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Aman Ullah
RB History
February 28, 2016

During the several centuries, a large number of Muslims settled in Arakan and spread their culture there. The welcome influence Muslim culture in Arakan was so great that the Buddhist kings assumed Muslims names and titles. They introduced Muslim administration system, appointed Qazis, ministers, generals and other Muslim high officials in the state. In the medieval Court of Arakan the high position like Prime Minister (Mahapatra, Mukhyapatra, Mahamatya), Minister (Patra), War Minister (Lashker Wazir), Wzir, Qadi or Judge of the Diwani, Fauzdari etc, were held by the Muslim. [1] They had vast influence in the country and court of the kings. They were learned men.

Thus, in the later part of the 17th century the real administrates were these Muslim High officials. San Baw U, in his book ‘My Rambles: Among the ruins of the golden city of Mrauk u’, wrote that, ‘In those times not only the council of ministers in Arakan were so powerful and dominant but strong popular public opinion existed that guided the officers of the state and curbed the king’s power.’

The Indian historian Ramesh C. Majumdar speaks of a decisive role of the Muslims in the history of the kingdom of Arakan and Jamini M. Ghosh (writing in 1960) thinks that the use of Muslim names and the favours granted by the king to the Muslim poets testify to the ‘cultural affinity’ of the Arakanese and the Muslims. Suniti B. Qanungo, writes: ‘The Muslim subjugations of Arakan from time to time undoubtedly increased the Islamic influence in that country.’

The contemporary Bengali, which blossomed at Mrauk-U in 17th century by the Muslim poets of Arakan, gives reference to a number of Muslim nobles who occupied high post of ministers, chief ministers and war ministers in the Arakan in the 17th century. Among them some of the most distinguished personalities were, Lashker Wazir Burhan-u-ddin, Lashker Wazir Ashraf Khan, Lashker Wazir Bara Thakur, Prime Minister Qurashi Magan Thakur, Prime Miister Sayyed Musa, Prime Minister Navaraj Mujlis, Finance Minister Sulaiman, Minister of War, Sayyed Mohammed, Qazi Daulat, Quazi Sawwod Shah etc.. Besides the minister there were other major or minor officers also.


The first Muslim defence minister (Lashkar Wazir) in the court of Arakan was Burhanuddin. Nasurllah Khondkar, in his ‘Shariatnamah’ writes about him that, “in Bengala (East Bengal) in the kingdom of Gaur, there was a Wazir named Hamid-ud-din. His son Burhan-ud-din left the country with his followers and soldiers and settled in Roshang. In those days there was no cavalry in Arakan. Considering that Burhan-ud-din was an efficient soldier, the king appointed him Lashkar Wazir or head of the army or defence or war minister.”[2] According to Prof. Dr Abudul Karim of Chittagong University, the Shariatnama of Nasrullah Khondkar was wrote in 1749 (or 1755), and Nasrullah Khondkar was the 7th descendant of Burhan-ud-din. So Burhan-ud-din was alive about the last half of the 16th century.


Ashraf Khan was Lashkar Wazir (Defence Minister) of the king Thiri Thudamma (1622-1638 AD) of Arakan. Poet Qazi Daulat wrote his book Sati Maina Lor Chandrani under the patronage of Ashraf Khan. According to Qazi Daulat, Ashraf Khan was a religious minded man, he was a Hanafi and accepted Chishtiya tariqa. He was the follower of Pir, did good to the people and understood political affairs. He built mosques and excavated tanks and he was a generous man. When the king felt that his end was drawing near, he celebrated the coronation ceremony and entrusted Ashraf Khan with the responsibility of governing the country. The king gave him the umbrella, flag and drums and honoured him with many presents. The king also gave him gold emblem, cap and horse and robe of honour (robe of the Lashkar - Wazir). In this way Ashraf Khan became a great minister of the state. Abdul Karim Sahitya-Visharad and Enamul Huq think that Lashak Wazir Ashraf Khan was originally a man from Chittagong, the ruins of his place are seen at village Charia in P.S Hazhazari, Dist. Chittagong, a big tank in this village bears his name and the Lashkar Wazir dighi (big tank) at Kadalpur village in Raozan also bears his name. [3] Sebastien Manrique also refers to this Lashkar Wazir when he says that the Lashkar Wazir led the Muslim contingent of army in the coronation procession of the king Thiri Thudhamma in 1635 A.D.


The third Muslim Lashkar Wazir in Arakan was Sri Bara-Thakur, father of his more illustrious son Magan Thakur. Sri Bara Thakur was the Lashkar Wazir or war minister of the king Narapatigyi (1638-1645 A.D). His actual name is not known, Bara Thakur was his title.


Magan Thakur, son of Sri Bara Thakur, was a Lashkar-Wazir or War Minister of the king Narapatigyi. Magan Thakur was born of Siddiq family, family or descendants of the first Calipha Hazarat Abu Bakr. 

So according to Alaol, Magan Thakur was not only a high born one, he was also a learned man and he respected the learned people. He gathered the learned people of the country by his side and showed them much respect. Sukumar Sen did not think that Magan Thakur was a Muslim. According to him, “There is no proof that Magan Thakur was a Muslim. In those days some Hindus became disciples of Muslim Pirs. Magan Thakur may have done the same thing. The name Magan Thakur is the best proof that he was not a Muslim: ...He was a Magh. The Maghs were not fully Hindus, but they were not Muslims.” [5] But Alaol categorically says that Magan Thakur was born of Siddiq family and he was a Shaik. Alaol also says that, “Sri Bara Thakur was the war minister of king. By begging to God he got the offspring in the morning. Because he was obtained by praying or begging, he was given the name of Magan.” [6]

So it is clear that Bara Thakur prayed to God for a son and God Almighty blessed him with a son and the offspring of prayer (i.e. Magan in Bengali) was named Magan. Thakur was the official title given by the king.

Magan Thakur came to prominence in the reign of the king Narapatigyi or Nripagiri. The king had a daughter, when the king became old, he thought of appointing a fit person as guardian of the daughter and he selected Magan Thakur for his job. Alaol says that, “The princess was extremely pretty and polite, the king brought up his daughter with great care ….. Seeing the tender age of the princess the king was thinking as to whom the guardianship of the princess was to be given. In that country there was a great man he was a Muslim, virtuous man. The king made him the guardian of the princess. When the king died the princess became the chief queen. She appointed her guardian the Prime Minister of the kingdom.”[7]

The fact is that the king Narapatigyi had no son, but only a daughter. When the king became old, he appointed Magan Thakur, who was a minister, and who belonged to a good Arab family, guardian of his daughter. After the king’s death she was married to Thado Minthar (Sad Umedar of Bengali writers), nephew of the king, i.e. the king’s daughter was married to her cousin. This Thado Minthar became king, and the king’s daughter became the chief queen of the kingdom. From the above discussion, it is evident that Magan Thakur was a minister in the reign of king Narapatigyi, but after the latter’s death, during the reign of Thado Minthar and his queen, Magan Thakur was promoted to be the chief or Prime Minister of the kingdom. 

Magan Thakur was a learned man, he gave asylum to the learned people and patronised the great poet Alaol. Alaol also says about him as follows;

“Many Muslims live in Roshang, they are all learned, virtuous and come out good family. All help me and treats me well because I am an educated man. Thakur Magan, the truthful and saintly person was the minister of the Chief Queen. As the end of the days of my grief appeared, I happened to meet him. He brought me up with great care. He treats me well and his generosity bound my neck towards him. The learned people sit in his assembly and enjoy vocal and instrumental music. I was also a member of that assembly and in one such assembly there were many who engaged themselves in various amusements. Some sang songs and some played instruments. When they heard the story of Padmavati they became happy. The people of Roshang do not understand the language, so if it was composed in Bengali poem, all will be happy. So Magan Thakur ordered me to compose Padmavati and by his order I promised to compose the book.”[8]

The king Sanda Thudamma ascended the throne in 1652, after the death of his father. As he was minor, his mother became regent and Magan Thakur held the reins of government on their behalf. Then Magan Thakur was not only the Prime Minister but also became the guardian of the dowager queen and the boy king. The king was coroneted at the age of 30 years about 18 years after his accession in1670. It means that Magan Thakur held the rein of government about 18 years. It was thought that Magan Thakur died before 1660 AD. [9] Of all the Muslim ministers and officers of Arakan in the medieval period, Magan Thakur was undoubtedly the best and his name is immortalised in the pages of history. 


The next Muslim minister of Arakan was Sayyid Musa. He was appointed Prime Minister after the death of Magan Thakur. Sayyid Musa remained in this office for about a decade under the king Sanda Thudhama (Chandra Sudharma). Alaol received patronage from him and at his order completed the composition of Saiful Mulk Badiujjamal. Alaol writes about his patron in the following words:

“Sayyid Musa is a great man. He is a learned man and loves this poor man (Alaol himself) because I am a seeker of knowledge. He is a bounteous man and I am bound to him by his love. He called me once to his house and said that Magan who ordered you to write the book was your disciple and my friend. The book remains half-finished, but if it is completed it will please many. For my sake you write the book. I said, ‘Composing the book is not possible at old age. I have written many books, now it behoves me to remain engaged in remembering God.’ He said that if you do not do it the incomplete book will not be finished; there is no one else who can do it. For three reasons you should do this work, first, your love for Magan, second, (in the story) the prince is now in prison, and third, to please me. So you cannot but complete the book.” [10]


The next Muslim Prime Minister whose name is known to us was Nabaraj Majlis, it is not known whether it was his name or title. He ordered Alaol to compose the famous Persian book Sikandarnama of Nizami Ganjabi. Alaol says how he got the order to write the book:

“The benevolent man Srimanta Majlis became his great minister getting Nabaraj. Hearing about me he made me his courtier and brought me up by giving food and clothes. By his grant I paid government dues in proper time. There are other learned men at his court, but he gives weight to what I say. One day he invited many Muslims and entertained them with all kinds of food and drink. People became happy, some sang songs, and others played instrumental music. All present blessed the Majlis saying that God Almighty will fulfil his wishes. They also praised him for his good deeds like building mosques, excavating tanks and they also said that his name will be remembered in his own country and outside. The Majlis replied that mosques and tanks would not last long only books will last. In the past great men built mosques and excavated tanks, but only books lasted. Mosques and tanks are known in one’s own country, but books are read in all countries. Illiterate people get knowledge through books. Books last till the days of resurrection.”[11]

Nabaraj Majlis was not only the Prime Minister of the kingdom, he was so important a personality that he administered the coronation oath to the king Chandra Sudharma. The king must have his Magh Ministers also, but this Muslim Minister got prominence. Also Alaol says about this:

“The great religious king had a prime minister known as Nabaraj Majlis, he was a great Minister and Chief of all Muslims of Roshang. Now I will tell something about Majlis. When the king went to heaven, the crown prince came to sit on the throne. Outside the throne, he stood facing the east. The Majlis wore his dress and standing before the prince advised him in the following words. ‘Treat the people as your sons; do not deceive upon the people. According to religious rites, be just in state duties, and see that the strong do not oppress the weak. Be kind, be true to your religion, be kind to good people, and punish the wicked. Try to forgive and do not be impatient; do not punish anybody for pass offences.’ The king accepted all these principles, and then bade salam to the Majlis and then all others of the family of his mother.”[12]

This is important evidence about the king and his Muslim Prime Minister Nabaraj Majlis. Alwal first praises king and then says that Nabaraj Majlis was the Chief Minister among all the Muslims there living in the country of Roshang. When the king died and his prince (new King) came to occupy the throne, he was made to stand outside of the throne facing the east. Majlis then appeared before him wearing his official dress. Nabaraj Majlis then administered the oath as follows: ‘treat your subjects as your son; do not oppress the people; be just in religious and legal matters; do not allow the strong to oppress the weak; you should be kind, truthful and religious; behave well to the good people and destroy the wicked; always be generous and do not vacillate or restless; do not harm anybody for past fault;’ and he advised the king in many other matters. The king agreed to abide by his advice and follow his admonition. Then he saluted Nabaraj Majlis and then others of his family.


Sayyid Muhammad Khan was a minister of the king Chandra Sudharma, Alaol composed his book Half Paikar (or Sapta Paikar), being requested by his minister. Alaol says:

“He was a king of kings, owner of huge wealth and his chief war minister was Sayyid Muhammad. His body is blue and his face is like a full moon. He speaks smilingly and he is learned in many subjects, in Arabic, Persian, Indian and Maghi languages. He is a good singer and remains busy with music day and night. Many scholars adorn his court and remain busy discussing philosophical subjects. I attend his court and he brings me up giving food and drinks. He keeps me obliged to him by giving salt, grain and betel nut. He shows me favour and I attend his court as a member of his assembly. I discuss many tales about religious subjects and I related to him the most fascinating story of Sapta Paikar.”[13]

In the above passage we find that the Minister Sayyid Muhammad was the chief army minister. We have seen above those three ministers, Ashraf Khan, Bara Thakur and Burhanuddin were called Lashkar Wazir, which we have rendered as war minister or defence minister. This man Sayyid Muhammad is not called Lashkar Wazir, through he was also attached to the army. It appears that he was also a war minister, but not a Lashkar Wazir. He was a learned man and well-versed in several languages like Arabic, Persian, Hindi and Maghi. He also liked music and always lived in the company of learned and cultured people. In his house, which was a miniature court, many people remained present and they gave demonstration of their talent in their respective fields, for example, some recited poems, some sang songs. In this way they entertained the audience. Alaol used to remain present in that assembly; he received patronage and various types of help from the minister. At his request Alaol composed the Haft Paikar in 1660 A.D. 


He was a minister of the king Chandra Sudharma. At his request, Alaol composed Tuhfa and completed the unfinished Satimaina Lor Chandrani. The first was a book on Fiqh, while the second was written by Qazi Daulat at the request of Lashkar Wazir Ashraf Khan. Before completing the book the poet died and the book remained incomplete. Alaol completed the last part of the book. He says as follows about the minister Srimanta Sulaiman in his Lor Chandani.

“Srimanta Sulaiman is a very virtuous man and he brings up vituous foreigners with care. He became extremely glad to receive me and always entertains me with food and clothes. Learned people always discuss in his assembly on philosophical subjects. Once he sat in his court and discussed on various subjects. By chance the story of Lor Chandrani came up for discussion. This poem remained incomplete, and if completed, readers and hearers will be happy .… Considering this the great Sulaiman ordered me to complete the book so that milk and honey meet at one place (i.e. both stories of Satimaina and Lor Chandrani are found in one place). At his order Alaol promised to complete the book depending on the will of God..... The orders of great men are to be carried on because he was like a father giving food and shelter. Srimanta Sulaiman is a man of virtue. He becomes glad on hearing the story of Sati (chaste woman). At his order Alaol composed the poem in Bengali verse.”[14]

In his Tuhfa, Alaol writes about Srimanta Sulaiman as follows:

“Roshang is a bless country, there is no sin there and Sri Chandra Sudharma is the king there. He is widely known and he is so fortunate that other kings came and adore him. His minister Sri-yut Sulaiman is a man of heavenly knowledge, God created him at an auspicious hour. He excuses (the offenders), he is kind, he is lucky and joyous, and he is a singer and plays instrumental music. He helps the lowly persons and works for other’s benefit, giving up his own work. In the company of the learned, he discusses religious principles ……. He said to me that it is very profitable to read the Tuhfa, but people do not understand it. So he asked me to render it into Bengali and I promised to do so.”[15]


As there were many Muslims entered into Arakan by the 17th century and in their day to day life Muslim law was prevalent. For this reason, Muslim judges had to be appointed. They were called Qazis, and it appears that the Qazi were appointed following the examples of Bengal. Names of several Qazis are available in the writing of poets.

In those days Qazi was an official title and not a family title. It is from the late 18th centuries that Qazi became a family title when the Muslims lost their political power. When the post of Qazi was abolished, the descendants of those who once occupied the post of Qazi began to adopt this as a family title. Qazi Sayyid Sawood Shah or Maswood Shah was another Judge, whose name is available in the writings of Alaol. He writes:

“Sayyid Sawood Shah, the Qazi of Roshang accepted me as a disciple because I have a little learning. The king and good-natured Pir took pity on me and granted me Khilafat in the Qaderiya order. Through I am unable to take such a responsibility, continuous touch turn copper into gold.”[16]

Alaol calls him “Roshanger Qazi” (Qazi of Roshang), which means he was Chief Justices of the kingdom of Arakan. It appears, however, that he judged the cases according to Muslim law, applied to the Muslims. It is not clear whether he also tried the cases of the Magh citizens, and it seems doubtful whether the Maghs had their own legal system. 

Names of some other Qazis are also available; they are Shuja Qazi, Gawa Qazi, Nala Qazi, Abdul Karim, Muhammad Husain, Usman, Abdul Jabbar, Abdul Gaffar, Muhammad Yusuf, Nur Muhammad and Raushang Ali. Details about them are not available.

Footnotes: -

1) Ashit Kumar Bandopodhaya, Bangla Sahityer Itribrita, Vol. III, Culcuta (1965) PP.703-704. 
2) Karim ed.: Shariatnamah of Nasrullah Khondkar, p. 91.
3) Arakan Rajsobhaya Bangla Sahitya, p. 9.
4) Sahitya Patrika, Winter, 1364 B.S., pp. 59-60.
5) Sukumar Sen:Bangala Sahityer Itihas, part II, 1st Ananda edition, p.298.
6) Sahitya Patrika, Winter, 1364, B.S., p. 83.
7) Ibid., p.83
8) Ibid. pp. 57-58.
9) Ibid. pp. 63-65.
10) Ahmad Sharif: Bangali O Bangla Sahitya,Part II. P. 483.
11) Ahmad Sharif: Alaol Birachita Sikandarnama, Dhaka 1977/ 1384 B.S., pp.29-30.
12) Ibid. pp. 26-27.
13) Ahmad Sharif: Bangali O Bangla Sahitya, Part II, P. 487.
14) Sahitya Patrika, Winter, 1364, B.S., pp. 66-67.
15) Ibid. pp. 140-141.
16) Abdul Karim & Enamul Huq: Arakan Rajsabhaya Bangla Sahitya,p. 46.

Aman Ullah
RB History
February 20, 2016

Dr. Emil Forchhammer, a German-born Swiss Professor of Pali at Rangoon College, in his report of Arakan , which was publish in 1891, described not only all the historical, social, cultural, archaeological aspects of Arakan but also its religious side. He touched from the dawn of history to end of its independent. The report was organized into 3 chapters; in chapter I he dealt with specially Mahamamuni Pagoda and other Buddhists momuments, in chapter II Mrohaung and in chapter III with Launnyet, Minbya, Urittaung, Akyab and Sandoway and in the 1970s reprint version it contains 115 pages.


In the chapter II, at page 15, Forchhammer wrote about Mrohaung as follows:-

"The most important archaeological remains in Arakan are found in Mrohaung, the capital of the once powerful Myauk-u kings. The Mahamuni and all other pagodas mentioned in the Selagiri tradition are remembered and visited for purposes of worship by the Arakanese and Buddhists in general because their foundation or history is connected with the supposed advent of Gotama in Dhannavati; they afford, however, few instances of decorative art and few examples of constructive skill."

About the splendid temples those the peoples of that time seldom to worship Forchhammer mentioned that, “For the splendid temples of Mrohaung, built by the kings of the Myauk-u dynasty, the natives have more superstitious awe than religious reverence; they seldom worship at these shrines and they allowed them to fall into disrepair; while they contribute freely to plaster, whitewash., or gild the architecturally worthless Urittaung or the Sandoway pagodas, they will not raise a hand to prevent the wanton destruction, by treasure-hunters, of the temples, which bespeak the power, resources, and culture of their former rulers. The architectural style of the Shitthaune and Dukkanthein pagodas is probably unique in India, and the two shrines are undoubtedly the finest ruins in Lower Burma. They were not constructed by the Arakanese, but by " Kulas " from India; the natives were forced to burn the bricks and bring the stones from distant quarries; Hindu architects and Hindu sculptors raised and embellished the structures ; to the Arakanese, compelled to years of unpaid labour, these pagodas are an unpleasant reminiscence of the tyrannic and arbitrary rule of several Myauk-u kings.” 

About the name of Mrauk u, he mentioned that, "The Arakanese name vas Mrauk-u, or monkey's egg (the Burmese name for potato),the origin of which is very obscure. It stands at the head of a branch of the Kaladan river, about 50 miles from its mouth, almost at the farthest limit of tidal influence, on a rocky plain surrounded by hills. The principle creek is formed of two branches, which unite below the hills and pass through the town (see British Burma Gazetteer, 4.23)." 

A Brief history of Mrauk U

“The ruins of Mrohaung, as we now see them, date chiefly from the 15th and 16th centuries. Cities have, however, been founded at very early dates on the same plain. Parin (Barin, Paraung), east of Mrohaung on the Le`mro, formed one of the “Catur-gamas" or "'four cities." In the year B. E. 315 (A.D 957) King Amrathu, a Chief of the Mru tribe and connected with the Vesali dynasty through his mother Candradevi who had been raised to the position of chief queen in the palace of Culataincandra, founded a city 4 miles to the north-east of the spot where the palace of Myauk-a now stands ; the embankments of the town form a pen-tagon and are still traceable ; but, it was soon abandoned owing to the want of sweet, water and to the prevalency of fever,. '' which befell alike men, horses, and elephants." King Paipyu, a nephew of Ararathu, selected, in the year B. E. 326, mother place for his capital on the low hills to the south-east of the former Myauk.-u. Twelve years later (B. E. 338) the Shans invaded the country and compelled Paipyu to abandon the newly founded city; it remained for 18 years in possession of the invaders.”

“Subsequent kings built the Paiicanagara, Kyeitmyo, Parin (the new), and other towns on the Anjanadi (Le`mro). In the year B. E. 768 (A. D. 1406), the city of Launggyet was destroyed by Talaings and Burmans. King Minzawmun, the son of Rajathu, the last but one of the Launggyet dynasties, fled to Suratan (i.e., the dominions of the Sultan). In B. E. 792 (A. D. 1430) he returned to Arakan supported by the Mahomedan ruler of Delhi. He ascended the Anjanadi, and guided by the prognostications of his astrologer Candindaraja, entered a creek to the west and selected a site between the Shwedaung and Galun hills for the erection of a royal residence and a city. King Minzawmun is the first of the Myauk-u dynasty; a century later King Minbin, or Sirisuriyacandramahadhammaraja, the twelfth king of this line, constructed fortifications, roads, and embankments; by his ortifr were built the Tharekop and Shwedaung pagodas. The 14th king, Zawhla, had the Alayceti and Myaukceti, the Dukkankyauhg, Taungkyaung, and Kulamyokyaung erected (B.E 917—926, A. D. 1555— 1564), Minpalaung (B. E. 933) repaired the Urittaung and Mahahti pagodas. Minrajagri, the 17th of the Myauk-u dynasty (B. E. 955 — 974), raised the wall which enclose the palace from 9 to 12 cubits and perfected the system of fortifications begun by King Minbin; he built the Parabo pagoda and repaired the Andaw, Sandaw, and Nandaw cetis at Sandway. Minkamaung, his successor, built the Thuparama ceti, Shwepara, and Ngwepara (B. E, 974 — 984). Siridhammaraja restoredthe Selagiri shrine (see page 14) in the year 986 B. E. King Candasudhamma, to the Arakanese better known as " Pazamin," had the Shweguha pagoda erected and also the Ratanazanu ceti ; he repaired all pagodas in Arakan reputed to contain relics of Gotamah he also constructed (B. E, 1038) a new palace within the old enclosures and had his effigy in stone set up at the gates facing the cardinal points (see Plate X, No. i). Varadhammaraja repaired the Urittaung pagoda and erected the Mangalaramaceti (B, A. 1053). Candavijaya (B. E. 1072, A. D If 10), who reigned 21 years, is said to have constructed and repaired in Arakan 800 pagodas, image Houses, tanks, and monasteries. After his demise no religious or other buildings of importance have been raised. In the yea; A. D. 1784 the Burmans conquered Arakan and Myauk-u became the site of a Burmese Viceroy. A year before the occupation of Arakan by the Government of India the higher Burmese officials repaired the large tank in the south-east corner, II terrace, of the palace enclosure and had the meritorious deed recorded in a long inscription on a slab of alabaster {see Plate X, No. 4).”

Santikan Mosque

Forchhammer described all the Buddhist pagodas, monuments and temples in the chapter II as far as he can. Alongside of these at page 39, he also mentioned a non- Buddhist temple, i.e., an Islamic mosque called Santikan mosque as follows:-

“Two and a half miles to the east-south-east of the palace is another non-Buddhistic temple. It is a Mahomedan mosque, called Santikan, built by the followers of King Minzawmwun after he had returned from 24 years of exile in the Suratan (Sultan) country (from A. D. 1-406 to 1430). South of the road which leads to Alayse’yua are two large tanks with stone embankments; between them is the mosque surrounded by a stone wall 4' high. The temple court measures 65' from north to south and 82' from east to west (for plan of building and photograph see Plate XXVtl, Nos. 49 and 50). The shrine is a rectangular structure with 33' front and a length of 47'; it consists of an ante-room which occupies the whole breadth of the east front 33' by a depth of only 9'. A passage, 6' high, 3' 3" broad, leads from the north, south, and east to the ante-room; the walls are 4' 8" thick; the passage is vaulted; the arch consist of a series of wedge-shaped stones; the room is also vaulted, but outside the roof over it is a slanting plane from the cupola of the central chamber to the eastern front wall of the building, which Is only 9' high. Through the centre of the west side of the ante-room a passage, 3' wide, 6' high, and 6' 10" long, and also vaulted, brings us to the principal chamber; it measures 19' on each side; a narrow opening in the north and south walls admits some light ; on the west side a semicircular niche, 2' wide across the opening, 1' deep, and 5' high, is let into the wall, but it contains nothing. The ceiling is a hemispherical low cupola constructed on the same principle as the domes in the Shitthaung and Dukkanthein pagodas. The whole shrine is built of well-cui stone blocks, the floors inclusive, but it is absolutely bare of all decorative designs or anything else of interest. The temple has of late years been put to some extent in repair by Mahomedan tradesmen of Mrohaung and is now in their custody; a Mussulman lives on the premises to keep them in order; it is now used as a house of worship.” 


In Chapter III, under the sub head of Akyab at 59, Forchhammer wrote as follow:- 

“The town of Akyab is a modern place and owes its origin and growth chiefly to the removal, in the year 1826, of the British garrison from Mrohaung (Myauk-u), the climate of which proved pestilential to the troops, to a small fishing village at the mouth of the Kaladan river now developed into the capital of the Arakan division.”


At page 60, he mentioned an Islamic monument, Buddermokan as follows:-

“There are a few modern temples in Akyab which are interesting inasmuch as their architectural style is a mixture of the Burmese turreted pagoda and the Mahomedan four-comered minaret structure surmounted by a hemispherical cupola. Plates XLII and XLIII show examples. The worship, too, is mixed; both temples are visited by Mahomedans and Buddhists, and the Buddermokan has also its Hindu votaries.“The Buddermokan (Plate XLII, No. 88) is said to have been founded in A. D. 1756 by the Mussulmans in memory of one Budder Auliah, whom they regard as an eminent saint.”

Forchhammer further mentioned about a very interesting account of Colonel Nelson Davies the then Deputy Commissioner of Akyab as follows:-

“Colonel Nelson Davies, in 1876 Deputy Commissioner of Akyab, gives the 'following account in a record preserved in the office of the Commissioner of Arakan and kindly lent me : " On the southern side " of the island of Akyab, near the eastern shore of the Bay, there is a group of masonry buildings, " one of which, in its style of construction, resembles an Indian mosque ; the other is a cave, constructed of stone on the bare rock, which superstructure once served as a hermit's cell. The spot "where these buildings are situated is called Buddermokan, Budder being the name of a saint of " Islam, and mokan, a place of abode. It is said that 140 years ago or thereabouts two brothers •' named Manick and Chan, traders from Chittagong, while returning from Cape Negrais in a vessel " loaded with turmeric, called at Akyab for water, and the vessel anchored off the Buddermokan rocks, ' On the following night, after Chan and Manick had procured water near these rocks, Manick had a dream that the saint Budder Auliah desired him to construct a cave or a place of abode at the " locality near where they procured the water. Manick replied that he had no means wherewith he could comply with the request. Budder then said that all his (Manick's) turmeric would turn into " gold, and that he should therefore endeavour to erect the building from the proceeds thereof, ' When morning came Manick, observing that all the turmeric had been transformed into gold, consulted his brother Chan on the subject of the dream and they conjointly constructed a cave and " also dug a well at the locality now known as Buddermokan.” 

Forchhammer also mention about charge of the Budder mokan that, “There are orders in Persian in the Deputy Commissioner's Court of Akyab dated 1834 from William Dampier, Esquire, Commissioner of Chittagong, and also from T. Dickenson, Esquire, Commissioner- of Arakan, to the effect that one Hussain Ally (then the thugyi of Bhudamaw circle') was to have charge of the Buddermokan in token of his good services rendered to the British force in 1825 and to enjoy any sums that he might collect on account of alms and offerings.”

“In 1849 Mr. R. C. Raikes, the officiating Magistrate at Akyab, ordered that Hussain Ally was to have charge of the Buddermokan buildings, and granted permission to one Mah Ming Oung, a female fakir, to erect a building; accordingly in 1849 the present masonry buildings were constructed by her; she also redug the tank.” 

“The expenditure for the whole work came to about Rs. 2,000. After Hussain Ally's death his son Abdoolah had charge, and after the death of the latter his sister Me Moorazamal, the present wife of Abdool Marein, Pleader, took charge. Abdool Marein is now in charge on behalf of his wife." 

He also mentioned the general features of the exterior buildings as follows:-

“Plate XLII shows the general features of the exterior of the buildings; the interior is very simple: a square or quadrangular room. There are really two caves, one on the top of the-rocks (see photograph) ; it has an entrance on the north and south sides ; the arch is vaulted and so is the inner chamber ; the exterior of the care is 9' 3" wide, 11’ r 6" long, and 8' 6" high ; the inner chamber measures 7' by 5' 8" ; height 6' 5" ; the material is partly stone, partly brick plastered 'over ; the whole is absolutely devoid of decorative designs. The other cave is similarly constructed, only the floor is the bare rock, slightly slanting towards the south entrance; it is still smaller than the preceding cave. The principal mosque stands on a platform; a flight of brick and stone stairs leads up to it; the east front of the temple measures 28' 6", the south side 26' 6"; the chamber is 16' 9" long and 13' wide; the ceiling is a cupola; on the west side is a niche, let 1' into the wall, with a pointed arch and a pillaster on each side; over it hangs a copy in Persian of the grant mentioned above. A small prayer hall, also quadrangular, with a low cupola, is pressed in between the rocks close by; all tht:(these) buildings are in good order. The curiously shaped rocks capped by these buildings form a very picturesque group. The principal mosque has become the prototype for many Buddhist temples like the one on Plate XLIII; this pagoda is the most perfect type of the blending of the Indian mosque and the Burmese turreted spire.” 

Mosque at Sandoway

Under the sub head of Sandoway at page 62 Forchammer mention a Muslims mosque as follow:

“At the foot of the hill, on the east side, stands a small image-house containing an image of Gotama constructed of bricks and covered with plaster; it was built on the site of an old shrine at the beginning of this century by the Burmese Sitke` U Shwe Bu; the shrine is peculiar; it represents a combination of the style of the Native image-house and the Mahomedan mosque (see Plate XLIV, No. 92). The passage leads to a square chamber; the ceiling follows the contour of the central cupola. The shrine is called Parahla {i.e., the beautiful pagoda) and is kept in good repair.” 

Aman Ullah
RB History
February 18, 2016

Dr. Emil Forchhammer was German-born Swiss Professor of Pali at Rangoon College. He was the first Europeans who became involved in research of Old Burma. He was Superintendent of Archaeological Survey, which was newly founded in 1881. His premature death in 1890 meant a great loss to Burma. His reports on the archaeological remains of Arakan and Burma are Government publications; and his studies of Buddhist law are now extremely rare books, and the stores of knowledge they contain are not easily available.

Dr. Forchammer works on Arakan was originally published in 1891, a year after Forchhammer died. In this book he wrote the following early history of Arakan. 

The earliest dawn of the history of Arakan reveals the base of the hills, which divide the lower course of the Kaladan and Lemro rivers, inhabited by sojourners from India governed by chiefs who claim relationship with the rulers of Kapilavastu. Their subjects are divided into the four castes of the older Hindu communities; the kings and priests study the three Vedas ; the rivers, hills, and cities bear names of Aryan origin ; and the titles assumed by the king and queen regnant suggest connection with the Solar and Lunar dynasties of India. 

The Lemro River was then called Anjanadi, from its crooked course. Marayu, the first of Arakanese kings, founded the city of Dhanyavati on the banks of the Sirimanadi (now the Thare creek). The Kaladan meandered past the S'ailagiri (now Kyauktaw) under the appellation Gacchabhanadi and joined the sea (samudra) below Urasa, the present Urittaung. The Malla-pabbata, Gandhagiri, and Jara-pabbata separated the Kaladan from the Mallayunadi (Mayu river), and to the west rose the Kasina-pabbata. Later on, but still before our era, four towns (chaturgama) were founded where the Launggyet creek joins the Lemro; the modem villager Nankya, Barin, Bato, and Letma indicate the sites of the " four cities;" and the Anjanadi changed its name to Lemro (Leyomyit), or the " four-city river." Vai^sali (Vesali) is said to have first been founded by King Vasudeva. The ruins of this town can still be traced 20 miles north of Mrohaung, 2 miles east of the village of Paragyi. Both Dhanyavati and Vesali were repeatedly destroyed by neighbouring mountain tribes, but again rebuilt by the Aryan settlers. 

With Candrasuriya or Mahacandrasuriya appear the dim outlines of the history cf Arakan. This monarch erected a new city and palace on the site of Old Dhanyavati; to this ruler historical annals and traditions unanimously ascribe the foundation of the original Mahamuni shrine intended to receive the brazen image of Gotama. The records of Farther India make Candrasuriya a contemporary of Mahamuni, the great sage. Buddhism, as it now prevails in Burma, is decidedly an offshoot of the Southern Buddhist School. In the 11th and 12th centuries the priests of Pagan united their church with the mother-church of Ceylon. In the 10th century Buddhism, established in Burma by Sona and Uttara, who were sent by Asoka, must have become nearly extinct. Manuha, King of the Talings, was brought captive to Pagan by Anawratha (10th centurv') ; he was, however, allowed to build a residence for himself, and in this palace nearly all Is Indian art, and Trimurt'i' -reigned supreme, as is evident from the stone sculptures still preserved in the edifice (see Report on Pagan). , The religious zeal of Anawratha and Narapati jayasura again secured supremacy to Buddhism. But there are old Buddhist traditions among the Talings and Arakanese, traditions which could not have originated with the Southern Buddhist school, but are the remnants of the old Northern Buddhism, which reached Arakan from the Ganges when India was mainly Buddhistic; they form a substratum cropping up here and there apparently without any connection; its centre is the Mahamuni pagoda, the most important remains 'of ancient Buddhism in Burma, antedating in this province both Brahmanism and the Buddhism of the Southern school. 

His work was reprint in 1970s in the digitized version. Regarding this, Bob Hudson of University of Sydney, Asian Studies Program Department, rightly remarked in 2007 is that, “This material was originally published in 1891, a year after Forchhammer died, according to a reference to it in Harvey's 1926 "History of Burma". A new impression was made in the 1970s by the Burmese Education Ministry: the minister at that time was Arakanese, (may be U San Tha Aung the then Director General of Higher Education) and passionate about the history of his native province. The original plates and artwork were presumably lost by this time. A somewhat damaged copy of the 1891 book has been used to make a new set of offset plates. If the original had a title page, it had either disappeared from the original copy or was deliberately excluded from the reprint. The book was renamed "Report on the Antiquities of Arakan" and the year was put as 1892 on a typewritten slip of paper bound into the sub-title page. The publisher of the reprint is sometimes cited as "Archaeology Department, Burma", although as the department was established in 1902, it could not have been the publisher of the 1891 version. The reprint was bound in soft blue paper. “

“Some photographs are missing from the reprint. It is possible that they originally appeared as individual photos stuck on the plates, perhaps in an attempt to provide high quality illustrations for a book with a limited print run. For example, Plate IV No 7 is missing, and the blank space is marked with a small pencilled cross, perhaps by the owner of the book that was used for the reprint. Two complete pages of plates, XII and XIII, pictures from the Shittaung pagoda, are also missing. Original copies of the book may still have these plates, and all the illustrations. On the first page of the text in the 1970s edition are two marks in ink, circling an incorrect 20 miles as the distance from Vesali to Mrohaung, and an incorrect 10th century as the date for King Anawratha. These were presumably also made by the owner of the book that was used for the reprinting. This circling of the 20 on page 1 is instantly diagnostic of the reprint. In the original book, the numbering on Plates I to VIII starts from No 1 on each plate. From Plate X, No 1, picture numbers then continue in sequence. Pencilled changes to the numbering by the owner of the copy version have been reproduced in the reprint, but they do not match the references in the text, and are best ignored.” 

“I am still trying to get hold of an original copy of the book to compare it with the reprint. There are versions (seen on World Cat) at SOAS, Indiana University, National Art Library (V&A) London, Newberry Library Chicago and Northern Illinois University, but their online catalogues all use the 1970s title, and mention the paper insert. The Archaeology Dept library in Rangoon also holds a 1970s copy. The 1891 (?92) original might be hardbound, perhaps with a tissue overlay to protect the plates. In 1926, Harvey referred to copies of the book at the Bodelian (it's not in their online catalogue), the British Museum (their copy was transferred to the British Library, which will not give it out on international loan) and the India Office and Oxford India Institute Libraries. The SOAS journal has a reference to Forchhammer, Emil. 1892. Papers on Subjects Relating to the Archaeology of Burma: A Report on the History of Arakan. Rangoon: Government Press. A collection called Papers on Subjects relating to the Archaeology of Burma dated 1891 or 92 is in the Yale, Cambridge and Leiden libraries. The Leiden catalogue mentions that this contains "Notes on early history and geography of British Burma" (1891), but does not specify Arakan. The "Notes" title also appears with Forchhammer's separate works on the Shwedagon and Suvannaphumi.”

Aman Ullah
RB History
April 23, 2015

Arakan is the North-western region of the Union of Burma. It is a narrow mountainous strip of land with 360 miles costal belt from the Bay of Bengal. It covers an area of about 20, 000 sq. miles. It is now reduced to 14,200 sq. miles. Arakan is only Muslims majority region among the 14 regions of Burma.

The word Arakan is definitely of Arabic or Persian origin having the same meaning in both these languages. It is the corruption of the word Al-Rukun. There exists some controversy about the origin of the name of ‘Arakan’ on which traditional and legendary sources differ. In fact, the name of Arakan is much antiquity.

In Ptolemy’s Geografia (150 AD) a country named “Argyre”. Sir Yule wants to identify with Arakan the name being supposed to be derived from silver mines existing there.[1] Sir Yule assumption is supported by Mc Cridle and D.G.E Hall.[2] Early Buddhist missionaries called Arakan as ‘Rekkha Pura’.[3] In the Arnanda Chandra inscription of 8th century at Shitthaung pagoda the name of Arakan was engraved as “Arekades’a”.[4] It is worth mentioning that, the name of Bengal was engraved as “Vangalades’a” in Bajendra Cola’s Trimulai inscription of 11th century, which is also an inscription of Chandra family of East Bengal.[5]In the inscription of Pagan dated 1299 AD, was “Rakhuin”.[6] In the work of Rashidudin (c.1310 AD), the Arab geographer, it appears as ‘Rahan’.[7] Venetian Nicolo di Conti (1420-1430) wrote the name of the country “Rachani” and Sidhelobi, a Turkish navigator belong to the middle of 16th century writes it “Rakanj”.[8] In the map of “Magni Mongolis Imperium” (The great Mughul Empire), drawn in 1650, which is the earliest maps of the Indian region, it was being shown as “Aracam”.[9] In Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazal (1551-1602) mentioned Arakan as “Arkhang”. In the Baharistan-i-Ghaibi, Mirza Nathan mentioned the people as “Rakangi” while the name of the county as “Arkhang”.[10] In the Fathiyya-i- Ibriyya, Shahabuddin Talish also consistently spelled the name of the country as “Rakhang”.[11]

In a Latin Geography (1597 AD) by Peta Vino, the country was referred to as ‘Aracan’. In English version of Van Linschtoen’s Map of 1598 AD, it is “Aracan”. Friar Manrique (1628-43 AD) mentions the country as ‘Aracan’.[12]The British Traveler, Relph Fitch (1586 AD) referred the name of Arakan as “Rocon”.[13] In the Rennell’s map (17771 AD) it is “Rawssawn”.[14]

Hindus in his map (1612 A.D.), has been induced to make the country name “Aracam”[15] To the Medieval Portuguese and other European travelers and chroniclers, it is ‘Rocan’, ‘Rakan’, ‘Arracam, ‘Aracao’, ‘Orrakam’.[16] The Portuguese traveler Barros in 1516 AD is said to be first man who referred ‘Aracan’ which is the nearest to the modern name, in his Decadar.[17] But according to Professor S.H. Hodivala, the modern form Arakan is said to be derived from the Arabic word “Al-Rakhang”.[18] According to eminent numismatists like Lanepole, Rodgers and Wright, Bengal king Sultan Muhammad Khan Sur struck coins bearing the date 962 A.H.(1554 AD) styling himself Sultan Shamshuddin Muhammad Shah Ghazi, the name of mint is read as “Arakan”.[19] A few of these coins are preserved in the London British Museum. One coin of Shams al Din Muhammad Shah Ghazi (SI.199), is also preserved in the Indian Museum, bears a date of 962 AH and mint name of ‘Arakan’. The coin is similar to those published by Marsden, Lanepole and Wright.[20]

In Tripura Chronicle Rajmala mentions the name of Arakan as ‘Roshang’.[21] In the medieval works of the poets of Arakan and Chittagong, like Quazi Daulat, Mardan, Shamser Ali, Quraishi Magan, Alaol, Ainuddin, Abdul Ghani and others, they frequently referred to Arakan as ‘Roshang’, ‘Roshanga’, ‘Roshango Shar’, and ‘Roshango Des’.[22] Famous European traveler Francis Buchanam (1762-1829 AD) in his accounts mentioned Arakan as ‘‚Reng, Roung, Rossawn, Russawn, Rung‛. In one of his accounts, “A Comparative Vocabulary of some of the languages spoken in the Burman Empire” it was stated that, ‚ the native Mugs of Arakan called themselves ‘Yakin’, which name is also commonly given to them by the Burmese. By the people of Pegu are named ‘Taling’. By the Bengal Hindus, at least by such of them as have been settled in Arakan, the country is called ‘Rossawn’. from whence, I suppose , Mr. Rennell has been induced to make a country named “Rossawn” occupy part of his map, not conceiving that it would be Arakan , kingdom of Mugs, as we often called it. The Mahammedans who have long settled at Arakan call the country ‘Rovingaw’ and called themselves ‘Rohinga’ or native of Arakan. The Persians called it ‘Rekon.‛[23] The Chakmas and Saks of 18th century called it ‘Roang’.[24] Muslims and Mugs of some parts of southern Chittagong, who are descendent of Arakan origin, are called ‘Rohang Muslim’ and ‘Rohang Magh’ by the Chittagonian.

Today, the Muslims of Arakan call the country “Rohang” or “Arakan” and call themselves “Rohingya”, or native Rohang. The Mugs call themselves “Rakine” and call the country “Rakhine Prey” or country of Rakhine.


[1] Sir H. Yule, in the Proceedings f the Royal Geographical Society (Nov. 1882)also Phayre, Arthur BP. History of Burma, London (1884)P.24. 

[2] Mc Crindle , India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian , P. 162, Hall DGE, A Study of South East Asia, London (1968) P.141. 

[3] Habibullah ABM,A note on ‘Could Muhammad Shah Sur conquer Arakan’, JBSB (1951) PP-13-14. 

[4] BSPP Hqs, ‘Culture and Civilizations of National Races “Rakhhine” Rangoon (1976) P. 36 

[5] PL Paul, The Early History of India, Vol. I, P.133, Epigraphia India Vol. IX P.229. 

[6] JBRS (June, 1959) P. 60 

[7] Elliot HM and Dowson J, History of India as told by its own historians P. 73 

[8] Habibullah op. cit P. 13-14, JASB Vol. V (1836) P.466 

[9] JASB Vol.I (1873)P. iv 

[10] Bahathasali Commemoration Volume, Dacca (1966) P.35 

[11] Ibid 

[12] Habibullah op.cit P.13-14 

[13] Fosted, Ralph Fitch, P. 26 

[14] AR Vol.V New Delhi (1979) P. 233 

[15] Qnungo, SB, Dr., A History of Chittagong, Vol, ! Chittagong (1988) p.352 

[16] Ibid P.232 

[17] Gutman, Pamla, Ancient Arakan, ANA (1976) P.3 

[18] Hodivala SH Dr., Studies in History of Indian Muslims, New Delhi (1992) P.59 

[19] JAS LXVII (1951) P. 11 

[20] Journal of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Government of West Bengal, Culcutta (1995) P.59 

[21] Dr. Qanango , P. 159-160 

[22] B Commemoration, P.356 

[23] AR Vol. V, New Delhi (1979) P. 223 

[24] Willem Van Schendel, Froncis Buchanan, In South East Bengal,Dhaka.(1992) P. 104, 108.

By U Kyaw Min
RB History
November 24, 2014

Identity Classification of Rohingya | Chapter 5

In the course of centuries, living in a separate region with different political, economic and cultural environment this Muslim community in Arakan grew up as a distinctive entity. The figure of their population vary author to author census to census. Actually their population dwindled due to suppressive state policy of Myanmar. Discrimination and prejudices compelled Rohingya to flee the land. Actually Rohingya were majority in Arakan period. 

Major R.E Roberts in his report “An account of Arakan”, at Islamabad (Chittagong) in June 1777, noted almost three fourth of the inhabitants of Rekheng are said to be natives of Bengal or descendants of such who constantly pray that English may send a force to deliver them from their slavery and restore them to their country (See; in presentation et commentaries, Ascanie 3, 1999. P 125,149) As I write in chapter (8), in Arakan it was a time of political chaos.

In early British census they were named as Syead, Sheikh, Mughal, Pattan and so on as it was the case with British census in India. Later Arakan Muslim were put in the same category of Indian Muslims. Despite hundreds of different races in India, entire population of India was classified as forty just adding all sisterly language groups into one race. In Arakan Rohingyas whose language has some similarities with Chittagonians were grouped as the Chittagonians. Only Rakhine specking Muslims were, in the censuses mentioned as Arakan Mohammedans in the late British censuses. This was also objected by Rakhine then. What Rakhine even in British period wanted was to make all Muslim aliens.

One BCN report, “Burma policy briefing 14” says; The colonial era perceptions of race long since challenged in many other post-colonial setting in Africa and Asia, still endure in Myanmar. Such a legacy becomes particularly problematic in discourses about identity, ethnic politics and citizenship. -- The label and number of racial categories, however shifted from one census to another as did the methodologies for identifying types of people.

Heavily influenced by 19th century social Darwinism, colonial officials regarded race as a scientific, objectively verifiable category. -- census and other population reports advanced many theories of migration, conquest, absorption of races and by 1931 had adopted a classification system for races that is the same as that for languages. [Here Rohingya’s addition to Indian speaking group, rather than Rakhine speaking was a mistake.] 

-- J.J. Benison superintendant of the 1931 census and author of the narrative that accompanies the statistical report, admitted the unreliability of the counts. He noted the extreme instability of language and racial distinction in Burma. -- Of the entire census reports, Bennison wrote, “apologies are due for lack of style, defective arrangement and repetitions. Many of the statistics are unreliable.” [See. BCN, Burma Centrum Nederland, Burma policy briefing (No.14, Fed, 2014, P.7-10)]

If we go through census, we will find the population of Maung Daw and Buthidaung more than many hundred thousand in 1953 partial census. In the report of Mayu frontier administration in 1961, it is about five hundred thousand.

In 1953 and 1954 partial census, in the village of Arakan included in the census 56.75 percent Buddhists were found and 41.70 percent Muslims. (Moshe Yegar 1972, P-12) In 1973 census report Rakhine state population was 1700506: on religious basis; Buddhist 68.7% and Muslim 29.2%; On citizenship basis, total population was 1700506, where Myanmar citizens are 99.7%. In number it is 1695190. The figure for Pakistan is 0.1% for Bangladesh 0.2% both of which number was 5316. Here we can say the above 29.2% Muslims were included in 99.7% citizen and thus recognized as Myanmar citizens. In term of race there were neither Bengali nor Rohingya nor Muslims. The census figure shows non-Rakhine (Muslim) as Indians and Pakistanis both combined was 201044 and there another figure in the name of other foreign race was 271017.

It is not mentioned from which country they were I think today’s Rohingya or Muslims were divided into those two categories just to complicate Rohingya’s identity. In fact there were no Indian and Pakistanis in 1973 and around. The census Figure for Muslims was not real. It was always under counted. Foreign population was 5316 only. Here how can present day Muslims of Arakan be foreigners? 1983 census report, table A.3, shows percentage distribution of total population by race and sex; Rakhine comprised 67.8%.Indian 2.4%, Pakistani none, and Bangladeshi 24.3%. Here categorization is irrelevant. In 1973 census there was no Bangladeshi. Here Bangladeshi meant, I think, Muslim of Arakan. A big figure of Indians of 1973 census disappeared. It shows only 2.4%. In this census report there no citizenship Category. But in religion wise distribution Buddhists constitute 69.7 % and Islamic represent 28.5 % of total population In both 1973, and 1983 census Rohingya self-identified their name but reports did not carry their identity. It shows the intention of the
Government from 1973 was to deprive Rohingya of their identity.

The report itself says “The 1983 census was the first nationwide census to adopt the sampling technique to collect population data. --- Thus, all estimates based on sampling. The 20% enumeration of the 1983 census are subject to sampling error. (See chapter 3, Assessment of quality of census data, in 1983 census report) 

In this census Rakhine state total population is 2045559: Buddhist, 1425095 and Muslim, 583944 (Sunni) and 574 (Shiate). Note: Here the figures in various tables in the census report are different from one table to another. In 2012 Rakhine conflict inquiry commission report, it says total population of Arakan was 333, 8669; In percentage; Buddhist 67.4 % and Muslim population is 28.4%; Numerically Buddhist 2333670, Muslim 968726. It referred to Rakhine state immigration office data. We cannot say how far it is reliable. Muslim population is always under counted due to reasons known to census officials.

Moshe Yegar said, “Census figures are not altogether exact because in the 1921 census count many Arakanese Muslims were listed as Indians. In the 1931 census too, many Arakanese Muslim claimed Bengali as their Mother language, and was listed as Indians.(Moshe Yegar 1972, 119; Bennison census report 1931, P.211)

In the census table of Akyab Gazetteer in 1912, the predominantly Bengali speaking Muslims formed over 30% of the total population of 529, 943 in Akyab district. There were other Muslims too. It seemed in Akyab district, Muslim were majority; 181509 were said to be Bengali speakers while 178647 were categorized among various other Muslim denominations. One century passed. The population ratio did mot grow up but decreased. Today so called Bengali above become minority. If there are regular Bangladeshi illegal people coming in, there is no question of dwindling of so called Bengali population.

There is a Kaman race who are mostly Muslims. This Kaman took Arakan politics in their own hands for more than thirty years. They made and unmade kings on their own will. Later in 1709, Sandha Wiziya, a strong king came in power; he stabilized the kingdom. The former kings’ body guard Kamans were deported to off shore islands: Ramree and Akyab
(Sittwe). The king persecuted other Muslim too. Many fled to Bengal and another 3700 Muslims were said to have fled to Ava where king Sanne had settled this Muslim group in twelve different places. (Thaathana Raungwa Tun Zepho published by SLORC, 1997, P.60) 

Dr. Than Tun remarked them as Indians from Arakan. They are brave and skillful in military science: marshal arts. Their progeny served with Myanmar king’s standing army. An unit of this group from Myedu, Shwe Bo district was left by Bodaw Phaya's army in Sandoway on their return from Arakan in 1785. This army unit and their descendants later was known as Myedu Muslim. They were also in 1921 census enlisted as Indians. (Mushe Yegar 1972, P.119) May be, this Myedus apoke Indian dialect and thus was categorized as Indians.

After all British census figures are not reliable as is registered in their own report (see J.J. Bennin’s 1931 report) Baxter report said there were about sixty thousand Muslim in Rakhine period where 1921 British census said, Arakanese Muslim population is 24000. Here it is
obvious British had mixed up Arakan Muslims with Indians who later came into Arakan. So this census is not reliable. Arakanese Muslim again is not a racial identity. It is up to British census officials why didn't they designate this Muslims as Rohingya despite there are records of their Rohingya identity. Historians say this Muslims claimed to be Rohingya (See Chapter 3). 

It is not the Rohingya who distanced themselves from Rakhine, It is the Rakhine who resisted the cultural integration of Rohingya with them. They say Rakhine has no Muslim population. Yet we can find an extensive acculturation of Rohingya into Rakhine culture and society. Rakhine in early time adapted Rohingya Language and literature. In daily routine habits there are a lot of similarities between two communities.

William Foley a British officer narrated; They are now so assimilated to the rest of the population in dress, language and feature that it is difficult to conceive a distinction ever existed. As if ashamed of their Muhammadan identity, individuals of this class have generally two names, one that they derived from birth and the other such as is common to the natives of Arakan and by which they are desirous of being known.[Foley, Journal of a tour through the island of Ramree; Journal of Asiatic society of Bengal 4 (1835) Rohingya identity developed through the interactions of historical processes. It is a product of Arakan history not a novel identity forged by a group as portrayed by some biased or paid historians.

Historians can say Rohingya has some cultural or linguistic similarity with Chittagong; but no one can say it is identical; further no one can say Rohingya are Bengali. Sociologists and anthropologist can well define the distinction. Today Indian historians say both Chittagong
and Arakan were the the refuge of migrant Maghedhi people in early centuries. So there were the influences of Maghedhi parakhrit in the dialect of both regions. No strand of Maghedhi (linguistic) infiltration in Rakhine Language is found. So some Rakhine’s claim to
have come from Maghedha is just a trick and a farce. Rakhines generally look Burman not Indians. Rohingyas, not Rakhine have similar complexion with Indians.

So here if there were any Maghedhi peoples’ penetration and settlements in Arakan (Rakhine) in early centuries, ashistorian said those might be of the Rohingya’s not the Rakhine’s. By all reconds Rakhine are a branch of Burma. (See Dr.Than Tun, 83rd Birthday
Bulletin, 2003)

So it is not an issue of doubt or a matter of restraint for foreigners to recognize Rohingya as a historic race of Arkan. To stand firm for Rohingya’s official recognition in my view is a question of moral strength, and righteousness for foreigners.

Note: This is a chapter from a thesis of U Kyaw Min. All here are U Kyaw Min’s personal views not of his party, DHRP.

U Kyaw Min is Chairman of Democracy and Human Rights Party based in Yangon, Myanmar. 

Aman Ullah
RB History
September 12, 2014

In January 1947, Aung San led a small delegation to Landon to discuss Burma’s political future. The outcome of this visit was ‘Aung San-Atlee Agreement’, which was signed on 27th January 1947. According to that agreement, which said, ‘in order to decide on the future of Burma a Constituent Assembly shall be elected within four months instead of Legislature under the Act of 1935. For this purpose the electoral machinery of 1935 Act will be used. Election will take place in April 1947 for the general non-communal, the Karen and the Anglo-Burman constituencies as constituted under the Act of 1935, and each constituency two member shall be returned. Any Burma nationals defined in the ‘Annex A’ of the Agreement registered in a general constituency other than one of those mentioned above shall be placed on the register of a general non-communal constituency.’

According to the ‘Annex A’ of that Agreement, it was mentioned that, ‘A Burma National is defined for the purpose of eligibility to vote and to stand as a candidate at the forth coming election as British subject or the subject of an Indian State who was born in Burma and reside there for a total period not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding either 1st January, 1942 or 1st January 1947’.

Thus, it defined that, ‘who was born in Burma and reside there for a total period not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding either 1st January, 1942 or 1st January 1947’ is a national of Burma and he can be eligible to vote and to stand for the vote in the upcoming constituent election.

According to that Agreement, the Election was held in April 1947. But when the Aung San - Atlee Agreement was out, the government misunderstood the position of Muslims of Northern Arakan and it was notified that unless they declared themselves as Burma nationals, they would not be eligible to vote or to stand for election to the constituent Assembly.

The Muslims of that constituencies made strong protest against this decision on the ground of their being one of the indigenous races of Burma. The government withheld the first decision and allowed the Muslims to vote or stand for elections held in April 1947. Mr. Sultan Ahmed and Mr. Abdul Gaffar returned on the votes of this Muslims as members of the constituent Assembly. They continued in their office, representing the Akyab district North constituency till Burmese independence and took the oath of allegiance to the Union of Burma on the 4th January 1948 as members of the new parliament of the Union of Burma.

It is worth mentioning to that, the Muslims of Akyab district North constituency, on the ground of their being one of the indigenous communities of Burma, had also enjoyed the right to vote and the right to be elected at the election of 1936 as non-communal rural constituency. Mr. Ghani Markin returned on the votes of those Muslims as a Member of Legislative Assembly.

‘This decision and action of the government conclusively proved that these Muslims as a whole or in-groups are accepted as one of the indigenous races of Burma. And in this connection, it may be pointed out that the Akyab district North constituency is non-communal rural constituency and these Muslims of Arakan belong to this constituency’ remarked Mr. Sultan Ahmed. 

The constituent Assembly election produced an overwhelming majority for the AFPFL. In June, it met and began writing the new constitution. On July 19, while Assembly was in recess, Aung San and six members of the Executive Council were murdered. The Governor immediately called upon Thakin Nu to succeed the fallen hero, reorganize the government and complete the writing of a new basic law. 

After assassination of Burmese Leader Aung San in 1947, U Nu led AFPFL and signed independent agreement with British Primer Clement Atlee on 17th October, 1947, which was known as Nu-Atlee Agreement.

The Nu-Atlee Agreement was very important as to the determination of the nationality status of the peoples and races in Burma. Article 3 of the Agreement states: “Any person who at the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty is, by virtue of the Constitution of the Union of Burma, a citizen thereof and who is, or by virtue of a subsequent election is deemed to be, also a British subject, may make a declaration of alienage in the manner prescribed by the law of the Union, and thereupon shall cease to be a citizen of the Union”.

According to the Clause 2 subsection (1) of the Burma Independence Act, 1947, “Subject to the provisions of this section, the persons specified in the First Schedule to this Act, being British subjects immediately before the appointed day, shall on that day cease to be British subjects:”Under the clause 1 subsection (2) of that Act, "the appointed day" means the fourth day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-eight. 

As par the Clause 1 subsection (a) of schedules First Schedule, ‘persons who were born in Burma or whose father or paternal grandfather was born in Burma will lose their British Nationality after Burma has become independent.’ That’s means that, then they will no more to be subjects of Her Majesty Queen Victoria and will become independent citizens of independent Burma. 

According to the speech of the Secretary of State of Burma, the Right Hon. Earl of Listowel, in the House of Lords on 23 November 1947, “Clause 2 of the Bill (Burma Independent Act, 1947) and the First Schedule also deal with the problem of nationality (citizenship). Under the subsection (I) of Clause 2 the people described in the First Schedule lose their British Nationality after Burma has become independent, while subsection (5) provides that the rest will remain British. Those individuals who will cease to be British owe their present British nationality solely to their connection with Burma. Clause 2 goes on to specify a number of exceptions to the general rule. Under subsection (2) persons who are domiciled or ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, or its dependencies, and who cease to be British under the terms of the Bill are given a chance of keeping their British nationality by opting in favour of within two years of the date of Burma’s independence.”

“The following subsection saves anyone from misfortune of being a Stateless person. If any individual lose his British nationality under the bill, but does not qualify for Burmese nationality, he can recover under this subsection his present British nationality by exercise of the right of option. In subsection (4) we agree to recognize as British subjects any Burmans domiciled or resident in the Dominions, provided, of course, that Dominion Government decides to legislate as we are doing to give them the right to became British citizens, and they have to become British citizens, and they have chosen to take advantage of this legal right. There are many members of the Anglo-Burmese community who will find themselves, under the provisions of Bill and the Constitution of Burma, with dual nationality; but they have been enabled to choose for themselves, if they wish, which of their two nationalities they want to keep. In the article 3 of the Treaty, the Government of the Burma have agreed to legislate so that people in this category can get rid of their Burman nationality, while they can part with their British nationality, if they so desire, under existing British law.” 

The Constitution for this sovereign Independent Republic was completed on 24 September 1947 by the constituent Assembly, which was drafted around the same time as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Following approval of the Constitution by the British parliament and signing of defense agreement, Burma became free on 4 January 1948. The people of Burma ceased the subjects of British and became independent citizens of independent country.

The 1947 Constitution provided safeguards for fundamental rights. Under this Constitution the people of Burma irrespective of “birth, religion, sex, or race” equally enjoyed all the citizenship rights including the right to express, right to assemble, right to association and unions, settle in any part of the Union, to acquire property and to follow any occupation, trade, business or profession.

The Section 10 of the 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma also states: “There shall be but, only one citizenship throughout the Union; that is to say, there shall be no citizenship of the unit as distinct from the citizenship of the Union.”

Under Section 11 of the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947), as shown below, 

(i) every person, both of whose parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma;

(ii) every person born in any of the territories included within the Union, at least one of whose grand-parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma;

(iii) every person born in any of territories included within the Union, of parents both of whom are, or if they had been alive at the commencement of this Constitution would have been, citizens of the Union;

(iv) every person who was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within His Britannic Majesty’s dominions and who has resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding the date of the commencement of this Constitution or immediately preceding the 1st January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently there in and who signifies his election of citizenship of the Union in the manner and within the time prescribed by law, shall be a citizen of the Union.

These are the fundamental rights of a citizen according to the Constitution of Union of Burma, 1947.

Normally, there are two ways of Citizenships — the right of soil (jus soli) and the right of blood (jus sanguinis). . Most people are automatically citizens of the state in which they are born it is called Jus soli and If one or both of a person's parents are citizens of a given state, then the person may have the right to be a citizen of that state as well, is called jus sanguinis. Many countries fast-track naturalization based on the marriage of a person to a citizen, this type of citizenship is called jure matrimonii and there are also citizenship may be acquired by adoption, legalization, naturalization (the proceeding whereby a foreigner is granted citizenship) or as a result of transfer of territory from one state to another.

Nationality (citizenship) according to the Annex-A of Aung San Atlee Agreement, Article 3 of Nu Atlee Agreement, Clause 2 of the Burma Independence Act, and Clause 1 subsection (a) of First Schedule are Jus soli while citizenship Under Section 11 of the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947) is jus sanguinis

According to the Mr. Sultan Ahmed, the then a member of the Constituent Assembly, ‘When section II of the Constitution of the Union of Burma was being framed, a doubt as to whether the Muslims of North Arakan fell under the section sub-clauses (1) (II) and (III), arose and in effect an objection was put in to have the doubt cleared in respect of the term "Indigenous" as used in the constitution, but it was withdrawn on the understanding and assurance of the President of the constituent Assembly, at present His Excellency the President of the Union of Burma, who when approached for clarification with this question, said, "Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma which you represent. In fact there is no pure indigenous race in Burma, and that if you do not belong to indigenous races of Burma, we also cannot be taken an indigenous races of Burma." Being satisfied with his kind explanation, the objection put in was withdrawn.

Who are indigenous races was defined in Article 3 (1) of the Union Citizenship Act, 1948, which states: “For the purposes of section 11 of the Constitution the expression any of the indigenous races of Burma shall mean the Arakanese, Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon or Shan race and such racial group as has settled in any of the territories included within the Union as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1823 A. D. (1185 B.E.)”. These two categories of people and those descended from them are automatic citizens. They did not require applying to court for naturalization. 

In Article 4 (1) of that Act also mentioned that, “Any person, who under sub-section (i), (ii) and (iii) of section 11 of the Constitution, is a citizen of the Union or who, under sub-section (iv) of section 11 of the Constitution, is entitled to elect for citizenship and who has been granted under the Union Citizenship (Election) Act, 1948 a certificate of citizenship, or who has been granted a certificate of naturalization or a certificate of citizenship or who has otherwise been granted the status of a citizen under this Act, shall continue to be a citizen of the Union, until he or she loses that status under the provisions of this Act.

According to Dr. Aye Maung, the then Chairman of the Drafting committee of the 1948 Union Citizenship Act, ‘The clause in the 1948 Union Citizenship Act “such racial group as has settled in any of the territories included within the Union as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1823 A. D. (1185 B.E.),” was especially for the Muslims of Arakan.’

The Muslims of Arakan have a more than 1300 years old tradition, culture, history and civilization of their own expressed in their shrines, cemeteries, sanctuaries, social and cultural institutions found scattered even today in every nock and corner of the land. By preserving their own heritages from the impact of Buddhist environments, they formed their own society with a consolidated population in Arakan well before the Burmese invasions of Arakan in 1784.

Jacques Leider, in his article, ‘Between Revolt and Normality: Arakan after Burmese Conquest’ mentioned that, “we admit of a total population of Arakan of circa 250,000 in the time of (the Burmese) conquest, the country steadily lost up to 50% of its population. English observers estimated the Arakanese population at about 100,000 at the time of the British conquest.”

According to the British government document on the cultures and inhabitants of Arakan by the Secret and Political Department, Fort William dated 26th April 1826, “The population of Arracan and its dependencies Ramree, Cheduba & Sandaway does not at present exceed 100,00 souls, may be classed as -- Mughs six tenths, - Mussalman three tenths, - Burmese one tenth, Total 100,000 Souls--.” As to Mr. Paton, Sub Commissioner of Arakan, who submitted this report from Akyab, “The extent of the Population has been tolerably well ascertained, proved a census taken by Mr. Robertson, and myself, and may be considered as approximating very nearly to the truth.”

That’s means that among the 100,000 souls; Mughs 60,000, Muslims 30,000 and Burmese 10,000. So in the date of conquest of Arakan by the British, there remained thirty-thousand Muslims and these thirty thousand Muslims were living there from before, now their descendants and successors have increased leaps and bounds.

No one in British Burma would dispute that there was a group of “Arakan Muslims” who could indeed trace their roots back to the 17th Century and even earlier and who were quite distinct from the Chittagonians and Bengali immigrants to Arakan. 

According to the censuses of both 1921 and 1931, it has clearly mentioned that, ‘There was a Muslim community in Arakan, particularly in Akyab District, who prefers to call themselves Arakan-Mahomadens and were quite distinct from the Chittgonians and Bengali immigrants to Arakan.’ According to Baxter report of 1940, paragraph 7, “This Arakanese Muslim community settled so long in Akyab District had for all intents and purposes to be regarded as an indigenous race.”

According to the census of 1931, it was mentioned that, the population of Arakan- Muslims was only 51,615, which was incorrect. The populations of Arakan Muslims should be not less than 300, 000 in 1931 not merely 51,615.

Thus, these Muslims of Arakan are for all intents and purposes to be regarded as an indigenous race and are also a racial group who had settled in Arakan/Union of Burma as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1823 A. D. (1185 B.E.). 

According to Article 19 of the Indo-Burma Agreement of 1941, the British Government of Burma recognized that “Indians who are born and bred in Burma, have made their permanent home and regard the future of their families as bound up with its interests are entitled to be regarded as having established a claim, if they wish to make it, to a Burma domicile, and therefore to the benefit of the Section 144 of the Burma Act 1935″. 

Subsequently, Article 4 (2) of the Union Citizenship Act, 1948 (as amended up to 1960) states: “Any person descended from ancestors who for two generations at least have all made any of the territories included within the Union their permanent home and whose parents and himself were born in any of such territories shall be deemed to be a citizen of the Union.” 

Moreover, any person who descended from ancestors who for two generations have made Burma their permanent home, and whose parents and himself were born in Burma, is a statutory citizen (1959 BLR (SC) 187), his descendants were also statutory citizens (1960 BLR (SC) 215), he is a citizen by birth and need not to apply for his citizenship (1965(CC) 128), and he is not bound to produce the certificate under Article 6(2) (1965 BLR (CC) 51).

At the times of succeeding censuses of the India so-called Indian Muslims born in Arakan was as below:-

Therefore, those who were born in Arakan and their descendants were statutory citizens of the Union, as they were citizens by birth they need not to apply for their citizenships and not bound to produce the citizenship certificate under Article 6(2) of the Union Citizenship Act, 1948.

Under all those laws and Acts mentioned above, the Muslims of Arakan who prefer to identify themselves in their own language as ‘Rohingya’ are not only one of the indigenous races of Burma but also full citizens of the Burma. Their citizenship matter was settled before the independence of Burma. They are not de facto citizens; they are de jure citizens of the country.

The Rohingya is not simply a self-referential group identity, but an official group and ethnic identity recognized by the post-independence state. In the early years of Myanmar’s independence, the Rohingya were recognized as a legitimate ethnic group that deserved a homeland in Burma.

Thus, during the colonial rule the British recognized the separate identity of the Rohingyas and declared north Arakan as the Muslim Region. Again there are instances that Prime Minister U Nu, Prime Minister U Ba Swe, other ministers and high- ranking civil and military official, stated that the Rohingyas people like the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kaya, Mon and Rakhine. They have the same rights and privileges as the other nationals of Burma regardless of their religious beliefs or ethnic background.

Being one of the indigenous communities of Burma, the Rohingyas were enfranchised in all the national and local elections of Burma. Their representatives were in the Legislative Assembly, in the Constituent Assembly and in the Parliament. As members of the new Parliament, their representatives took the oath of allegiance to the Union of Burma on the 4thJanuary 1948. Their representatives were appointed as cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries. They had their own political, cultural, social organizations and had their programme in their own language in the official Burma Broadcasting Services (BSS). As a Burma’s racial groups, they participated in the official “Union Day’ celebration in Burma’s capital, Rangoon, every year. To satisfy part of their demand, the government granted them limited local autonomy and declared establishment of Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA) in early 60s, a special frontier district to be ruled directly by the central government.

Rohingya Exodus