Friday, August 24, 2012


The city site of Dhanyawadi is located on the ARAKAN (now Rakhine) coast of western Myanmar (Burma). It was here that a cast statue of the Buddha, held to be a precise image of the Buddha himself, was housed until Arakan was conquered by King Bodawpaya in 1784 and the statue was taken to Mandalay. The city includes an encircling brick wall and moat that encloses an area of 442 hectares (1,105 acres). The central part of the city covers 26 hectares (65 acres) and is dominated by a second walled and moated precinct that housed the palace. The site lies on the Tarechaung River, by which boats can reach the Kaladan River and thence the Bay of Bengal. The Rakhine coast is strategically located to take advantage of trade with India, including participation in the maritime exchange route that developed during the early centuries C.E. In addition, the city commanded good lowland rice land and had easy access to forest products in the hills to the east. Aerial photographs reveal canals and water tanks in the city, which might well have been used to irrigate rice fields. The entire area within the walls almost certainly included open areas for fields as well as settlements.

The early history of the site is recorded on the inscription of King Anandcandra of MRAUK-U, dated to 729 C.E. The text recorded the kings who preceded him, noting that it was King Dvan Candra who first defeated 101 rivals before founding the city in the mid-fourth century C.E. and who ruled from 370 to 425 C.E. His city, so the inscription records, “laughed with heavenly beauty.” The PALI name Dhannavati means “grainblessed.” 

A hill adjacent to the royal palace houses the MAHAMUNI shrine, still one of the most venerated places in Burma, where the famous statue of Buddha once stood. The statue’s original form cannot be determined because it is so covered in gold. The origin of this image is buried deep in a tradition that describes how the Buddha visited Arakan; it was at that time that the statue was cast. While this deeply venerated image is no longer located at Dhanyawadi, many sandstone images that once formed part of the original temple complex survive, albeit in a damaged or modified condition. These represent BODHISATTVAS, door guardians, and guardians of the four cardinal points. One such image still bears an inscription naming Yaksasenapati Panada, in the late Gupta style, while the statues themselves also reveal Gupta influence of the fifth century C.E.

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