Mrauk U - History and Diversity

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I was looking through our photos and I can't resist sharing some more images from Mrauk U where we stayed three nights - we certainly could have enjoyed  more time here.  It's an amazing place to visit after Sri Lanka and Bagan because you see the power  and development of such diverse Buddhist sites. The Arakanese kingdom (based at Mrauk U) stretched from the Ganges to the Irawaddy river, ruling from the mid 15th century to the end of the 18th century.
To give you some context in terms of time, the Arakanese kingdom rises  after the collapse of the Pagan empire in Bagan, which was repeatedly sacked by the Mongols. It was amazing to think that we had traced the twisted and frayed threads of history from Polonaruwa through Bagan to Mrauk U. Interestingly many of the temples are what they call fortress temples, You can see the solidity of the the structure above.  
It is an enormous site and romantic site, cut through with fields, houses and people going about their daily life. here the town and the historical monuments are one. In addition to all of this  there are remains of temple complexes, city walls and unexcavated palaces.

It was interesting to  see Hindu style sculpture and the incorporation of gods such as Ganesh and Shiva at a number of the sites. It confirms that the power of mrauk U stretched into Bengal, or modern day Bangladesh. You can see a variety of religious and folk traditions melded here too and its clear Mrauk U was a cultural crossroad. Here you can see Ganesh at the corner where the two walls of sculpture meet.
Below you can see an Arkanese guardian spirit statue with bird carving above. We saw lots of carvings of  animals and people, recording mythical tales.
I loved this small temple which looked like a colonial bandstand and was situated on the edge of an atmospheric lake. Throughout Burma we saw the ways in which  Buddhism incorporates local religious expression including spirits known as Nats who are represented at many temples and on many stupas. Here the temple is dedicated to signs of the zodiac and in particular the eight signs that represent the days of the week. The elephant with tusks below represents Wednesday morning. Interestingly Wednesday is the only day subdivided into the am and pm, each with their own zodiac sign..
The tiger, above, is the sign for Monday and if you were born on a Monday this  would be where you would come to pray or make offerings. Its fascinating because most of us who were born in the West may know our sign of the zodiac but we have no idea what day of the week we were born on.
Once again I just can't resist just a few more images. Perhaps you can see from these pictures that there's something different about Mrauk U. Yes we enjoyed Bagan but this is somewhere you can go and practically have the place to yourself, even in the high season. There isn't the same commercial tourist trade here and it's magical.