The Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan

 The Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan


By U SAN THA AUNG              Typing – U Saw Tun (Sittwe)

The Author

U San Tha Aung is a native of Arakan State (Burma).  He passed B.Sc (Hons) in Physics from Rangoon University and A.M. in Physics from Harvard University. Served as Professor of Physics, Arts and Science University, Rangoon until 1970. Since then he is serving as the Director General of Higher Education. Ministry of Education, Burma..

Author of “Things ought to be known about Physics;” “Computer;” “Atom and Nuclear Energy;” “Selected scientific topic on functions of present-day utilities;” “Scripts of Arakan, 6th century and before;” “Anandacandra, King of 8th century Vesali of Arakan” and “Arakanese Coins” (all in Burmese).


The Arakan State is situated on the boundary of Bangladesh and Burma. It is a constituent unit of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. It is separated from Burma proper by a range of barrier against inter-communication between the people living on either side of it. Though descended from the same stock, worshipping the same faith and speaking the same language as the Burmese, the Arakanese have witnessed the flowering of a distinct culture, and have preserved a distinct dialect.

In olden days, Arakan was a thriving, independent ancient border state beyond ancient India. Situated east of Vanga and Sematata. Indologists, writing about the history and culture of ancient India, never mentioned this area where high standards of living, culture and art flourished. The present work is an attempt to fill the missing link between ancient India and Burma proper by presenting a few aspects of the rich cultural heritage of Arakan.

Images in stone and bronze, representing the Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan (before 1000 A.D) are presented in this book.

A Fat Monk image, miniature stupas, a tablet of auspicious symbols, dedicatory inscriptions fallen out of old ruined stupas and caityas, a relief sculptures found on the platforms of the Mahamuni Shrine are all sculptured out of, or inscribed on stones.

The miniature cetis (caityas), bells, lamps and numerous Buddha images, crowned and uncrowned, are all made of bronze. These bronze artifacts provide evidence of all made of bronze. These bronze artifacts provide evidence of a flourishing school of bronze castings. The time of casting ranged from the 5th century A.D. to the 10th century A.D.

I have presented many varieties of bronze Buddha images, both crowned and uncrowned, of Arakan having different gestures. I have also explained these gestures one by one. Any one who is interested in Buddhist iconography, I hope, will be able to find in the images I have presented, new types and variations till now unknown to them, and also remarkable affinities with those that they are more or less familiar with. In both cases, I fervently hope that, a really interested mind will have much to take delight in.

These Buddha images, covering a period of nearly five hundred years, recorded the artistic achievements of bronze-casters from the period of experimentation ( 5th century A.D) in the well modeled graceful figures of the last period. The metal caster’s art, especially in the fashioning of crowned Buddha images, remained throughout at a high level. The pictures of these images, which I have presented in this book, amply testify to the truth of my remarks.

Although the Mahamuni Sculptures represented the earliest group of the Buddhist Art of Arakan, they are described in the last chapter of the book for reasons which will become apparent after reading the Chapter on “Buddhism in Arakan”.

I want to record my gratitude to those who assited me in one way or another in writing this book. To Sao Hso Hom formally of the Higher Education Department, for the pains he took in carefully reading the whole text and suggesting many corrections.

To U Tin Oo, Chief Editor, Universities Translation and Publication Department, my friend and colleague, I am very deeply indebted for preparing all the photographic works in this book. The publication of this book would not have been possible without his generous help.

To U Thaw Kaung, Librarian, Universities Central Library, for all the help he kindly gave me in searching for reference materials.

To Daw Sein Sein New of the University Correspondence Courses Department for typing the whole manuscript.


September, 1979.


Arakan State is situated between proper on the east and Bangladesh on the west. It extends from Lat. 21˚ 20′ N at its northernmost limit to Lat. 16˚ N at Pagoda Point, its southern extremity. From west to east it extends from the Naaf River at long. 92˚ 20′ E to the crestline of the Arakan Yoma at long. 95˚ 20′ E. See Map I and II (pictures). Go

The latitudinal and longitudinal extensions given above do not give a true idea of the present day Arakan, because it is mostly a narrow coastal strip. The only area where there is space to speak of is the area around Akyab which formerly was the centre or nucleus of the ancient Arakanese kingdom. See Map III (picture). Go

The north-south extension (latitudinal spread) of the present day Arakan State is 360 miles as the crow flies, but in the Akyab district, the cradle, so to speak, of Arakanese civilization, the extent is only about 160 miles or so. The east-west extension is even less At the broadest part, that is the northern end, the extent from the Bay of Bengal of the crestline of the Arakan Yoma is about 100 miles. Further south, about the latitude of Sandoway, the breadth is only about 25 miles. The coastal strip continues narrowing down still further to the south until it ends at a point, known as Pagoda Point. The present area of the Arakan State is 14,200 square miles.

In time past, the limits of the old Arakanese kingdoms have varied according to the prowess of the ruling king, In times of greatness, the area of the kingdom of Arakan has covered twice the area of the present day State. There were times when Arakan controlled the Dacca area as far afield as Mushidabad. The Chittagong area was most of the time under Arakanese rule till 1666 A.D., when the Mogul Emperor annexed the area because of the Shah Shuja affair, Chittagong is an Arakanese word signifying “the head of the army” or a fort.

The early history of the Kingdom of Arakan up to 1000 A.D.Up to now historians have largely neglected Arakan. This is mainly due to its geographical position on the boundary of India and Burma. Burmese historians have directed their efforts to elucidating such facts as can be ascertained about Burma proper, and the Burma Archaeological Service have not undertaken any serious excavations in Arakan. Indologists on the other hand have shown little interest in an area in which, even at period dealt with here (up to 1000 A.D), Indian Civilization was not a natural product, but was something imposed on the country from without.About forty years ago, all that was known of the early history of Arakan up to 1000 A.D. was the dynastic lists given in the local chronicles. The lists of kings began with those who were dated from about 3000 B.C. The first king mentioned was Marayu. He was the son of a prince from Kapilavastu who must have been driven into this region on political grounds. Marayu married the daughter of a powerful prince came of age he led the whole of his mother’s tribe, as well as all his father’s followers from India and conquered Arakan. He founded the first city of Dhanyawadi. His descendents numbered fifly four kings among them.Then came Kanrazagri and his twenty eight kingly descendents. He founded the second city of Dhanyawadi.The dynasty founded by Kanrazagri was succeeded by the Suriya kings the first of whom was Canda Suriya. He founded the third city of Dhanyawadi. According to the chronicles it was during his reign that the Buddha visited Arakan with his five hundred disciples. It was mentioned that the famous Mahamuni image (which is at present in Mandalay) was cast with his consent as a memento of his sojourn in the country. A palm- leaf manuscript entitled, Sappadanapakarana, provides a detailed accound of the casting of this image. The Suriya dynasty consisted of forty eight kings and was succeeded by the Candra dynasty.The founder of the Candra dynasty was Maha Taing Candra. He ascended the throne in 788 A.D. and built the city of Vesali which he made his capital. Vesali collapsed due to the invasion of the Shans in 957 A.D. Though under unsettled conditions it continued as capital till 1018 A.D.At present other evidences rather than the chronicles are available to elucidate the early history of Arakan. Epigraphic and numismatic materials are now available. They are the prasastis, the votive inscriptions, the copper plate land grant, the bell inscriptions and numerous early coins struck for the purpose of currency.Out of these the most important one being the Anandacandra Inscription inscribed on the west face of the pillar now at the Shitthaung Pagoda at Mrauk-Oo, Arakan. See picture. Go      It is a prasasti of king Anandacandra who ruled Arakan about 720 A.D. See picture. GoIt had been dated on palaeographic grounds to the beginning of the 8th century A.D. by Dr. E. H. Johnston, and Dr.D. C. Sircar. Dr. Johnston was the first to read the inscription fully. His readings reveal a list of kings which he considered to be reliable from the beginning of the Candra dynasty.The first part of the inscription contain three sections quoting the names of the kings who were  believed to have ruled over the area before Anandacandra, together with the duration of their reigns. The first of these three sections deals with certain kings who altogether ruled for a total of 1016 or 1060 years. The beginning of this section is damaged; but, as all the five kings at the commencement of the extant portion are stated to have ruled for 120 years, it is clear that this section (or at least the earlier part) is mythical.  We may refer to this section as the 1st period. The second section deals with the candra kings, sixteen of whom are stated to have ruled for a total of 230 years. The list, however, enumerates only thirteen names although their reign periods as quoted in it come up to 230 years. This is possible because three kings of the dynasty, who may have ruled for a few weeks or months, were omitted from the list. We may call this section the 2nd period. The last of the three section deals with the family to which Anandacandra belonged and quotes the names of his eight predecessors stated to have together ruled for 119 years and 9 months. We may call this section the 3rd period.The First Period

Name Of King Length Of Reign Dr. Sircar’s Tentative Assignment
1) Lost 120 638 B.C
2) Lost 120 518 B.C
3) Lost 120 398 B.C
4) Lost 120 278 B,C
5) Bahubali 120 158 B.C
6) Raghupati 120 38 B.C
7) Lost 120 82 B.C
8) Candrodaya 27 202 A.D
9) Annaveta kings 5 229 A.D
10) Lost 77 234 A.D
11) Rimbhyappa 23 311 A.D
12) Kuverami 7 334 A.D
13) Umavirya 20 341 A.D
14) Jugna 7 361 A.D
15) Lanki   368 A.D

The Second Period

Name Of King Length Of Reign Dr. Sircar’s Tentative Assignement
1) Dven candra 55 370 A.D
2) Raja candra 20 425 A.D
3) Kala candra 9 445 A.D
4) Deva candra 22 454 A.D
5) Yajna candra 7 476 A.D
6) Candra bandhu 6 483 A.D
7) Bhumi candra 7 489 A.D
8) Bhuti candra 24 496 A.D
9) Niti candra 55 520 A.D
10) Vira candra 3 575 A.D
11) Priti candra 12 578 A.D
12) Prthvi candra 7 590 A.D
13) Dhrti candra 3 597 A.D

The Third Period

Name Of King Lenth Of Reign Dr. Sircar’s Teptative Assignment
1) Mahavira 12 600 A.D
2) Vrayajap 12 612 A.D
3) Sevinren 12 624 A.D
4) Dharma sura 13 636 A.D
5) Vajra sakti 16 649 A.D
6) Dharma vijaya 36 665 A.D
7) Narendra vijaya 3 701 A.D
8) Dharma candra 16 704 A.D
9) Ananda candra 9 720 A.D

The second part of the inscription is an eulogy of Anandacandra recounting the king’s pious activities in the first nine years of his reign. From this can conclude that the inscription was apparently engraved in the ninth year of his reign. He was evidently a Buddhist by personal religion and he calls himself an upasaka, but following the Buddhist tradition of religious tolerance he did not neglect the Brahmas in his display of liberality.

The candra dynasty metioned in the second section began in the middle of the fourth century. Out of the list of thirteen kings of this dynasty we are now in possession of coins struck by nine kings. See pictures. Go       These early coins are all of silver. They seem to have been issued in three or four denominations and to have been struck to certain weight standards. They were coined to serve as currency. The patterns on the coins persist without major changes for about 600 years. This is further proof that the coins were used as currency.

In addition to the nine different coins belonging to nine different kings of this dynasty of the 2nd period, two epigraphic records of kings Niticandra and Viracandra were also found at the Vesali site about the year 1956. See picture. Go       This Candra dynasty came to an end with the king Dhrticandra. Taking the time estimate of Dr. Johnston and Dr.Sircar, this would have happened about the end of the 6th century.

After them, there seems to have been trouble in the area. The 3rd period begins with king Mahavira who may have come from another kingdom (Purempura). For the next fifty years or more, it seems none of the rulers were able to establish a dynasty. Johnston calls this the confused period in early Arakanese history. The names of the two kings on the list of this period tallies with the coins found in that area. They were Dhammawizaya and Dhammacandra. See picture. Go

The north face inscription of the pillar at Shitthaung Pagoda, Mrauk-Oo was, according to Dr. Johnston, written in a Bengali script of the 10th century A.D. The letters in the script are badly cut and vary considerably in shape. The inscription amounts to sixty nine lines, when counted on the right side. Parts of them are entirely gone; the rest is written in a slipshod hand, and the rubbing itself seems to have been inefficiently done so as to make reading of it chancy. There appears to be at least three inscriptions, all in much the same script. According to Dr. Johnston, a competent epigraphist, working on the stone instead of the rubbings, should be able to produce a fair reading of the inscriptions. He concluded that North Arakan again produced in the tenth century a dynasty of some importance. The history of Arakan for the period between Anandacandra and the 10th century will be enlightened if these inscriptions of the north face of the pillar are properly deciphered. A number of the coins that fall within this period have also been found. The most notable one being that of king Sri Simghagandacandra. See picture. Go      By studying the writings on this coin palaeographically we can place this king’s rule about the end of the ninth century or the beginning of the tenth century.

This is all that we know about the history of ancient Arakan. The standard of culture and the civilization of the people residing in the country during this period can be judged from the silver coins they used a currency and the religious art which I am presenting in this book.

The Cities of Dhanyawadi and Vesali


The capital cities of the former kingdom of Arakan, may be devided into two groups: one group comprising those cities situated in the Kaladan Valley and the other, those of the Lemro Valley. Mrauk- Oo (Mrohaung), the last of the Royal Capitals of Arakan is unique, because it occupies a narrow valley in the hills between the Lemro and the Kaladan rivers. Commanding the only big gap between the two valleys, the city exerted control over both those valleys which were easily accessible by means of streams and roads.

However, since our present concern is with the Arakan of the period before 1000 A.D., we shall be dealing only with the cities of the Kaladan Valley. Of these, the most important by far are the cities of Dhanyawadi and Vesali, both located just west of the ridge which lies between the Kaladan and the Lemro rivers. The sites of these cities are about 16 miles apart, but both were built on the welldrained foothill area of the ridge, with their backs against the ridge. As a matter of fact, the eastern wall of Vesali is built on the ridge itself. The ridge is 1200 feet high behind Dhanyawadi, but decreases in height towards the south. Behind Vesali it is 400 feet high.


Dhanyawadi (Lat, 20˚ 52′ N., Long 93˚ 3′ E.) is located 6 miles east of the Kaladan river, and about 60 miles up-river from its mouth at Akyab. The city site is about 16 miles north of Vesali, and some 21 miles north of Mrauk-Oo (Mrohaung). See Map III. The city is backed up against the ridge which separates the Kaladan valley from the Lemro valley. The remains show that there was an outer and an inner city. Parts of the walls and the moats can still be seen in many places. The modern village of Thayettabin lies in the southwestern part of the outer city, and the Mahamuni Shrine lies in the southwestern of the inner city. See picture. Go       The old city was of fairly of the ridge. On the western side only a small portion of the outer tributary of the Kaladan. The chaung may have once formed the moat on the west. The remaining parts of the former moat have been silted over and have become paddy fields.

The inner city was the site of the Palace. Royalty and officialdom resided within the inner city. The common people occupied the outer city whose walls also enclosed the fields which they cultivated. The area of the inner city was only 64 acres. In those days of insecurity, when the country was often subject to raids by various hill tribes, the people felt safer within the walls. By enclosing the paddy fields, the people would have an assured food supply even under siege, thus permitting them to withstand the siege.

Dhanyawadi was built at a time when only the upper Kaladan was above high water level. To the south, below the latitude of Mrauk-Oo (Mrohaung), the country was still one vast area of mangrove swamps. Only the edges of the islands were then reclaimed for cultivation. Small sailing ships could come right up the Thare Chaung to the city. Indian influences penetrated into the city by sea and by land.

According to local chronicles, this Dhanyawadi is the third Dhanyawadi I have mentioned in Chapter II, and it is supposed to have been the Capital of Arakan from the 6th century B.C. to 788 A.D. Dr. E.H. Jonston. however, after deciphering Anandacandra inscription of Shitthaung Pagoda which is situated in Mrauk-Oo, dated the founding of Vesali as 350 A.D. Dr. Sircar of the Indian Archaeoligical Survey also aggress with Dr. Johnston, in differing from the local chronicles, and he has suggested the date of the founding of Vesali to be about 370 A.D. If we are to accept these dates, then Dhanyawadi was the Capital of Arakan up to 350 or 370 A.D.

Dhanyawadi controlled the Kaladan Valley and also the Mayu Valley on the west. At that time the Lemro had probably not as yet was then in all probability occupited by hill tribes. Even in the lower Lemro valley, the flood plain was mainly to be found on the western side, the hills reaching the river along most of the eastern bank.


Vesali (Lat: 20˚ 40′ N. Long. 93˚ 9’E.) lies 16 miles south of Dhanyawadi. See Map III. It has on its western flank the Rann Chaung a tributary of the Kaladan, and on its eastern side, the ridge which separates the Kaladan Valley from the Lemro Valley. The shape of the city is rather unusual since the walls were built in such a way as to obtain the fullest advantage of the well-drained land to be found in the foothill zone. The shape is somewhat oval, the north and east running in more or less straight lines, while the walls on the south and the west are curved. See Map V and Plate 8. A tributary of the Rann chaung now traverses the city site. According to the local chronicles, the city’s full name is “Vesali, the city with the stone stairs”. These stone stairs led to the pier where sailing ships must have docked in those days. Remains of those stone stairs leading to the pier can still be seen at ebb-tide, on the northwest of the city.

The north-south diameter of the outer walls at the widest part is nearly 10,000 feet, while the east-west diameter is only about 6,500 feet at the widest. The area of the city is about 2.7 square miles, very definitely larger then Dhanyawadi. Like Dhanyawadi, Vesali also has a smaller inner city: the palace site. It is rectangular in shape with a length of 1500 feet and a width  of 1000 feet. A moat surrounds the walls of this inner city.

Vesali, a bigger city, was even more secure then Dhanyawadi with the population tilling their fields inside the city walls. It is noteworthy that Vesali, lying further south, was even more open to western influence. According to local chronicles, Vesali was the capital of Arakan from 788 to 957 A.D. when conditions became unsettled. Actually it continued as the capital till 1018 A.D. under those unsettled conditions. According to Johnston and Sircar, Vesali was founded even earlier then the date given in the local chronicles; they give the date as 350 or 370 A.D. In any case, Vesali was a larger and more thriving port than Dhanyawadi.

Both the cities of Dhanyawadi and Vesadi being built on the well-drained foothill area of the ridge which lies between the Kaladan and the Lemro rivers, are well preserved from the ravages of the rivers. Many and varied antique pieces have been found from these two places from time to time. Systematic excavation of these images shown in this book were obtained from the relic chambers of ruined pagodas situated in these places.

The “Fat Monk” Image


According to Gordon luce:, writing in his book “Old Pagan” the Fat Monk image is  a widespread and ancient type of image frequently found in old relic chambers at such well known sites as Sriksetra, Rangoon, Pegu, Mandalay, Pagan and so on. The Fat Monk is invariably depicted with a bulging belly, always sitting crosslegged, usually in padmasana, either in dhyana mudra, or with both hands supporting his belly. He is often depicted sitting on a double lotus throne, sometimes on a bare pedestal, and on rare occasions, with a back-slab behind him His statuettes, always small (up to 9 inches height), are made from many kinds of material including stone, bronze, silver-gilt, bronze-gilt, plaster, terracotta, and even unburnt clay, sometimes lacquered and gilded.

Luce’s book “Old Pagan” contains pictures of ten different images of the Fat Monk, together with an account concerning them. Luce raised the question of who the Fat Monk could have been, and tried to answer it with some conjectures of his own and of others. We read therefore thatCharles Duroiselle first took the Fat Monk to be the pot-bellied Jambhala or Kubera, Lord of the Yakasa and as such, the god of wealth. He is later said to have accepted the idea that the monk might be Kaccayana monk, a scholar and the author of the first Pali Grammer. We are also givenU Mya’s view that these figures probably represented Gavampati, the patron saint of the Mons. Since Luce could not be sure about whom the Fat Monk represented, he merely stated that he leant towards U Mya’s opinion, giving his reasons for his stand.

In 1922, one small stone image of such a Fat Monk was found in Arakan. It was found by a taung-ya cultivator from among the ruins of an old brick pagoda at panzeemyaung phyar about three miles east of the old brick pagoda at panzeemyaung phyar about three miles east of the old Vesali site. The image is 4.4 inches high, 2.4 inches wide and 0.9 inch thick. The Fat Monk is depicted in a sitting posture, with his right foot placed on his left thigh. He is shown sitting on a lotus throne, with a back-slab behind him. The back-slab is decorated with flower petals around the border. The monk is in dhyana mudra with his left hand placed on the right hand, and he has a piece of cloth wrapped around the chest, with one end of the piece hanging down over the left shoulder.

See picture. Go

It appears that the image is no longer in its original form. This tampering with the original was due to the thought-less acts of process of beautification set in motion through good intentions and pious impulses, the net result was that it ruined the original art. Fortunately, however, the backside of the back-slab has not been tampered with, and still possesses a line of inscription in the Brahmi script: See Plate 9. According to the palaeographical consideration of the script, the image can be dated around the beginning of the Christian era. The line can be translated as Saccakaparibajaka (ji) na.

Saccakaparibajaka was a Nirgrantha Jina ascetic. He lived in Vaisali during the lifetime of the Buddha. He was a philosopher and teacher. He was said to have challenged Mahavira and the Buddha to a discussion with him about whose philosophy was the best. We are Buddha and acknowledge the Buddha’s superiority. In Dr.Malalasekera’s Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, Saccaka was mentioned as one of those who became a follower of the Buddha.

This Fat Monk discovered in Arakan, whose identity was revealed in the inscription at the back of the back-slab, has now enlightened us regarding the Fat Monks found in other parts of Burma, as has already been mentioned by Gordon Luce.

Miniature Stupas

To Buddhist the world over, the stupa is an emblem of Buddha’sparinirvana,for the stupa is a monument erected over relics of the Buddha. And because Buddhists revere the relics of the Blessed One, it naturally follows that the stupa should play a leading role in Buddhist architecture.

The oldest stupas extant are full hemispherical domes constructed of brick or stone, usually raised raised on a terrace. The stupas of Sanchi, Andher and Mankiala near Rawalpindi, in India and Pakistan, all belong to such a type. At a later period, a solid cylinder or drum was added beneath the hemisphere, thereby gradually raising it above the ground-level. Later still a square piece of stone came to be placed on top of the hemisphere. This square piece acted as the support for thehti or finial. Still later on an architect added a niche to one side of the drum. Later architects developed this idea by adding four niches to the drum, each niche facing one of the cardinal points. Today these niches each contain an image of the Buddha. See picture. Go      Generally four Buddhas are figured around votive stupas. (There are some stupas with five niches, but these are very rare).

Today almost every hillock in Arakan is crowned with a pagoda, but old stupas dating before 1000 A.D are now extremely rare. They have either collapsed due to weathering, (annual rainfall in the Arakan State is over 200 inches), or have been destroyed by vandalism, or been encased in pagodas built by later kings. There is no doubt, however, that they were once plentiful. The inscription of Viracandra, a king of the Candra dynasty states that a hundred stupas were constructed and dedicated by King Viracandra because of his love for the True Law. See picture: Go To date, over thirty stone in scriptions bearing, in Gupta characters, the Yedhamma verse in full, have been found from all over Arakan. These stone inscriptions are the remains of the old stupas built before the 6th century A.D.

Recently miniature stone stupas with the Yedhamma verse inscribed on them have been found in Arakan. I now present three of them. The first miniature stone stupa was found at the foot of the Kyauktaw Hill when an old stone stupa collapsed to reveal the miniature encased inside. See Plate 10 for the stupa, and Plate11 for the Yedhamma verse inscribed on it. By studying the characters used in inscribing the verse palaeographically, we can establish the date of the stupa. In the case of the present stupa we can roughly assign the date to be somewhere about the 5th century A.D.

This miniature stupa consists of two pieces. The lower piece is a square base which may be regarded as a plinth. The height of the plinth is about seven inches. The upper piece is the stupa proper, about two and a half feet in height. This piece has a square platform made to fit in the base. Above this platform is a cube. The complete Yedhamma verse is inscribed on one of the faces of this cube. There terraces, and above the terraces is the cylindrical drum decorated with two. The top of the cylinder is hemispherical. It looks like an inverted bowl or a bell. On the top of the hemisphere is a ring of beads surmounted by moulding which support thehti.

The two other miniature stupas were found at Meechaungwa village, twenty miles north of kyautaw town. The village lies on the bank of the Kaladan river. The erosion of the banks brought to light the two stupas which were stuck in the mud about 20 feet below ground level. They are now kept for safe custody and preservation in Akyab town. See picture. Go    The miniature stupa in picture is almost exactly like the first one, except that the Yedhamma sides of the square platform. The verse reads: Yedhamma hetu prabhawa hetu. See picture. Go   The stupa is complete with plinth andhti. The third stupa which is shown in picture, Go  however, no longer has a plinth. The part above the cylinder has also been broken off and is missing. The incomplete Yedhamma verse is inscribed in two lines. Yedhamma hetu on the square platform above the cube andPrabhawa hetu on the square platform above the cube and Prabhawa hetuon the cube itself.See picture. Go  This stupa is slightly shorter than the first one, whereas the second is slightly taller. From studying the handwriting on these two stupas, (palaeographical examination), they can also he assigned to the 4th or 5th century A.D.

These three surviving miniature stupas carved out of stone in a bygone age, and by chance spared by the climate, together with other stone inscriptions fallen from old pagodas, each bearing the Yedhamma verse in Gutpa characters, are sufficient to establish positively, the fact that Buddhism flourished in Arakan not later than the 4th or 5th century A.D.

Why did the people of that era inscribe the Yedhamma verse on religious sculptures and monuments? What do the words signify? It will not be out of place to answer these questions here.

After having attained Enlightenment, Buddha preached his first sermon to the five ascetics who were his former companions, in the Deer Park (Mrigadava) on the outskirts of Benares. These five became his first disciples. Buddha then proceeded to Rajagriha where king Bimbisara gave him the park known as the Bamboo Grove. While Buddha and his disciples were sojourning there, a remarkable incident occurred.

Assaji, the youngest of the five disciples, went into the city of Rajagriha with his alms-bowl, where he met an ascentic by the names of Buddha under the name of Sariputra. Upatispa was greatly impressed by Assaji’s dignity and composure and was moved to ask who was Assaji’s dignity and composure and was moved to ask who was Assaji’s teacher and what were his teachings. Assaji replied that his teacher was Gautama Buddha, but that as regards Buddha’s teachings, he being newly ordained, could not explain the dhamma completely. The eager Upatisya, however, pressed Assaji to tell him a little of what he knew. Assaji complied by reciting the Yedhamma verse.

“Ye dhamma hetu prabhava hetum tesam tathagato

Hyavadattesanca yo nirodha evamvadi mahasramanah”

Out of all the laws, the law of cause is the origin.

Tathagato (i.e. Buddha) has spoken of the conditions arishing

from a cause. He has also spoken of their cessation. This is the doctrine of the great Sramana i.e. Buddha).

Upon hearing the verse, Upatisya’s higher consciousness was awakened immediately. (He became a Sotapan, the first stage for becoming an Arahat.)

The Yedhamma verse, therefore, gives the cream of Buddhism. According, to the comments made by G. Codes “The extraordinary conciseness of this stanza, that gives in four verses the quintessence of the teaching of the Master, might alone be considered sufficient there is more in it than that. According to the tradition preserved Buddha secured the adherence of the two disciples Sariputta and Moggallama, afterwards revered in the circles of the Brotherhood as second the two most notable followers of the Master, must rapidly have and any well have seemed to them a quite irresistible charm for the conversion to the Faith of any who had not yet heard it.”

A Tablet of Auspicious Symbols and a Lustration Pot


The square tablet of porous white sandstone which can be seen in See Picture ( Go ), was found together with a bronze pot, a stone dinner plate, and two cart-loads of artifacts, in 1965 by workers of the Construction Corporation, while digging earth to build the Mrauk-Oo Vesali road. The site of the find lies on the right of the road as one proceeds from Mrauk-Oo to Vesali, and about one furlong before one reaches the Thinkyattaw Junction Pagoda. The tablet and the pot are now deposited in the Mrauk-Oo archeological shed.The face of the tablet measure 6.5 inches by 6.5 inches. This square face is divided by three bands in the form of concentric circles, into a radiant design. The innermost band surrounds a circular shaped depression about two inches in diameter. This innermost band and the next which is about 0.7 inch from it, enclose what one might consider as 43 lotus petals, or perhaps the spokes of a wheel. The outermost band is 1.03 inches from the middle band, and these two concentric circles enclose the twelve auspicious symbols.The twelve auspicious symbols, taken anti-clockwise, beginning with the srivatsa symbol, are: – (1) a srivatsa diagram (2) a deer, (3) a peacock king (Mauryaraja), (4) a pair of fly-whisks (Camara), (5) a brahmani duck (Hamsaraja), (6) a right-voluted conch (Sankha), (7) a dhvaja-stambha, (8) a bull king (Usabharaja), (9) a goad (Ankusa), (10) a white umbrella (Chattra), (11) a full vase with a plant (Purna kalasa) and (12) a pair of fish (Suvannamacchayugalam).The four corners of the tablet which lie outside the third band, are decorated with relief’s that look like lotus buds and leaves. All these are finally surrounded by a square, beaded border.The bronze pot, which was found together with this tablet, has a rounded base, three bands around its neck, and a detachable lid. Its rounded base fits exactly into the depression at the centre of the tablet.But what actually is the tablet? As it has twelve symbols, is it a tablet representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac? Or is it a tablet of worship like the Visnupattas of the Hindus and the Ayagapata of the Jains? Or is it something else?The twelve signs of the Zodiac are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius and Pisces. In Spiritual Cosmology, Aquarius, the eleventh sign of the Zodiac, is symbolized by the Water-carrier, carrying a pitcher full of water, and Pisces, the twelfth sign, by a pair of fish, depicted with tablet, the eleventh and the twelfth figures are a full vase and a pair of fish respectively. The fact that these figures correspond in this of the divinity of the signs of the Zodiac.Hence it may be deduced that the Srivatsa diagram occupies the first sign, viz. Aries of the Zodiac. It is also the first cardinal point, i.e. the East. The first, fourth, seventh and tenth signs, or the four cardinal points (the East, North, West and South) are stamba, and the white Umbrella respectively. Actually these four figures represent the King’s regalia. They derive from the concept of the King as cakravatin or “world ruler”. Hence it is difficult to interpret this tablet as representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac.Let us now compare this tablet with the Visnupattas of the Hindus and the Ayagapata of the Jains.N.K. Bhattasali, in his book “Iconography of Buddhist and Brahmanical Sculptures in the Dacca Museum, 1929, p.p.89.93” has described the Visnupattas in detail. According to him these are square of stone or metal, with the image of Visnu engraved on one side and his ten incarnations depicted on the other. They are a special class of votive relief, and Hindus usually hang them on the mat-wall of their dwellings as a sacred object to receive occasionally homely worship.Dr. G. Buler, in his article “Spcimens of Jaina Sculptures from Mathura, P 314, Epigraphia Indica Vol. II”, wrote about the Ayagapata of the Jains as follows: – Ayagapata is an ornamental slab, and the term may be appropriately rendered by “tablet of homage or worship” since such slabs were put up in temples, as the numerous inscriptions on them say “for the worship of the Arhats”.In the light of the above descriptions, can the present tablet be a Buddhist “Ayuagapa”? Here we do not have any image of the Buddha. Instead there is a vacant spot in the centre of the tablet in the shape of the circular depression. Perhaps the explanation of the absence of the Buddha image can be found in Dr. Foucher’s book “The beginning of Buddhist Art”. In this book he wrote about the ancient stone-carvers of India carrying out the strange undertaking of representing the life of the Buddha without Buddha. After citing a number of examples he wrote that those selected examples sufficed to demonstrate that the ancient Indian sculptors abstained absolutely from representing either Bodhisattva or Buddha in the course of this earthly life. Such is the abnormal, but indisputable fact of which every history of Buddhist art will have, at the outset, to render account.

After Buddha’s parinirvana (death), the Law alone was of importance to the Buddhist order. In milindapanha, we find ther venerable Nagawsena teaching King Menander that the Blessed One is no longer visible except in the form of dharmakaya.

The four principal episodes in the life of the Buddha are, his birth, his enlightenment, the preaching of his first sermon as the Buddha, and or the bull for the nativity, the tree for the enlightenment, the wheel for the sermon and the stupa for the parininrvana.

Assuming that the vacant spot in the centre of out tablet is a representation of the Buddha without Buddha, we can go on and surmise that the two concetric circles surrounding this spot and containing 43 lotus petals or spokes, represents the Wheel of Law, a symbolic representation of Buddha’s first sermon on the outskirts of the city of Benares, in a park then known as Mrigadara. This first sermon has come to be known to Buddhists as the turning of the Wheel of the Law or Dharmacakra pravarttana. If our assumption is correct, the twelve figures above the wheel should represent the sacred symbols connected with Buddha’s life. A study of the representation of the Buddha’s footprint will reveal that many of the symbols can be found among the 108 traditional makes of the footprint.

U Mya’s “A note on the Buddha’s Footprints in Burma”, published in the Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report, (1930-34) gives some very interesting information regarding these auspicious marks. U Mya made a study of the Buddha’s foot-prints in Burma and examined them from the historical and symbolistic points of view. He traced the evolution of the Buddha’s foot-prints bearing the 108 marks in Burma from about the 11th century A.D to the present day. In his article, he also gave a list of these marks as are to be found in the Jinalankara-tica and the Anagatavamsa Atthakatha. He also remarked that the growth in the number of marks in the Buddha’s foot-prints has been gradual. The Lakkhana-sutta mentions only one mark on each sole. It is a wheel with a thousand spokes. The Buddhavamsa adds to it, a streamer, a vajra, a flag, a vaddhamana and a goad. The atthakatha of the Mahapandana sutta mentions more marks is gradual till the 108 marks are mentioned in the Jinalankaratika and the anagatavamsa atthakatha in about the 5th or 6th century A.D.

Ten of the twelve figures on our tablet can be found in the list of 108 auspicious marks.

Our surmise that the centre vacant spot represents Buddha without Buddha, now appears to be a distinct probability. But some questions still remain unanswered. If our surmise is true, then our tablet must be a very old one, that is, it should have been made within two or three centuries after Buddha’s parinirvana. (Since the tablet contains no inscription, it is impossible to date it palaeographically). If this tablet is as old as it should be, the number of figures represented should be less than twelve. Then there is also the question of the bronze pot that exactly fits the central depression or vacant spot. If the tablet is made at the same time as the bronze pot, then could also be carved on the tablet. So it appears that, after all, our tablet is not a votive tablet at all.

Of course, the twelve auspicious symbols can be identified with the symbols used in the Buddha’s foot-prints. However, it must be remembered that the same symbols are also used to identify the Cakravatin. We must consider whether there is a special reason why these twelve particular symbols have been chosen, and whether there is a reason for arranging them in that particular order.

My conclusion is that these twelve symbols can best be interpreted as symbols connected with the cakravatin concept. I shall now attempt to explain why these specific figures have been chosen as auspicious marks, why they have been arranged in that order, and what they signify.

A digression on the individual significance of each is necessary to appreciate their function. Some of the symbols on the tablet have been found on the early coins of Arakan. The Arakanese kings had impressed on their coins the sun and moon symbols, and these were associated with the srivatsa and water symbols in such a manner as to suggest the king’s link with the water which represents the fertility of the country, srivasta, an auspicious home, sun (power) and the moon (peacefulness of the country).

The Peacock and the Deer

These two symbols appear side by side on the tablet, seeming to indicate that they should be interpreted together. They represent the sun and moon. In Buddhist literature the sun and moon first appear as marks on the feet of Buddha as cakravartin, in the Mahapadana sutta.

The peacock is a royal bird in India and has been considered to be the emblem of the Maurya dynasty. Arakanese historians have given the Mauryas a solar origin, from which they trace their own royal lineage.

Mrganka, “deer-marked”, is one of the names for the moon in Sanskrit literature. Hence the peacock and the deer symbols may be interpreted as representing the sun and the moon.


Dedicatory inscriptions of Niticandra and Viracandra of Vesali


The first inscription, which is the inscription of the time of Niticandra, is engraved on a slab recovered from the ruins of an old Stupa on the Unhissaka hill situated to the east of Vesali in 1956.The second inscription, which is the inscription of Viracandra, is engraved on a slab belonged to what is called the Anandacandra Stupa standing on Thinkyattaw hill which is closely situated to the Unhisaka hill. It was found about the same time.The name of Niticandra and Viracandra are mentioned in Anandacandra inscription inscribed on the west face of the pillar now at Shitthaung Pagoda at Mrauk-Oo, Arakan. The first part of this inscription contains three sections quoting the names of the kings together with the durations of their reigns.In the second section of the first part, we found the names of Niticandra and Viracandra. The verses 28 and 29 described them strife by policy, reigned like Mahendra for 55 years. After him, King Viryacandra reigned three years; then King Priticandra (ruled) for 12 years.” Dr. Sircar’s chronology gives Niticandra’s ruling period as 520 – 575 A.D. and Viracandra’s 575 – 578 A.D.The alphabets of both the records has a close resemblance with the alphabets used in certain Eastern Indian inscriptions of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. However, a certain amount of local development is noticed in the palaeography of these inscriptions. Careful study of the consonants, initial vowels and medial vowels revealed this. The inscriptions can also be dated palaeographically as those belong to the last quarter of the sixth century. Comparative studies of the alphabets, initial and medial vowels of Arakanese script with those of Eastern India will reveal a very interesting information about the Arakanese scripts.Inscription of the time of Niticandra (See Picture. Go)TEXT1 ) Ye dharma hetu-prabhava hetum tesha tathagata2 ) aha tesham ca yo nirodho evam vadi Mahasramana3 ) sri Niticandra sya candravat-pachi na sya devi savitam4 ) Candrasriya nama pa re mo pa si ka sya5 ) deyya dharmmo yam sarvva satvanamm anuka (tta) ma


Out of all the laws, the law of cause is the origin. Tathagato (i.e. Buddha) ha spoken of their cessation. This is the doctrine of the great Sramana (i.e Buddha).

This is the pious gift of the queen of Sri Niticandra, who is likened to the moon. The queen by the name of Savitam Candrasriya, is a devout lay worshiper of the Buddha. Let all creatures acquire the best knowledge (acquiring Nirvana) as a result of having given this meritorious gift.

Inscription of Viracandra( See Picture. Go)


1 )Satya-dharmmanu ragena Kritamsvarthena bhubhuja

2 ) paratha ghatanodyoga samyanni hita ceti sa

3 ) Sri-Viracandradevena mahi mandala mandanam

4 ) dharma dhigata rajyena Buddha stupa satam (ceti)


Sri Viracandra deva, the king who obtained sovereignty through righteousness, whose heart is fully set on exertions for effecting good to others, constructed a hundred Buddha stupas, which are the ornaments of the earth, with his own wealth, owing to his love for the true law.

These two dedicatory inscriptions are very important for us as they are the only epigraphic records so far found of kings Niticandra and Viracandra of the Buddhist royal family of the Candras of Arakan. Of course, the names of these rulers are known from the coins issued by them as well as from the Anandacandra inscription of Shitthaung Pagoda in Mrauk-Oo as mentioned above. See Plate 4 again.

The inscriptions give us the following informations.

1 ) Flourishing of Buddhism in Arakan during the sixth century A.D.

2 ) The existence of many Buddha-Stupas built by the kings of that period.

3 ) Partial confirmation of the genealogy of the Candras of Arakan given in the Anandacandra inscription.

4 ) The name of the queen of King Niticandra.

5 ) Type of scripts used during the sixth century A.D.

6 ) The use of Sanskrit Literature by royal families.


A Copper-Plate Land Grant


Site of findA copper-plate, bearing writing on both sides, was discovered in Arakan about 40 years ago. See Picture. Go This is the only copper-plate found, so far, in Burma. the place where the plate was found was a small brick mound situated 2 furlongs south-west of Tharlarwaddy village. The village lies close to the Mrauk-Oo-Kyauktaw road which passes through the south-west section of the old Vesali city wall. The Vesali city site is about 5 miles north of Mrauk-Oo.The plate was discovered accidentally while the brick mound was being removed by the owner of the plot who wished to dig a drainage channel for his farm.The plate was bought by the late historian U Tha Tun Aung of Mrauk-Oo from the finder. During the second world war the Japanese soldiers took the plate and cut off two pieces, one at the top and the other the right hand portion of the plate, to test whether the plate was made of gold. They also carried out flame tests on the remaining back from the Japanese in this damaged condition. At present the plate is in the safe custody of the Archaeology Department of the Ministry of Culture in Rangoon.Description of the plateThe plate has a big seal affixed to the left margin and lines of writing running along its length. The top length of the plate is 32.4 cm. and the bottom length is 30.5 cm. The breadth at the right end is 22.2 c.m. and it is 1.5 c.m. thick. It weighs 10 lbs.It can be inferred that a strip of about 4 c.m. has been cut off along the top of the plate (really the top of the obverse but the bottom of the reverse). Since a single letter of the epigraph is usually about 0.8 c.m. in height while a conjunct or letter endowed with vowel marks has neatly double that length, we can infer that the lost part contained only two lines of writing on the first side of the plate. The reverse side has no engraved lines on the lost part.This copper plate was a royal document issued by a Vesali king of the sixth century A.D. The grant of land for religious purposes was engraved on it. It contained well known imprecatory and benedictory stanzas written on the reverse side. These stanzas make it possihand side. By careful study of the stanzas we have found that seven or eight words endowed with being about 1 c.m broad, the measurement of length covered by seven or eight of them would suggest that the lost strip would be about 10 c.m. in breadth. By correcting these losses we can estimate the original size of the plate as about 42 c.m. in length and 26 c.m. in breadth.The SealThe obverse side of the seal seems to represent a recumbent bull which was the royal insignia of the Vesali kings and the reverse is probably the pericarp of a lotus symbols.Palaeographic determination of dateThese are twelve lines of writing on the obverse side of the plate. Since we have estimated that two lines at the top were cut off, the original number of lines on this side must be 14. There is no loss of any line on the reverse side which contains only 8 lines. Thus the writing on both sides of the plate originally contained 22 lines.

A palaeographic study of the characters of the present record shows that the characters exhibits a local modification of the late Brahmi of East India, which may be assigned to a date about the sixth century A.D. The engraving was very neatly and carefully done. See Picture Go for the alphabets used. The language of the document is Sanskrit, thought it contains local elements in the personal and geographical names.

The inscription was dated in the regnal reckoning of the issuer of the charter. It was the 11th regnal year of the king.

Since we have to assign the charter on palaeographical grounds to a date about the sixth century A.D., the king who issued the copper plate should be a member of the Candra dynasty of Arakan of the Second period.

The Candra dyanasty of Arakan

The early history of Arakan is best elucidated by the Anandacadra Inscription inscribed on the west face of a stone pillar now at shitthaung Pagoda at Mrauk-Oo. The inscription contains 69 lines. It is a prasasti of King Anandacandra who ruled Arakan about 720 A.D.

It has been dated on palaeographic grounds to the beginning of the 8th century A.D. by Dr. E.H. Johnston and Dr. D.C. Sircar. Refer back Chapter II for more details.

Issuer of the charter

Considering the Gupta style of representing the reigning monarch as a descendent of the founder of the family through a number of successive generations, which was borrowed by many dynasties, lines 1.8 of the record appear to have originally contained the names of eight kings, the last of them mentioned in line 8, being the issuer of the grant.

Line 1 may have thus contained the name of a king who was the founder of the royal family. The donor of the grant was then mentioned along with seven of his ancestors. It is not improbable that line 1 could have mentioned Dvencandra, the founder of the dynasty. In that case, it was Bhuticandra (No. 8) who was the father of Niticandra and ruled in 496-520 A.D., ie., about the beginning of the sixth century A.D., ( See Picture. Go )who was probably the issuer of the charter. As the last line of the inscription indicates the date of issue as the 11th regnal year of the king, acception D.C. Sircar’s dates for the Candra kings, the inscription would have been engraved in 507 A.D.

The queen mothers

As lines 1 and 2 are lost we may start from line 3. Lines 3_8 mention six kings and describes them as padanudyata (meditating on or favoured by the feet of his predecessor), as Paramamahesvara (a devout worshipper of the god Mahesvara or Siva) and as born of a particular mahadevi (chief queen). The kings enjoyed the title of Maharajadhiraja, indicating independent and imperial status in the Gupta age.

It is very unfortunate indeed that the name of the issuer of the charter and all his ancestors are engraved on the end portion of the lines, which were cut off by the Japanese.

However, the names of the queens can be read in lines 4_8, the queen’s name in line 3 being damaged. Thus we are previlaged to know the donor’s mother, grand mother, great grand mother, great great grand mother and great great great grand mother. Their names were respectively Kalyanadevi, Kyawdevi, Sukanya devi, Kimdal devi and Kimton devi.

Out of these names, Kalyanadevi and Sukanyadevi suggest contact with Sanskrit tradition. Other names starting with Kim are worth nothing. They suggest Tibeto-Burman affiliations.

Persons addressed

In lines 9-10 the issuing king addresses the charter to the rulers of his own family and of other dynasties in respect of the grant.

Purpose of issuing the charter

Lines 10-13 state that a village called Dengutta was granted by Kimmajuvdevi in favour of a vihara (Buddhist monastery) built by herself. It is probable that she was the queen of Buticandra as the palaeography of the inscription points to the beginning of the 6th century and we know the name of the queen of Niticandra, the son of Bhuticandra, as Savitam Candrasriya from a seperatre inscription.

Kimmajuvdevi was doubtless a Buddhist, although her husband and his ancestors were mentioned as Paramamahesvara. So far as I have noticed, there is practically no evidence of Saivism in the archaeological assemblage of Arakan. It may be conjectured that Saivite ritual may have been confined to certain court ceremonies necessary to legitimize kingship, but incompatible with Buddhism, perfomed by a small group of court Brahmins.

Again the lines mentioned that the income derived from the gift village was meant to be utilized on behalf of the Ratna-traya (Ratnatray-opayogaya) in respect of the catushpratyana and the repairs of breaks, cracks, etc, in the monastery. The expression Ratna-traya (i.e the three Jewels) indicates the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, while catush-pratyana are the four necessaries of the Buddhist priest, vizcivara (clothing), pindapata (food), sayanasana (bedding) and bhaishajya (medicine).

A damaged passage in lines 12-13 seems to suggest that the gift village was placed in charge of the fraternity of the holy monks of all lands including the elders of Jatavana, who were already in the monastery and who might in future come to reside there in. The original Jetavanna was in the suburbs of Sravasti (modern Set-Maheth in Uttar Pradesh), the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom. It was built by the Financier Anathapindika for the use of the Buddha himself. It is difficult to say whether the original Jatavana is referred to in our record or whether it was an establishment in the neighbourhood of Arakan or elsewhere called by the ancient name.

The gift village called Dengutta is described as yielding 3000, the reference being apparently to the revenue income in the standard coin.

The boundaries of the village Dengutta are described in lines 13 -14 forming the concluding part of the writing on the obverse side of the plate. Unfortunately, the end of the lines being cut off, the boundaries in the east and the north of the gift village are lost. In the south, there were the Srilakkajola, a row of stone boulders and a mango tree, while Vangenkhalla lay on the west. The word jola seems to mean a channel and the word khalla seems to mean a canal.

Imprecatory and benedictory stanzes

The reverse of the plate starts with line 15 which contains the request of the issuer of the charter to the effect that those addressed should protect the gift out of a desire for religions merit (dharma-bhi-lasat) and out of great respect for the royal donor.

Lines 15-20 contain five of the well-known imprecatiory and benedictory stanzas identical to those found in the early 6th century inscriptions of Bengal. The verse were written by Vyasa and addressed confiscates land that has been given, whether by himself or another, becomes a worm in ordure, and sinks into hell together with his ancestors. The earth has been enjoyed by many kings, commencing belongs, at that time, the reward (of this grant that is now made, if he continue it): The giver of land enjoys happiness in heaven for sixty thousand years; (but) the confiscator (of a grant) and he who assents (to an act of confiscation) shall dwell for the same number of years in hell!”

Executor of the grant

Line 21 contains the name of the Mahamantrin (liberally, the great minster). His name was Rengadityadasa. He seems to be the Prime Minister of the king who issued the charter and may have been the executor of the grant.

Date of issue

The last line of the record contained the date of issue. It is the 11th regnal year of the king who issued the charter.

Present location of the village of Dengutta and the Vihara

The village of Dengutta must be close to the spot where the copper plate was found. That is to the south west of Vesali. The Vihara built by the queen might be on the spot where the tablet of auspicious symbols, lustration pot and two cart loads of artifacts, which I have mentioned in Chapter VI were found. That spot is also not far away from the spot where the copper plate was found. I am sure we will be richly rewarded if we could only excavate these spots.

The copper-plate grant, apart from giving us the interesting information presented above, provides us with a very neat and tidy example of the alphabets used in Arakan during the sixth century A.D. and before. See Picture. Go

Two Inscribed Ancient Bronze Bells


All over the world bells have been rung to attract the attention of people. They ring out the hour of the day, call people to prayer at home or in the monastery, announce news of joy or sorrow, and remind people of something of the past.The bell in the monastery sounds the signal for rising at a particular time in the morning, it indicates the time for the morning meal, the time for prayer and it sounds the retiring signal at night.In Burma, we have caitya bells (Pagoda bells) also. They are hung under the hti or the finial. Their constant ringing remind celestial under the hti or the finial. Their constant ringing remind celestial devas, men and creatures of the nether world, of Buddh’s endless compassion and charity, and it is hoped people would thus be persuaded to follow Buddha’s path and thus gain release from the cycle of rebirths and attain nirvana.People donate bells producing sweet sounds, to gain merit. They believe that by donating bells that produce sweet sounds, they will have sweet voices in their next existence. In general, people donate bells primarily to gain any wish relating to the voice, in their next existence.So far, we have found two inscribed ancient bells from the vicinity of vesali in Arakan. One of the bells seems to be a caitya bell and the other a monastery bell. Both of them are made of bronze, that is, an alloy of copper and tin. The dates of their casting can be determined paleographically. Both of them are found by this method to have been casted in the sixth century A..D.The caitya bell ( See Picture. Go was found in the vicinity of Ahpaungdaw Dattaung ceti which is situated close to Tharlarwaddy Village, near the South-west corner of the outer wall of Vesali about 12 years age. It was brought to my notice in September, 1973. The bell is about 11.5 c.m. high, the inner diameter of the mouth is 9.9 c.m. and the outer diameter 11.5 c,m. It weighs over 2 lbs. The shape resembles the top part of a stupa. There are two bands at the lip of the bell. It is thus thickened to strengthen it at the point of clapper impact. This thickening of the lip also improves the tone of the bell. There are two bands bare of decoration, just below the neck of the bell. From the size of the neck which has an inner diameter of 2 c.m. and outer diameter of 3.4 c.m. it can be inferred as a caitya bell.Two lines of writings have been inscribed around the centre. The first line contains 18 words endowed with vowelmarks or conjunct Arakanese and Sanskrit. They record the donation of the bell, which is described as a naraghanta. The inscription ends with the so-called “garuda” symbol, found at the end of the 8th century caitya inscription and Anandacandra’s parsasti of Arakan.TEXTmatapitroh hiritathettr Kimmayan Dhanayah –  – namanaraghantayad datteyam samarira svarahWord for word translation in Sanakrit does not make sense as some of the words are ancient Arakanese. Translation can be roughly rendered as follows.Obeisance – – – for the welfare and Punya of (my) mother and father, Kimmayana – – – this nara bell with a sweet sound is given.

At least one personal name can be identified. This is, Kimmayana. The palaeography is exactly the same as that of the copper plate. Therefore, it can be dated around 507 A.D. The copper plate grant was issued by a Vesali king saying that a village by the name of Dengutta was granted by Kimmajuvdevi in favour of a vihara (Buddhist mon-satery) built by herself.

Notice that the nemes of the donor of the bell and the donor of the village to be somewhat related.

The second bell, (see plate 18) which seems to be a monastery bell was found by the late U San Shwe Bu at Prinedaung village, about six miles north of Vesali in 1918. The bell is 9.8 c.m. high and has an inner diameter of 9.5 c.m. and outer diameter of 10.5 c.m. It weighs about one pound. This bell is of smaller structure then the first one but is better cast. It weighs only half that of the first one. The neck of the bell is rather wide and seems to have an arrangement for fixing a handle. Hence it is inferred as a monastery bell. It has a band below the neck decorated with flower petals. There also bands without decorations around the shoulder and the lip. The lip of the bell is also thickened.

Here again, two lines of writing were inscribied between the bands around the shoulder and the lip. The writings can be palaeographically assigned to the pre-or early Niticandra period, that is around 520 A.D/ The writings reveal the dedication by a monk for the benefit of his spiritual preceptors, etc, and his mother and father,


deyadharma’ yam Sakyabikso ………………. yac atra punyam tad bhavatu matapitrpurvangamam krtva.

caryyipadhyayanam sarvvasatvanan ca anuttarajnanavaptaye iti. It can be translated as follows:

This is a pious offering of the Buddhist monk …………. May the merit that is therein be for the gaining of supreme knowledge (acquiring nirvana) by teachers, tutors and all beings in company with his mother and father.

Both these bells are at present in Akyab. These bronze bells show us that the people of Arakan of that age already possessed an advanced metallurgical technology.

Five Ancient Bronze Lamps


A lamp is a vessal for burning oil with a wick, and so giving light. The oil used may be animal, fish or vegetable oil.Of all the forms of gifts to the gods (devadanam), there is perhaps none which can equal in merit-winning capacity, that which is offered in the form of lamps or dipan, (from the Sanskrit dipa ”to light”). All over the world, the lighting of lamps form an assential part of tample and shrine worship.When such gifts (in the form of lamps) were made in ancient days, they were usually accompanied by the offering of cows, buffaloes, sheep or goats, from the milk of which the necessary clarified butter was extracted for the perpetual use of the lamps in the temples or shrines.Many ancient bronze lamps have been found, in Arakan, wrought in various forms. I now present fives such lamps which were found in the vicinity of Vesali and Dhanyawadi. There of the lamps are in the form of human statuettes bearing the vessel for the oil in their hands. The other two contain the figure of birds in their design. Two of the lamps in the form of humans, represent women and the other represents a hero prince.The first lamp with a human figure, ( See Picture. Go ) was found by the late U San Shwe Bu at Prinedaung village, about six miles north of Vesali. The height of the lamp, including the pedestal, is nine inches. It represents a woman holding out in front of her, a rather elongated spear-shaped receptacle, intended to hole the oil which is meant to be burned before the image of the Buddha, by means of wicks. We can notice six indentations at the edges of the receptacle for placing such wicks.The woman stands on a high pedestal. Her features are sharp and pointed. The ears are large and the nose is long, prominent and well defined. The hair is coiled on the crown of the head, slightly pushed back. She wears a plain necklace and an amulet on each upper arm, fastened by a broad band. There is a bangle round each wrist and a similar one round the middle of each forearm. Apart from these few ornaments, the upper body is bare. A girdle encircles the waist, and another band lower down over the hips fastens the close-fitting drapery which falls in folds to a length which reached just below the knees. One end of the cloth is apparently brought from the back the thighs and after being slipped over the girdle, it is allowed to fall in front in graceful folds.The statuette is similar to the South Indian statuettes. But the peculiar mode of wearing the hair in a top knot and the arrangement of the drapery, are unlike anything in the collections of India. Indeed the general impression suggests that the statuette is more inclined towards either the Egyptain or Assyrian rather than towards the Indian type in both design and executation.There is a line of inscription in Arakanese characters, around the upper part of the pedestal. The inscription reads:Ayana kaung Mu (the gift of Ayana). This name immediately reminds me of the name of the donor of the Vesali caitya bell, Kimmayana. If we remove the prefix Kim from that name we are left with Ayana, which seems to have been a common name in Arakan in olden days. The words Kim is a proto-western Tibeto-Burmese word meaning “house”.The inscription is of particular importance especially when considered in relation to the statuette with which it is associated. For, to whatever age the statuette may have belonged, it is difficult to get away from the inference that Arakanese literature must have also been current at that time.According to Arakanese historians, Vesali cased to be the capital of Arakan about the middle of the 10th century. So though there is nothing definite to go by in determining the age of this figurine, if any reliance can be placed on the data afforded by Arakanese historians, it may confidently be assumed that it must belong to the tenth century or earlier. The statuette is at present in Akyab.The second lamp in the form of a woman ( See Picture. Go ) was found at a site near the Mrauk-Oo Vesali road just before one reaches Vesali. It is a little shorter than the first, being only about four inches high. Here also the figure is that of a woman. She is depicted in the act of holding out in front is that of her, some type of vessel (missing) intended to hold oil and the wick. She also stands on a pedestal which is only half an inch in height. Nothing is inscribed on the pedestal.

This second lady seems to be better dressed than the lady of the first lamp. She wears a headdress and her hair falls behind her back neatly and stylishly braided into a long single plait. Her features are also sharp and well-defined. She wears a pair of large circular earrings and a necklace with a small locket. ( See Picture. Go ) She is dressed in a short-sleeved blouse with an open neck. She has a bangle around each wrist. Her pants are a tight fit and reach down to her ankles where they are folded slightly. An apron with naturalistic folds is fastened above the hips. She wears a pair of ornamental ankles rings. The statuette is at present in Mrauk-Oo.

The third lamp (See Picture. Go ) was found in the vicinity of Dhanyawadi. It is about the same size as the second lamp. The figure is that of a hero-prince. He wears a helmet that has a mask covering the face. He appears to be wearing a coat of mail with air holes around the neck, shoulder and breast. He stands in a crossed legged posture on a pedestal of pyramid form. A pasoe (ceremonial longyi) is gracefully worn round the waist and falls in folds to vover the knees. One end of the pasoe is brought round from the back and allowed to fall in front in graceful folds. This end is held between the crossed legs. The figures has its arms outstretched as if holding out some sort of vessel to hold the oil and the wick. The vessel is missing, but as the arms are stretched quite far apart, it must have been a wide one. There is a handle fixed to the back of the figure. This lamp is at present in Kyauktaw town.

The fourth lamp is a hanging lamp with its bowl surrounded by birds in flight. The lamp has a hook or loop at the top by which it can be suspended.( See Picture. Go ) Below this is a cinquefoil handle. The upper and outer angles are decorated with arabesques. There are nine triangular projections for wicks coming out from the central circular oil-bowl. Each of these alternates with a bird in flight, with wings outstretched. Only two of the birds remain completely intact, the rest have lost their heads. The base of the lamp is also decorated with a wide band with holes punched through it to present a lacy effect. The lamp can also be placed on the table instead of being hung from the rafters. This lamp was found inside the old Vesali walls and is at present in Mrauk-Oo.

The fifth lamp ( See Picture. Go) is also a hanging lamp. It has only one bird in its design, without feathers, but with its bones and spinal column prominently displayed. If we look at the lamp from above we will see that it resembles a four-pointed star, with the bird over one point. There is a ring for suspension at the back of the bird’s head. The bird itself is hollow, appearing like a skeleton, probably to allow free air circulation. Each of the four triangular projections can hold a wick. The whole lamp is ingeniously balanced so that while in a hanging position it will not be tilted. It can also be placed on a table instead of being hung. This lamp was also found somewhere inside Vesali together with the fourth lamp described above, and is at present in Mrauk-Oo.

It is a great pity that no competent authority has ever thought it fit to properly survey the site of this famous old city of Vesali and to excavate it. In days long gone by, more than a thousand ships are said to have annually put in at the harbour of Vesali, laden with merchandise of all descriptions extracted from the great emporiums of the Eastern World. One has simply to understand its past history, its former greatness, to enable one to form a pretty shrewd idea of the store of priceless art treasures lying buried beneath the soil of its site.



A Ceti Dedicatory Inscription from Eighth Century Vesali Site of find

This piece of stone inscription (See Plate 24 )GO was found in Vesali village which is situated five miles north of Mrauk_Oo. It was actually found somewhere on the brick mound which is situated at the edge of the so-called canal. This place is situated at the southwest corner of Vesali village and the northwest corner of Tharlarwaddy village.We can well imagine that about one thousand two hundred years ago, the so-called canal was the moat of the Vesali inner city or palace, and the mound, a spot at the southwest corner of the moat. From the contents of the inscription we can infer that this stone inscription has fallen out of a now-ruined ceti [of which there is no longer any trace at present] which formerly stood on that mound.Script and size of the inscribed stoneThe script was inscribed on a piece of stone slab 9 inches in length and 7 inches in breadth. The script resembles that of the Anandacandra inscription, inscribed on the west face of a stone pillar, now to be seen at the Shittaung Phara at Mraunk-Oo. The characters illustrated here appear to be a little earlier than the Anandacandra inscription, as can be inferred from the way gha and sa were written. The characters are also more square in form. Again unlike the dandas used in the Anandacandra inscription, the first member of the double dandas curves inwards, as in earlier Vesali inscriptions. After the final dandas, there is a symbol consisting of a circle with four V shapes, above, below and on either side of the circle, followed by two double dandas.The upper portion of the stone slab has broken off and been lost. The missing part probably contained the beginning of the inscriptions, which normally would have mentioned the name of the donor and of his ancestors. We are left with only ten lines of inscription. The language of the inscription is Sanskrit. The lines illustrated in Plate 24 belong to two complete verses. The first verse being in Vasantatilaka metre and the second in anustubh sloka. The missing part probably contained one verse. The inscription commemorates the construction of a caitya (ceti). A line by line transliteration of the characters from the stone slab to modern Burmese characters is shown in plate 24.Palaeographic Determination of DatePalaeographically, we can assign the inscription to the late 7th or early 8th centuries, possibly to the reign of Dharmacandra, (740-720 A.D), the father of Anandacandra.TEXTVerse 1. (Lost)Verse 2. punyam mayaptamatulam yamihadya caityam nispadya tena bhavasagrato hi param, trsma taranga bhrsa cancala raudra nadat satvah prayantu sukhina trimala prahinah.Verse 3. yati prajvalitam ghoram bhedako rauravam param, divyakalpa sahasrani svarge tisthati palaka itiTranslation

Verse 1. Lost. Might have contained the names of the donor and his ancestors.

Verse 2.

As I have completed the building of the ceti in this place today, I have gained the incomparable nerit. For the meritorious deed I have done let all beings be able to discard the three impurities (lobha, dosa, moha) and cross the ocean of becoming which is roaring fiercely due to the waves of craving and striking violently, and reach the other shore (nirvana) happily.

Verse 3.

The one who destroys the ceti goes to terrible and flaming “roruwa” hell after death and the one who looks after (it) stays in heaven for thousands of heavenly aeons. This is the end.

We should note that to attain nirvana, one has to discard the three impurities (lobha, dosa, moha). This is stated in the inscription. Discarding the three impurities is nothing but purifying one’s own mind. This is the teaching of Buddha and the Buddhism at that time was based on the teachings of Buddha. (See verse 183 of the Dhamapada).

The ceti mentioned in the inscription is no longer in existence. But we still have the dedicatory inscription with us. What was the shape of the ceti? How large and how beautiful was it? We can only speculate and dream about what the answers to these questions may be.

Ancient Miniature Bronze “Cetis” of Vesali


In Burmese, the solid religious edifice of the Buddhists is called a ceti. This is an abbreviation of the Indian word “caitya”, which may generally be translated as something built or piled up. The word is used for funeral mounds; built in honour of heroes, teachers or prophets. The ceti is an object of veneration and serves as a place of worship.A ceti is called a pagoda win English. This is a foreign word and is not used by the Burmese people.In Burma, cetis are memorials in monumental form, constructed mainly to preserve the memory of the Buddha. Most of these contain relics of the Buddha, his images or scripture, recording his teachings. They are placed in sealed chambers known as relic chambers often located in the basement, and sometimes up in the datu-gabbha which lies between the bell and the finial.In the building of cetis, Buddhists are motivated by certain sentiments the building of a ceti si considered an act of great religious spells elevation to a better life in the hereafter or elevation to some heavenly abode or even to nirvana in some future existence. People, by the generations, can also use these cetis for religious worship and for the practice of Buddhism. The cetis themselves help ensure the preservation and perpetuation of the religion for a long time.A typical solid ceti consists of the following essential parts:1) The base platform; the plinth2) Receding terraces;3) The bell;4) The spire with mouldings tapering upwards;5) Lotus petals;6) The banana bud;7) The umbrella.

In general, therefore, a ceti is an edifice which possesses all the essential parts mentioned above. These different parts are ornamented and decorated in many beautiful ways. At the corners of the plinth we may find guardian animals, (mythical or otherwise). Some cetis have beautifully executed niches in the body with figures of the Buddha facing the four cardinal points. The terraces are polygonal in shape and may have floral edges. There may be small cetis or kalasa pots at the corners of the terraces. The number of terraces varies with different cetis. Above the terraces comes the bell. On top of the bell is the ringed spire telescopically tapering upwards? At the apex of the spire are the down-turned and upturned lotus petals with a row of ornamental beads in-between. Above the lotus petal mouldings, is the banana bud? An artistic hti or umbrella crowns the whole edifice.

There are many cetis built by various kings of the Mrauk-Oo dynasty (1430-1784 A.D), still standing in Arakan. They are generally similar in structure and differ only in details. Each of them presents some interesting and individual features. But one very rarely come been built by earlier kings, and records of such cetis, inscribed on stones, have been discovered. These cetis have either collapsed due to weathering, or been destroyed by vandalism, or been encased in pagodas built by later kings.

However, from the ruins of old cetis or stupas built on or near the old Vesali city site, we have recovered a few miniature bronze cetis. As the ruined cetis or stupas may be dated somewhere about 1000 A.D (i.e before the fall of Vesali), we may assume that the bronze miniature cetis were made about the same time or even earlier. Looking at these miniature cetis, one is tempted to pose the question: Are these miniature cetis representations of the monumental cetis in existence at that period? No one can say for sure. Anyway it is interesting to compare and find out the similarities between miniature cetis and the full-size cetis existing at the present time.

See Picture. GoI now present three miniature bronze cetis, which have come to my notice. The first one was found in Tharlarwaddy village which is located within the southern city walls of old Vesali city. The second one was found in Dharmarit village which lies very close to the old Vesali site. The exact location where the third one was found is unknown.

All the three miniature cetis have conical structure. They are thus in stable equilibrium and are in no danger of falling down by themselves from slight disturbances.

All of them have miniature image halls placed on high decorated pedestals. The cetis proper are placed on top of these image halls.

The first miniature ceti ( See Picture. Go )has a square pedestal wrought in the form of a royal throne. At the four corners of the base platform are four guardian animals. It is difficult to distinguish whether they are lions or dogs. Most probably they are lions; on the pedestal is the image hall. This tiny hall has four openings decorated with arches, and each opening faces one of the cardinal directions. The design of the arches over the openings is similar to the structure behind of the arches over the openings is similar to the structure behind the thrones of the Arakanese kings. Looking through the arches we can see four seated Buddha images in bhumisparsa-mudra, in the tiny hall, with their backs to the central pilaster. Three circular bands, successively diminishing in diameter, thus forming receding terraces, are placed on the square roof of the image hall. Then comes the bell. The lip of the bell flares out to encompass the topmost circular band. The curve of the bell is first concave and then convex towards the top. The bell is decorated with rings. Above the bell is the datu-gabbha. Above this is the spire, with moulding telescopically tapering upwards. The mouldings are nine in number. The topmost moulding contains the dawn turned lotus petals. After this comes a ring separating the down turned petals from the upturned petals. Above the lotus petal mouldings is the banana bud. There is no hti on top of the banana bud on this miniature ceti.

The second ceti ( See Picture. Go) also has a square pedestal, although of a different design. The four corners of the base platform are guarded by four mythical animals, each having the head and torso of a man attached to a lion’s body, which in turn divides into two towards the rear, thus forming an artistically balanced corner decoration. The four corners at the top of the pedestal have miniature caityas. There is an image hall on the pedestal with four openings decorated with arches in the four cardinal directions. The design of the arches of this ceti is different from that of the first ceti. Again there are four seated Buddha images in bhumisparsa mudra with their backs to the pilaster inside the hall. There are five receding terraces placed on the square roof of the image hall. Above these is the bell. The bell is decorated with a ring around the middle. The datu-gabbha which lies between the bell and the spire is not as prominent as in the first ceti. The spire consists of nine layers of mouldings tapering telescopically upwards. The uppermost moulding is decorated with down turned lotus petals. Then comes the ornamental beads and the upturned petals Above the lotus petal mouldings is the banana bud. Above the banana bud is the hti.

The third ceti ( See Picture. Go ) is a rare type. It has a pentagonal pedestal. At the five corners of the base platform are five guardian lions. There is a circular seat decorated with flower petals on the pedestal. The image hall is placed on this seat. This hall has five openings decorated with arches similar in design to the structure backing the throne of kings. There are five seated Buddha images in bhumispara mudra within the arches.  Above the roof of the pentagonal image hall are the circle is smoother than from square to circle of the former cetis. There are three circular terraces, bare of decoration. On top of these is another circular seat decorated with flower petals. The bell is placed on this. The bell has three rings round its middle. There is no datu-gabbha above the bell. The ringed spire is placed immediately on top of it. The spire which telescopically tapers upwards, consists of twenty rings. The banana bud on top of the spire cannot be seen properly because it is hidden by the hti, which has a peculiar shape.

After a careful study of the structure of these miniature cetis, none of which is much more than a cubit in height, one can but wonder at the striking similarities between these little cetis of the past and the big modern cetis to be seen today. Who were the craftsmen who can these miniature bronze cetis? Did they first draw plans of the structure before casting the citis? How did they draft the details or section? How did they prepare the models? Were these made of wood or clay? There are so many questions we cannot answer. But one thing is certain. Whoever these craftsmen is bronze may have been, there is no denying of their fine eye and skill, which are apparent in their handiwork.

Different Indian Schools of Art


 According to the Arakanese historical annals and the Selargiri tradition, Buddhism was introduced into Arakan during the life-time of the Buddha. The legend asserts that during the reign of king Candasuriya, the king of Dhanyawadi (Ancient Arakan) who was a contemporary of Buddha, Gotama Buddha visited Arakan with five hundred disciples. On the Selargiri mountain, which is opposite Kyauktaw town on the Kaladan river, Buddha held a prophetic discourse.King Candasuriya went to Selargiri hill to meet the Blessed One. He invited the Blessed One to his capital which was about five miles to the east of the hill. The Blessed One stayed in the city for seven days. When Buddha made preparations to depart, the king requested the Buddha to leave an image of him. The Blessed One complied with the king’s request. With the consent of Buddha, Sakra and Visvakarman cast an exact replica of the Blessed One on the Visvakarman cast an exact replica of the north-east side of the inner palace of Dhanyawadi City. This image has been called Mahamuni since then. King Candasuriya erected the Mahamuni Shrine on the Sirigutta hill in commemoration of Buddha’s visit and the casting of his image. See Picture. GoApart from this tradition, we have found miniature stupas with Yedharma verses on them (Chapter V) and also many dedicatory stone inscriptions, dedicating the building of stupas and caitya, (Chapter VII and XI) all around the old cities of Dhanyawadi and Vesali. We can determine the dates of these inscriptions palaeogaphically and can state that the earliest ones were inscribed during the fourth and the fifth centuries A.D. We thus have solid evidence that Buddhism flourished in Arakan not later than the above mentioned period. In addition to these inscriptions we have found many Buddha images of various types of ruined ancient stupas and cetis. Miniature cetis, (Chapter XII) dedicatory bronze bells, (Chapter IX) copper plate land grant for the repair and maintenance of vihara built for Buddhist monks (Chapter VIII) and lamps used for worship of Buddha images (Chapter X) have also been found.Indian Schools of ArtIndependent Ancient Arakan which lay beyond the eastern frontier of Ancient India was naturally influenced by the Ancient Indian Schools of Art during the succeeding centuries. It will not be out of place, therefore to first survey here, very briefly, the different Ancient Indian Schools of Art before we survey the Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan.Scholars of Buddhist Art in Ancient India generally classify the Schools of Art as follows.1) The Mauryan School of ArtThe earliest school of art belongs to the Mauryan period in the eastern provinces of Northern India. Some examples of the specimens and on the inscribed pillars of Asoka in the northern district of but either their earlier date has not been confirmed or is still a matter of controversy.2) The Gandhara School of ArtThe next is the Gandhara School of Art which came into being in the second century B.C. It has left many specimens of its production scattered over the North western districts of ancient India (Afghanistan and western Punjab). The sculptures left are mainly Buddhisftic and portray scenes from the life of the Buddha and also those of his previous existences. Besides the Buddha images, there are images of Kubera, Jambhala, Maitreya, Indra, Hariti and unidentified Bodhisattva images. The most flourishing period of the Gandtra art was during the reigu of King Kaniska, the great Kushan Emperor.3) The Mathura School of ArtThe Mathura School followed closely. It can be either contemporaneous or somewhat later than the Gandhara School. The schools left numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva images along Tantric flavor are found in this school Not even the images of Avalokitesvara and Manjusri were found.

The Mathura sculptures included the following events of the life of Buddha. (1) Birth, (2) Illumination or Sambodhi, (3) First Sermon, (4) Visit of Indra to Buddha, (5) Buddha thinking of leaving his palace, (6) Buddha leaving his palace, (7) the change of garments, (8) Descent from Heaven of the thirty three gods, (9) The gift of the Jetavana, (10) The Taming of the elephant Nalargiri, (11) The presentation of alms bowls, and (12) Death or mahaparinirvana. Apart from these, many of the Jataka stories are also represented in this school. The Mathura school extended to the early Gupta period.

The bas relief’s of Bharhut and Sanchi show the majority of human figures wearing a peculiar headdress. It appears that the Gandhara school influence this school during the first decades of the second century A.D. The important feature borrowed from the Gandhara School was the representation of the scenes of the life of the Buddha.

4. The Benares School of Art or the Magadha School of Art

The next is the Benares School. It may also be called the Magadha School. This school of art belongs to the early Gupta period. This school included the images found in Sarnath, Nalanda, Odantapuri, Gaya and other ancient sites in Bihar. The majority of the sculptures are Buddhist. A new form of bas-reliefs representing scenes from the life of Buddha are produced which are entirely different from the old bas-reliefs of Sanchi and Bharhut. They are in the form of steles.

5. The Eastern School of Bengal and Bihar

A new school of sculptures rose in the North Eastern Provinces of India in the later part of the mediaeval period. That is, from the middle of the eighth century A.D. to the end of the tenth. The period coincides with the rise of Palas and the new school is therefore also called the Pala School of Art. But we must note that this school of art should not be identified with Palas alone.  Because, there is no epigraphic evidence to show that any part of the Eastern Bengal was included in the dominions actually ruled by the Pala kings.  The ancient kingdoms of Eastern Bengal were Vanga or Harikela and Samatata.  These places were firmly under the control of the Candra kings.  So, we will generalize the name of this school as the Eastern School of Bengal and Bihar.  The Artists in this school attenuate the limbs in accordance with the favourite descriptions of Indian poets: their aim being the reproduction of sublime beauty in figures.

In this school, artists developed new forms of representation of the important incidents of the life of Buddha.  Two different styles of adaptation of the bas-reliefs can be noticed.  The first consists of the representations of a single incident of Buddha’s life in the form of an image.  In the second style an image of Buddha representing one particular incident of the Blessed One’s life surrounded by numerous other images representing the majority of the important incident.

The development of the second style can be explained as follows.  Buddha on his death-bed, in answer to his well loved disciple Ananda’s question, mentioned four places which an honourable worshipper should visit with religious emotion.  They are those of his Birth, his Enlightenment, hi First Sermon, and his Parinirvana.  These four scenes were common to almost all the steles which show the scenes from the life of the Buddha.  But the artists and the sculptors were not long content with these alone.  In course of time the number of scenes increased.  Finally the number and order of scenes tend to get fixed at eight scenes.  Steles having more than eight have also been found.

The Head, The Hair And The Usnisa


Buddha ImagesThe biography of Buddha relates that Prince Siddharttha, son of Suddhodana, king of the Sakyas, made the great renunciation at the age of 29.  One night he rode off from the palace and when far from the city he stripped off his ornaments and royal robes.  He cut off his long hair with his sword.  He received a monastic robe from Brahma Ghatikara.  From that moment till his death he wore nothing but the monastic robe.A student of Buddhism, who is accustomed to think of the Buddha only as a human being, would naturally expect to find the Master represented in art, like any other Buddhist monk, with a shaven head.As a matter of fact, Buddha is always represented as a deity, with a nimbus, certain physical peculiarities and all the characteristic marks proper to the conception of a Chakravartin or king of the world.  Texts implying the deification of the Buddha and possessing all the characteristic marks of a Chakravartin are older than the oldest images of Buddha.  We can thus suppose that the images of Buddha are intended to be visual realization of literary descriptions.  The styles of art and fashion in iconography are characteristic of period and place.Representations of the headThe heads of Buddha images may be classified as follows:The head smooth, with a spirally twisted projection on the crown. ( See Picture. Go ) Early Kusana type.The head with long flowing locks gathered together on top of the head to form a topknot. ( See Picture.Go)  Early Gandhara type.The head with a cranial protuberance (Usnisa).  The whole head together with the protuberance being covered by small curls.  See Picture. Go The Usnisa appeared about the middle of the 2nd century AD.  Both Gandhara and Mathura used this type.  This type spread from both areas to the Far East and Southeast Asia.  The vast majority of the Buddha images belong to this type.  In a comparatively late form, the usnisa is surmounted by a flame tip, a flame niche or a lotus bud.  In some of the Buddha images of Arakan, the usnisa itself is represented as a flame.  See Picture. Go4.  The head with a crown: this type of Buddha is usually called crowned Buddha.  Such images are common in the Eastern School of Bengal and Bihar and in Arakan School of art.  See Picture. GoThe HairIn the reliefs and sculptures showing the act of Bodhisattva cutting his hair, he is represented as grasping the whole of the hair in a single tress in the left hand, and cutting it with the sword in the other.  The turban has already been removed.  If this is the case the most natural way to represent the remaining hair will be to reduce the single thick tress to a single short curl. The See Picture. Go, which was an early kusana Buddha, represented the hair in this form. The smooth head seen in the picture meant simply that all the long hair was drawn up close and tight over the scalp into the single tress and not that it was shaved.

The Nidanakatha tells us that “the hair was reduced to two inches in length and curling from the right, lay close to the head, remaining of that length as long as he lived”.

A new type in which the whole head was covered with many small curls appeared about the middle of the second century, becoming almost universal, in Gandhara, in Mathura and in later art throughout the East and South-east Asia. The length and curling of the hair could still be accounted for from the literary tradition as mentioned in Nidanakatha. But to have curls with equal length all over the head, the original hair instead of being cut off at a single stroke, should had been done by a succession of strokes.

Anyway, we can note that the Buddha’s hair may be represented either in one curl or in many curls.

The cranial protuberance (Usnisa)

The Mahapadana-Sutta mentioned a list of the thirty two lakkhanas (superior marks) proper to a person, who is destined to become a Cakravartin or a Buddha. The last one being unhiso-siso. Similarly, the Mahavastu and Latita-Vistara mentioned unsiso-siso. The interpretation of this phrase is very important. Etymologically, it meant a sunshade or a turban (often a royal headdress) or a royal umbrella. The lakkhanas were recognized in infancy. They must be present on the body, since then, as a physical appearance. This results in a new interpretation of the phrase unhisa or usnisa as a cranial protuberance. That is, a bony protuberace on the top of the skull.

When the tonsure was reinterpreted as resulting in crop of short curls instead of a single coil, the cranial bump became con spiciously evident.



Crowned BuddhasAs has been mentioned in Chapter XIV, we know that Prince Siddhatta discarded the royal robes and adornments after the great renunciation. Also, Buddhist monks are forbidden to wear any other robes except monk’s robes. These two facts will naturally suggest that the presentation of a crowned Buddha garbed in royal robes and ornaments like a Cakravartin king, is uneconomical and unorthodox. But we have found many crowed Buddha images in Arakan throughout different ages. See Picture. GoAre they Maitreya images mentioned by many authorities? We should have found other Bodhisattva images also together with these images. But we have not. The hand gestures of these crowned Buddhas are all in line with ordinary Buddha images. They do not hold any attributes assigned to a Maitreya as mentioned in ancient Indian literature. The sitting postures of our crowned Buddhas are also in line with ordinary Buddhas. The attendant figures are also the same as those found together with ordinary Buddha images. For example, the presence, of Vasumdhari. There are too many crowned Buddhas in existence in Arakan. It is hard to believe and is illogical to assume that Buddha images are discarded and instead Maitreya images are worshipped. We must conclude that the Arakanese worshipped Buddha images. The only difference is that the images are garbed in royal robes instead of monk’s robes.We have to note that the Buddha image came into being only after the Buddha had been regarded as a Devatideva, god of gods. Again, in, the iconographic development, the Cakravartin concept played a great part. The Buddha was provided with all the lakkhanas of a Cakravartin. They belonged to the Mahayana theology and must have been present in some form from very early times. These conceptions are sufficient to account for the presentation of the crowed Buddha with all the royal attributes at different ages.In some cases, although the Buddha wears a crown, ear-pendents, necklace and torque, we can notice the robe of a monk on his body with shoulder flap on the left and a bare right shoulder. See Picture. GoIn some cases, we can find Buddha dressed up with all the attributes of a Cakravartin King; crown, ear-rings, necklets, armlets, bracelets, anklets and a waist band. See Picture. GoAgain, some of the eight scene steles of the school of Bengal and Bihar and Pagan in Burma have a central crowned Buddha in Bhumisparsa mudra surrounded by representations of the Eight Great events of Buddha’s life. See Picture. Go For such cases, the reader will agree that it would be far simpler to suppose that we have to do with a glorification of the earthly Buddha, by addition of the kingly attributes, which reminds us that the Buddha is more than man. The earthly Buddha, originally a man, has been transformed into a deity.The crowned Buddha image most probably came about because of the desire of kings and commoners alike to worship the Buddha as the “King of Kings” as has been explained in the Maha ParinibbanaSutta.Anyway, the Buddha is equally a Great Being, a deity, whether he appears in monastic robes or in royal robes.Since separate images of Buddha represent incidents of the Blessed One’s life, we must be able to explain the crowned Buddha with all royal attributes, holding the ambrosia jar and sitting in Dhyana mudra, vajra sana. An article by U Mya about the crowned Buddha image written in the Report of the Director, Archaeological Survey, Burma for the year ending 30th September 1955, and published in 1961 is presented here. This is the Burmese version of the explanation of the existence of Crowned Buddha.The majority of Buddha images depict the Buddha attired in simple robes like those one sees on present-day Buddhist monks. But crowned Buddha images were to be found throughout Burma and especially in the Shan States and in neighboring Laos and Thailand, since olden days.The Wetmasut Wundank, a Minister of King Mindon, was intrigued by the crowned Buddha images and was moved to ask the Taung Khwin Thathanabaing Sayadaw, the Buddhist Patriarch of his days, to let the people know whether the casting and worship of such regally attired Buddha images was based on some incident in Buddhist Literature. (Vide Gulattha Vinicchaya Vol. I pp, 20-23)Even before that time, in the year 1172 of the Buddhist Era, (about 1810 A.D) during the reign of King Padon, the founder of the Royal City of Amarapura, the same question was put by Sayadaw Thirimalar of Monywa to the learned Monywa Jetavan Sayadaw. The two answer of the Monywa Jetavan Sayadaw which appears in the Samanta cakku dipani Vol. I pp. 429-532.

“It is clearly stated in the Maha Parinibbana Sutta that the Lord Buddha did not adorn himself with the royal regalia, such as the crown, necklaces, rings, bracelets etc. However, because the Buddha delivered many of his sermons from the thrones of kings, certain inhabitants of the far-flung universes were under the impression that it was their king who was speaking to them. According to our elders, it is this impression in the minds of those extra-terrestrial beings, of the Buddha in royal regalia, which gave rise to the production and worship of the crowned Buddha images.”


The Casting of the Mahakyain PharasThe first step in the process of casting the Mahakyain Phara is taken by the Chancellor or Prime Minister, who, in consultation with other learned ministers and court Brahmins (Royal astrologers), chooses the most auspicious day and hour for the casting.After this, the site for the casting is chosen with the same care.  The ground is leveled and to cleanse the site (i.e. to ward off evil spirits), monks are invited to the site, offered food, and requested to recite the Kammava, the Prittas, the Mangala Sutta and the Brahmajala Mantra.A large temporary hall is then erected over the site.  This hall is enclosed by three lattice-work fences, one inside another.  The wood of certain trees which have an affinity for the planets – such as the Gangaw (Mesua Ferrea), the Saga (Michellia Champaca), the Chaya (Mimusops Clerigi) and the jackfruit are selected in order to obtain wooden posts free from blemish.  The selected pieces or wood are then shaped into eight posts, lacquered and gilded, and then planted inside the Hall at the eight points of the compass to represent the eight planets.  Staves with streamers, magical banners and yak-tail whisks are also put up.  At each corner of the boundary lines marked off by the three light fences, a banana plant bearing fruit is planted, making a total of twelve banana plants.  The innermost fence is draped with white cloth, while the two outer ones are draped with red cloth.  Nine silver pots containing pure water together with nine white umbrellas (the insignia of royalty) are placed at each of the eight posts representing the planets and at the actual site where the casting is to take place.  To melt the precious metals for the image, new melting pots and a new fireplace are needed.  For fuel only scented woods are used.When the appointed day and hour arrives, eight Brahmins invested with certain sacerdotal functions, stand at the planetary pillars and blow their right-volute conches, thereby ceremonially inviting the guardian Nats (gods) of the planets, the Lokapala Nat, the Guardian Nats respectively of the Religion, the Country, the Sky, the Earth, and the Trees.  They follow this up with a recitation of mantrams or spells such as the Grahajaya Verse, the Saranasirishindha Bhumijala Verse and others.  It is at this moment that the sculptors, who are to cast the image, wearing pure white clothing, begin to kindle their fire, using sandalwood.  Then the precious metals which are to be used for casting the image are placed in the new pot to be melted.  This melting down of the metals is done only during the day.  The pot must not be removed from the fireplace at this juncture.  Neither must the fire be extinguished.  It has to be allowed to die down by itself.  The melting process continues for nine whole days till the auspicious moment arrives for the sculptors to cast the Mahakyain Phara.  During the casting, the image is made to face the east.  While the casting is in progress, the Brahmins strew closured artificial flowers made from rice grains parched till they burst open, and they recite the verse beginning “Anekajatisamsara…”Buddha Abhiseka Mangala CeremonyWhen the sculptors have added the final touches to the Mahakyain Phara image, the Brahmins ceremonially wash the image in pure water and then spray scent over it.  A golden salver, ornamented with the nine varieties of gems, on which is laid a piece of most expensive cloth, which in turn covered by a piece of white cloth, is brought forward, and the image is transferred onto the salver.  At this moment the Brahmins recite a mantram, a sort of prayer to ward off evil.For the ceremony of the Buddha Abhiseka Mangala, the Chancellor has to invite, in advance, five, seven or nine Buddhist monks, venerable of age and renowned for their holiness. These invited monks sit in a circle around the image, their fingers holding the white cloth on which the image reposes. Then they recite in unison the Buddha Abhiseka verse. When the recitation ends, the Brahmins blow on their right-voluted conches, while the lay musical bands stationed outside the Hall produce an outburst of music on their instruments, and this outburst of sound marks the conclusion of the Buddha Abhiseka Mangala Ceremony.Then with the Chancellor leading the way, the image is transferred to the Royal Palace, the King, Queen, Princes and Princesses as well as the court officials await in readiness to greet the arrival of the Mahakyain Phara, and to pay obeisance to it with scents, before taking it to be placed in the altar room.The PosturesThe posture of the Mahakyain Phara images is the usual crosslegged posture, but the Mahakyain Pharas are distinguished from ordinary images in that each wears a crown just like that of a king who takes part in a Coronation Ceremony. The ears are adorned with royal ear-rings. The body is covered, not with the monk’s robe but with royal garb. This garb is an exact representation of the royal grab worn by the king at whose command the image was cast. For this reason, the royal garb of one Mahakyain Phara is quite distinct from that of another, and it can clearly be seen that with progress the royal garb became increasingly more elaborate.Among the images two types of cross-legs posture can be seen. One type has the left foot placed under under the right leg, and the right foot placed on the left thigh. See Picture. Go The other type has the two legs crossed so that both feet are brought to rest, soles upwards, on the thighs. See Picture. Go

The images can also be divided into three types according to the position of the hands. The first type is known as the “bhumisparsa mudra”, a type wherein the left hand is placed palm upwards on the lap, and on the open palm is placed a golden bowl. The right hand rests, palm down, on the right knee, the fingers all pointing downwards and the fingertips touching the ground or the throne on which the image is seated. See Picture. Go The second type is known as the “dhyana mudra”. It portrays the Buddha in meditation, with both hands resting in a relaxed manner on the lap, both palms upward, the right hand resting on the left. Certain images of this type show the two thumbs, with their tips touching each other, while the fingers are slightly spread in the normal manner. One the outspread palm, a begging bowl, a nectar bowl or a golden bowl is usually placed, See Picture. Go

The third type depicts the Buddha with his right arm bent at the elbow. The hand raised towards the shoulders is closed as if grasping something. The left hand is placed on the “lap, palm turned upwards, but the fingers again clasped as if holding something. See Picture. Go

The Size

The sizes of the images also vary, from a hands breadth to a cubit, in accordance with the wishes of the kings who commissioned the casting. The weight too varies a great deal because of the difference in size. These Mahakyain Phara images are still to be found all over Arakan.

The use of Crowned Buddha In Coronation Ceremony

For his Coronation Ceremony, an Arakanese king first selects the most renowned pagoda within his kingdom as the site, and then proceeds towards it in Royal Procession, passing out of the Palace grounds through the Mangala Gate. Arriving at the platform of the selected pagoda, each personage takes up his assigned position. The king then raises the Mahakyain Phara to the top of his head, and holding it there, he makes three circuits of the pagoda. He completes the third circuit at the temporary Hall where the coronation is to the place. The Coronation Ceremony itself follows traditional rites. At the conclusion, the Thathanabaing Sayadaw (the Patriarch or Principal Monk of the kingdom) and a number of monks who can recite from memory the whole of the Tipitakas (the three main can onical divisions of the Buddha’s teachings are divided into Vinaya, Code of Discipline, Sutta, Discourses, and Abhidhamma, Higher Doctrine), then hold the Mahakyain Phara over the King’s head and exhort him to uphold justice in the tradition of his forefathers, to venerate the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha), to encourage the Buddhist religion within his kingdom, and to suppress the enemies of Buddhism. The king has to take an oath and declare that he will faithfully discharge his duties as enumerated above. This oath-taking is the high point of the ceremony.

In this manner, every king of Arakan (according to tradition), has had a Mahakyain Phara cast for his coronation. The images are shown crowned and in the royal garb of the kings who had cast them, so the mode of dress of the Arakanese kings can be conjectured very accurately from a study of these images.

The Arakanese Tradition

The Arakanese peasantry in olden days very often used a Buddha image to take an oath in trying to settle conflicting claims or even criminal cases. This practice was no doubt, in some measure, due to their belief and faith in Buddhism but could just as easily have derived from the King’s Royal Oath-taking.

Postures and Gestures of Buddha Images


Different images of Buddha represent distinct incidents of the Blessed-One are life. These incidents can be identified from the posture of Buddha’s hands or some attendant figures.The technical term used to denote the hand poses of the images is mudra. Mudras usually indicate some action in which Buddha was engaged. The action is depicted by means of a particular gesture which is the expression of an idea.We can recognize the following mudras in the Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan.1) The Bhumisparsa mudra2) The Dhyana mudra3) The Dharmacakra mudra4) The Abhaya mudra5) The Abhaya and Varada Combined mudra6) The Internal Varada mudraWe recognize four attitudes for these images.They are: -(1) and (2) In standing or walking posture. Generally speaking, this posture is used in depicting the taming of the Nalagiri elephant or the descent of the Buddha from the heaven of thirty three gods where he went to preach the true law to his mother since reincarnated as a god, for three months. See Picture. Go

(3) In sitting posture. Generally speaking this posture is used in depicting the calling upon Mother Earth to stand witness or the preaching of the Dharmacakra Sermon or the Buddha in deep meditation. See Picture. Go

(4) In reclining posture. This posture is used in depicting the death or the Mahaparinirvana.

We can further differentiate the sitting postures as follows. The term “sana” is used to denote the sitting posture as well as the seat.

(a) The legs are placed one upon the other with both the soles invisible. This sana is called the pariyanka sana. The position of the legs, right on left, is a sign of antiquity. See Picture. Go


(b) The legs are closely crossed with the feet brought to rest on the thighs and the soles of the feet turned upwards with the right foot forward. This sana is called vajra sana or vajraparyarika sana or padma sana. The padma sana is also used to denote the lotus seat. See Picture. Go

(c) A European style of sitting in which both the legs are made to dangle down from the seat. This sana is called pralambana sana.

The Bhumisparsa Mudra

In this mudra, the left hand rests on the lap with palm upward and the right, palm down resting on the right knee and touching the seat or ground below. See Picture. Go

This mudra illustrates the story of Buddha’s calling the earth as his witness for testifying to his attainment of perfect knowledge.

The representation of the Enlightenment or Sambodhi and the incidents connected with it, form the favorite themes with the Buddhist artists of all schools. According to the well known story of the Blessed – One’s life, he called on the earth – goddess Prithivi or Vasudhari to come and be the witness of his perfect knowledge by touching the earth. This mudra indicates the moment when he ceased to be a Bodhisattva and became Buddha. He did this because Mara, the evil one, while attacking the Blessed – One with his fourfold army, challenged him to do is by saying that there was no body near at hand to witness his attainment of perfect knowledge or ealightment.

In Buddhist iconography, this particular posture of touching the earth has become one of the mudras or special attitudes. It is called the Bhumisparsa mudra or the attitude of touching the earth.

The representation of Enlightenment by the artists can be divided into two or three parts. They are (1) the temptation of Bodhisattva by Mara’s daughters, (2) the attack on the Bodhisattva by Mara’s followers and (3) the call on Vasumdhari, the earth – goddess to stand witness.

Mara had three beautiful daughters. Desire, Pleasure and Passion. The temptation by Mara’s daughters, are depicted in one case as follows. There are three groups with two female figures in each group. In one group one female is dancing and the other has adopted an elegant posture. This represent the daughters of Mara exposing their physical charms to the Bodhisattva in order to disrupt him from attaining enlightenment. In the next group both the females or one of them is addressing the Bodhisattva when their allurements have failed. In the remaining group, both female are kneeling in submission with disheveled hair.

The attack on Bodhisattva by Mara’s followers is represented by pictures of Mara himself in the act of shooting arrows towards the Bodhisattva with followers represented as demons. In the story of Mara’s attack, Mara with his demon army attacked Bodhisattva with whirlwind, tempest, flood and earthquakes.

In one huge stele at Jadispur near Nalanda, the demonic army of Mara ranged in vertical rows on both sides of the Blessed – One. They were attacking him with all sorts of weapons. On the leftside of the Blessed – One’s head was a demon with a wheel on one hand while another one below him was shooting at him with arrows. Below this demon was a dwarf throwing stone. A man behind him seemed to be rushing through the air with a sword in his hand. There were four figures on the other side of the Blessed – One representing the army of Mara. They were also rushing to the attack on the Blessed – One.

The answer of Vasumdhari, the earth goddess, to the call of the Master is represented by a woman usually placed on the front side of the pedestal below the Blessed – One. See Picture. Go She is kneeling mostly towards the left but facing front and is wringing the water from her hair brought in a tress in front of her breast testifying the Blessed – One’s merit. Vasumdhari, in this form, is very common in Arakanese Buddhist art.

We have a tradition, which is observed to this day to close a meritorious ceremony by the donor dropping droplets of water from a cup while the presiding monk offers prayers for the merit done, thereby treating the mother earth as a witness.

The Dhyana Mudra

This mudra is also called Samadhi mudra, or meditative mudra or samahita mudra. See Picture. Go

In this particular pose, the palm of the right hand is placed in that of the left hand and both together are laid in the crossed legs of the seated image. This is the attitude of ardent meditation. Occasionally, an alms bowl or mendicant bowl or a vase round, oval or pointed, may rest on the hands. See Picture. Go

This mudra, unlike the Bhumisparsa mudra, belongs to many moments showing Buddha’s life before and after Enlightenment. Some of the moments are listed below.

1) When after seeing the last of the four signs namely a wandering religious monk, he sat on his pleasance, thinking.

2) When after hearing the news that his wife Yasodhara had given birth to a son one morning, he sat up in bed that same night and saw his women sleeping like corpses.

3) When he did his first meditation after renunciation.

4) When after six years of fast and penances, he rejected extreme asceticism and accepted Sujata’s rice – alms. Here the alms bowl is present.

5) When he sat with alms bowl in lap under the hood of Muchalinda Naga. It has been said that after enlightenment, there was a great storm in Both Gaya and rain fell in torrents for several days. At that time a Naga king, named Muchalinda, protected the Buddha by coiling his body around that of the Blessed – One and spreading his hood as an umbrella over the Blessed – One’s head.

6) When he sat in the House of Gems (Ratana Ghara) meditating the abhidhamma in the fourth week after his Enlightenment.

7) On his first visit to Rajagriha, before he gained enlightenment, when he was visited by king Bimbisara who offered him his throne.

8) On his first visit to Rajagriha, after enlightenment, when king Bimbisara presented the Bamboo Grove (Veluvana).

9) When he reformed a very proud and despotic king Jambupati. Here Buddha was regally attired in royal regalia and could be seen as a Cakravartin or King of the world. He was in dhyana mudra with a mendicant bowl in his hands.

In addition to the above moments there may be many more moments showing Buddha’s life with Buddha in this mudra.

The Dharmacakra Mudra

This pose symbolize the first preaching of the law by the Buddha at Sarnath. Buddha preached his first sermon at the outskirts of Benars city in a park then known as the Deer Park (Mrigadava). This place is now called Sarnath.

Indian images of the Buddha in Dharmacakra Mudra from the Gupta period onwards have the left hand near the heart with the tips of the middle finger and the thumb joined together. The palm of the hand turned towards the heart. In the case of the right hand the tips or the thumb and the forefinger are made to touch each other, so as to form a circle, the other fingers are kept open. The palm of the hand is facing the front. See Picture. Go

The Gandhara image of the Buddha in Dharmacakra Mudra, however, has a different positioning of the hands. The palm of the left hand in a cup form is turned upwards and that of the right hand turned towards the heart. See Picture. Go

Figuratively speaking, the posture of the hands in both cases, is setting thence – forward the wheel of the law in motion. The ideology here is characteristically expressive. Buddha was in the act of explaining and teachings the true knowledge he obtained through his own efforts.

What is this true knowledge? An extract from Dhammacakkappavattanakatha. Mahavagga, Part I, pp 15-16, about this true knowledge will not be out of place here.

“Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of pain: birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful, and death is painful. Contact with unpleasant things is painful, separation from pleasant things is painful and not getting what one wishes is also painful. In short the five khans has of grasping are painful.

Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of the cause of pain: that craving, which leads to rebirth, combined with pleasure and lust finding pleasure here and there, namely the craving for passion, the craving for existence, the craving for non-existence.

Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of pain: the cessation without a remainder of that craving, abandonment, fore-saking, release, non-attachment.

Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to the cessation of pain: this is the noble Eight-fold Path, namely, right views, right intention, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.”

This Dharmacakra mudra hand pose is not only used to represent the first sermon at Mrigadava (Sarnath) but also the miracle of Sracasti. In addition to these, this hand pose represents the preaching of Dharmacakra sermon as in the case of our Arakanese Sculpture which will be discussed below.

The first sermon at Mrigadava

After attaining Enlightenment the Buddha was in doubt whether he should spread his wisdom to the world. The god Brahma descended from heaven and persuaded him to do so. He then left the place and journeyed to the Deer Park (Sarnath). There he met his five former companions. These five companions were his former disciples who had left him when he gave up the austerities. To these five former disciples he preached his first sermon thus setting in motion the wheel of the law. They were very much impressed with his teaching and once more became his disciples.


Great Events of The Master’s Life


The Eight Scenes stele of ArakanSee Picture. Go It is made up of andagu rock which is translated as dolomite by some authors and as steatite by others. The size of the stele is 6 cm at the base and 9.5 cm in height. The arrangements of the scenes are normal.At the top is the parinirvana scene. There is a caitya and a reclining figure on a couch. Underneath the couch, there are five mourners.The death or parinirvana forms the last one of the Four Principal incidents of the Master’s life. When he reached his eightieth year the end came. He was at Pava, which was situated north of Vaisali. He was entertained by Cunda, a blacksmith of the town and ate a meal of rice, cakes and sukaramaddava, which cannot be translated correctly. It may be a boar’s tender flesh. After the meal he was attacked by dysentery. However, he went on to Kusinagara. On the outskirts of the town, he laid down between two sal trees and that night he died. The death or parinirvana of Buddha took place on the full moon of Vaisakha (May) as did his birth and enlightenment.Digha-nikaya, Part II of Maha parinibbana – Sutta gave us the following last words of the Master: ‘Behold now brethren, I exhort you, saying, “Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your salvation with diligence!”Below this scene is an archway of peepal foliage, having five branches, shading the main figure of Buddha in Bhumisparsa mudra and in Vajra sana. The usnisa is somewhat conical. He has a forehead mark and a neck with three graceful folds (trivali). He is sitting on a double lotus throne with elephant/lion/vyala motifs under it. There was a flaming halo behind the Buddha and we can see the backrest of the throne also. This is the scene of Enlightenment. He attained this under a large peepal tree on the outskirts of the town of Gaya.If we start from the top right, the first scene is the Descent from Tavatimsa. Here the standing Buddha is flanked by indistinct figures.After the miracles performed at Sravasti were over, the Buddha went to Tavatimsa where he preached his true law to the god who has in the previous existence been his mother for three months. The Buddha then descended from Tavatimsa to Samkasya in the company of Indra and Brahma.The top left shows the attempt of Devadatta on the Master’s life by using the Nalagiri elephant. The scene consists of a standing Buddha in abhaya mudra and a small elephant kneeling near the left leg.Devadatta tried to kill Buddha on many occasions on account of his jealousy and hatred. One of the occasions was when the Master was walking through the narrow street of Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha. Devadatta persuaded the keeper of a mad elephant named Nalagiri, to let it loose in the street through which the Master was passing. The elephant charged at Buddha. But when it came close to Buddha it was subdued and it bowed down before the Master.The middle left and right figures of Buddha are in Dharmacakra mudra and in vajra sana. As usual, the left one represents the First Sermon and the right the Miracles at Sravasti.After enlightenment, he was in doubt whether he should preach the Dharma to the people of the world. Brahma and other gods came and begged him to do so. He then searched for some one who could understand his Dharma. His own teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra who could have understood were dead. He set out for the Deer Park (Mrigadava) near Varanasi Sermon to them, thereby setting in motion the wheel of the Law (Dharmacakrapravartana).

Buddha and his disciples traveled far and wide and taught his Dharma to the people. The Blessed – One’s arguments were persuasive but sometimes he performed miracles to support his claim. As a result of a challenge from rival teachers, he was said to have performed miracles at Sravasti, the capital of the kingdom of Kosala. The climax of the miracles was the Yamaka Pratiharya or twin Miracles. Here he made fire and water issue simultaneously from his body and preached to the audience from the four cardinal points simultaneously.

The lower right scene is the scene of Nativity, that is, the birth of Buddha. It consists of a standing female figure holding on to a branch of a tree over her head with her right hand had a standing child to the left of the female. On the right of her there are two indistinct figures which cannot be identified. The female figure is Buddha’s mother Maya devi, the tree is a sal tree representing the Lumbani garden near Kaplilavastu. The child is Buddha.

Maya devi, the queen of the Sakyas, was traveling from Kapilavastu to Devadaha, her parent’s home for her confinement, On the way she gave birth to her child in the Lumbani grove between two tall sal trees. At birth he was supposed to have stood upright, to have taken seven steps and to have spoken: “This is my last birth – henceforth there is no more birth for me.”

The lower left scene is the scene of Parileyyaka retreat. Here Buddha is sitting in pralambanasana that is, sitting with the legs hanging with almsbowl in lap receiving the offerings of Elephant or Monkey.

According to Jinatha pakasani, Buddha went to Parileyyaka forest alone after finding his monks in dispute over a small matter. The forest was seven Yuzanas away from Kosambi twon. There, in the forest a lone king elephant looked after him day and night, offering him food and protecting him from the wild animals. A monkey seeing the pious deeds done by the elephant had the desire of serving Buddha. The monkey searched for some eatables to offer to the Blessed – One and found honey which it offered to the Buddha. When Buddha accepted its gift, the monkey was overjoyed and started dancing on a tree nearby. While dancing the branches gave way and it fell down on a sharp stump which was underneath and was impaled.

The above eight scenes occurred in the following eight sites.

1) Parinirvana                          –         Kusinagara

2) Enlightenment                   –         Bodh – Gaya

3) Descent from Tavatimsa –        Samkasya

4) Nalagiri elephant               –         Rajagriha

5) The First Sermon               –         Varanasi

6) Twin Miracles                    –         Sravasti

7) Nativity                                 –         Kapilavastu

8) Parileyyaka Retreat          –         Kosambi

These places are the eight chief places of pilgrimage for Buddhists. The Eight Great Events of Buddha’s life can thus be represented on a small measuring 6 cm at the base and 9.5 cm in height.

The ten scenes stele of Arakan

See Picture. Go The size of this andagu stele is 13 cm at the base and 18 cm in height.

At the top is caitya and Parinirvana scene. Figures on the left and right end of this scene appear to be holding some kind of branches. In between them and the couch are two pots holding flowers. There are three mourners below the couch.

Underneath this scene is an archway of peepal foliage. This archway also has five branches but is arranged in a different way. The foliage shades the main figure of Buddha who is in Bhumisparsa mudra and in vajra sana. He is sitting on a leather mat placed on a double lotus throne. He has the usnisa and forehead mark and is dressed in monk’s robe. The neck has the usual three graceful folds.

The double lotus throne rises on a stalk and is supported at the corners by two wide-straddling Naga kings and in the middle by two mythical figures. The upper part of the base which supports the Naga kings and the mythical figures consists of crouching elephant in the middle with lions at the sides. Below this is the lower base consisting of seven auspicious symbols out of which a prancing horse, a walking elephant and a seated figure with one hand upraised can be seen distinctly. Other figures are indistinct.

At each side of the main figure of Buddha stand two Bodhisattva. Above them the under the outer branches of the peepal tree are Mara’s soldiers attacking Buddha. At the top right, one of Mara’s daughters can be seen flying. Since the top left is broken a similar flying daughter of Mara might be there too.

At each side of the Bodhisattvas are two columns of figures in four tiers. The top three tiers of these columns present the usual six scenes. This time there are two figures for each scene. On three tiers on the left, we have the taming of Nalagiri elephant, the First Sermon at Mrigadava and Parileyyaka Retreat scenes. On three tiers on the right we have the Descent from Tavatimsa, Twin Miracles and Nativity. The lowest tier consists of the Naga Mucalinda sheltering the Buddha on the right and the scene of the fast or Dukkhacariya on the left.

It was said that a few weeks after the Enlightenment, there are a great storm in Bodh-Gaya and the rain fell in torrents for several days. During this period, a Naga king, Mucalinda by name, protected the Buddha by coiling his body around Buddha’s body and keeping his hood as an umbrella over his head. This story produces the Mucalinda scene.

The Fast or Dukkacariya was done by Buddha in the hope of wearing away his karma and obtaining final bliss. For six years he tortured himself until he was reduced to a skeleton. Yet he did not get the real knowledge. He finally realized that his fasts and penances had been useless. See Picture. Go

The two inner figures of the top tier show the standing Buddha. The outer figure of the top right scene seems to be Indra or Brahma. The two inner figures of the second tier sit in Dhyana mudra without alm bowls. The two outer figures are in Dharmacakra mudra. The two inner figures in the third tier sit in Dhyana mudra. The outer figure on the left sit in paralambana sana with an alm bowl on the lap. The outer figure on the right is a standing female figure with a child standing by her side. The left outer figure of the lowest tier, that is the fourth tier, is the figure of Buddha sitting in Dhyana mudra. Beside him is a figure kneeling in prayer. The right outer figure of the lowest tier is the figure of Buddha in Dhyana mudra sitting under the hood of Mucalinda Naga. The right inner figure is also a figure kneeling in prayer. These two figures kneeling in prayer are indistinct. But we can make out by comparing this stele with an andagu Eight Scenes, Seven Sites (Tabayin) stele presented in Plate 401 in Gordon Luce’s Book “Old Burma – Early Pagan”. They may probably be Sariputta and Moggallana.

The main Buddha image in our stele is uncrowned and is with usnisa and curls of hair. The Buddha wears monk’s robes only, whereas, the main Buddha image in Tabayin stele is crowned and wears ear pendents, necklace and torque on top of the robe of a monk on his body. Also our stele has Mara’s flying daughters on the top right and left corners and seven auspicious symbols at the base. These are not present in Tabayin Stele shown in Luce’s Book.

In his book, there are a number of Eight Scene steles which were, found in other parts of Burma. He had analyzed their functions and explained all the scenes exhaustively.

Since we have two extra scenes, viz, the protection of the Master’s body from wind and rain by Mucalinda Naga and the Fast or Dukkhacariya before Enlightenment, we call our stele as a ten scene stele. Since the two extra scenes occurred in Bodh – Gaya, the number of sites do not change from eight.

The Life of Gautama Buddha


In the seventh century before the Christian era, there was a small kingdom of the Sakya located in the North – eastern part of India along the southern edge of Nepal. The Sakyas were of the Ksatriya solar race. Their king at that time was Suddhodana and the chief queen was Mahamaya devi. The capital of Sakya kingdom was Kapilavastu.One night Mahamaya dreamt that a great white elephant holding a lotus blossom in his trunk entered her womb. This dream was interpreted by wise men to mean that she would give birth to a son who would either be a Universal Emperor or a Buddha.While Mahamaya devi was traveling from Kapilavastu to her parent’s home in Devadaha for her confinement, she gave birth to her child, a son, in the Lumbani grove between two tall sal trees. At birth the baby was supposed to have stood upright, to have taken seven steps and have spoken: “This is my last birth – henceforth there is no more birth for me”. This happened on the full moon day of Vaisakha (May,) 623 B.C. This is the First Principal incident of the Master’s life.The boy was named Siddhattha, or one whose purpose has been fulfilled. His family name was Gautama by which he was referred to in Buddhist literature.An old sage, named Asita, visited the new— born child and predicted that a savior had come to the earth for the salvation of the people. The other sooth sayers prophesied that he would become a Universal Emperor.Maya devi passed away seven days after the birth of her child and the child was nursed by his mother’s sister Mahaprajapati Gautimi.To prevent the prophecy of his becoming a Universal Teacher from coming true, his father reared him in delightful palaces and took great precautions not to let him know the sorrows of the world. He thus grew up in luxury and led a sheltered life from which the world’s miseries were hidden.As a student he learned all the arts that a prince should learn. When he grew into a young man, he married his cousin Yasodhara after winning her in a contest of arms.In spite of all the efforts of his father, he saw the “four signs,” an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic. At the sight of each he asked his charioteer the meaning of what he saw. These sights and the answers he obtained from the charioteer made him ponder deeply. He realized that all men must grow old, fall sick and die. These were the miseries of existence. The ascetic, peaceful and calm, showed him a way of escaping from them. He could never forget the four signs.One morning he learnt that Princess Yasodhara had given birth to a son. That night there were great festivities. The dancing girls after performing their dances fell asleep on the floor of the dancing hall in unbecoming postures. Prince Siddhattha sat up in bed and saw his women lying around like corpses. He sat meditating for a while and then made up his mind to leave the palace that night. He went to the chamber where Yasodhara was fast asleep with the baby in her arms. After having caught a glimpse of them he turned away. He woke up Chhandaka, his charioteer, and asked him to saddle his favorite horse Kanthaka. He then rode away towards the forest unknown to any body else. The rejoicing demigods cushioned the fall of this horse’s hooves so that no one should hear his departure.When he reached a place far from the city he discarded his royal robes and cut off his long hair and sent them back to his father through Chhandaka. He put on a hermit’s robe provided by an attendant demigod and became an ascetic. He was twenty nine years old at that time. This was the Great Renunciation.He left his home, wife and child to meditate on human suffering, it’s causes and the means by which it could be over come. He first went to a teacher Alara Kalama and then to another named Udraka Ramaputra He learned from them the technique of meditation and all else that they had to teach him. But his quest for Truth was not attained. He moved on and reached a place near Bodh Gaya.

He was not convinced that men could obtain liberation from the miseries of the world by mental discipline alone. He found five ascetics who were practicing the most rigorous self-mortification in the hope of wearing away their craving and he joined with them. For six years he practiced rigid austerities and resorted to different kinds of self-torture and was reduced to a skeleton. See Picture. Go

He aimed at a spiritual experience in which all selfish craving is extinct and with it every fear and passion. He wanted to reach a stage in which there is neither old age, nor disease, nor birth, nor death, nor anxieties and no continue renewal of activity.

His self-tortures became so severe that one day, being too weak, he fainted. After a while he recovered consciousness, and realized that his fasts and penances were useless, and this was not the way to achieve enlightenment. He decided to take food again and his body regained its strength. The five ascetics who recognized him as their leader left him in disgust.

One morning, while he sat beneath a large Bodhi tree on the outskirts of the town of Gaya, Sujata, the daughter of a rich merchant, brought him a bowl of rice boiled in milk. After accepting the food, he bathed in the Niranjana river. Then he ate the food and spent his midday in a grove of sal trees on the river bank. In the evening he went back to the Bodhi tree. On his way he met a grass cutter who gave him a bundle of grass. He spread the grass at the foot of the Bodhi tree and sat in meditation. He made a solemn even that he would not leave his seat without attaining enlightenment, even though his skin and bones should waste away and flesh and blood dry up.

For forty-nine days he sat beneath the tree meditating ardently. During this period, Mara, the Buddhist devil approached and tried to shake Gautama’s resolve by temptations of all kinds. He attacked Gautama with whirlwind, tempest, flood and earthquake. He attacked using his demon army, shooting arrow, throwing stones, and using all sorts of weapons. He then challenged Gautama to produce evidence of his goodness and benevolence. At this, Gautama touched the ground with his hand, and called on the mother earth as a witness. The great Earth roared and sound with a deep and terrible sound: “I am his witness”. Mara then used his three beautiful daughters, Desire. Pleasure and Passion, who tried every means of seduction. But Gautama sat firm and meditated more vigorously. At last Mara gave up the struggle leaving Gautama alone.

At the dawn of the forty-ninth day he attained enlightenment. He had found the Law of Causation, a cycle of twelve causes and effects conditioning the universe. That is, he had found out that the world is full of suffering and unhappiness of all kinds, and also what man must do to overcome them. Thus his understanding opened and he attained enlightenment. This is also called Illumination or Sambodhi. He was thirty five years old then. This is the Second Principal incident of the Master’s life. This again took place on the full moon day of Vaisakha (May).

As the attained bodhi or supreme knowledge, he became a Buddha and he referred to himself as Tathagata.

The newly awakened Buddha met two merchant brothers Taphussa and Bhallika, who offered the Blessed One some food. Buddha broke his fast by eating the food and gave the two brothers some strands of his Hair for them to worship when they reached their home land.

For a while he was in doubt whether he should preach the Dharma to the people of the world. The god Brahma himself descended from heaven and persuaded him to do so. He then searched for someone who could understand his Dharma. His teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra, who could have understood, were dead. He set out for the Deer Part (Mrigadava) near Varanasi (Sarnath) where his five former disciples had settled to continue their penances. He preached his First Sermon to them, thereby setting in motion the wheel of the Law (Dharmacakra – Pravartana). This is the Third Principal incident of the Master’s life.

Buddha collected a large number of disciples among who were Sariputra and Moggalana who were revered in the circles of the Buddhist, order as second only to the Master himself. Buddha and his disciples traveled far and wide and taught his Dharma to the people of those places. The Blessed – One’s arguments were most of the time persuasive but sometimes he had to perform miracles such as the miracles at Sravasti. In course of time he became wellknown throughout North – East India. He had many followers whom he gathered together into a disciplined body of monks or Sangha (called biksus in Sangha (called biksus in Sanskrit and bhikkhus in Pali). They had a common discipline. Many stories are told of his long years of preaching. The Sangha continued to increase in strength. He allowed the formation of a community of nuns at the request of his foster mother Gautimi.

Buddha’s cousin Devadatta tried to kill Buddha on many occasions on account of his jealousy and hatred.

For about forty five years Buddha and his sangha traveled from place to place, preaching to people of all walks of life. The greatest kings of the time favored him and his Sangha.

He was in a place near Vaisali during the last rainy season of his life. After the rains he and his followers journeyed northwards. On the way he arrived at the town of Pava where he was invited by Cunda, the blacksmith, to a meal. He ate “sukaramaddava” which may have meant boar’s tender flesh and was taken ill with dysentery. Despite his illness he moved on to the nearby town of kusinagara. Here on the outskirts of the town he laid down between two sal trees.

He asked the weeping Ananda, the devoted disciple and constant companion of the Buddha, not to weep, telling him that from all that. One loves One must part. He told Ananda that the doctrine he preached will be Ananda’s master after he himself has passed away. According to Digha – nikaya of Mahaparinibbhanasutta, Buddha’s last words were quoted as follows: “Then the Blessed – One addressed the brethren, and said: ‘Behold now, brethren, I exhort you, saying, “Decay is inherent in all component things; Work out your salvation with diligence! “This was the last word of the Tathagata!”

After uttering the last words, his spirit sank into the depths of mystic absorption. When he had attained to that degree where all thoughts, all conceptions had disappeared, when the consciousness of individuality had ceased, he entered into the mahaparinirvana. This is the Fourth Principal incident of the Master’s life. This end came at the age of eighty in 544 B.C. This incident also took place on the full moon day of Vaisakha (May) as did his birth and enlightenment.

His body was cremated and the ashes were divided between various groups of his disciples. Eight Stupas were built over those divided ashes by the various recipients in different parts of India.

The Evolution of Buddhism in India


Immediately after the parinirvana of the Buddha, a large number of monks led by Mahakassapa gathered at Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha, under the patronage of Ajatasatru, to recite Buddha’s teachings. This was the First Great Buddhist Council. The Vinaya Pitaka, the rules of the order, as prescribed by the Master, was recited by Upali, one of the chief disciples of Buddha, as recollected by him. The Sutta Pitaka, the collection of the Blessed – One’s sermons on the matters of doctrine and ethics were recited by Ananda, the devoted discriple and constant companion of Buddha.There seemed to have no written records of the teachings at that time and they were handed down from mouth to mouth by reciting and memorizing. Thus the teachings were preserved through memory.A Second Great Council was held at Vaisali about one hundred years after the parinirvana of Buddha. It was held in the reign of King Kalasoka, a descendant of Ajatasatru. The Venerable Yasa led the Council. This council resulted in a schism among sanghas over ten points of monastic discipline. The orthodox Sthaviravadins (Pali Theravadi) won in this case and the Mahasanghikas seceded from the orthodox sanghas.The Thirds Great Council was held at Pataliputra under the patronage of the great king Asoka (276 B.C). This council resulted in the expulsion of many heretics and false monks from the sangha community and also in the firm establishment of the Sthaviravada School. Tissa Moggaliputta led the council and succeeded in restoring the original teachings of the Buddha. It was at this council that the Abhidhamma Pitaka was supposed to have been added.The Fourth Great Buddhist Council was held in Kashmir under the patronage of the great kusan king Kaniska (1st – 2 nd century A.D). The Sarvastivadins, another sect of orthodox Buddhists, were strong in this region and the sect’s doctrines were codified in a summary called the Mahavibhasa. This council made Sanskrit the language of Buddhist scriptures.New ideas were developed from the Sarvastivadins and the Mahasanghikas which were to form the basis of the division of Buddhism into the Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana) and the Great Vchicle (Mahayana).These were the Four Great Councils held in different parts of India after the parinirvana of Buddha. Scriptures of Buddhism developed by a long process covering several centuries, and many sects of Buddhism’s which formed in course of time in the evolution of Buddhism, the “Four Noble Truths” and the “Noble Eightfold Paths” (Refer P 76) are accepted by all sects as basic tenets of Buddhism.The Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana)The Buddhism of the Lesser Vehicle is a religion without souls and without God. Buddha was a man, not God, a teacher and not a savior. His supreme insight was gained by his own efforts. He was only a guide who had pointed out a way from the world of suffering to a beyond, the undying, and those who follow the path of liberation may also cross to the wisdom beyond.Buddhists believe in the round of rebirths – Samsara. In page 14 of “The word of the Buddha” by Nyanatiloka, the word is defined as: Samsara the wheel of existence, lit, the ‘Perpetual Wondering’, – is the name given in Pali scriptures to the sea of life ever restlessly heaving up and down, the symbol of this continuous process of ever again and again being born, growing old, suffering, and dying. More precisely put: Samsara is the unbroken sequence of the fivefold Khandha-combinations, which, constantly changing from moment to moment. Of this Samsara, a single life time constitutes only a tiny fraction”.The goal of every Buddhist is to attain Nirvana, which is a state where one becomes free from sensual passion, freedom the passion of ignorance, free from the passion of existence, free from Samsara.There are three different ways to attain nirvana. The disciples can attain nirvana through Arahatship. The two other ways are to become Pratyekabuddha or the Supreme Buddha. Pratyekabuddhas attain full enlightenment but do not teach the Dharma to others. The supreme Buddha attain full enlightenment and teach the Dharma to others. In order to become a Pratyekabuddha or a Supreme Buddha one has to request a living Buddha to grant the boon of being allowed to become such a Buddha. These three ways lead different type of beings, with different intellect, to nirvana.

To attain Arahatship there are four stages. Before going to these stages we need to recognize the ten ‘Fatters’ samyojana-by which beings are bound to the wheel of existence. They are (1) Self Ilusion (Sakaya – ditthi), (2) Sceptism (vicikiccha) (3) Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual (silabhataparamasa), (4) Sensual Lust (Karma raga), (5) Ill-will (vyapada), (6) Craving for Fine Material Existence (ruparaga), (7) Craving for Immaterial Existence (arupa-raga), (8) Conceit (mana), (9) Restlessness (Uddhacca) and (10) Ignorance (avijja).

One who is freed from the first three Fetters is called a Sotapan, i.e, one who has entered the stream leading to nirvana. This is the first stage. One who has overcome the fourth and the fifth Fetters in the grosser form, is called a Sakadagam. This is the second stage. One who is freed from the first five Fetters is called an Anagam. This is the third stage. When one is freed from all the ten Fetters he becomes an Arahat, a worthy man. This is the last stage.

The Buddhists of the Lesser Vehicle believed in a cosmological scheme based largely on the prevalent Indian ideas. The universe is cyclic with Buddha cycles and empty cycles. We live in a Buddha cycle of five Buddhas (Bhadrakalpa). Out of the five Buddhas four have already taught in this world, the last one being Gautama Buddha. A fifth is yet to come. The four passed Buddhas were Krekucchanda, Kanakamuni, Kasyapa and Gautama. The future Buddha is Maitreya who is at present passing the life of a Bodhisattva in the Tusita heaven, preparatory to his descent to the earth in human form. He is supposed to come to the earth full 5000 years after the parinirvana of Gautama Buddha for the deliverance of all sentient beings.

The Pali canon of the Sthaviravadins consists of three sections called pitakas. They are known as the Vinaya Pitaka (Rules of the order), Sutta Pitaka (the Teachings or Sermons) and Abhidhamma Pitaka (a complex mixture of metaphysics, psychology and mind development).

The Sutta Pitaka is divided into five “Groups” (Nikaya). One of the Groups, “Khuddaka Nikaya,” contains the Jataka Stories. These stories are usually described as histories of the previous lives of Gautama Buddha as a Bodhisattva. In these stories the Buddha is shown to have done many deeds of kindness and mercy in a long series of rebirths as a Bodhisattva before he achieved the final birth as Gautama Buddha. This collection of myth and legend contributes greatly to the Buddhist art up to the present day. They are also among the most important ethical teachings.

Fundamentals of Theravada Buddhism


Happiness and sorrow exist in this world. Happiness means lucky, successful, possessing or enjoying pleasure or good. Every human being likes to be happy. But in some form or other sorrow is inevitable in every aspect of life. Man, weak as he is, is subjected to sickness, old age and death. Contact with unpleasant things, separation from pleasant things and not getting what one wants are all painful. From all that he loves man must part. Nothing is permanent.Buddhists believed in the conception of the world as samsara, a stream without end, where the law of Karma functions. All beings are subject to rebirth, decay, disease, death, and again rebirth. The process is continuous.The doctrine of the Chain of Dependent Origination or the Chain of Causation (Patticca – samuppada), a series of twelve causes and effects; explain this chain of rebirths or the wheel of existence.Avijja – paccaya sankhara:                     “Through ignorance conditioned are the sankharas,” i.e., the rebirth producing Volitions              (cetana) or karmaformations.Sankhara-paccaya vinnanam:                  “Through the karmaformations (in past life is conditioned Consciousness (in the present              life).”Vinnanapaccaya nama – rupam:             “Through consciousness are conditioned the mental and physical phenomena             (namarupa)”, i.e., that which makes up our so called individual existence.Nama – rupa – paccaya sajayatanam:   “Through the mental and physical phenomena are conditioned the 6 bases.” i.e., the 5 physical sense organs and consciousness as the sixth.Sajayatana – paccaya phasso:                 “Through the 6 bases is conditioned the (sensorial and mental) impression.Phassa – paccaya vedana:                      “Through the impression is conditioned feeling.”Vedana – paccaya tanha:                         “Through feeling is conditioned craving.”Tanha – paccaya upadanam:                  “Through craving is conditioned clinging.”Upadana – paccaya bhavo:                     “Through clinging is conditioned the process of becoming”, consisting in the active and              the passive life process i.e., the rebirth producing karma-process (kamma bhava) and,              as its results, the rebirth process (Uppathibhava).

Bhava – paccaya jati:                              “Through the (rebirth producing karma) process of becoming is conditioned rebirth.”

Jati – paccaya jara – maranam:              “Through rebirth are conditioned Old age and death (sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief              and despair. Thus arises, this whole mass of suffering again in the future).”

The highest goal of a man should, therefore, be the stage in which there is neither birth, nor disease, nor fear, nor anxieties, nor old age, nor death, and in which there is no continuous renewal of activity.

Buddha meditates, for six years, on the human suffering; its causes and the means by which it could be overcome. He had found the secret of sorrow, and understood at last why the world is full of suffering and unhappiness of all kinds, and what man must do to overcome them. He pointed a way from the world of suffering to a beyond, the undying, and those who follow the path for liberation may also cross to the wisdom beyond. The goal is to attain Nirvana, which is a state when one becomes free from sensual passion, free from the passion of ignorance, free from the passion of existence, free from Samsara.

The Sermon of the Turning of the wheel of the law, which Buddha preached to his first disciples, the five ascetics at Varanasi, is the kernel of Buddhism. This contains the “Four Noble Truths,” and the “Noble Eight – fold Path” which are accepted as basic categories by all Buddhist sects.

The voluminous writings of Pali Canon, which consists of three sections called ti-pitakas or three pitakas, known as Vinya (Rules of the order), Sutta (the Teachings or Sermons) and Abhidamma (a complex mixture of metaphysics, psychology and mind development), in the final analyses, all lead to the Four Noble Truths. Refer page 76.

The last of the Four Noble Truths is the Noble Eight-fold Path which is the Path leading to the cessation of Pain and Sorrow.

Now, we are shown the Path. How shall we traverse this Path? From where shall we start? The following is the method usually practiced by Theravada Buddhists.

Out of the three pitakas the largest is the sutta pitaka, which is divided into five “groups” (Nikaya).  They are: –

1. Digha Nikaya, 2. Majjhima Nikaya, 3. Samyutta Nikaya, 4. Anguttara Nikaya and 5. Khyddaka Nikaya.

The Dhamapada, a part of the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka, has in the Pali version 423 verses divided into 26 chapters. The verses of the Dhamapada were believed from very early times, i.e., from the period of the First Council which settled the Canon, to have been the utterances of the Buddha himself.

Verse 183 of the Dhamapada states

“Sabbapapassa akaranam

Kusalassa upasampada


Etam buddhana sasanam”

We may translate the verse as follows.

“To abstain from all evil,

To do good deeds,

To purify one’s own mind,

These are teachings of all the Buddhas.”

To abstain from all evil

All evil mean evil courses of action (akusalakammapatha). They are ten in number and are called ten duccaritas. They are:-

Kaya kamma                        1. Panatipata (destruction of living beings)

(bodily action)                       2. Adinnadana (stealing)

3. Kamesumicchacara (unlawful sexual intercourse)

4. Musavada (lying)

Vaci Kamma                         5. Pisunavaca (tale – bearing) (slander)

(verbal action)                      6. Pharusavaca (harsh language)

7. Samphappalapa (frivolous talk)

Mano kamma                       8. Abhijjha (covetousness)

(mental action)                     9. Vyapada (ill – will)

10. Miccha ditthi (wrong views)

All these actions are unwholesome. They all cause to unfavorable kamma results and contain the seed to unhappy destiny or rebirth. He who does these actions, if reborn as man, will be short lived, afflicted with diseases, ugly looking, poor and needy and born of parents of inferior or mean lineage, i.e., of low descent.


Buddhism In Arakan


Two thousand five hundred years have passed since the time of parinirvana of Gautama Buddha. Throughout the centuries, ever since the introduction of Buddhism up to the present time, Arakanese professed Buddhism without break.The present-day Buddhism in Arakan is the Theravada Buddhism using the Pali canon of Tripitaka which are Vinaya (conduct), Sutta (Sermon) and Abhidhamma (a mixture of metaphysics, psychology and mind development) Pitakas.The Buddhist’s here worshipped caityas and stupas. They believed that one can acquire great merit by building and decorating them. The Buddha images are also worshipped after glorifying by conducting a ceremony called Anekasa, which is recitation by a number of monks surrounding the image.The people worshipped these caityas, stupas and Buddhas images by offering flowers, food, incense, light and prayers. They believed these acts to be meritorious. They believed in the idea of the transfer of merit. That is, by making gifts one can acquire religious merits and one can also transfer such merits to one’s near and dear ones or their welfare and happiness. By performing meritorious deeds like offering alms and the four necessaries to the sanghas and giving charities to the poor and the needy, and doing good deeds personally or in words or in thoughts, one gains merit and will go to devas abode after death. Whereas by doing evil deeds or getting involved in evil acts personally or in words or in thoughts, one falls into a downward state of existence, a state of suffering or even to the abyss of hell such as Rauruwa, Avici etc., after death.They believed in the three ways to salvation, i.e., the Arahatship, the Pratyekabuddhahood and the supreme Buddhahood. The lay people strived for Arahatship as the way to Nirvana. They accepted the idea that the universe is cyclic and that they live in a Buddha cycle called Bhadrakalpa and are expecting the coming of the fifth Buddha, Maitreya.There are many members of the Buddhist Order, that is, the monks (sangha) who wear yellow robes and strictly observe the Vinaya pitaka. They have given up all the worldly pleasure and lived a pure life striving to attain Nirvana.The lay people have noviciating ceremonies for boys who spend sometimes, usually a week or more, in a monastery under the guidance of a revered abbot to experience the life of the monkhood. During his stay in the monastery as a monk, the boy learns for himself the religion of his parents, the abbot guiding him of course. If he likes the life of a monk and wants to forego the worldly pleasures, he can become a monk for life. But he will be qualified for full membership of the Order only after attaining the age of twenty. If not, this ceremony can be taken as a preparation for adult life. In Arakan State, unlike Burma proper, the noviciating of a boy is done only when the boy reaches an age when he can understand and assimilate Buddha’s teaching.Especially during the period of Wasoe (Buddhist lent which falls during rainy season), people used to keep Sabbath taking five, eight, nine or ten precepts. People in more advance stage of piousness used to meditate to free themselves from ten “fetters”, i.e., Samyojana.Such are the beliefs and practices of present-day Buddhists of Arakan State.The same is true for the past centuries. To state very briefly, the historical periods of Arakan may be divided into the following dynasties.1. Dhanyawadi (? – 370 A.D) (According to our historians, Dhanyawadi came to existence since about 3,000 B.C)2. Vesali (370 – 994 A.D)

3. Sambawak or Pyimsa (1018 – 1118 A.D)

4. Parein (1118 – 1142 A.D)

5. Khrait (1142 – 1250 A.D)

6. Launggrat (1250 – 1404 A.D)

7. Mrauk_Oo (1430 – 1784 A.D)

One can travel to Arakan and see for oneself numerous Caityas (pagodas), Stupas and innumerable Buddha images built and made by the kings of these dynasties. Especially the town of Mrauk_Oo (former Mrauk_Oo city), being the last of the Arakanese capitals, is rich in these religious edifices and images.

From the inscriptions and palm-leaf manuscripts, we can find that the kings used to choose the way to Nirvana by desiring to become a Supreme Buddha, the first step of which is the Bodhisattvahood. In our literature, when a king died, he was not mentioned as dead, but mentioned as went to the abode of devas. We can read many descriptions of this kind in the Anandacandra inscription, inscribed about 729 A.D. Since Bodhisattva in advanced stage used to reside in the abode of devas, it is natural that the kings should go there after their death. As the king promised to look after the welfare of all the people in his dominion during the abhesika ceremony, it is only natural that he should not strive to attain Nirvana alone. He should also help his subjects attain Nirvana. So he should aim to become a Bodhisattva.

I have shown in this book miniature stupas, miniature caityas, bronze bells, bronze lamps and many types of bronze Buddha images, crowned and uncrowned. These were obtained from the relic chambers of the old ruined caityas and stupas. They belong to the period of Dhanyawadi and Vesali.

When Buddhism did first introduced into Arakan? And what type of Buddhism was that?

According to tradition and our historical annals, Buddhism was introduced into Arakan during the life-time of Buddha himself. Keeping tradition part, let us search for concrete evidences which will give us at least the upper limit for the period of introduction and the type of Buddhism introduced.

I have mentioned in Chapter IV that we have found one Fat Monk image with a line of inscription in Brahmi script used about the beginning of the Christian era. This Fat Monk, Saccakaparibajaka, was related to an incident in Buddha’s life. Images of Buddha were also found together with this image. As there were no inscriptions nor dates inscribed on them, it is difficult to assign them to the same period as the Fat Monk.

Apart from this image, we can search for more concrete evidences. We may take the miniature stone stupas with Ye dharma verses on them, the stones with Ye dharma verses fallen out of the ruined stupas or caityas, and the inscription found on one of the Mahamuni sculptures as the solid evidence for dating the upper limit of the introduction of Buddhism in Arakan. The dating can be done palaeographically and these writings can be assigned to some time about the 4th or the 5th century A.D.

I have explained the Ye dharma verse and mentioned that it reveals the cream of the teaching of the Buddha. See Chapter V. It is very clear that the people who made these stupas and who inscribed the Ye dharma verses for the posterity professed the type of Buddhism based on the teaching of the Buddha and not on the personality of the Buddha. Again, the word Mahasramana in the verse means the Great Monk. By using this word, it is clear that the Buddha was referred to as a Great Monk and not as a God. Again in Chapter XI we have seen a ceti dedicatory inscription from eighth century Vesali. The inscription mentioned one to purify his own mind to attain nirvana. The three impurities, lobha, dosa and moha should be discarded revealing that the Buddhism practiced at that time was based on the teachings of Buddha. Therefore, we can definitely say that the Buddhism that flourished during this period was not Tantric Buddhism nor the advanced Mahayana with plenty of Gods and Goddesses.

We can infer that the Tantric Buddhism, which is an advanced state of Mahayana Buddhism, never flourished in Arakan. Even in India, this type of Buddhism became popular only after the 8th century A.D. According to scholars studying Indian Buddhist Iconography, the monks who professed Tantric Buddhism in Bengal fled to Nepal, instead of Arakan which was more easily accessible, during the Muslim invasion. This definitely proved that there was no ground for them to flourish in Arakan and the Arakanese never accepted the Tantric Buddhism.

A substantial amount of Buddhist Art which may be assigned to this earliest period belongs to the stone sculptures of the Mahamuni Shrine. The relief sculpture found on the Selargiri Hill representing Buddha preaching King Candasuriya also belongs to this period. This is the period of the famous Candra dynasty mentioned in Anandacandra inscription of Shitthaung Pagoda, Mrohaung. (See Picture. Go)

The Mahamuni sculptures are varied and many. If one does not study the Buddhism prevailing in the country at the period of making these sculptures, one may presume these to be the Gods and Goddesses of the Tantric Buddhism. That is why these sculptures are described in the last chapter of the book after discussing about the various aspects of Buddhism and the type of Buddhism flourishing in Arakan at that time.

The Mahamuni Sculptures


If we travel from Akyab, the capital of the Arakan State, north wards by boat along the Kaladan River, we reach Kyauktaw town. The town is about 60 miles up the river from Akyab and is situated on the left bank of the river. See Picture. GoOn the right bank, opposite Kyauktaw town is the famous Selargiri Hill. According to tradition, Gautama Buddha journeyed to Arakan and landed on this hill first. At present, there is a standing Buddha image on the top of the hill pointing out to his disciples the various places in which his former lives had been passed. There is also one Buddha image in a reclining posture (parinirvana scene) and two caityas (one old type and the other new type). The entire view of the hill with these images and caityas is very scenic. This hill commanded a view of the rice plains towards Dhanyawadi which is situated about 5 miles east of the hill. See Chapter III for description of the city of Dhanyawadi.Sirigutta hill, on which the Mahamuni shrine was built, lies on the northeast corner of the site once occupied by the ancient city of Dhanyawadi, whose walls are still traceable at present. See Picture. Go, the aerial photo map in Chapter III. The Mahamuni precincts occupied the whole hill which is leveled into three flat surfaces. These surfaces are surrounded with square-cut blocks of granular sandstone forming three enclosures. The lowest enclosure, which has an area of 500’ x 580’, is the base where there is a reservoir, known as Candasuriya reservoir, fed by a perennial spring The second enclosure is thirty feet up and has an area of 220’ x 240’. The third enclosure is again thirty feet up enclosing the leveled summit on which is built the shrine. It has an area of 116’ x 155’. There are a number of sculptures standing on these platforms. At the four cardinal points of the lowest enclosure are gates from which covered step-ways led to the shrine. See Picture. Go It is the oldest and most revered Buddhist site in Arakan.In the central chamber of this shrine is the throne on which the Mahamuni image was once placed. The image was removed in 1784 to Mandalay. According to tradition, as well as the palmleaf manuscript Sappadanapakarana, Lord Buddha, while sojourning in Dhanyawadi, consented to the request of the king Candasuriya to leave an image of Him. The king collected the necessary metals and with the help of Sakra and Visvakarman made the image which was said to be exactly like the Blessed One. The Blessed One breathed upon the Image to impart life to the Image. King Candasuriya placed the Image on a throne in the shrine which he built on top of the Sirigutta hill. The image faced west where lay the places of the Four Principal Incidents of the Master’s life.The entire religious history of Buddhistic Arakan centres around this “younger brother” of Gautama. The Image was believed by the people to be the original resemblance of Gautama taken from life and was very highly venerated. Pilgrims have for centuries come from various Buddhist countries to pay their devotions at the foot of the Image.According to Arakanese historical records the shrine was destroyed by fire or by pilferage on many occasions throughout the centuries and was again and again rebuilt by pious kings of these centuries.Of the original shrine, nothing remains except the three walls surrounding the three flat surfaces of the Sirigutta hill made of square cut blocks of granular sandstone, a reservoir at the southeast corner of the first enclosure, a number of stone sculptures standing along the terraces, and a few original architectural fragments.The stone sculptures are the earliest group of specimen of the Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan so far found. They consist of single images, dials and triads. They are all made out of the same type of fine  -grained red sandstones and the sculptures are rather similar in design and dresses. The sizes of the slabs having single images are almost the same whereas the slabs having dials and triads are a little smaller.Fortunately for us, there are some writings on one of the single images out of which two lines are still legible. See Picture. Go We can read Senapati Panada very clearly and therefore this image is the image of the Yaksa General Panada. Panada was one of the 28 Yaksa generals. Studying palaeographically, we can assign the writing to the 4th or 5th century A.D. This gives us the age of the group of these stone sculptures.Unfortunately, one of the hands of most of the images are broken. In some cases both the hands are broken. The headdresses are a braised due to weathering and lapse of time. Almost all of them have the attributes of royalty such as ornate headdresses: sometimes with crown, earrings, necklets, armlets, bracelets, anklets and a waist band tied in different fashions.The slabs consist of raised unornamented ledges about one foot high on which the images are seated. The back slabs are mostly plain and the tops are usually rounded. In some cases there are nimbuses behind the head, elliptical or otherwise in shape. Some of the slabs have decorations in the form of rows of coils behind the shoulders.The images have no overt sexual characteristics. The sculptor or sculptors executed a balanced composition of the figures which have smooth curves of the flesh. The artists seem to be aiming at the reproduction of sublime beauty in figures by an attenuation of the limbs and waists. The faces are oblong and have round smooth chins. Most of them are seated with their knees raised in different fashions and the postures of one of the hands can be made out to be either in Abhaya or Varada mudras. The other hand may be resting on the knee or holding a sword.

To interpret these images, we must note that the Mahamuni Shrine was built to house the exact replica of Sakyamuni, the Buddha. The Arakanese called this image in adoration as Mahamuni. So, the Greatest will be the Image of Buddha in this shrine. Any other image found around the shrine cannot be superior in status to this Buddha Image. One should not interpret the images found here as the images belonging to the Buddhist Pantheon mentioned in many advanced Mahayana Suttras devoted to meditation and perception of the deities, such as Sadhanamala, Nispannayogacali, etc. According to these Suttras, there exist Dhyani Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Mortal Buddhas and Saktis. In order to identify our sculptures with these gods and goddesses one has to search for attributes held in hands and the images of Dhyani Buddha on the headdresses. When the hands are broken and the headdresses a braised, one can speculate in many ways as one likes. It is only natural that the prejalicial mind will draw conclusions according to what one likes to.

In order to interpret these broken and braised images found in the shrine, one should first of all determine what stage the Buddhism has reached in Arakan at the period of making of these images. As we know the approximate date of making of these imges as the 4th or the 5th century A.D., the Buddhism prevailing at that time cannot be advanced Mahayana. Please refer to the last two chapters. So they should not be associated with the Buddhist Pantheon mentioned in the advanced Mahayana Suttras. What do these images represent then? We have known that all beings, men, Nats (celestial devas), Brahmas and creatures of the nether world worshipped Buddha and listened to Buddha’s preachings. According to Buddhist Iconographical Texts, there are eight classes of beings who listened to Sakyamini’s preshing. They are Devas, Yaksas, Gandharvas, Asuras, Garudas, Kinnaras, Mahoragas and Nagas. I am strongly convinced that the Mahamuni sculptures represent these figures.

Among the sculptures of the Mathura School of Art there are numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva images together with those of Kubera, the Yaksas and Nagas. Images of Tantric flavour are not met with here, not even the images of Avalokitesvara, Manjusri are to be found in this school. This school extended to the early Gupta period.

The situations in Arakan School of Art during the period of making the Mahamuni sculptures are the same as that of Mathura School. We found here Naga kings, Yaksas, Kinnaras, Asura diads, deva triads and numerous royal figures whom may also be taken as Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattva concept is already in existence ever since very early times of Buddhism. The Bodhisattvas here, however, should not be mixed up with the Bodhisattvas mentioned in advanced Mahayana Suttras after the advent of the doctrine of Three Bodies and the theory of Five Dhyani Buddhas.


Mahoraga or Naga (Serpent King)See Picture. Go There can be no doubt about this figure. The outspread hood of a cobra with five heads rises above the head. The figure wears a three-pointed crown enclosing a two coiled jata with a lotus bud-like top. The figure sits with left knee raised with the foot drawn back to the centre and pointing to the side. The right leg is folded under. The right hand is in Abhaya mudra, i.e., the palm turned towards the front with fingers raised upwards. The left hand falls on the side of the raised left knee. The figure wears a pair of large circular earrings, plain and wide necklaces, plain Brahmanical cords, a stiff belt, tied at the front with the buckle in the form of a horse shoe and anklets.Nagi (Female Naga)See Picture. Go The outspread hood of a cobra with nine heads rises above the head. The face is shown frontally while the torso bends to the right. The arms are broken and the legs in kneeling position are turned towards the right. The figure is sitting in a feminine way.The Yaksa General PanadaSee Picture. Go The figure is a small one with a high back slab. There is a trefoil nimbus behind the head. On top of the nimbus is a flag. The headdress does not contain a crown. As usual with all the figures, the figure wears large circular earrings. Both hands are broken and the body is also badly damaged. The figure sits with left knee raised with the foot drawn back to the centre and pointing to the side and the right leg folded under. The left hand may have held a sword. On the upper portion of the stone behind the figure are traces of 12 lines of an inscription which contains only a few legible letters. The lines must have continued to the base. Only the two lowest lines are legible now. Fortunately, the lines contain the name of the figure, Senapati Panada. See Picture. Go As mentioned before, we can date the sculpture paleographically to either the 4th or 5th century A.D. Panada, as mentioned in Suttras of the Digha Nikaya, was one of the 28 Yaksa Generals led by Kubera.Other Yaksa GeneralsSee Picture. Go The figure is similar to that of Panada, but is better preserved. There is a trefoil nimbus at the back of the head on top of which is a flag. The figure sits with the left knee raised with the foot pointing to the side. The right leg is folded. The headdress does not have a crown and as usual wears large circular earrings. There is no necklace but two straps pass over his shoulders twist over the chest and behind the arms. There is a girdle around his hips. The right hand is broken now, but it may once be in varada mudra. The left hand is moved sideways behind the raised right knee and is holding a sword.There may be more images belonging to the group of Yaksa generals.The Gandharva (The Deva Musician)See Picture. Go The headdress has no crown but consists of four narrow coils on top of which is a bulbous bun. There is a flag above and two spikes can be seen to protrude from either side of the headdress. The figure wears, as usual, large circular earrings, plain wide necklaces, armbands, a short tunic and a belt. He sits with his right knee raised with the foot pointing to the side and the left leg folded with knee and toes touching the ground. The right hand is bent with elbow on the right knee and is holding a sword broken at the top. The left hand is placed flat on the left thigh. Small wing like decorations sprout from behind the shoulders. At the back of the figure is a raredos rounded at the top whose height is about the eye level.Kinnaras

See Picture. Go The head dressed consist of five pointed crowns enclosing three or four coiled jata with bud-like tops of different shapes. From the sides of the headdresses issue flower like projections and from these fly tripartite feather-like objects curved outwards at the ends. Each figure has large circular earrings inserted in the lobe. The neck has three graceful folds and the necklaces are plain and wide. All have upper arm bands with a single fleuron projections, bracelets and armlets. A belt is always worn around the waist and is tied in front in various fashions. A belt is sometimes discernable around the hips. All figures, except one, sit with the right knee raised, foot pointing forward, and the left leg folded under. The right hands fall freely on the side of the raised right knees. The left hands are broken from the elbow. The left hands most probably may be either in abhaya or varada mudras. (To compare see Naga image). The exceptional one has left knee raised with the left hand on the side of the raised knee. The right hand may be in abhaya mudra.

The group is distinguished by round projections decorated with coil-like rows behind the shoulders. These projections seem to represent the wings of the Kinnaras. The feather-like tripartite objects issued from the sides of the headdresses and the wing-like projections behind the shoulders leads to the interpretation of this group of images as personified Kinnaras. Or the wing-like projections represent the blazing glory which emanates from the body of Bodhisattvas? In this case, the group may be identified as Bodhisattvas. See Picture. Go

We must note that Garudas also have wings.

The Lokapalas

See Picture. Go The headdresses are similar to the images of Kinnaras but they contain four coils instead of three. The ornaments and the sitting postures are also the same. The right hands are in varada mudras. That is, the hands are folded with the palms spread outwards with the fingers pointing down. The left hands hold swords with their buds on the left knees. There are elliptical nimbuses behind the heads.

The Diads

See Picture. Go There are two diads. One of them had been modified by chiseling out of the original. The other is intact. Here again, the ornaments and dresses are the same. The only difference is in the headdress. The headdress consists of no crown and, like that of Naga, has two coils only and topped with a bud-shaped protrusion Two straight horns come out from the left and right sides of the top coil and two curved horns from the sides just below the lower coil. Two straight horns can also be discerned below the curved horns. The right image has both hands broken from the elbows, whereas the left image has the right hand broken from the elbow. The left hand in this case is placed on the leg. Both of them are sitting with their legs folded but not crossed. The left leg is in front of the right. There is a nimbus at the back of the head. By carefully studying the headdress, one can speculate that the images belong to a different type of celestial being. Hence I want to interpret these images as images of Asuras.


See Picture. Go All the three figures have the same type of headdresses. They are more complicated than the headdresses of the other images and crowns cannot be discerned. There are elliptical nimbuses behind their heads. They wear the same type of ornaments as other Mahamuni images. All of them are seated with their legs folded and the left legs are slightly raised. The central image has his right arm raised in front of the body and left hand rests on the left leg. The hands of the side figures are broken from their elbows. The inner hands of these images appear to hold long stalk like objects, wider at the top. Are these spears or some sort of musical instruments? The outer hands are also raised in front. They can either be Devas or Gandharvas (Deva musicians) and definitely not Dhyani Buddha sitting together with two Bodhisattvas at his sides, since they cannot have been developed in this region at this period even if one wished to.

In addition to the above sculptures, there are two more types left. One is an unfinished standing dvarapala (See Picture. Go) and the other, a squatting figure with the upper portion of the body together with the head lost. See Picture. Go

These are the strange sculptures of Mahamuni. They have been interpreted as Hindu deities by many people. Some are attempting to interpret these as deities of the Buddhist Pantheon of the advanced Mahayana Buddhism. But after studying carefully the stage of Buddhism reached in Arakan in its evolution during the period of making these sculptures , one can conclude that they are the personified images of the Devas, Yaksas, Gandharvas, Asuras, Garudas, Kinnaras, Mahoragas and Nagas, who used to listen to Buddha’s preachings. They can be distinguished only from their headdresses and the decorations behind the head and the shoulders as all other ornaments worn are almost the same.



1) Ali, S.M. “Arakan Rule in Chittagong (1550 – 1666 A.D)” JASP (1967) pp. 333 – 351.2) Bapat, P.V. 2500 Years of Buddhism, New Delhi, 1976.3) Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India, Lodon, Fontana, 1967.4) Benerji, R.D. Eastern Indian School of Mediaeval Sculpture, Delhi, 1933.5) Bernot, L. Les Paysans Arakanais due Pakistan Orientale, 2 vols., Paris 1967.6) Bhattacharrya, B. The Indian Buddhist Iconography, Calcutta, 1958.7) Bhattasali, N.K. Iconography of Buddhist and Brahamanical Sculptures in the Dacca Museum, Dacca, 1929.8) Buler, G. “Specimens of Jaina Sculpture from Mathura” E.I. II, p. 314.9) Chan Htwan Oung “The Mahamuni Shrine in Arakan,” JBRS, II, (1912) pp. 262 – 265.10) Coomaraswamy, A.K. “The Buddha’s Cuda, Hair, Usnisa and Crown”, JRAS (1928) pp. 815 – 840.11) Dani, A.H. Indian Palaeography, Oxford, 1963.12) Dani, A.H, “Mainamati Plates of the Chandras” Pakistan Archaeology, III (1969) pp. 22 – 55.

13) Doewai, Rakhaing Razawingri, (Burmese), Palm – leaf manuscript.

14) Forchhammer, E. Papers on Subjects Relating to the Archaeology of Burma: Arakan, Rangoon, 1891.

15) Foucher, A. The Beginnings of Buddhist Art, Paris, 1917.

16) Gutman P. Ancient Arakan, Ph. D Thesis, Australian National University, 1976, Unpublished.

17) Hall, D.G.E. “Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan,” JBRS, XXVI (1937) pp. 1 – 10.

18) Harvey, G.E. History of Burma, London, 1925.

19) Humphrey, C. Buddihism, London, Penguin Books, 1975.

20) Johnston, E.H. “Some Sanskrit Inscriptions of Arakan,” BSOAS XI (1944) pp. 375 – 385.

21) Kyeethelayhtat Sayadaw, Jinatthapakasani, 4 Vols, (Burmese), Rangoon, 1951.

22) Luce, G.H. Old Burma-Early Pagan, 3 Vols, New York, 1969.

23) Mai, U Rajawingri, (Burmese), Palm – leaf Manuscript.

24) Mya, U “A note on the Buddha’s Footprints in Burma”, ASI, (1930 – 34) pt. 2. pp. 320 – 331.

25) Nyanatiloka, The Word of the Buddha, Colombo, 1952.

26) Ojha, G.M. Bharatiya Pracina Lipi Mala, New Delhi, 1918.

27) Phayre, A.H. “An Account of Arakan” JASB, X (1841) pp. 679 – 711.

28) Phayre, A.H. “On the History of Arakan”, JASB, XIII (1844) pp. 23 – 52.

29) Ray, N. Sanskrit   Buddhism in Burma, Calcutta, 1936.

30) San Shwe Bu, “The Legend of the Early Aryan Settlement of Arakan, JBRS, XI, 2, p.66.

31) San Shwe Bu , “The History of Arakan”, JBRS, XII, 3, p. 167.

32) San Shwe Bu, “The Story of Mahamuni”, JBRS, VI (1916) pp. 226 -229.

33) San Tha Aung Scripts of Arakan, 6th Century and before, (Burmese), Rangoon, 1974.

34) San Tha Aung, Anandacandra, King of 8th Century Vesali, Arakan, (Burmese), Rangoon, 1975.

35) Shah, U.P. Iconography: Jaina Art, and Architecture, Vol. III, New Delhi, 1975, p. 492

36) Smith, V.A. The Early History of India, Oxford, 1924.

37) Sircar, D.C. “Inscriptians Copper-Plate Grant from Arakan”, EI, XXXVII (1957), pp. 103 -109.

38) Sircar, D.C. “Fragmentary Copper-Plate Grant from Arakan”, EI, XXXVII (1967), pp. 61 – 66.

39) Sivaramamurti, C. Indian Epigraphy and South Indian Scripts, Madras, 1952.

40) Thin Kyi Daw “Arakanese Capitals: A preliminary Survey of their Geographical Setting, JBRS, LIII (1970) pp. 1-14.



BSOAS                        =           Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.EI                                    =         Epigraphia Indica.JASB                             =         Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta.JBRS                             =         Journal of the Burma Research Society, Rangoon.JRAS                             =         Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London.JASP                             =         Journal of the Asiatic Society, Pakistan.



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