- By Aung Kyi Moe (Sittwe)
There are a lot of forests and mountains in Rakhine State; there are a lot of bamboos and woods in the State as well. With modern urbanization and developed housing styles make the traditional housing conditions obsolescent, replacing with modern designs of two- or three-storied buildings. But in villages, villas in a Rakhine style are still being made of woods, bamboos and dhani-thatched roofs. The Rakhine people build their traditional houses in Rakhine architectural features.
Ancient Rakhine people usually build big houses, thus calling a villa in a Rakhine style. The construction of a large house consisted of 38 posts; these posts refer to Mingala sutta which contains 38 rules for a beatific life. The front part of the house called ,“Byaw” in Rakhine language, faced east. In the case of the plot of land, if it was difficult to build a house facing east, it was built facing south. It as believed not in a glorious way that the houses were built facing to other directions. The main room was meant for the owner of a grand house and his wife. From the east to the west, three posts in a row on both sides were known as “Kyun”. That room was surrounded on four sides by 14 posts which were called “Kyunyan”; their children live there.
On the floor, “Kyunyan” was lower than “Kyun”. Three other sides consisted of 16 posts except the west side, widely known as dragon-wise, totaling 36 posts. In the front part, two sides were put outside of the dragon-wide posts. In the dragon-wise part, guests were usually welcome. There was no curtain between a kitchen and a dining room. A kitchen and a toilet were separated. There had to the odd numbers of rungs in a wooden ladder; even numbers were not usually accepted. There were no folds in the window, but bamboo sticks fixed for closing and opening the windows. In ancient times, no nails were used in the buildings but instead a tough kind of cane was used to tie the posts. Nowadays, bolts and nuts are more and more used instead to build the houses. House walls are fixed with thatched bamboos. Roofs were covered with locally produced nipa palms; they were decorated with floral motifs.
In ancient times, large houses were taxed by the palaces; only when allowed by the palaces, they were built. Large houses meant more taxes for Royal Finance, but only when future generations kept paying taxes to the Kingdom, the houses were built of 50-year-old trees. As the name implies, large houses were tall enough for an elephant to go under them and a horse to run through the posts supporting the houses.
Translated by Arakan Sein