Before examining the world-view of the Arakanese kings and their means
of legitimation of kings hip, it would be useful to look at what Arakan
society was like at the beginning of the sixteenth century The Arakanese
were similar to many peoples found throughout the world, who, finding
themselves stuck between large and powerful empires, choose either to
isolate themselves from the outside world or to purposefully look at other
cultures for religions or tools of state-craft through which they could
express their own views in a way easily recognisable to the outside world.
This choice between isolation and adaptation was faced not just by
Arakan, but by many other societies throughout Southeast Asia Some
Southeast Asian societies chose to adapt and opened themselves up to
the outside world, as in the case of modern Thailand. Other societies in
Southeast Asia chose both adaptation and isolation, in which outside
models were utilized but the "doors" to their societies remained closed to
the outside world, as shown by examples as varied as modern Burma
and premodern Vietnam.
The Arakanese chose the second path, and their culture at the
beginning of the sixteenth century reflected both their isolation and their
adaptation One way that we can s ee both isolation and adaptation is by
looking at the temple iconography of Mrauk-U, the Arakanese capital In
the Shithaungpara (Shithaung pagoda), built in C E. 1535 on Pakaung-
daung hill, eighty-four thousand images of the Buddha were enshrined
"after the fashion of the great Asoka " 40 While King Min Bin planned on
housing these Buddhist images in the Shithaungpara from the
beginning, the pagoda was stylistically Hindu, so much so that "the
entire structure is alien in its main features to native architectural
style"^* In addition to the Buddhist images, the pagoda includes
garudas, statues which are probably of Vishnu, and other iconography
indicating the old Brahmanic social order, with the Brahmans on top,
then kings, below them warriors, and, at the bottom, commoners.
Further, the gateway is protected by "a six-armed figure and richly
dressed Brahinans at one side of it.
Note: This post is the summary from the book of the name of "ARAKAN, MIN YAZAGYI, AND THE PORTUGUESE (1993)
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