- By Man Thit Nyein (Archaeology)
Ancient men were in the habit of writing on stone slabs, obelisks and stone walls about their ways of life—culture, art and traditions—not to disappear completely. These styles of writing are known as records in writing or stone inscriptions. By studying these stone inscriptions, their primitive beliefs, art and culture and social backgrounds be guessed to help a lot to the history of a country.
A stone inscription can be found in the town of Mrauk-U, formerly known as Myohaung, the Rakhine State, the Republic of theUnion of Myanmar; it is about five miles northeast of the capital Sittwe. Mrauk-U was founded by King Min Saw Mon in 1430 AD and it served as the capital for 49 successive kings of the Mrauk-U kingdom. Waithali (Vesali) is about five miles away from Mrauk-U.
In the analysis of the aerial photos, the two cities of Waithali old city and Grand Palace Compound can be seen conspicuously. The king of the Waithali city was Ananda Chandra who ruled the Rakhine Kingdom at the beginning of the 8th Century. He inscribed about his great-grand fathers and recorded Pali verses a lot about himself in writing.
This chronicle can be found in an obelisk on the compound of Shite-thaung Temple, Mrauk-U Town, the Rakhine State. On the eastern face of the obelisk, stone inscriptions are believed to have recorded in the 6th century and those in the northern face in the 10th century.
Stone inscriptions about his great-great grandfathers also included about himself. The Ananda Chandra Stone Inscriptions were recorded in Sanskrit by using Brahmi scripts. The handwritings were neat and tidy; the Pali verses were of high standards.
Editing the drafts of the inscriptions
The grandfather of King Ananda Chandra was Wazagadhi who claimed to be a direct descendant of the Nats(celestial beings); the descriptions were recorded in the stone inscriptions. The intentions were meant to let the subjects know the goodwill of these kings; to bring about knowledge and wisdom and to share the merits from the first year to the ninth year of their kingship. Every Brahmi sentence in the inscriptions is followed by a sentence written in prose.
Dr. Sarker remarked that inscriptions on great-grand fathers were recorded in India earlier than those of Ananda Chandra Stone Inscriptions, but ruling period of each king was not included. Such Stone Inscriptions which included the name of the king and his ruling period, the Ananda Chandra Inscription is one of the earliest ones. The Inscriptions recorded in 65 Pali verses included the Rakhine successive kings and their ruling periods. This type of monolith, unique in its kind, is nowhere found in entire Myanmar.
Those who tried to read the Stone Inscriptions included Hirananda Sushtri who wrote some remarks on pages 146-8 about this Inscription in the 1925-26 annual report of the Archaeology Department of India; Dr P.N Chakrawati, a high-ranking executive officer on stone inscription read some fifty lines at the bottom in 1930s. An Englishman, Dr. E.H Johnston read from A to Z of the Inscriptions, revealing a long lists of kings. He was a professor on oriental studies at the Oxford University. His death in 1942 left the drafts of his translations.
Professor Sir Richard Burns was called by authorities to look for the translations. Sir Richard Burns edited the drafts with the help of Professor G.H Luce and published Some Sanskrit Inscriptions of Arakan.
Several writers appeared to have sent articles on the Ananda Chandra Inscriptions: Saya Mon Bokay in the Culture Journal on Shite-thaung Temple to the Sanskrit Obelisk; Sayagyi Minthuwun in the Dhanyawadi Magazine of 1951-52 on Ananda Chandra, the 8th century Rakhine king. U Aung Tha Oo wrote in the Rakhine Cultural Journal of 1966 about the Ananda Chandra Inscriptions in the Waithali Kingdom. U Myint Swe, Pali Professor of Mandalay Arts and Science University read an essay on the Stone Inscriptions in 1968. As recently as 11 November, 2017 at the Rakhine Dammayon, Maung Pru(Krwe Tay Kyun) discussed the year the Stone Inscriptions were recorded and other subsequent facts of the Inscriptions.
Comprehensive and Exact Readings on the Inscriptions
Dr. Johnston read the inscriptions comprehensively and exactly. As the Inscriptions were written in Sanskrit language, one should be skilled in that language. A line of prose is included; the rest are Pali verses. How these versed were composed, one should be highly skilled in Sanskrit for the complete understanding about the composition. Dr. Johnston was a skilled scholar who won praise from U San Tha Aung in his book on the Waithali King of 8th century Ananda Chandra dynasty.
For Dr. Johnston tried to read the Inscriptions from carbon papers and photos sent by the Yangon University and without having a personal look at the Inscriptions.
Pali verses were put in between alternate sentences after putting Myanmar punctuation marks. First sentence was unable to read from the first photo film. Three Pali verses were believed to have vanished with three sentences. Again Pali verses of numbers 4,9,13,14,16 and 17 were not fully comprehended. A total of 65 verses were included; a clear prose was in between nos. 45 and 46. After composing 62 Pali verses, three verses were added without punctuation.
Dr. Johnston’s analysis reveals Pali verses: 32,42,44, and 62 were of Wathantilaka types; there were 28 words between Myanmar mini-punctuation marks. Verses nos. 40,61,63,64 and 65 were of Uppazati type with inclusion of 22 words in between. Number 52 and 59 were the mixture of Eindrawuntha and Wungatha types with inclusion of 24 words. The rest verses included 16 words. Even though 16 dynasties were mentioned, 13 dynasties were recorded. In addition, U San Tha Aung translated in 1975 the Ananda Chandra Stone Inscriptions written in Brahmi scripts into Myanmar Language. Nowadays, a school textbook on the Inscriptions by Maung Pru(Krwee Tay Kyun) was prescribed and published by Ayana Literature Association (Yangon).
The Ananda Chandra Obelisk from Waithali Myohaung was moved to the Shite-thaung Temple by King Min Bur Gree(1531-1551) in AD 1536 to put up there. The Obelisk has four faces: ancient northern Indian scripts were used on East, West and North sides from 600 AD to 1000 AD with intermittent period of 200 years; three types of Brahmi scripts were inscribed on each side and the Obelisk happens to be a very rare one in its own kind. A eulogy to King Ananda Chandra was recorded as well as other eulogies for other Rakhine successive kings.
That is why the Ananda Chandra Stone Inscriptions play a vital role in the history of the Rakhine and are invaluable for its people. The monolith, unique in entire Myanmar has deeply embedded in the Rakhine society. The 8th general meeting of Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific(MOWCAP) which was held in Gwangju of the Republic of Korea from 29 May through 1 June; together with the Inscriptions and a film named “Myaganaing” made in 1934 were submitted at the meeting and recognized by MOWCAP. Besides, the Inscriptions will be submitted for world heritage lists.
Ancient men inscribed on stone slabs and walls as a sign of remembrance about their culture, literature and traditions. Therefore, stone inscriptions throughout Myanmar must be carefully preserved. At the same time, it is an auspicious news for the Rakhine State and its people as the Ananda Chandra Stone Inscriptions were submitted to be included in the lists of MOWCAP and world heritage lists.
King Ananda Chandra: 8th century Waithali (Vesali) King By U San Tha Aung
Myanmar Encylopaedia Vol.2
Translated by Arakan Sein