There is no doubt that the language in ancient Arakan was Magadha or Pali, however, the
modern Arakanese language is a dialect of "Myanmar" language (Mramar in Arakanese
pronunciation, and from here all Arakanese pronunciations will be put in parenthesis later).
Some scholars regard Arakanese as Archaic Burmese. It is found out through stone scripts
that "The Old Burmese" used during the Pagan Dynasty, from 8th to 14th century A.D, is very
similar to the Arakanese-today. In fact, the language which is known today as "the spoken
Burmese" is only the "Irrawaddy Valley Dialect" of the Myanmar (Mramar) language based on
the language used by the people of the Kingdom of Ava (14 to 18 century). However, since
it is spoken by the majority it can be called "the main dialect of the Myanmar (Mramar)
language". Therefore, it is easy to say that both dialects belongs to the same language ie.
"Myanmar" (Mramar), however, it is very difficult to define whether Arakanese is a dialect of
the Burmese language or the Modern-Burmese is a dialect of Arakanese Language or Archaic
It is also very difficult to say when the people in the place which is now Arakan started using
"Arakanese", a dialect of Mramar language however, it is definitely sure that they were using
12. U Aung Tha Oo, A Short History of Arakan (in Burmese), Mya Yadana Press, Rangoon, ca. 1954, p. 8.
the very similar language with the people of Pagan Empire even before the time of King
Anawratha or Aniruda (1044 -77 A.D.), if not earlier. As mentioned before, even if we have to
consider the stated date of Mongoloid stocks immigration as A.D 957 by Maurice Collis and U
San Shwe Bu were correct, it is to be assumed that the "Myanmar (Mramar)" language was
used in Arakan at least from the 10th century A.D, if not earlier.
Both Arakanese and Burmese chronicles recorded that the Arakanese king mc\:B^l¨¨: Min Bilu
((Man13 Bilu) was murdered by his minister AqKçya Athinkhaya (Athankhaya) at A.D. 1068.
Min (Man) Bilu's son mc\;r´By Min-Ye-Baya (Man Ree-Baya) took refuge by k¥n\ss\qa: King
Kyansittha of Pagan and requested the Burmese king to help him to regain the Arakanese
throne, however, his request was not granted by the Burmese King. Only Kyansittha's
successor and grandson Aelac\:sv\ q¨¨ King Alaung Sithu helped Min-Ye-Baya's (Man Ree-
Baya) son lk¥\amc\:n n\ Letya Minnan (Latya Manan) to become the ruler of Arakan. Even at
that time, names, words, meanings and usages -except for some pronunciations- were the
same. Hence, it is safe to say that the people of Pagan Empire and the people of Arakan were
using the same language.
During the Mrauk U Dynasty (A.D. 1430-1784), the last dynasty of the Arakanese kings, the
Arakanese used to call themselves mrma "Mramar" and their country rKuic\"pv\ Rakhaing-pre.
Their term for the Burmese was either "poo "Pyu" (Pru) or AeR˙>qa: "Ashay-tha" meaning "our
compatriots from the East", and they named the Burmese kingdom as AeR˙>"pv "Ashay-pre"\
meaning "the Kingdom of the East".
The "Mramars" were subdivided into: (a) rKuic\qa: "Rakhaing-tha" meaning people of
Rakhaing, who were the people of the capital city rKuic\"mio> "Rakhaing-mro" (Mrauk U), (b)
rm\:"b´qa: "Rambree-tha meaning people of rm\:"b´kÁn\: Rambree Island, (c) qMt´qa: "Thandwe-
tha" meaning people of qMt´ T handwe or Sandoway , the second city then and its province,
(d) mn\eAac\qa: "Man-aung-tha" meaning people of mn\eAac\kÁn\: Man-aung or Cheduba Island
(e) Aenak\qa: "Anauk-tha" meaning "our compatriots from the West" in which they mentioned
the Arakanese (Rakhaings), who lived in the then Western Part of the Arakanese Empire
which is now Chittagong District of Bangladesh and Tripura of India, and (f) AeR˙>qa: "Ashay-
tha" meaning "our compatriots from the East which included all bma "Bama" or
Burman/Burmese living in the Irrawaddy Valley and Ta:wy\qa: "Dawe-tha" (literally people of
Tavoy, however, here it included all people from Southern Tenasserim Province, which is
known today as Ta:wy\KRuic\ "Tavoy District" and "mit\KRui c\ "Mergui District". The Tavoyans and
Merguians still name the Burmese language as pugMska: "the Pagan Dialect".
13.The Burmese pronunciation of the word mc\: is Min, however, the Arakanese pronunciation varies between Mang to Mong due to the places in Arakan. It sounds slightly like the French pronunciation of Man. Hence, I took
the liberty of transcription as Man in this essay.
There are many examples of Arakanese literature such as rKuic\mc\:qm^:EK¥c\: "Rakhaing
Minthami E-gyin" (the classical poem addressed to an Arakanese Princess extolling the glory
of ancestors) 14, mhapvaek¥a\elYak\TuM: "Maha Pyinyakyaw Hlyaukhton" (the Advices of
Minister Maha Pyinyayaw) and Dvwt^Aer:eta\ puM "Dhanyawaddy Ayetawpon" (the
Dhanyawaddy Chronicle) played and still play a big role in the "Myanmar ("Mramar") language
The "Father" of the Burmese Department of the University of Rangoon, the late Professor U Pe
Maung Tin wrote in the page 31-32 of his book History of Burmese Literature: "It is amazing
that the Burmese literature was more advanced in Mrauk U than that of in Ava at the 15th
century A.D. According to the chronicles mc\:"k^:saesa\ k´ King Swa Saw Ke of Ava, due to the
request of Arakanese ministers, sent his uncle esamn\"k^: Saw Mungyi (Saw Muangri) to rule
Arakan. Many Burmese poets accompanied Saw Mungyi (Saw Muangri) at A.D. 1377. Most
probably because of it Burmese literature was very advanced in Mrauk U at the 15th century".
However, Arakanese Chronicles mentioned differently.
On the other hand, I would like to add one very important point. There is a Burmese traditional
saying which was created most probably at the end of the Pagan Dynasty. Which said:
tRut\kPi' R˙m\:kAi' R˙iqV\."mn\ma Aenak\m˙a which can be roughly translated as: "Because of
the [military] pressure of the Chinese, man waves of Shans are coming [to us], and the rest of
the "Myanmar (Mranmar)" should live in the West"!! So, it is very possible that many Burmese
immigrated to Arakan at the downfall of Pagan. Apart of that the kings of the three dynasties,
namely the Myinsaing-, the Pinya- and the Sagaing Dynasties following the collapse of the
Pagan Dynasty, though their lives were short, were Shans and not Burmese. Even Thadoe
Minphya, founder of the First Ava Dynasty was a Shan-hybrid. Hence, no wonder, the
"Myanmar (Mranmar)" literature was more advanced in Mrauk U than that of in Ava at the 15th
Since the Arakanese are Buddhists as the Burmese and share the same language with them,
there are many similarities between the two peoples in their culture and traditions, including
their proverbs and folktales.
4.1. The Ancient History
The Arakanese (Rakhaing/Rakhine) history, according to their chronicles, is very long
and goes through a long line of legendary dynasties, capital cities and kings.
16 Some scholars argue that these chronicles are based on the hear-say stories, and
therefore they are not reliable. Basically, I do not share the view with those scholars.
14. Well known in Arakanese Literature as emak\eta\ EK¥c\: Mauktaw E-gyan to honour the Princess esaerWÂka Saw Shway Kra, the favourite daughter of King Ba Saw Pru.
15. These facts were not mentioned nor supported in U Aung Tha Oo's 'A Short History of Arakan (in Burmese)'.
See details in Chapter 4.2.
16.U Ba Than, History of Burma (in Burmese) First published in 1929, reprinted by the Sarpebeikman Press, Rangoon, 1964, p. 194
Here I would like to cite the late Prof. Dr. U Htin Aung who was the Rector of the University of
Rangoon: "It has been the fashion among modern scholars to scoff at Burmese traditions and
chronicles, and to demand 'scientific proof' of the statements made in the native histories. A
colleague of mine in the University of Rangoon, a lecturer in history, has even described the
'Glass Palace Chronicle' as 'the most glorious fairy tale on record'. It is not denied that the
Glass Palace Chronicle dealing with the period before Anawratha does contain much folk lore
and some folk tales, but it also contains some reliable tradition that was handed down from
generation to generation by word of mouth." ---- "I am of the opinion that the person who writes
that standard history must have some respect for native traditions and chronicles. I do not say
that the Glass Palace Chronicle is an immaculate conception and all its statements must be
accepted as absolute truth. But I do maintain that the chronicle contains much that is historical
fact. Scholars in all countries and at all times are ever the same in that they strive to get at the
truth, and the Burmese chroniclers were scholars searching after true facts regarding their
country's history, and it is unfair to class them all as merely makers of dreams and fairy
No doubt that the early kingdoms of Arakan were Hindu states and later they became
Buddhists. In this paper, names of the cities and kings will be given both Burmese/Arakanese
script as well as in English transcription. Original Pali pronunciation will also be given with
Italics in the parenthesis and the Arakanese Pronunciation will be given in the parenthesis with
normal script. According to the Arakanese chronicles the First Arakanese Dynasty was
established in darawt^ Dwarawaddy (Dvaravati) which is now called qMt´ T handwe or
Sandoway. After Dwarawadddy Dynasty, the kings from ewqal^ Waythali (Visali) Dynasty,
the Dvw t^ Dhanyawaddy (Dhanyavati) Dynasty, ewqal^ek¥ak\el˙ka: Waythali Kyauk-
laykha Dynasty, pßa Pyinsa (Pansa) (Pancha) Dynasty, el:"mio> Lemyo (Lemro) Dynasty, prim\
Parin (Prem) (Puremma) Dynasty, elac\:"k k\ Longkyet (Longkrat) Dynasty and e"mak\^:
Myauk U (Mrauk U) 18 Dynasty ruled Arakan accordingly.
17. Myo Min, Old Burma, Forward, Hanthawaddy Press, Rangoon, 1947.
18 .Myauk U (Mrauk U) could be roughly translated as 'The Holy City of the north' as well as 'The First
Accomplishment"; however, it became 'Monkey-Egg' because of the Burmese pronunciation. The Burmese
normally do not enunciate the sound 'Ra' but only the sound 'Ya' for both scripts or alphabets 'Ra' and 'Ya'. The
Arakanese differentiate these two sounds properly. For the Arakanese people 'Mrauk' is north and 'Myauk' is
monkey, however, in the Burmese pronunciation both, ie. North and monkey; are homonyms.
U San Shwe Bu referred to the Legend of the Death of King Sula Taing Sandra, after defeating the Pru (ie.
Burmese) invaders, Prince Pai-Phyus named the place "Mrauk-U" "Mrauk" means accomplishment and "U"
means first. In Arakan the old pronunciation is still preserved in spite of the corrupted form ( Mrauk-U) that crept in
with the Burmese conquest in 1782. To explain this later perversion a very silly story was invented in later times.
A female monkey is supposed to have mated with a peacock causing the former to lay an egg on the spot which
afterwards on that account came to be known as "Myauk-U" "Myauk" being a monkey and "U" an egg,- a version
obviously absurd and wholly in keeping with the best traditions of legendary Greece and Rome.
One of the hear-say stories stated, once a British Colonial Officer (most probably Maurice Collis) asked his
Burmese clerk in Burmese with very strong English accent, "What is the meaning of Myauk U?" That Burmese
Myauk U (Mrauk U) could be roughly translated as 'The Holy City of the north' as well as 'The First clerk translated literally as he heard, 'Myauk' meant Monkey and 'U' meant Egg and the clerk told Maurice Collis
the above-mentioned invented story of a female monkey and a peacock. Because of that 'misunderstanding' or
the 'unscholarly answer', the 'Holy City of the North' or 'The First Accomplishment' Mrauk-U e®mak\Ë: became
'Monkey-Egg' em¥ak\U. Once, Maurice Collis translated the poem called ' Thingyan' (Thangran) or 'Water Festival'
written by the famous Arakanese Poet, Ugga Byan. There he translated 'At the south of the Golden City of
'Monkey-Egg' instead of 'At the South of the Golden City of Mrauk U.
In the late 50's, U Shwe Mra, the then Chief Secretary in U Nu's Government wrote many articles about Arakan in
the Guardian English Newspaper and he had explained about 'Monkey Egg'.
It is believed that the Maha Muni Image 19 was cast at about 563 B.C during the reign of
sNq¨¨riy King Sanda Thuriya (Chandra Suriya) of the Dhanyawaddy Dynasty in the presence
of Lord Buddha himself. It is also believed that five copies of the Image were also cast and
Lord Buddha predicted that the Holy Image (the original) would remain in Arakan for 5000
years. Hence, the kings and people of Arakan were Buddhists since 6 Century B.C.
19. Maha Muni Image, a colossal image cast in bronze and inlaid with gold, became the envy of almost all kings of
Burma. Whenever they expanded their empire, they tried to rob this holy image.