to Rakhine Razawin, the king of Janpur, Sultan Ebrahim) invaded the Sultanate of Bengal. Narameikhia fought the battle with full of valour and skill. The king was very pleased and called him son and Naramekhia called the king father, which was written by Sayadaw U Nyana in his Danyawadi Razawintheik (the Modern History of Arakan). Hence, Rakhine Maghs and Muslims became brothers and sisters. Fraternity began between Maghs and Muslims.

After the victory of the battle, king Ahmed Shah handed over the throne of Gaur to his son Nazir Shah in the year 1426 A.D (According to Bengal History it was not Nazir Shah but Sultan Jalaluddin Mohammed Shah). Then Narameikhia pleaded help from the king to take back his lost throne of Longgeret. The king agreed to do so when Narameikhia agreed to abide the following conditions;

  1. To return the twelve towns of Bengal.
  2. Muslim title must be used by the king of Arakan.
  3. The court emblem must be inscribed with Kalima Tayuba in Persian.
  4. The coins, medallions must be inscribed with Kalima Tayaba in Parsian and to mint them in Bengal.
  5. To use the Persian as court language of Arakan.
  6. To pay taxes and presents annually.

Since that time onward Rakhine Maghs had to learn the Islamic history and the meaning of the triumph of Islam and how it arrived, that the chief Moslem protagonists were Mongolians. For hundred years, Arakan was a vassal state of the Muslim Bengal and paying tribute to Bengal.

As Narameikhia agreed to the six conditions, in 1429, Sultan Nazir Shah sent Gen. Wali Khan as the head of 20,000 Pathan forces with Narameikhia to restore the throne of Arakan to Narameikhia. The Pathan army crossed Arakan through Golangi pass and another army crossed through Wall Khan (later Alt Khan) pass. They conquered Arakan from the control of Mon and Narameikhia ascended the throne.

Soon Wali Khan and Narameikhia had a dispute over the No. 5 condition of introduction of Persian as the court language of Arakan. Gen. Wali Khan arrested Narameikhia and locked up at Balouthaung fettering him. Sir Arthur Phayer wrote that Gen. Wali Khan arrested Narameikhia with the collaboration of a Magh Chief who was his enemy (may be Ananda Thein). Gen. Wali Khan ruled the country for one year. He introduced Persian in his court and appointed Qazis. From the upper Kissapa Nadi (Kalandan River) Naranu came down and rescued Narameikhia.

He went straight to Sultan Nazir Shah and narrated all the happenings. The king become furious and sent his right and left ministers such as Dampasu, Razamani, Setta Khan with an army larger than that of Gen. Wali Khan, now headed by Gen. Sandi Khan. They throned Narameikhia at Lounggeret and sent back Gen. Wali Khan to the Bengal.

Narameikhia thought that the city of Lannggyet was a cursed city from where he was ousted and which city also saw the rise and fall of many kings, Harvey writes: “The turmoil of foreign inroads showed that Launggyet was ill-fated and the omen indicated Mrohaung as a lucky site, so he decided to move there; though the astrologers said that if he moved the capital he would die within a year, he insisted, saying that the move would benefit the people and his own death would matter little. In 1433 he founded Mrohaung and in the next year he died. A populous sea-port, built on hillocks amid the rice-plain, and intersected by canals which served as streets, Mrohaung remained the capital for the next four centuries.”

Narameikhia shifted his capital to a new site known as Mrauk-U or Patthri Quilla in 1433. As the Pathan soldiers of Gen. Sandi Khan was faithful to him, king Narameikhia deployed them to all important and strategic places and all bordering areas to defend the state. These Pathan soldiers were unable to return to their motherland. They served in Arakan with the posts-ranked from ministers to soldiers and built many monuments. Among them the most prominent mosque is the Sandi Khan mosque which was built in the year 1433 at Kawalong, in Mrohaung City.

Though the religion of Islam and the culture of Muslim began with the arrival of Arabs in Arakan, but it came to prominence with the arrival of Gauri Pathans. In U Kyi’s “The Essential History of Burma”, he wrote that “Rakhine Maghs became Muslims after embracing Islam in 15th century. For hundred years, from 1430 to 1530 A. D. Arakan was under the suzerainty of Muslim Bengal.”

Eleven kings successively ruled Arakan for hundred years 1430 to 1530 A.D… The relation with Bengal remained extremely cordial. The Arakanese paid tribute to Muslim Bengal and learnt Islamic history and politics.

According to Lt. Col.Ba Shan’s “Coming of Islam to Burma to 1700 A.D.”, some of the Arakanese Kings with Muslim titles are as follows:

  1. Naramekhla (Solaiman Shah)                  1430 1434 A.D.
  2. Meng Khari (a) Naranu(Ali Khan)             1434-1459
  3. Ba Saw Pru (Kalima Shah)                                 1459-1482
  4. Dawlya (Mathu Shah)                             1482-1492
  5. ‘Ba Saw Nyo (Mohammed Shah)             1492-1493
  6. Ran Aung(Noori Shah)                            1493-1494
  7. Salimgathu (Sheik Abdullh Shah)            1494-1501
  8. Meng Raza(Ilias Snah-I)                          1501-1513
  9. Kasabadi (Ilias Shah-II)                           1513-1515
  10. Meng Saw Oo (Jalal Shah)                      1515-
  11. Thatasa (Ali Shah)                                 1515-1521
  12. Min KhaungRaza (El-Shah Azad)            1521-1531
  13. Min Bin(a)Min Pa Gri(Zabuk Shah)           1531-1553
  14. Min Dikha (Daud Khan)                           1553-1555
  15. Min Phalaung (Sikender Shah)                1571-1591
  16. Min Razagri (Salim Shah)                       1593-1612
  17. Min Khamaung (Hussain Shah)               1612-1622
  18. ThiriThudama(SalimShah-II)                     1622-1637

In 1531 Minbin (Zabuk Shah) ascended the throne. With him the Rakhine Maghs graduated in their Islamic studies and the Arakanese Empire was founded.

In the year 1556 Bengal was invaded and conquered by the General of Emperor Akbar and many Pathans and Mughals of Bengal took refuge in Arakan. T.N. Sarkar wrote that the Pathan and Mughal of Arakan had supported Shah Shuja. The twelve towns of Bengal were ruled by the Arakanese kings till king Narameikhla. These twelve towns of Bengal were returned by Narameikhla to the Sultan of Bengal and were under the control of Sultanate of Bengal for hundred years. Chittagong was under the control of Arakan for more than two hundred years, that is, from 1459 A.D to 1666 A.D. In those days the people of Arakan and Bengal had very cordial relations.

From the days of the restoration of king Mmsawmun (1430 A.D.), there was an influx of Muslim officials, including ministers and courtiers, physicians (hakims or tabibs), qazis, soldiers both of the cavalry and infantry, merchants, traders, labourers and workers who were soon absorbed in the general population. In addition there was a transient population of sailors of becalmed Arab, Persian and Indian Muslims vessels who spent considerable periods of the year in the seaports of Aakan waiting for favourable winds.

In 17th century the Maghs and Portugese pirates brought Bengalee prisoners, both Muslim and Hindus, and sold at the ports of lndia and Arakan.

The Arakan pirates both Magh and Portugese (Feringhi) used constantly to come by water route and plunder Bengal. According to D.G.E. Hall,every year a devasting raids, often as far as Dacca   and Murshidabad, were a carried out and vast numbers of captives carried of to Maruk-U, where the king, after selecting all the artisans for his own service, sold the rest to foreign traders at a few Ruppes a head.

According to Puthi literature, “the inscription of the Muslim Kalima on Arakanese coins and the adoption of many Muslim customs and terms were other significant tributes to the influence of Islam. Mosques including the famous Sandikhan mosque began to dot the country-side and Islamic customs, manners and practices came to be established since this time. For about two hundred years the Muslim domination seemed to have been completed.”

In Arakan most of the ministers, and officers of land and naval forces were Muslims since Narameikhla’s rule in Arakan. The famous poet of Arakan Shah Alawal wrote that, Margan Thakur, Sulaiman, Sayed Musa, Nobaraj Mujalis were Muslim Prime Ministers of Arakan and Lashkar Wazir Ashraf Khan was War Minister of King Thiri Thudhamma-raza (1612-22 A.D.) according to M.K. Rahman’s Tarik-i-Islam Arakan and Burma.

In 1666, the Subader of Bengal, Shahista Khan sent his son Gen. Omid Khan and conquered Chittagong and Ramu. Then many Maghs migrated to Mrohaung and many Muslims settled at the northern side of Arakan. Some say the population of north Arakan was thin due to migration of Maghs to south.

Chapter V


In the middle of the 17th century, there was a political upheaval in Moghul Empire in India. The Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1658 A.D.) had four sons and two daughters. The four sons are Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad.

Shah Shuja was the second son of Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan of India and (the famous queen of love) queen Mantaz Mahal. In 1639 A.D. Shah Shuja became the governor of Bengal. He was a clever and brave soldier. But he indulged to enjoyment than administration. But his younger brother Aurangzeb, the governor of Dakina (southern) state was very industrious, intelligent and a good administrator.

In 1657 A. D., the Emperor Shah Jahan fell ill seriously. Rivalry began among his sons for the succession of throne. Finally, Aurangzeb controlled the throne after dethroning his father.

His youngest brother Murad was put into jail and Aurangzeb had declared himself to be the Emperor of Hindustan. Shah Shuja, the Governor of Bengal denounced Aurangzeb’s claim and advanced with his forces to dethrone Aurangzeb. On the way, Mir Jumla, the general of Aurangzeb fought with Shah Shuja and he was defeated at Kajawa, at the north of Allahabad on 5 January 1658 A.D…

Then Aurangzeb put his elder brother Dara Shikandar to jail, to whom he promised to reappoint him as the governor of Punjab and was crowned on 21st July as Emperor of India. In 1660 A.D. Mir Jumla conquered Bengal and defeated Shah Shuja at Dhaka. According to ‘Alamgirnamah‘, Shah Shuja had three sons Zain-al-din, Buland Akter, Zain-al-Abedin and three daughters Gulrukh Banu, Raushan Ara Begum or Mah Khanan and Amena Banu. His wife is Piaree or Piara Banu. On Sunday, 6th May 1660, Shah Shuja fled with his treasures and family with an army of 3000 archers to Mrauk-U (Mrohaung).They arrived at Chittagong on 3rd June 1660 A.D. From thence they had arrived at the capital Mrauk-U on 26th August 1660 A.D. On the way he stayed at Maungdaw. The village, where he stayed a few days at Maungdaw, is still known as Shujapara.

The intention of Shah Shuja was to go to Holy Makkah, where he wanted to pass his rest of life. Sanda Thudama (1651-1684 A.D.), the king of Arakan, granted him asylum and give a house at the foot of Babu hill (Mintha Taung) on the right bank of Wathee creek (near the Palace) with full facilities. The king also promised to provide a ship for travelling to Holy Makkah. But he wanted to break the promise for his lust for his daughter and teasures. The king had never seen such huge treasure brought by Shah Shuja. Time passed in many months. But the king kept silent about his promised-ship. He sent messengers for the ship. Sanda Thudama refused it and complained about Shuja’s failure to come and ask him about the ship.

Shah Shuja was afraid of being seized if he visited the king. He sent his son. Sultan Banque with various rich brocades and rare pieces of gold smith’s work, set with precious stones of great values. But the king wanted to seize all his treasure and find out a lame excuse. So, Sanda Thudama asked the hand of Shuja’s daughter Ameena, though he knew very well that Sultan Shuja would never consent, he, being a pagan and she a Muslim princess of the imperial Moghul family members which were strong believers in the tenets of the Muslim faith. As Shah Shuja refused the suit, the king ordered him to leave the country within three days. Aurangazeb, a brother from the same mother womb became his deadly enemy and he had no ship to proceed for Makkah. To die was cast. To live, Shah Shuja had to dare.

According to Arakanese Chronicles of that period tells that Shah Shuja was only too happy to give his daughter to the king of Arakan in gratitude for the asylum granted, however, when he saw that  had lost the Moghul throne, he decided to conquer Arakan and make himself king with the help of his own soldiers, the Muslim soldiers under king’s army and the local Muslim population, but the plot was uncovered; he fled to the hill, was captured and executed. The historian Sir Arthur Phayre thinks that the Arakanese  Chronicles       conceal their king’s ugly behavior, and emphasise  the prince’s abortive experiment to capture the palace by neglecting to mention the preceding provocation of not providing the promise ships, the king’s request to have one of Shah Shuja daughter’s in marriage and his wish to molest the prince’s riches. Phayre quotes no source of his opinion, which is apparently only his personal point of view, but a decidedly acceptable one.

In the support of Sir A. P. Phayre’s opinion Niccolao Manucci, a Venetian gunner, in service with Prince Dara was in India between the years 1656-1712 A.D. This work ‘Storia do mogor or Mogul India’ (1653-1708 A.D.) corroborates, and especially in perfuse detail the slaughter of the Mughal Prince Shah Shuja and his family. He says:

He confided this design to some of his people by whom it was approved. But they were not able to carry out the project with the called-for secrecy, and though the delay they made there was time for the King of Arakan to hear of the plot. He planned the assassination of Shah Shuja and all his adherents, and to this intent called to him his four principal captains, each of whom had three thousand armed men  …….. To these he issued orders that one morning of daybreak they should all with one accord shout “Long live the King of Arakan! Death to Shah Shuja and all traitors!” Under cover of these, they were to kill everyone. The captains carried out the order of their king, killing everybody they encountered. Upon this news reaching the unfortunate prince Shah Shuja, he tried to save his life by getting on his elephant, hoping that he might thereby impose some respect for his person.

But it was grievous to see the fury with which the Maghs came on, throwing everything into disorder, with blows and shouts and cries, some saying “Death to the Prince Shah Shuja!” others,”Death to his son. Prince Bang!” “Slay those traitorous Moguls who fled here from Bengal!” Prince Bang was taken prisoner, while Shah Shuja with a few men fled to the jungle. He made liberal use of the bags of jewels and pearls, which he scattered among these savages, attempting by the use of these valuables to mitigate the rage of the soldiers and gain a free passage for his flight. But the Maghs paid no heed to his proffered wealth; they pursued the poor prince like famishing wolves, cutting his body into pieces, stripping it bare, and plundering all his valuables………..

So, on 7th February 1661 A.D. Shah Shuja fled to the forest with some of his followers. The Magh chased them like faminishing wild wolves. Ultimately the Magh caught Sultan Shah Shuja and chopped him into pieces and plundering all his valuables. The family of Shah Shuja was arrested by the Magh Raja.

According to D.G.E Hall, on 25th July 1663 A.D., the Royal Palace had been fired by 10 or 12 desperate “Mogolders” and burnt to the ground. In the general confusion Manaw-thiri, the Governor of Mrauk-U, was burnt to death and the king and his family bearly escaped with their lives. Shah Shuja’s three sons were suspected of having been the cause of it and the king gave orders for the total extermination of Shuja’s family. Sultan Banque and his brother were decapitated with blunt axes, and the ill fated families were closely confined in their apartments. Piara Banu, Shah Shuja’s wife, when approached by king Sanda Thudhamma in his seraglio, is supposed to have killed with a dagger while her two elder daughters took poison and died. The youngest, Amena Banu, was forcibly taken as wife by the king but languished in captivity and left to die of hunger. It has been confirmed by most accounts that Amena Banu, at the time other assassination was pregnant; her killing was probably the crowning inequity of king Sanda thudhamama among all his other misdeeds.

Many Moors and Bengali Muslims had been plundered and massacred by the order of the king.

Shah Alaol, the great poet and writer who flourished in Arakan Court, also confirmed in his writings Saiful Muluk Baduzzaman and Sikandar Nama referring to the wholesale killings and imprisonments of the Muslims of Mrauk-U. In the reign of terror which followed the abortive rising, Aloal himself, an innocent citizen of Mrauk-U, was incarcerated in prison for a period of 50-days on the basis of the reports of tell-tales and was only released by strong intercession on his behalf.

The fate of Shah Shuja was heard by the Emperor Aurangazeb. Sanda Thudama knew that the Mughal would retaliate it. In advance the Magh Raja ordered the Portugese at Dainga and Sandip to advance to Dhaka. On the way they destroyed 40 ships of the Subeder (governor) of Bengal. So, Emperor Aurangazeb ordered to break the nest of the pirates of Magh and Portugese.

Shayista Khan, the governor of Bengal captured Sandip in 1665 with the cooperation of Dutch. Sanda Thudama had doubt about the loyalty of the Portugese. The Portugese in turn doubt about their safety. So, they fled to the side of Shayista Khan with 42 war ships.

In February 1666, Shayista Khan’s son General Buzuruk Omed Khan captured Chittagong with the help of 288-war ships. After the captured of Chittagong the Mughals conquered Ramu within 36 hours. Two thousand Maghs were sold as slaves. The fleeing Magh soldiers were chased by the local Muslims.

Some historians view that Gen. Omed Khan captured whole of Arakan for a very short period. They did not keep control of Arakan because the aim of the Mughul Emperor was only to control Bengal and to break the nest of the pirates. They could easily control Arakan because the Portugese and the Dutch were on their side.

If Shah Shuja planned to seize the throne of Arakan was true and the secrecy of the Shah Shuja was not known to Magh Raja, Shah Shuja could easily captured the throne of Arakan and the course of Arakanese history might have been changed.

After the loss of Chittagong and Ramu, out of fear, the Rakhine Maghs of North Arakan fled to the South. Many Muslims migrated to North Arakan.

G. E. Harvey wrote in his book the History of Burma that at that time though there were no robbery but the atmosphere of robbery existed. Alter the massacre of Shah Shuja, his remaining followers in 1661 A.D. were retained as Archers of the Guard, praetorians who drew Rs. 4 a month, equivalent to many times that amount of modern currency, at the request of Muslim Prime Minister Margan.

Some of the followers of Shah Shuja escaped the persecution of Maghs and crossed to Burma. The king of Ava settled them in Ramethin, Shwebo, Maydu, Meiktila, Their descendants can be found today at these places. Detail was written by U-Mya (I) in his Short History of Burmese Muslims.

Chapter VI


The term Rohingya is derived from the word Rohai or Roshangee, a terminology pervered to Rohingya. Rohai and Roshangee are terms denoting the Muslim people inhabiting in the old Arakan (Rohan/Roshang/ Roang). It is probably the corruption of Arabic term Raham (blessing) or Raham Borri meaning the land of God’s blessings.

The word Rahma to Rahmi-Rahmia-Rahingya to Rohingya, which denotes honest, dutiful, pitiful or kind hearted to others.

But there is another historical defination of Rohingya. That is Rohingya which derived from the Magh language “Rwa-haung-gya-kyia”. The Magh used to call the Pathan army of General Wali Khan and General Sandi Khan, who came to restore the throne to Narameikhia, as “Rwa-haung-gya-kyia”- which was changed time to time – as Rwahingyia – Rohingya-which denotes as brave as tiger. As the Pathans army defeated the

Mon-Talaing army, the Rakhine Maghs used to call the Pathan as brave as tiger. They mixed with the Arab descendants for centuries and become Rohingyas.

“Arakan, infect, a continuation of the Chittagong plain was neither purely a Burmese nor an Indian territory till the 18th century of the Christian era. Chiefly for its location, it was not only remained independent for the most part of history, but endeavoured to expand its territory in the surrounding tracts whenever opportunity came and Chittagong was the first to be the victim of the territorial ambition of the Arakanese monarchs.

…… Shut off from Burma by a hill range, it is located far away from the Indian capitals. The relation between Chittagong and Arakan is influenced by geographical, ethnological, cultural and historical considerations, from about 1580 A.D. nearly a century, Chittagong was under almost uninterrupted Arakanese rule which is undoubtedly an important period marked by momentous events.

“There were Moors, Moghuls and Pathans also in Arakan…. Thus, the Muslim population of Arakan consisted roughly of four categories, namely, the Bangalee, other Indian, Afro-Asian and native. Among these four categories of Muslims the Bengali Muslims formed the largest part of the total Muslim population of Arakan.”

The Arabs and Pathans army are founded the original nucleus of the Rohingyas in Arakan, who arrived from Arab and Bengal Sultanate during the time of Arakanese kings.

The Arabs were the first to lay the foundation of Muslim society in Arakan in the later part of the 7th century A.D. and the waves of immigration from Bengal were very significant, for with these immigrants came the Muslim nobels, statemen, traders, teachers, poets, and soldiers.

There had been large-scale conversion of the Hindus, Buddhists and animists to Islam who also constitute part and parcel of the Rohingya. In 15th century the number of converts to Islam soared, specially as the Muslims has established standard of credibility and stature in the community, initially through inter-mirrages.

These various migrations led to the admixture of blood and culture to form one common racial and linguistic classification to be known as Rohingya a term derived from “Rohang”, the ancient name of Arakan.

The Rohingya people developed a culture which was relatively advanced for that period. Schools, Madarasas were established, epics, ballads and riddles were advanced, music and dances were performed. This culture spread out all over Arakan. The Rohingya economy was also relatively developed. They developed agriculture, trade and commerce and extended their trade relation with neighbouring countries. Today the majority of the Rohingya people rely on agriculture as their base of subsistence; even Rohingya fishermen engage in agriculture during the non-fishing period.

Among the Muslim population of Chittagong two distinct ethnic characters are found; one is known as Chatgaiya and the other Rohai. Although professing the same religion they have different cultural habits. In fact the Rohais of Chittagong today are those Muslim people who fled Arakan (Rohang) as a result of Bunnan atrocities after the country was occupied in 1784 A.D. As many as 50% of the total population of Chittagong district are Rohais who trace their ancestoral origin to Arakan. The Rohingyas trace their origin to Arabs, Moors, Turks, Persians, Moghuls, Patthans and Bangalees.

Since Rohingyas are mixture many kinds of people, their check-bone is not so prominent and eyes are not so narrow like Rakhine Maghs and Burman. Generally they are broad shouldered, thin-bearded, a bit taller in stature than the Rakhine Maghs and Burmans but darker in complexion. They are some bronze coloured and not yellowish.


“From 1430 to 1531, for more than one hundred years, Arakan was ruled by the Muslims.” “Their Muslim Kingdom was independent in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was later absorbed by Burma” in 1784 A.D. The people of Arakan, the Rohingyas and Rakhines, had already organized their own statehood patterned after the Sultanate system of government current in those days. Thus in the context of Arakan the Rohingyas are not a minority but part of an integral whole. Today Rohingya nation exists because it is rooted in the direct personal feelings and the material interests of the large section of the Rohingya people whether in the homeland or in the places of refuge:

Aside from the compulsion of geography the Rohingya national identity is unique into Itself in terms of language and culture. The Rohingyas speak a common language and have common cultural trials. Almost all the Rohingyas are Muslims though there are a few Rohingya language speaking Hindus and Baruas. The Rohingyas are proud of their distinctive culture and language. They can not be classified cultural sub-group.


The Rohingyas inhabit a contiguous area and therefore have a separate territory which is the most crucial element in a national identity. The Rohingya populations in North Arakan are united by ancient heritage, a rich culture and distinct language. They have lived for many centuries within well defined geographical boundaries which demarcate their “Traditional Homeland”. The group identity of the Rohingya people has grown over the past several centuries, hand in hand with the growth of their homeland in North Arakan, where they worked together, spoke to each other, founded their families, educated their children and also sought refuge, from time to time, from physical attacks elsewhere in Arakan and Burma.

The Rohingyas were once in absolute majority in the whole of Arakan. But they have been exterminated in a systematic and planned way and their homeland has now shrunk progressively in insignificance or to semi-preservations — a process still evidenced. Planned increase in the Buddhist population systematically exterpate the Rohingya people and destroy the crucial geo-graphical link between areas in the whole of Arakan. It threatens the Rohingya’s claim to a contiguous homeland of the whole of North Arakan. The face of Rohingya homeland has been changed as the Rohingyas are helpless to check their demographic erosion. Despite systematic extermination of Rohingya population by means of genocidal actions and continued persecution, the Rohingyas still predominate in the area between the river Naf which demarcates the border between Burma and Bangladesh and river Kaladan, the longest river in Arakan. But the Rohingyas still claim that all those areas which have been inhabited by Muslims or atleast within their sphere of influnce before the pogram of 1942 are also included in their Traditional Homeland.

Arakan has always been a country with two nations within one geographic entity. Two different peoples, from the very ancient period, have been inhabiting Arakan. During the course of their settlements Arakan is divided into two parts : Muslim North and Buddhist South. That is the Rohingya homeland of North Arakan and Rakhine homeland of South Arakan.

Though Rohingyas live everywhere in Arakan and they are once majority in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathidaung, Akyab, Kyauktaw, Mrohaung and Minbya. Now, they are majority only in former Mayu Dist. and Akyab Island.


All Rohingyas profess Islam. They are strict followers of Islamic traditions. In every village there is atleast one mosque and one grave-yard.

Rohingya Muslims celebrate religious festivals with great joy and enthussasm. Great rejoicings marked the two Eids, Eidul-Fitr, and Eidul-Azha (Qurbani Eid). Eids prayers were generally offered at Eidgahs or Mosques (where there is no Eidgah) and the days were spent in feeding, feasting and visiting the houses of the neighbours and relations. They also visit graveyard for ziyarat who left them earlier. Zakat is paid by all solvent Rohingya people ordinarily during the month of Ramadan. Qurbani is offered by all according to their financial means. Shab-i-Maraj, Shab-i-Barat and Shab-i-Qadar were observed with prayer, devotion, alms-giving and feeding of the poor. Romadan is greeted by all Rohingyas with much religious fervour. The birth day of Hazart Mohammed (s.m.) was celebrated every year on 12th of Rabiul-Awal as known Uman-Nabi.

Though the Rohingyas lived together with Rakhine Maghs, they lived with their own culture.They never eat together. Inter-marriage also not so common. They live in separate villages.

Every compact village or a part of it formed a social unit with the mosque as its centre and a uniting force for the convenience and regulation of social life of the inhabitants of the area. The eldest, pious, and influential man in the society was recogonised as the head of village society (Samaj) who decide all disputes among them with the help of village elders.


In Arakan, Rohingya people live in somewhat densely packed villages and the majority of their houses are built of wooden pole, bamboo, thatched with palm-leaves (Dani) and stand on stilts as a protection against the floods that rise and surge under the monsoon rains.

At townships headquarters and at most villages of any size or importance a few brick houses are to be found in Arakan. In the large villages have a fair number of wooden houses with thatch (dani) or corrugated iron roofs.


The soil of Arakan is very fertile and the climate is ideal for rice cultivation. Arakan is dependent entirely on agriculture; all other occupations are subsidiary to, or exist for the maintenance of, the agricultural population. Of total Rohingya population 80% are occupied in agriculture or pasturing. The next order of numbers are those engaged in trade in food-stuffs. The third in respect of numbers are shop-keepers and followed by persons engaged in transport by water and by road, wood workers, fisherman, manufacturers of tobacco and salts.


Endogamy is a factor resulting in the practice of segmentation. In other words, endogamy reinforces ties of common descent. The Rohingyas practise endogamy.

In early days, a Rohingya would not be eligible for marriage until three voyages of trade by water or three trips of trade on land. Otherwise, he would be looked down by the society and would call him impotent with contempt.

The Rohingya would never marry with other non-Muslim without conversion to Islam. If one many without conversion to Islam, the Rohingya society would boycott them until and unless he or she embraees Islam. So, the Rohingya parents control their children and arrange marriage between the parents. If they eloped, after having love affairs, the Rohingya society used to condemn them.

Betrothal is arranged by the Rohingya parents. The bride and the groom are not allowed to meet before marriage. Family lines are thoroughly checked before the engagement. Engagement breaks if there arise dissension amoung the parents or guardians. Mohar is fixed by the parents or guardians of the bride and the groom and it is most essential according Islamic law. It must be given by the groom for the bride. Both the bride and groom must declare their willingness by pronouncing the words “Khawbul Ahsi” (we do agree) in front of at lest two witness and the molvi Shaheeb (Alim) who perform the mirrage. Divorce rate among the Rohingyas is less then other races of Burma. The wedding ceremonies are held in receptions as far as possible. The receiption diner is usually held by the family of the bride-groom. In special case called “Salami”, the reciption dinner is hold at bride home. During the wedding month the relatives of the newly wedded couple use to invite them and are served with at least one meal in consecutive days by each and every household of their relatives which shows their affections for the couple. In almost all Rohingya’s marriage ceremonies ‘Howlla’ (Group singing) songs sing and folk-dancing of girls and women are common.


Rice is the staple food grain of Arakan. The diet of the Rohingya is simple rice, fish, vegetables and chillis; meat was taken on occasions. The majority Rohingyas eat dry fishes with fresh vegetables or potatoes or also without any of them. On all festive occasion cows, water-buffolos and goats were slaughtered for sales and distribution.

Rakhine Maghs like pork very much. Rohingyas never touch or eat pork. Pork is forbidden by Islam. They eat mutton, beef, chicken after making Halal according to Islamic teaching. Rohingyas honoured their special guests slaughtering a goat or more with their means and the poor with a chiken.


The Rakhine Maghs males wear Gaung-Boung and Rohingyas males wear caps. The Rakhine Maghs wear Burmese jackets and Rohingyas wear coats. In olden days Rohingya used to wear Turbans of white clothes of 10 yards long and 1/2 yard breath. But British and Indian culture changed the dress of the Rohingya.

The male Rohingya wears a shirt with long sleeves called Bazu covering the upper part of the body while the lower part is covered a sheet of cloth stitched from side to side called longgi. Vest or gonji is wear as inner garment by the Rohingya male.

The adult female Rohingya wears long sleeved garment known as Suli to cover the upper part of the body while the lower part is covered with a Tami. Inner garment called Boduli long sleeve barazier wear every gril and woman of Rohingya. They wear a petticoat of cloth called Assar. This is without tie or fastening, but is broutht round the waist, with the edges well twisted in and kept on by the graceful curve of the hips. Young woman fastened a silk Belt called Rayshamer-Dowali and old women fastened a pice of red cloth 2.5 yards long and six inches wide stitched from side to side called Jali to hold their Tami on their waists.

She also wears a scarf known-as Romal which cover the head and shoulders. Whenever she is out-door she wears a Burkha, traditional veil covering the whole body.


Some Rohingya males keep hair fallen on shoulders. They are mostly Molvis. The Rohingyas, on their brith, they keep the Islamic names in Arabic. Some prefer Burmese names or Rakhine Magh names at schools mostly where the teachers are Rakhine Maghs as they can not pronounce Muslim name correctly. Some keep both names such as, Saleh Tun Sein, Ahmed Maung Maung and so on. It is also not good. Muslim should take pride as the kings of Arakan used Muslim titles.

On the death of a Rohingya Muslim all the members of the society arranged his / her funeral as a social duty and hurried him/her in the graveyard with a prayer (janaza) according to Islamic Law.

Rohingyas are good natured people. They are honest. They are not oppressors. They can not tolerate the oppressors. They defend their people even not caring their lives. They are brave and intelligent people.

During the Second World War, the Rohingya fought for the Independence of Burma with courage. Though the Japanese easily conquered the Southern part of Arakan within a few days, the Japanese were unable to control the North-Arakan due to the defence strategy. Even the Japanese had to retreat failing to advance-through the defence operation of Rohingyas. The courage and bravery of Rohingyas should be recorded in Myanmar Razawin. As Rohingyas are always neglected people, their bravery was never recorded. Rohingyas respect laws and are peace loving people.


Rohingyas have may indigenous sports and games which are usually held during summer and winter. Some also in rainny season. They are Boli-Khela (wrestling), Ghari-Khela (Boat racing), Mohal Khela, Gila-Khela Du Du Khela, Qunda Khela (weight lilting of round stone), Dan Khela, Ulu Khela, Ciyar Khela, Luk-palani Khela, Phoni Khela, Mal-pat Khela, Bak-goru Khela, Bosgya-buri Khela, Morish Khela, Bat Khela, Kalatur Khela, Saws-sa-rani Khela, Dope-marani Khela, diving and swimming, Paddy transplanting competition.


The Rohingyas are fond of music (both vocal and instrumental) and dance. Rohingyas have their own folk songs, dances and musics. Howla songs sing by women in almost all Rohingya’s marriage ceremonies and also women dance their flok dences in the same ceremonies. Young women mostly used mouth orgen (Baza) while dancing.Bitayali Geet, Jari Geet and Gazir Geet are very music is very sweet and meladious. Those who had came across the Rohingya National Programme from the Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS), they may recall the art of the Rohingya music.


There is separate Rohingya language, literature and civilization. It developed through Islamic civilization. Rohingya language is a mixture of Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Bangali and Rakhine Maghs, because they are the people of border and as same as the people of other border of Burma.

In the year 1429 A.D. General Wall Khan introduced Persian as state language of Arakan and also introduced Qazi courts in Arakan. Rohingya language is not recent make up. Muslim writers and poets used to write in this language since the early days in Arabic and Persian alphabets. One of the book is still in the possession of the author (Tahir Ba Tha). In addition to this, the coins of Arakan were melted in Arabic and Persian and also there are numerous Kyauksa (stone inscriptions) carved in Arabic.

The Rohingya literature is considerly rich in ballads, love songs, Floktales, Baramasa, legends,mystic songs, proverbs, bewsans, riddles, lullabies (Auli) and so on.

There are many Rohingya poets and writers who flourished in the court of Arakan kings. The Arakanese kings had come under the influence of Bengal Sultans. Most of the their courtiers were Bengali speaking people from Bengal and neighbouring Chittagong region and they encouraged the cultivation of Bengali language. The poets and writers who wrote in Bengali and a good number of their poems and works have been discovered.

Some of the Rohingya poets and writers who flourished in Araka court are: Abdu Minyo or Ahmedu Minyo, Shah Barid Khan, Daulat Kazi, Mardan and. Shah Alawal.

Quraishi Magan, Abdul Karim Khandkar, poet Abdul Karim are also well known writers and poets of Arakan.

The British government also used Persian as the official language ofArakan till 1836 A.D.In addition to Rohingyas many Rakhine Maghs also learned Persians. For example- Seikky Thado Pe and U Aung Gyi. Later on Persian was replaced by English and Urdu.

Thus written languages of Rohingya, Persian and Bengali almost disappeared from Arakan during the later part of British rule. The British subtitued English, Urdu and Burmese in place of Rohingya, Persian and Bengali. The Rohingya used Urdu till 1945 British re-entry. Urdu language is rich in poetry and literature.

The kinds of birds can be differentiated with their feathers. So it is time for Rohingyas to establish their ancestral dress, literature and culture. Rohingyas are rich with fine-arts, music and architecture. Rohingya architecture resemble the Arab Saracenic style which is witnessed by the mosques of Arakan. Sandi Khan mosque was built with hard rocks and easier design which stood as the oldest Rohingya’s archeological monument.

So, it must be preserved by the Rohingyas.Rohingyas should take pride for those Muslims who had built this mosque.


In the precedng chapters, we have given the Rohingya’s millenia old establishment in Arakan, with a history of more than 3 centuries of Muslim influence and rule. No Citizenship Law by any standard, can legally term Rohingya as non-nationals; however, it is the false interpretation of the Law by politically motivated elements that the Rohingyas are termed as non-nationals or inferior citizens.

In March 1947 Mr. Sultan Ahmed and Mr. Abdul Gaffar returned on the votes of Rohingya Muslims as members of the Constituent Assembly and these members are still continuing in office, representing the Akyab District North Constituency, and took the oath of allegiance to the Union of Burma on the 4th January 1948 as members of the new Parliament of the Union of Burma.

In Chapter II, Section 10 and 11 of the 1947 Constitution of Union of Burma stated that:

  • 10- There shall be but one citizenship throughout the Union; that is say, there shall be no citizenship of the unit as distrinct from the citizenship of the Union.
  • 11-(i) Every person, both of whose parents be- long or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma;

 (ii) Every person born in any of the territories includd within the Union, atleast one of whose grand-parents belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma;

(iii) Every person both in any of the territories included with the Union of parents both of whom are, if they had been alive at the commencement of this constitution would have been, citizens of the Union;

(iv) Every person who was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within His Britannic Majesty’s dominions and who has resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than 8 years in the ten years immediately preceding the 1st January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently therein and who signifies his election of Citizenship of the Union in a manner and within the time pescribed by law, shall be Citizen of the Union.”

‘Indigenous race’ is a term applied to a people distnct culture and civilisation who had been residing within the territory of Union before 1823, the year of British occupation of Arakan.

When Section 11 of the Constitution of the Union of Burma was being farmed a doubt as to whether the Rohingya Muslims of North Arakan fell under the Section 11, Sub-Clauses (i), (ii) and (iii), arose and in effect an objection was put in to have the doubt cleared in respect of the term “Indigenous” as used in the Constitution, but it was withdrawn on the understanding and assurance of the President of the Constituent Assembly, at present His Excellency the President of the Union of Burma, who, when approached for clarification with this question, said “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma which you represent. In fact, there is no pure indigenous race in Burma, and that if you do not belong to indigenous races of Burma, we also can not be taken as indigenous races of Burma.” Being satisfied with his kind explanation, the objection put in was withdrawn by the Rohingyas’ M.Ps.

In 1948, however, a new Citizenship act (The Union Citizenship Act of 1948) was promulgated which restricted Section 11 (iv) of Constitution to any person “from ancestors who for two generation at least all made any of the terriories included within the Union of Burma their permanent home and whose parents and himself were born in any such territories.” As a measure to prevent the continued immigration of the Indians into Burma, all residents in Burma were required to apply for registration within one year of the law and were

givn indenty cards. Many Rohingyas registered and were given cards which enabled them to vote during the democratic period between 1948 to 1962.

According to Mr.M.A. Gaffar, Member of Parliment (M.P.) from Akyab West Constituency and Parliamentary Secretary from 1947 to 1962, Press Conference held on 21st. April 1960 in Rangoon are:

“Though Rohingyas resemble a little with the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), their literature, names and tittles, dresses, languages, customs and cultures are as difference as the sky and the earth. Therefore to regard Rohingyas as Chittagonians is a grevious hurt to Rohingyas and a matter of tragedy and a great blow to Rohingya and far from actual history.”

“Although Rohingya’s culture, tradition, history and civilization are not inferior to that of other indigenous races of Burma, Rohingyas are always victims of persecutions, specially, the immigration used to arrest them. In June 1959, 76 Rohingyas were rounded and arrested in Akyab and Mayu districts by the               immigration and were sent to Rangoon by steamer for ultimate dispatch to Gawdu-thoung in Pyapon District.”

“On November 4, 1959, the Supreme Court of Burma had passed orders directing the release of Hasan Ali and Mahar Alt, who were arrested about the same time and on the same ground. It was pointed out them that the two cases would have served as test cases to the immigration. This was not done and the court had to order to release of 76 detainees who had subsequently applied for writ of habeas corpus. Section 4(2) of the Union Citizenship Act. also pointed out that those persons whose ancestors had made Burma for two generation as their home and who and whose parents were born in Burma were also citizens of the Union. It had been observed by the court that in Union of Burma there were races who could not speak the Burmese language and who nevertheless were citizens of the Union of Burma.”

“According to Section 3 (1) of the Act, the people who lived in group in a part of Burma since 1823 (Bur-mese Era 1185) are also indigenous people of Burma in addition to Karen, Kaya, Chin, Myanmar, Mon, Rakhine (Magh) and Shan.”

“Due to the 1942 Massacre of Muslims of Arakan, the Rohingyas of Kyauktaw, Mrohaung, Minbya, Pauktaw, Phoonagyon and Maybon had fled to Mayu Dist. and the population of Mayu Dist. increased, which is better known to the Magh people, but the Maghs intentionally alleged them as the illegal immigrants from Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The precious unity of the two sister people of Arakan was ruined due to the fault of Maghs. Rohingyas tried several times for the unity of the people of Arakan, as it is time for the development of Arakan. But the Maghs have not changed their hostile attitude towards, Rohingyas.”

“Some leaders from Arakan have been engaged in malicious propaganda against the Rohingya people. Some after the Second World War, when the British reoccupied Burma, they began to conspire against the Rohingyas with the slogan that the Rohingyas are Pakinstani minded and consented to join Arakan with Pakistan. This slogan is utterly false and is but a device to tarish the image of the Rohingyas with a view to exterminating them. These communal and narrow minded Maghs leaders engineered a communal riot in 1942 resulting in the total destruction of the age old Rohingya settlements from 6 of the 9 townships of Akyab District. The Rohingya population of Myebon in Kyauckpyu District was completely annihilated. Many Rohingyas had taken shelter in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. A number of them had taken refuge in the then East Bengal.”

“These uprooted Rohingyas, execpting those from the townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, have not been repatriated and rehabilitated yet, in their original places. There is no security for their lives. More than half of their landed properties were taken away by the Rakhine Maghs who are not ready to return the prop-erties to the original Rohingya owners. It had become an attraction for the Rakhines of other areas to leave         for those 7 townships to grasp the chance of the seizing Rohingyas’ lands. Accordingly, the Rakhines from Maungdaw and Buthidaung had sold out their lands to the Rohingyas at high prices and scrambled to get possession of the Rohingyas lands.”

“Now let us ask those Rakhine Magh leaders who are shouting that the Pakistanis are infiltrating into the country. Where are those Rohingyas from 7 townships of 244 Villages have gone? Were all these people killed in 1942 riot? The answer is certainly not. How long the Rakhines will illegally hold the lands of the Rohingyas? How long will they show this drama? The alledged illegal immigration of Pakistanis is utter false.

It is nothing but a conspiracy to perpetuate their illegal possession of Rohingyas’ lands and to oppose their repatriation and rehabilitation in their homeland.”

“In 1949-50 more than 30,000 Rohingyas, that included women and children, were inhumanly driven across the border to East Pakistan. Conspiratory plans after plans have been hatched out to finish of the Roningyas with the slogan of illegal immigration. This was carried out with an ulterior motive to disturb Rohingyas and to oppose their rehablitation.”

“The Government is indifferent to the plights of the Rohingvas. They do not get any legal redress. Even the Government officials publicly threaten :

“Why don’t you Kalas (aliens) understand the policy of the Government? Why don’t you leave the country despite continued persecution?”

“What a unfortunate is this! They are not Pakistanis and so they are not accepted by the Pakistan Government. But by all legal standards they are Burmese citizens entitled to all rights and protections guar-anteed by the constitution of Burma. Inspite of this they are unwanted by their own Government. If so, where shall they go arid who will give them asylum? It is very unfortunate that instead of getting any remedies the culprits and the violators of law are encouraged and rewarded.

Through out their Parliamentary tenure Ra-Ta-Nya (Rakhine Maghs’ Party) members acted in an unfriendly manner against the Rohingyas. They branded Rohingyas as “Kalas” or Chittgoniany and did not recognise Rohingyas as their equals.

After winning 1960 General Election Govt. of Prime Mininster U Nu declared to set up a special “Mayu Frontier Admisnistration” (MFA) in the provinces of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and western portion of Rathedaung under direct control of Central Govt. It would be administered by Army officers. However the new arrangement earned the agreement of the Rohingya leaders. The actual implementation of the administration took place with effect from March 31, 1961. The Govt. recognised Rohingya as an indigenous

race of Burma. A special police force known as “Mayu ye” was rised with recruits from local Rohingya Mus-

lims and the law and order situation strated to improve. Since Govt. of Burma resolved and recognized Rohingyas as one of the indiginous races of Burma, 1st batch of 290 Rohingya armed Mujahadeen surrendered on July 4, 1961 at Maungdaw and another 2nd batch of more than 200 armed Mujahadden surrendered on November 15, 1961.

Chapter VIII


Besides Arabs and Pathans there were also Kaman archers, the followers of Moghul Prince Shah Shuja. The descendants of Shah Shuja’s Kaman archers are still survive in Arakan among the Rohingyas with their special name “Ethnic Kamans” in Arakan. Kaman is a Persian word means a bow. They speak Rakhine Magh language but retaing their Mohammedan faith and Afghan features.

The Kamans, units of Muslim Archer servicing the king of Arakan, got the upper hand and continually reinforced by new forces from Upper India. From 1690 to 1710 AD. (for 20-years) the political rule of Arakan was completely in their hands. They were the king makers of Arakan. They used to roam to over the country carrying fire and sword, wherever they went. If a Kaman was angry in a Magh village, out of fear, all Magh villagers used to run away.

So, there is a proverb among the Maghs. That is “In water the shark (is most dangerous) and on land the Kaman is”: In 1710 AD. Maha Danbado defeated the Kaman and ascended the throne with the title of SandaWizaya( 1710-1731). He deported the Kaman archers to Thayagon, Thinganet, Thakeybin, Rambree and Sandaway and the cavalry forces of Muslim Pathans were deported to the Northern border areas of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung and Kyauktaw and Minbya.

The Kaman women are very industrious. They ran business from vegetable to cloth in Akyab, Rambree and Sandaway. But Kaman males are lazy. Their culture, dress, tradition, every thing is like Maghs except their religion, Islam. Inter-marriage between Kaman and Rohingya is common. Their children become Kamans if they are grown among Kamans, and they become Rohingya if they are grown among Rohingyas. Such people are commonly found in Akyab District. If a Kaman is asked why they are called Kaman they would proudly reply that their ancestors were archers of Mughal and Rakhine kings.

Though Kamans are educated Muslims, their spirit of Islam is weak. Moreover, they are influenced by Buddhist culture as they live mixing with the Buddhist people. Therefore, the Kamans of Laydaung, Sanne and Kyauktaw professed Buddhism according to M. K. Rahman’s Tarik-i-Islam Arakan and Burma (Urdu version), which make (the author) very sorry. It was indeed the weakness of Rohingyas and Kamans. To control and hinder from such occurence is the duty of Rohingyas and Kamans. Negligence to it would lead to the. disapperance of their people.

Chapter XI


The Rohingyas are an ethno-racial group developed from different stocks of people. They trace their ancestry to Arabs, Moors, Turks, Moghuls, Bengalees and some Indo-Mongoloid people. The first group to leave its mark upon the culture and civilization of Arakan were the Arabs who carried out trade and propagation of Islam while settling down permanently in the coastal areas. The descendants of the mixed marriges between the local people and Arabs founded the original nucleus of the Rohingyas in Arakan. The Muslim settlements in Arakan dated back to 7th century A.D. The Buddhists of Arakan, the other major ethnic community, known as Maghs or Rakhine are a mix-blooded race descended from Indo-Aryans of Maghada, Mongolians and Tibeto-Burmans.

Until 1942, all those in Arakan – the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims lived in full harmony and amity. But in early 1942, an ultra – conservative section of the Rokhine Buddhist undertook a sort of campaign to keep the Arakanese Rohingya Muslims under subjections, massacred about 1,00,000 Rohingya Muslims and causing as many as 80,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Arakan and to take shelter in the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Since 1948, up to 1992, there have been no less than 19 major “operations” or eviction campaigns against the Rohingyas carried out the Government of Burma. The largest and probably the best documented “operation” was the so-called King Dragon operation of 1978. Between 24 April and 25 July 1978 more than 250.000 Rohingyas fled into Bangladesh as refugees. The 1991-92 campaign known as Pay Saya, which was launched on 18 July 1991,the refugee figure is little over (2,68.887) “that of 1978 and the causes of the influx are not much different.

There was a presence of Rohingyas in practically every place of Arakan. Due to massacre of about 100,000 Rohingya Muslims in 1942 and continued persecution against them some areas in South Arakan have been turned into non-Muslim territory. At present the largest concentration of the Rohingyas is in North Arakan, particularly the territory between the East Bank region of the river Kaladan, the longest river in Arakan, and the river Naf which demarcates the boundary between Bangladesh and Burma, where they still constitute 70 to 80 percent population of the region. There are also Muslim pockets in South Arakan such as Chaduba, Kyauk Pyu, Kyauk-ni-maw and Sandoway.

The Rohingyas are, by all legal standards, nationals as well as an indigenous ethnic group of the Union of Burma. They had been recognized as such by the previous elected governments with members in parliament and cabinet having a programm as an indigenous people in the official Burma Broadcasting Service (BSS) and participation in official “Union Day” celebration of Burma’s racial groups in the Burmese capital every year.

The former Prime Ministers of Burma, U Nu and U Ba Swe stated, “the Rohingyas are people of Arakan. who profess the Islamic faith. The Rohingyas are equal in every way with other minority races like the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon and Rakhine, They have lived in Burma for ages, according to historical facts. There is historical evidence that they have lived faithfully and harmoniously with other races of the Union”.

To reject all previous records and refusal to accept the Rohingyas as Burmese nationals is blatant lies. But, their history, civilization and the elected government’s statements unambiguously and unequivocally make it evident that:

(a) The arrival and settlements of the Rohingyas in Arakan have predated the arrival and settlements of many other people and races inhabiting Arakan and Burma.

(b) The Rohingyas are nationals of Arakan and constitute one of the many indigenous races of Burma like the Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni etc. now inhabiting Arakan and other parts of Burma.

(c) By history, by tradition, by culture and civilization, the Rohingyas are as much citizens of Burma as anyone else in the country.

The conclusion is drawn with prayer to the Almighty Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, to perpetuate Rohingya and Kaman. Ameen!


1)   Mannan Razawin Dawkyi (in Burmese)/ the Glass Place Chronicle.

2)   Burmese History for Schools (in Burmese) by U Ba Thant.

3)   New Burmese History for Schools (in Burmese) by U Ohan Maung.

4)   Rakhine Razawin (in Burmes) bv U Aung Tha Oo.

5)   Dayawadi Razawin-Thit (in Burmesa) by Sayadaw U Yana.

6)   The Essential History of Burma (in Burmese) by U Kyi.

7)   The History of Burmese Muslims (in Burmese) by U Mya-I.

8)   History of Burma by G. E. Harvey.

9)   Burma from the Earliest Times to the Present Day by J. G. Scott.

10) A Short History of Burma by S. W. Cocks.

11) Burma by D. G. E. Hall.

12) Old Burma compiled and edited by U Myo Min.

13) Burma Gazetteer : Akyab District compiled by R. B. Smart.

14) Burmese Outpost by Anthony Irwin.

15) Europe and Burma by D.G.E. Hall.

16) A Short History of South-East Asia by D.G.E.Hall.

17) History of Aurangzeb by Jadunath Sarkar.

18) Tarik-i-Islam Arakan and Burma (in Urdu) by M. K. Rahman.

19) The Cultural Heritage of Pakistan Edited by S. M. Ikram.

20) History of Islam by Mufti Shaukat Alt Fahni.

21) A History of India by Sir Denber.

22) History of Burma by Sir Arthur Phayre.

23) Akbar the Great Moghul by V. A. Smith.

24) Burma Past and Present by Albert Fytch.

25) Union Citiznship Act. 1948.

26) The Guadian Magazine: September 1959, May 1960, October 1960 & February 1961.

27) Gaba-Alin Magazine Vol: 76-80.

28) The Burma Immigration (Emergency Provision) Act. 1947.

29) Bengali Literature in the Court of Arakan.1600-1700 A.D., Calcutta. 1935.

30) A Descptive Catalogue of Bengali Manuscripts, Dacca, 1960.

31) Journal of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Vol. XI, No-2, Dacca.

32) The District Gazetteer of Chittagong by L.S.S.O’Malley, I.C.S. in 1908.1

Arakan rule in Chittagong (1550–1666 A.D)

S.M. Ali

Arakan had firmly established its authority over Chittagong by the middle of the 16th century and retained its control for over a hundred years. The Portuguese actively cooperated with the Arakanese and the union of Portuguese navy and Arakanese army was a formidable combination. In this paper I wish to throw some light on the history of this period.


Arakan is separated from Burma by a long deep range of mountains through which there are only two serviceable passes. The Arakanese of today are basically Burmese with an unmistakable Indian mixture. Although Buddhists they have been influenced by long centuries contact with Muslim Bengal. The Burmese do not seem to have settled in Arakan until the 10th century. The Arakan king, Tsu-La-Taing- Tsandra (951-957 A.D.), invaded Chittagong and defeated the local chieftain (probably a successor of Kanti Deva) in 953 A.D. in memory of this victory,  he erected a monument with the words Tsit-ta-gung (there shall be no war) inscribed on it. It is said that this monument had been erected on the south of Kaunia Charra near Kumira. According some historians the modern name of Chittagong is derived from the inscription on this monument.

Anawrahta (1044-77 A.D), one of the greatest king of Pagan in Burma, visited the Indian land of Bengal in course of his expedition. Harvey1 thinks that he visited Chittagong and planted magical image of men there. According Burmese history, the Burmese king Alaungsitha (1112-62 A.D) who was a very powerful monarch visited “the Indian land of Bengal” — probably Chittagong — where he found the images set up by Anawrahta. 

According to Rajmala the Tipperah king Mukut Manikya sent some presents to the Arakan king Mengdi in 1395. Presumably, Chittagong was at that time under the control of Arakan king. According to Harvey, Sithabin was on the throne of Arakan in 1395 and Myinhsxinggyi in 1397.

In 1406 the Arakan king Meng, Soamwan (Nara Meikhla, 1404-34) was dethrone by the army of Burmese king. He then fled to Gaur and sought the protection of the king there. The Arakan king resided at Gaur for 24 years. When army of Ibrahiim Sharqi, king of Jaunpur, invaded Gaur in 818 A.H., (1416 A.D), the refugee king, at the request of Nur Qutbul ‘Alam, rendered Raja Ganesa assistance. At last in 1430 A.D. Jalaluddin Mohammad dispatched an army to restore the Arakanese king on the throne. Wli Khan the general, who was sent restore the Arakan king, betrayed his trust. He came to terms with usurper (Shua Mangji) and took possession of Chittagong for himself. According to Burma Research Society’s Journal 2 it was Nasiruddin Mahmud who restored the Arakanese. But Nasiruddin Mahmud did not come to the throne till 1442. Apparently the Burma Research Society had, followed Stewart’s History of Bengal had wrongly shown Nasiruddin Mahmud as the king of Bengal in 1430. Nara Meikhla escaped to Gaur. The Sultan sent a second army who restored the king on the throne after killing Wali Khan. Out of gratitude for his restoration the king built Santkai mosque near Myochaung. The Arakan king became a tributary to the Sultan of Bengal and undertook to assume a Muslim name and strike coins with Kalima. An increase Bengali Muslim influence is undoubtedly noticeable in Arakanese life from that period. This custom of assuming Muslim name continued in Arakan for nearly 200 years during which period 8 kings had ascended the throne. Meng Khari (1434-59) called himself Ali Khan, Basoapya (1459-82) Kalima Shah, Gadzabadi or Gajapati (1523-31) Iliyas Shah, Meng Beng (1531-53) Zabauk Shah (apparently a misleading for Mubarak or Barbak), Meng Phaalaung (1571-93) Sikandar Shah, Meng-radzagvai (15593-1612) Salim Shah and Meng Khamaung (1612-22) Hussain Shah. This practice probably was first introduced in fulfilment of the promise made by Meng Soamwan but was continued in later times as a token of sovereignty in Chittagong which was recognised as being geographically beyond the country of the Arakanese race. Though Meng Khari (Ali Khan 1434-59), successor of Nara Meikhla, occupied Ramu and Chittagong and shook off the Muslim authority, the Arakan kings continued to assume Muslim names and strike coins with Kalima inscribed till 1622. These coins were  first struck in Bengal but later the Arakanese king had their own mints. Some of the coins had Chittagong inscribed in them. When Meng Khari occupied Ramu in 1434-35 the Chakmas on the frontier had put up a strong resistance on behalf of Muslims. But as no  re-inforcement arrived from Gaur, (where Shamsuddin Ahmad -(1432-35), the worthless son of Jalaluddin, was the reigning king), the Chakmas were compelled to cede some part of Ramu to the Arakan king. The village of Rajakul and Chakmarkul near Ramu commemorate that invasion.

However, the Muslims were not long in shaking off the authority of the Arakan kings from Chittagong. From the inscription in the mosque at Fatheabad (near Hathazari) it appears that the mosque was built by Majlis-I-Ala Rastikhan in 878 A.H. (1473-74 A.D.) during reign of Barbak Shah.

Bhabanatha (17th century) of Chakrasala wrote “Ramchandrer Abhisek” in which he mentioned king Jaychanda of Chakrasala. Jaychanda was, according to D.C, Bhattacherjee, a Magh  chieftain at Chakrasala under the Arakan king during the period 1482-1531).3 His domain probably consisted of the area between the rivers Karnafuli and Sangu. According to Portuguese accounts of his period, the king of Chittagong was called “lord of Dianga, Saquescala and Ramu”. Saquescala seems to be Portuguese version of Chakrasala. Jaychanda was a Buddhist king. But he had respect for Hindu gods also. Dinesh Chandra Bhattacharjee thinks that Jaychanda’s coronation took place in 1478 A.D. Jaychanda defeated and killed Bharat Rudra, chieftain of Bhatikhain, who had revolted against him.4     

In the beginning 5 of sixteenth century there was a triangular fight between Hussain Shah, Tippera King Dhanya Manikya (1463-1515) and the Arakan king Minyaza (1501-23) for the conquest of Chittagong. The first army sent by Hussain Shah was defeated. Hussain Shah next sent his general Gaur Malik at the head of a huge army.  There was a fight near Comilla between Hussain Shah’s army and the Tippera king’s army under general Chaychag in which Tippera army captured the fort at Meherkul and advanced upto the capital at Rangamati, (Dr. S.K. Chatterjee 6 thinks Chaychag was a tribal chief). Meanwhile the Tippera army constructed a dam across the Gumti river drying up the lower bed of the river. When the Muslim army started crossing the dried bed of the Gumti the Tipperas cut the dam causing the river to overflow its banks. The Muslim army was thrown into confusion when Chaychag attcked them and compelled them to retired. Hussain Shah next sent another army under General Hatian Khan who, however, could not fare better. Acording to Rajmal, Dhanya Manikya captured Chittagong in 1513 and extended his domain upto Ramu and Chatrasik in Arakan in 1515. He struck coins to signify his victory in Chittagong. The Tipperah king’s general in this campaign was named Rasagaamardan (victory of Arakan). At last Hussain Shah himself led an army and after a successful battle at Kasba, conqured a part of Tipperah. This is clear from an inscription dated 919 A.H. (1513 A.D.) in which Khawas Khan is described as the officer-in-charge of Tipperah 7 and Muazzamabad.  The expedition to conquer Chittagong from the Tripura king was led by the crown prince, Nusrat Shah. It continued in possession of Hussain Shah till 1517 in which year the Portuguese traveller,  Jaode Silverio, found him occupation of Chittagong. When Nusrat Shah was pre-occupied with his enemies to the west, Chittagong slipped from his hands in 1517-18.

According to Arakanese history, the Arakan king, Min Yaza in 1517-18 sent an invasion to conquer Chittagong in charge general Sendaija who travelled by land with 4000 soldiers. The Arakan prince, Iremong, commanded the navy. The Mughal governor of Chittagong, (Yasin?) fled to Sonargaon. Prince Iremong occupied Sandwip and Hatiya and established his headquarters at Lakhipur. The Arakan king visited the newly conquered territory of Chittagong and Dacca in 1517. In 1518 the Chakma king Chanui made submission to the Magh king and sent four ministers with two white elephants. Dharangri, the Magh governor of Chittagong, reported this to the Magh king who was at Dacca. Meantime General Sendaija who was on a visit to Chittagong, examine the gift of elephants and found that these were not really white elephants but ordinary elephants rubbed over with lime. He became annoyed and detained the ministers of the Chakma king.  When came to the notice of the Magh king he took his general to task saying that the Chakma king had followed the tradition of making presents of white elephants to the Magh king and should not be punished. The Magh king was pleased to bestow the title, “Kulangphru” to the Chakma king. When the Magh king was returning to Arakan in 1520 he married the daughter of the Chakma king at Chittagong. 

According to Rajmala, the Tipperaa king Debmanikya occupied Chittagong in 1522 after defeating Maghs.  The Arakan king Minbin (153-53), who was a capable ruler, occupied Ramu and Chittagong in 1531 and struck coins in which Chittagong and his Muslim name Zabauk Shah were inscribed. It was during Minbin’s time that the Maghi system of land measurement in drones was introduced in Chittagong district. The Maghi calander is still in vogue in Chittagong and was mentioned in documents till recently. It is 35 years behind the Bengali year. It is said to have been introduced by the Burmese king, Thenga  Raja or Pouk-Pa Sau who had come to throne in 620 A.D. Minbin engaged a forced of Portuguese mercenaries. His sea power based on Chittagong was the terror of the Ganges region, and his country was on the threshold of the greatest period in her history.

Arakan entered the greatest period of her history with the accession of Minbin in 1531. The king of Arakan firmly established their authority in Chittagong during the great part of the sixteenth century. Only for a short period during the reign of Mahmud Shah and Sher Shah in Bengal, Chittagong was in Muslim hands. According to an inscription in a sliver plate found in a Buddhist Kyang in Chittagong, the Kyang was built in 1542 by Chandilah Raja who was probably Arakanese governor for the Chittagong.8

In 1555 Muhammad Khan, the Sur victory of Bengal  who had declared independence under the title Shamsuddin Shah Ghazi raided Arakan and struck coins there. He must have captured Chittagong before raiding Arakan. Dr. Habibullah however thinks that Muhammed Khan did not occupied Arakan. Sir J.N Sarkar and D.C. Sarkar do not agree with him. In 1556 Tippera king Bijoy Manikya invaded Chittagong. Rajmala gives a detailed description of this invasion. Momarak (Mobarak?) Khan, the brother of Bengal Sultan’s wife, was the leader of the Pathan force defeating Chittagong. He came at the head of 3000 cavalry and 10000 foot soldiers and held Chittagong. The Tipperah king laid a seige for 8 moths but failed to occupy Chittagong. Bijoy Manikya became annoyed and deputed Kalanazir, the conqueror of Sylhet, to lead the invasion. In the ensuing fight the Tipperah army was defeated and Kalanazir himself was killed. After the engagement the Pathans retired to the camps and stared preparing their meals. The Tipperah army renewed their attack at night and occupied upto Ramu. Monarak Khan was taken prisoner and scarified before the goddess at the instigation of the royal priest, Chantai, Momarak Kahn was probably brother-in-law of Bahadur Shah (Ghyasuddin I) who was a weak ruler and was pre-occupied with internecine quarrel. Kailash Sinaba wrongly thinks Sulaiman Karrani was the king whose brother-in-law was killed. But Sulaiman had come to the throne much later.   

According to Arakanese history, Nusrat Khan son of Hamza Khan, the Pathan governor of Chittagong made submission to the Arakanese king Sawlha (1553-64) and sent him presents, Nusrat Khan had clashes with the Minseyta (1554-71), successor of Sawlha, and was killed by the Portuguese, who were supporting the Arakanese, in 1569-70. Caeser Frederico has also referred to this incident. Ralph Fitch who was in Chittagong in 1585 expressly stated that it was often under the Arakan king. He wrote “From Satgaon I travelled by the country of the king of Tipperah or Porte Grande with whom the Mogones or Mogon ( Maghs ) have almost continual wars.The Mogon which be of the kingdom of Rocon ( Arakan ) and Ramu, be stronger than the king of Tipperah, so that Chittagong is often times under the Kingdom of Recon.” Amar Maaikya (1577-86) sent a large army to invade Chittagong and Arakan in 1585 under his son Rsjdharnarayan. Some Pathans and Portuguese soldiers also formed part of this invading force. After reaching Chittagong they put a dam across Karnafuly and crossed it. Rajdhar occupied six camps of Arakanese forces and halted at Ramu. They were preparing to attack the domain of Uria Raja (Ukhia ) when Maghs attacked them. The Portuguese treacherously went over to the Maghs and made over the camps to them. The Maghs also blockaded the Tipperah army and prevented the supply of rations. The Tipperah army then turned back and proceeded towards Chittagong. They were pursued by the Maghs who decimated them mercilessly. Rajdhar then encamped at Chittagong. At this time the Arakan king sent his subordinate chief, Uria Raja, with proposals for a truce which was readily accepted by Amar Manikya. But as soon as Rajdhar had returned to the capital, the Maghs went back on their word and captured Chittagong with the help of the Portuguese. When this was reported to Amar Manikya, he at once deputed another army under the command of Prince Rajdhar. They soon reached near Chittagong and encamped. The Magh king sent an envoy with a gold-plated crown of ivory for the Tipperah prince with the intention of getting information about the strength and disposition of the invading army. The three

royal princes quarelled about the possession of the ivory crown.The Magh army then marched towards Tipperah through the jungles, as they wanted to avoid clash with Tipperah cavalry which was noted for its prowess. There was an engagement in which the impetuous prince, Jujha Manikya, was accidentally killed by his own elephant. Prince Rajdhar was also wounded by a shell. The Tipperah army took to their heels and returned to the capital. At this time Adam Shah, the chieftain of Ramu and Chakaria, who was subordinate to the Arakan king had taken shelter with the Tipperah king after a quarrel with his overlord. The Arakan king demanded surrender of Adam as a condition for peace. Amar Manikya refused to betray a chieftain to whom he had given shelter and himself took the field at the head of the army. The two armies confronted each other near Isapur (south of Chittagong). There were two thousand Pathan cavalry in the Tipperah army. When the Magh army, which according to Rajmala consisted of 200000 men, came forward, the Pathans took to flight assaulting and robbing the Tipperah soldiers. Amar Manikya withdrew through Dhoomghat and deserted his capital Udaypur. He then committed suicide. The Maghs entered Udaypur, looted it and camped there for 15 days. This happened in 1586 when Meng-Phalaung alias Sikandar Shah (1571-93) was the king of Arakan. Meng-Phalaung went up to Dacca and stationed two battalions at Jugdia and Alamdian. He held all Chiltagong, and parts of Noakhali and Tippera. His son, Minnala, was the governor of Cbittagong. Jalal Khan (son of Nusrat Khan, grand son of Hamza Khan) had supported the cause of Amar Manikya during this war. When the Tipperah king, Amar Manikya, was defeated in 1586, Jalal Khan is said to have died out of fear. Jalal’s son, Ibrahim Khan, was the Uzir of Chittagong only in name. The real power was exercised by the Magh governor who was usually the second son of the Magh king.

In 1599 the Arakan king, Meng Razagvi (1593-1612) attacked Pegu. In this expedition he employed a flotilla from Chittagong and the Ganges delta. On the return journey the wise minister Mahapinnyakyaw, lord of Chittagong, died. His compilation on legal precedents was well-known in Burma. During the Arakanese occupation of Chittagong there were forts at Hinguli, Kumira, Garjis and Koterpara (near Hathazari). The Arakan king, Meng Radzagyi, who called himself king of Bengala and Tippera, issued from Chittagong trilingual coins in 1601 in Arabic, Burmese and Devanagri characters with his Burmese and Muslim titles. For a short time during his reign the Arakan dominion extended from Dacca and the Sunderbans upto Moulmein. Under the Mugh kings Chittagong was divided into three principalities e. g. Dianga, Chakrasals and Ramu. Under Arakanese occupation the governor of Chittagong was either a son, brother or faithful kinsman of the Arakan king who was supported by an Arakanese garrison. Every year the king sent a hundred boats full of troops, powder and ball and then the garrison, and boats sent in the previous year returned home to Arakan. Imports, and exports were subject to taxation during, the Arakanese rule in Chittagong. Taxes were also levied on fisheries, salt, dry fish and fruitful trees. The king had a monopoly in minerals, teak wood etc- Fees were realised for granting permission to dig tanks and canals, erect bridges and temples, and make roads. The union of the Portuguese freebooters with the Arakanese ushered the greatest period in Arakanese history ( 1550-1666) during which Chittagong was mostly in Arakanese hands.

Towards the latter part the of sixteenth century, the Portuguese settlement at Chittagong was in a flourishing state.The king of Arakan who held it,was favourably disposed towards the Portuguese. According  to Ain-i- Akbari (1590) “To the east and south of Bengal is an extensive kingdom called Arakhang. The port of Chittagong belongs to it.” The Portuguese had a skirmish with the Arakan king and one Antonio Godinno had about the year 1590 captured by force of arms the fort of Chittagong and made the island of Sandwip tributary to it.Chittagong itself seems to have been recovered by the Arakanese king shortly afterwards. The Portuguese, however, did not get full possession of Sandwip until 1602, when Carvalho captured it from the Mughals who had deprived Kedsr Rey of Sripur of it.  But the inhabitants of Sandwip having risen against the Portuguese, Carvalho appealed to the Portuguese of Chittagong for help. Manoel De Mattos who was captain of the Portugese at Dianga came to the succour of Carvalho with 400 men and put the enemy to flight. This victory placed Sandwip completely in the hands of Carvalho and Mattos who divided it between them.

In recognition of their brilhant services, the king of Portugal created Carvalho and Mattos nobles and bestowed on them the Order of the Christ. The king of Arakan who had many Portuguese in his kingdom was highly enraged at their conquest of Sandwip and apprehended that they might prove a source of danger to his kingdom. He therefore prepared a fleet consisting of 150 jaleas, caturs and other larger vessels well equipped and armed with guns and cannons. Kedar Ray also joined the king of Arakan and sent 100 cosses from Sripur to help him. The Portuguese of Dianga and Caranja having got scent of the impending attack took to their ships and sailed off with all their goods since they could not face the enemy’s enormous forces. The Portuguese at Chittagong also began to escape with their most precious things doubting the intentions of the governor of Chittagong who was uncle of the king of Arakan and who outwardly pretended to be a great friend of the Portuguese. On 8-11-1602 the Arakan fleet appeared in the port of Dianga where Mattos was in a foist with many other Portuguese in their Jaleas, which being badly equipped drew in the real. The foist of Mattos bore the brunt of the attack in which many Arakanese were killed. Only one Portuguese was killed and 7 were wounded of whom Mattos himself was one. The Arakanese captured four Portuguese vessels and in honour of their victory they drank and feasted in wild joy.

Two days after the tide turned, as Carvalho came with relief from Sandwip. He and Mattos got up 50 vessels among which were 2 foists, 4 catures, 3 barques, the rest being jaleas. With this fleet they set out early in the morning and made surprise attack on enemy’s ships with such fury and violence that they were completely routed. They became masters of all the Arakanese ships numbering 149 with all ammunition muskets and other implements of war. Many Arakanese lost their lives in this engagement, notably Sinabadi, the uncle of the king of Arakan who was governor of Chittagong. Some escaped by jumping into the sea and swimming across to land.

When the news of Portuguese victory reached Chittagong, all were panic-stricken. The people thinking that the Portuguese would march on the city began to run away carrying their valuables and the Governor’s wife herself mounted on an elephant and took to flight. The Portuguese, however, did not follow up their victory though they could easily have taken possession of the fort of Chittagong as there was nobody to defend it.

The king of Arakan revenged himself on the Portuguese who were in his kingdom. He sacked their homes .and imprisoned men, women and children in his fortress and subjected them to many cruelties. A treaty was, however patched up between the Portuguese and the king of Arakan and peace was restored for a time.

The Portuguese were now becoming very powerful in East Bengal and Burma.The king of Arakan dreading that the Portuguese might oust him from his kingdom decided to attack Sandwip a second tinte and sent an enormous -fleet of a thousand sails consisting mostly of frigates, catures ( a light rowing vessel form Arabic Kativeh a small craft ) and Cosses against Carvalho. Carvalho with 16 vessels destroyed the fleet of the Arakan king. Nearly 2030 Arakanese were killed and 130 of their ships destroyed while the Portuguese are said to have lost only 6 men. The Arakan king was very annoyed at this defeat and punished his captains by forcing them to put on women’s clothes. Though the Portuguese bad won a brilliant victory their ships were badly damaged. Carvalho soon found out that he could not withstand another attack from the king of Arakan whose resources were unlimited. The Portuguese with their native converts, therefore, evacuated Sandwip and transported all their possession to Sripur, Bakia, Chandecan ( Jessore ) whereupon the king of Arakan became master of it. Carvalho stayed with 30 frigates at Sripur, the seat of Kedar Ray. His career was brought to a tragic end by the treachery of Pratapaditya, king of Chandecan. This unscrupulous chieftain desired to make friends with the king of Arakan, who after taking possession of Sandwip and conquering the principality of Bakia, had become very powerful and menaced Chaodecan. As he knew that nothing would please the king of Arakan more than the death of Carvalho he invited the latter to his court at Chandecan and had him treacherously murdered. Thus ended the career of Carvalho who had won a legendary reputation for being a very brave and intrepid sea captain.

Brito-Nicote, a Portuguese commander, who had occupied some parts of Burma formed the plan of taking possession of Dianga in 1607. As he exercised great influence over the Arakan king he sent his son with a fleet asking the king to grant him that port. The king suspecting that Nicote wished to deprive him of the whole of his kingdom invited Nicote’s son and his men to his court and put them all to the sword.A general massacre of the Portuguese in that kingdom was ordered and about 600 Portuguese who were peacefully residing in Dianga were murdered in cold blood. The king of Arakan at this time owned both Chittagong and Dianga and in letters patent granted to the Portuguese fathers styled himself “the highest and the most powerful king of Arakan, of Chacomas and of Bengala”.

From the massacre by the Arakan king in 1607 about 10 Portuguese escaped with their ships and one of them was Sebastian Gonsalves. Tibau who was destined not only to revenge this grim massacre but also to play an important part in the history of East Bengal. In 1609 dispute arose between the heir apparent of Arakan and his brother Anaporan. The prince actually fought a battle against his brother, who, being defeated, fled to Gonsalves, ruler of Sandwip. Gonsalves promised to succour him and kept his daughter as a hostage. He and Anaporan combining their armies marched against the king of Arakan but as the latter came with an army of 80000 men and 700 fighting elephants, they returned to Sandwip. In the sea fight, however, Gonsalves’s brother Antonio captured 100 sails of the enemy with only 5 vessels on his side. Anaporan brought over to Sandwip his wife, children and all his treasure. Gonsalves married Anaporan’s daughter. Shortly after Anaporan died and as Gonsalves seized his treasure it was suspected he caused his death. The Portuguese took the son of Anaporan who was 8 years old and a minor daughter to Hughli. In 1614 Meng Soa Pya, son of Nandabayon, king- of Pegu, succeeded Anaporan as governor of Chittagong. In, 1630 for war service against the Mughal he was given the tittle of Bohmong, This service was rendered during the Arakanes raid up the Meghna which just failed to reach Dacca.9

The Mughals since the death, of Daud Khan in 1575 were in possession of Bengal and had over thrown the Bhuiyans by 1612. They were now planning the conquest of Bhulua. As this place was close to Sandwip, Gonsalves and the king of Arakan, thinking that the Mughals would be a danger to their kingdoms, forgot their enmity and entered, into a mutual agreement to combat them. They planned in 1614 to invade. Bengal the Portuguese in a fleet by sea, and the king of Arakan, Meng Khamaung, with an army by land. The king of Arakan entrusted the whole of his fleet to Gonsalves keeping his nephew as hostage. During these negotiations Gonsalves gave back the widow of Anaporan who afterwards married the governor of Chittagong. The king of Arakan and the Portuguese attacked in. 1614-15 the Mughals and drove them out of the principality of Bhulua and took Lakhipur, while Gonsalves barred their advance from the sea.

In 1616 Quasim Khan, Subhadar of Bengal, launched an offensive against the Raja of Arakan with Chittagong as first objective. He himself advanced to Bhulua (February, 1616), whence he despatched Abdun Nabi with a force of 5000 cavalry, 5000 musketeers, 200 war elephants and a fleet of 1000 war boats towards Chittagong. The Arakan king, Meng Khamaung (Hussein Shah ) decided to check their advance by making a fort at Katghar, a strategic point about 20 miles north west of Chittagong( a village 2 miles south of Barabakunda ). He sent his chief officer Karamgiri with a force of 100,000 infantry besides 400 elephants and 1000 war boats to complete the fort and bold it. He personally started from his capital for the defence of his stronghold of Chittagong with an army of 300,000 infantry and 10,000 calalry, besides a large number of elephants and war boats. Informed by spies that the new fort was not yet complete and that the garrison in the fort of Chittagong was also very small as the Arakan king had not yet reached with his force, Abd-un-Nabi hastened to Katghar leaving behind Sarbad Khan and Shaik Kamal to make a fort and hold it for the purpose of keeping up communication and food supply to the invading army, and delivered a vigorous assault on the unfinished fort in the early hours of the morning. The Arakanese were taken by surprise and though they greeted the Mughals with a .heavy shower of shells, bullets, arrows, bombs and stones the latter quickly overcame the resistance and pressed the garrison,so hard that the fall of the fort seemed imminent. At this stage, the Mughal commander, owing to his want of experience and judgment, was easily induced by some of his officers to suspend hostilities for the day, and this single mistake turned the tide of the whole campaign.

When the attack was resumed next morning, the situation had entirely changed. The garrison bad recovered from the shock of the sudden assault and offered such a determined resistance that the idea of storming the fort bad to be abandoned, and a siege decided on. But the siege operations dragged on and the besiegers themselves were soon reduced to the position of the besieged as a result of the activity of the commandant of the enemy fort. At the threat to the food supply of the main army, the Mughal commander raised the siege and retreated towards Dacca, leaving behind his heavy artillery and destroying about 500 mds. of gun powder (May, 1616). The Imperial army had halted at Nizampur which had been in possession of the Arakanese. The local zaminder surrendered to the Mughal commander. But after the departure of the Mughal army, the pargana with a revenue of Rs. 600/- was re-occupied by the Mughs.

In March, 1621 Ibrstnm Khan launched his long deferred Arakan campaign with Cbittagong as his objective from his new base at Tipperah. The route was more direct no doubt but it lay through a hilly region clad with dense forests, with a bad climate, and involving considerable difficulties in regard to transport and food supply,   Ibrahim Khan was ill-advised to adopt this new route and the expedition failed, primarily because of his initial mistake in regard to the choice of the route. Leaving the fleet in the big Feni river, the viceroy proceeded with the land army slowly along the new route to Chittagong, clearing the forest as be passed by. In some places the forest was so thick that even the horses and the elephants could not move without great difficulty. The scarcity of food and pestilence in his camp forced Ibrahim Khan to withdraw with the ranks much depleted and the morale of the army much shaken. In 1625 the twelve chiefs who ruled Chittagong on behalf of the Magh governor rebelled at the instigation of the Mugbal viceroy. Thiri Thudamma marched with his army, the navy following him, and crushed the rebellion. He raided Bhulua during this campaign.10 He then proceeded unopposed to Khizirpur along the Dulai to the out-skirts of Dacca, defeated the Mughal officers who had at last come out to face them, entered the city and sacked it and retired with a large booty and a number of captives. At this time Mahabat Khan was the governor of Bengal but the administration of Bengal was in charge of Khanzad Khan, son of Mahabat Khan, a lazy, pleasure-see king youth. This was the last raid by Mughs during the reign of Jahangir. Though Mirza Bagis, the Bhulna tbanadar had been11 supplied with 700 cavalry and 300 war boats he could not check the Arakan force. During the Arakan occupation Chittagong there was close contact between the peoples of Chittagong and Arakan. A large number of Muslim noblemen who had left Gaur after its fall had gone to Arakan and settled in the capital. They were the chief courtiers of the Arakan king whose court followed Muslim manners and customs. The Muslim courtiers of the Arakan king were great patrons of Bengali literature. Poets like Daulat Qadi and Alawal flourished at Arakan during this period and received patronage from Syed Musa, Magan Thakur and others. Magan Thakur, who practically exercised the powers of a chief minister, was himself a poet.

Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan ) had rebelled against his father and occupied Dacca after killing Ibrahim Khan, the subahdar in 1624. At this time Thiri Thudamma (1622-38) sent his envoy to Dacca with rare gifts worth rupees one lac as peshkash. The Arakan raja through his envoy swore loyalty to the prince. The prince sent a valuable dress of honour with many precious gifts to the Arakan king and issued a farman confirming the sovereignty of his territory which then included Chittagong.

An event occurred in 1638 which gave an additional impetus to the game of piracy in its most frightful form. Mangat Ray or Mukut Ray, governor of Chittagong, rebelled against the king of Arakan. After an unsuccessful attempt to raid Arakan he fled to Bengal for safety along with his leading partisans. He marched towards Bhulua and wrote to the Imperial thanadar of the frontier post of Jugdia for protection from the pursuing Magh fleet. By Islam Khan’s command the thanadar of Jugdia drove away by gun fire 200 Magh jalias which were obstructing Mangat Rai and ferried him over the Feni river into Mughal territory. Taking advantage of the confusion of civil war in Chittagong over 10,000 people of Bengal who were held in slavery there by the Feringhis escaped to their home land. The Feringhi settlers and pirates of Chittagong who had backed Mangat Rai in his abortive rising, now abandoned that city in fear of the Magh king’s vengeance. Most of them migrated to the Portuguese possessions and a few came over to the Mughals with their families and boats. In course of time most of the latter embraced Islam and became merged in the local population.

Mangat Rgi’s family and supporters with 14 elephants and nearly 9000 men (both Arakanese and Tailang) reached Dacca and were welcomed and provided for by the Subahdar. To revenge on the Bengal kingdom, the king of Arakan made friends with the Portuguese adventurers, took them into his service, paid them high salaries and settled them in Dianga. With their help he built vessels large enough, to carry cannons. Thus equipped he began ravaging and laying waste the Mughal territory and launched a naval attack which was repulsed by Islam Khan.12 These cruel practices of the Arakanese and the Portuguese to which the people of Bengal were subjected continued till 1666 when Shaista Khan conquered Chittagong and broke their power for ever.

When the luckless prince Shah Shuja was defeated by Mir Jumla, he proceeded from Chittagong by road to Arakan for shelter. On his way to Arakan he is said to have visited Govinda Manikya, the exiled king of Tripura in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Govinda Manikya gave him a warm reception and helped him as far as he could in the circumstances, Shnja  was so pleased with the reception that he presented Govinda Msnikya with a diamond ring and a Neemcha sword as token of gratitude. There is a mosque called after Shaja in Comilla. According to tradition Shuja conquered Coniilla and built this mosque as memento of his conquest. It is said that the village Shuja-nagar in Tipperah contained the property given in waqf for the maintenance of this mosque. The place in Cox’s Bazar subdivision where Shuja had said his Eidul Fitr prayers in 1660 during his ill-fated journey is known as Idgaown. The high road from Daudkandi in Tipperah district to Arakan through Chittagong is still known as Shah Shuja’s Road. Presumably, it was built during Shah Shuja’s viceroyalty in Bengal. There are a number of mosques on the side of the road from Daudkandi to Comilla which are said to have been built by the camp followers of Shah Shuja. Shah Shuja requested the king of Arakan to give him shelter and provide ships so that he could go to Mecca.

The king Sandathudamma ( 1652-84 ) consented and Shuja with his family and followers were brought to Mrouhaung, the capital city of Arakan, in Portuguese gelasses from Teknaf. He arrived

at Mrohaung on 26th August, 1660 and was favourably received by the king who assigned him a residence near the city. Shuja kept aloof from the king repelled by his table manners. The Arakanese had never seen the like of his treasure, six or eight camel loads of gold and jewels ; moreover the Mughals offered large sums for his extradition. Eight months went by, yet the king never provided the ships he had promised. Finally he asked for Shuja’s eldest daughter, and .Shuja, a blue-blooded Mughal of the Imperial house, felt that his cup of bitterness was full. He was helpless and could not get away. Shah Shuja, realising his peril, made a desperate attempt to escape from the country. But his plans miscarried, and when the populace got upon his followers the latter ran amok and set fire to a large part of the city before they were rounded up and massacred. It was given out that Shah .Shuja had attempted to seize the place. The king, it was said, had been dissuaded by his mother from having him killed. She argued that killing princes was a dangerous sport for which his own subjects might acquire a taste. But on 7-2-1661 Shah Shuja’s residence was attacked and there was another massacre. Shah Shuja was never seen again. It was rumoured that he had fled to the .hills with his sons but had been caught and put to death. The chief of the Dutch factory at Mrohang reported (the prince Shah Shuja is believed, though with no certainty, to .have perished in the first fury, but his body was made unrecognisable by the grandees in order the better to be able to deck their persons with the costly jewels he wore. His three sons, together with his wives and daughters, have been taken ; the wives and daughters have been brought to the King’s palace and the sons after being imprisoned for some time, have been released and permitted to live in a little house. Every day the .gold and silver which the Arakanese have taken, are brought into the King’s treasury to be melted down.’)

As soon as Mir Jumla heard through the Dutch factory at Dacca of Shah Shuja’s murder he commanded a Dutch ship to carry an envoy to Mrohaung with a peremptory demand for the surrender of Shah Shuja’s children. It was refused and the king protested to Batavia against the use of Dutch ship by a Mughal envoy. In July 1663 a desperate attempt to rescue the three captive princes failed. Thereupon the king burnt his boats ‘by having them beheaded and slaughtering a large number of Bengalees and Moslems at the capital. A mournful ballad about the tragic life of the daughter of Shuja is current in Chitta-gong and Arakan and has been collected in East Bengal Ballads published by the Calcutta University.


  1. History of Burma—Harvey, 1925.
  2. Burma Research Society’s Anuniversary Vol. 1960.
  3. History of. Portuguese in Bengal—Campos, 1918.
  4. History of Burma—Phayre, 1925.
  5. History of Burma—A. E. -Hall.
  6. Bangiya Sshitya Parisat Patrika, 3354, B.S. 1356, B.S.
  7. Purba Pakistane Islam—Dr. Enamul Haque, 1948.
  8. Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1950, 1872.
  9. Rajmala—Kali Prasanna Sen.
  10. Rajmala—Kailash Chandra Sinha, 1895.
  11. Travels—Fr. Manrique.
  12. Travels—Ralph Fitch.
  13. History of Bengal by Dacca University, Vol. II, 1948.


  1. History of Burma by Harvey. 1925, p.30
  2. Anniversary Volume of Burma Research Society, 1960.
  3. Sahitaya Parisal Parrika  P-31
  4. Ibid, 1354, P-23
  5. History of Bengal. Vol. II P-149
  6. J.A.S.B  1950
  7. J.A.S.B. 1872. P-333-334
  8. J.A.S.B. II P-383
  9. Journal of Barma. Reserch Society, 1961. p. 38
  10. Journal of Burma Research Society, 1923.
  11. History of Portuguese in Bengal, by Compos ( 1918 ), p. 158.
  12. History of Bengal, D. U., Vol. n, p. 332

This paper was published at Journal of Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Vol. XII, No. III, December 1967.

Burma’s Persecuted Rohingya

Burma’s Persecuted Rohingya
20 February 2009  
A local Acehnese woman helps a Rohingya refugee in a small hospital after being rescued by Acehnese fishermen in Idie Rayeuk, Aceh province, Indonesia, 03 Feb 2009
A woman helps a Rohingya refugee in Aceh province, Indonesia.

Hundreds of members of the Muslim Rohingya minority of Burma have been rescued in waters off the coasts of Indonesia and India in recent months. Dehydrated and in need of medical attention, some of the men bore scars on their backs from beatings reportedly received by Burmese soldiers.

A group of nearly 200 men were found by fishermen near the northern tip of Sumatra. Some told reporters they had originally fled to Thailand, but were detained, beaten, and sent back out to sea without adequate food or water. The men reported that some had died in the difficult journey.

The Indonesian government has provided assistance to the Rohingya who landed on their shores. And the Thai government, responding to international criticism, has stopped sending Rohingyas back out to sea, and is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help the Rohingya who have landed in Thailand recently.

Rohingya refugees rest after being rescued by Acehnese fishermen in Idie Rayeuk, Aceh province, Indonesia, 03 Feb 2009
Rohingya refugees rest after being rescued.

The Burmese military junta’s persecution of the Rohingyan people, however, is nothing new. It is so severe that nearly 1,000 risked their lives to flee by sea in 2008.

Todd Pierce of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration says the Rohingya are what are referred to as “stateless people” because the Burmese government does not recognize their citizenship:  

“They can’t marry without permission, own property, travel, it’s a very tough situation. They’re basically in prison where they live. … They have a well-founded fear of persecution.”

The U.S. provides assistance to the Rohingya where possible, through the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which has clinics and basic schools in Burma. But Mr. Pierce says the military regime blocks some efforts:

“It’s often very difficult to work in Burma … the government of the country where they are is often a little bit wary about letting international organizations work with those people, because again, they don’t want to acknowledge that those people exist.”

The U.S. has also resettled some Rohingya referred by the United Nations in the United States and asks countries the Rohingya flee to, such as Thailand, to carefully screen the migrants to determine whether they need protection.

“Our view is that persecution should stop,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said during a recent trip to Bangladesh. “We all need to see what we can do to take care of these folks.”

Burma offers Rohingya return deal

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Rescued Rohingya boat people at a camp in Aceh, Indonesia (12/02/2009)

Burma refuses to grant official status to the Rohingya minority

The Burmese government has said it will take back ethnic Rohingyas who have fled to neighbouring countries.

But it will only do so if they identify themselves as Bengalis, as it refuses to recognise the Rohingyas as one of its official minorities.

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have left Burma in recent years and washed up in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In December, the Thai military began dragging boats of Rohingya asylum seekers to sea and setting them adrift.

The policy has provoked widespread condemnation.

However, leaders from the affected countries attending the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand have been unable to agree on a solution to the displaced Rohingyas.

Confronted by evidence that his military had been casting hundreds of Rohingya boat people adrift at sea, the Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has responded that this is a regional problem which can only be solved in consultation with the various affected countries.

Bizarre policies

This week’s Asean summit would seem to be the ideal opportunity – it is one of the few international venues attended by senior Burmese leaders.


But the other Asean states are getting little co-operation from their Burmese colleagues.

The Burmese foreign minister told his Thai counterpart that his country might be willing to take back Rohingyas – but only if they were categorised as Bengalis who reside in Burma, not Burmese citizens.

This is in keeping with a bizarre official policy which denies Rohingyas official status, the right to move around, even to marry without permission, despite the fact that they have lived in western Burma for more than a thousand years.

A memo faxed to journalists by the Burmese consul in Hong Kong last week insisted Rohingyas could not be real Burmese, as they were dark-skinned and “as ugly as ogres”.

In any case, sending them back to a country where they face even worse treatment than the average Burmese citizen does not appear to be a practical solution.

That has left the Asean leaders bereft of ideas.

None wants to open the door to more Rohingyas.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the only option his country had was to turn them back – but that just raises the prospect of hundreds more being left to drift and die on the high seas.

Burma offers Rohingya return deal

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Rescued Rohingya boat people at a camp in Aceh, Indonesia (12/02/2009)

Burma refuses to grant official status to the Rohingya minority

The Burmese government has said it will take back ethnic Rohingyas who have fled to neighbouring countries.

But it will only do so if they identify themselves as Bengalis, as it refuses to recognise the Rohingyas as one of its official minorities.

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have left Burma in recent years and washed up in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In December, the Thai military began dragging boats of Rohingya asylum seekers to sea and setting them adrift.

The policy has provoked widespread condemnation.

However, leaders from the affected countries attending the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand have been unable to agree on a solution to the displaced Rohingyas.

Confronted by evidence that his military had been casting hundreds of Rohingya boat people adrift at sea, the Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has responded that this is a regional problem which can only be solved in consultation with the various affected countries.

Bizarre policies

This week’s Asean summit would seem to be the ideal opportunity – it is one of the few international venues attended by senior Burmese leaders.


But the other Asean states are getting little co-operation from their Burmese colleagues.

The Burmese foreign minister told his Thai counterpart that his country might be willing to take back Rohingyas – but only if they were categorised as Bengalis who reside in Burma, not Burmese citizens.

This is in keeping with a bizarre official policy which denies Rohingyas official status, the right to move around, even to marry without permission, despite the fact that they have lived in western Burma for more than a thousand years.

A memo faxed to journalists by the Burmese consul in Hong Kong last week insisted Rohingyas could not be real Burmese, as they were dark-skinned and “as ugly as ogres”.

In any case, sending them back to a country where they face even worse treatment than the average Burmese citizen does not appear to be a practical solution.

That has left the Asean leaders bereft of ideas.

None wants to open the door to more Rohingyas.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the only option his country had was to turn them back – but that just raises the prospect of hundreds more being left to drift and die on the high seas.