Saturday, March 24, 2012

110 - A discussion of Muslim influence in the Mrauk-U Period

A discussion of Muslim influence in the Mrauk-U Period

By Dr. Jacques P. Leider
‘Shut off from Burma by a hill range, Arakan has a separate history, but it is the same in kind’, is one of those unhappy generalizations of Geoffey, Harvey, the British colonial historian, which are waiting to be shaken by thorough research.

If Arakanese history were the same in kind, why should we care to study it in lengthy detail? It might turn out to be a case study of general Myanmar history and as such be local history. But can Rakhaing history be reduced to be a case study of Myanmar history?

If Arakan has a separate history, while having a common past with the country it belongs to, I wonder why there has been so little interest in Arakanese history.

Let’s go back to the colonial historians. Arakanese history makes up to ten percent of Phayre’s History of Burma. In Harvey’s History of Burma there is a chapter on Arakanese history which makes up about 5% of the whole book and in D.G.E. Hall’s History of Southeast Asia, Arakanese history deserves a whole chapter.

Whenever I have read anything about Arakanese history in general history books, it is reduced to be a by-side of Burmese history and it is mentioned only in connection with major political events.

For decades, interest in Arakanese history has remained not with properly trained historians, but with collectors of coins, local chronicles and amateur historians from Arakan or the Chittagong area.

There has been in fact no thorough research on modern Arakanese history among Western scholars? Even if you look at the early colonial period, nobody did for Arakan what John S. Furnivall did for Tenasserim, namely an analysis of the beginnings of British government and administration.3

As a result, there are fewer reference to Arakan in the recent Cambridge History of Southeast Asia (two volumes) produced by some foremost specialists of SE Asia (in 1992) than in Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s remarkable, medium-sized book on The Portuguese Empire in Asia 1500-1700, which was published in 1993. The conclusion is that the sheer existence of an independent Arakanese kingdom over several centuries is virtually ignored by Southeast Asian historians.

This is indeed sad news which I do not however evoke to complain, but to stress that research on Arakanese history can certainly be considered as a field for pioneering studies. With a contribution on Arakanese history I am pleading for study of Arakan not as by-side of the history of the kingdoms of the Irrawaddy valley or Bengal, but as a thing of interest of its own. I do not believe that Arakanese history and its study should be isolated from the history of its prominent neighbours. Arakanese history forms an intricate part of the cultural and economic history of the whole area we are dealing with. One example may be enough to understand my methodological starting point. The main question is not to know if Arakanese Buddhism or Arakanese kingship were something different from Buddhism or kingship elsewhere, but to understand how Arakanese Buddhism, how Arakanese kingship integrated into political and cultural environment largely dominated by the Burmese, the Mon, the powers in Bengal and India and the actors from the abroad (Portuguese and Dutch).

I will deal with subject of Muslim influence and presence in Arakan and more specifically at the Arakanese court. The influence of the Islamic culture on the court of Arakan is in fact one of the very few subjects of Arakanese history that arose some interest among historians, especially Bengali historians. Arakan was a Buddhist kingdom which had a Muslim minority for several centuries. There is no doubt about the influence of the Sultanate of Bengal on Arakanese kingship. The open debate is about the nature and the importance of the influence exercised. Interpretations reach from political ascendancy over intermittent cultural prevalence to virtual rejection of any specific cultural identity.

The period under consideration loosely extends from the beginning of the 15th to the end of the 18th century.

During the first three decades of the 15th cent. the Burmese of Ava and the Mon of Pegu were rivals for the control of Arakan. Mrauk-U founded in 1430, remained the capital of Arakan until the conquest of the independent kingdom by king Bodawphaya in January 1785.

In the middle of the 15th century a thriving Arakanese kingship grew more and more powerful and pushed its military expeditions up to Chittagong. The end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century mark a period of drawback and short reigns; but in the middle of the 16th century, the reign of king Mong Ba (1531-1553), the builder of Mrauk-U’s walls and the defender of his capital against Tabinshweti, marks a culminating point of the history of the kingdom. The century of Arakan’s greatness and splendor extends from 1580 to about 1690, from the conquest of Chittagong, a pivotal center of power of the kingdom, to the aftermath of its loss in 1666. It covers the reigns of kings who fully profited from the weakness of their big neighbours and joined a keen sense of alliances to a remarkable spirit of openness to foreign influences. The 18th century is duly considered as a century of decline.

Now I should insist on the fact that while dealing with Islamic influences in Arakan during the Mrauk-U period, I am not concerned with the question of the so-called Rohingyas and the very contemporary problems of refugees on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. My paper is but indirectly concerned with the origins of any Muslim community in Arakan. It can be confidently assumed that the contemporary problems are linked to the colonial period for more than to Arakan’s past history.

On the other side, I cannot hide the fact that articles written on the refugee question by western amateurs contain a painful lot of historical errors.4


While discussing the question of Muslim influence on the Arakanese court, we should bear in mind two major facts.

First, the political relations between the sultanate of Bengal, later a Mogul province, and the kingdom of Arakan, were conflictual all over the period under review. The atmosphere was mostly hostile and the state of relations can be best described by a status of permanent war, a fact which has been emphasized by all Bengali and English authors. In the Muslim sources, the Arakanese navy is generally presented as an awful bunch of pirates infesting the rivers of southern and southeast Bengal. The most prominent economic activity of the Arakanese, the so-called Mugs or Maghs, in Bengal has up to now been described as slave raids.

The answer of Bengal’s sultans and governors to the Arakanese incursions has been a tenacious warfare against the Arakanese and, in the long run, the extension of Muslim power to southeastern Bengal and the conquest and control over the Chittagong area. Rivalry among the regional powers implicated as well local powers like the Hindu kingdom of Tripura and the semi-autonomous Portuguese communities around Chittagong.

The other fact that has not sufficiently been appreciated by historians concerns the poorly studied commercial relations between Bengal and Arakan. Arakan has always been a part of the commercial network of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Over centuries traders from India and Southeast Asia have come to Arakan. Many of these traders were Muslims. They did not come as enemies, they come for peaceful trade and they were welcome.

Let me shortly recall the arguments on which several authors have built their thesis of Muslim influence on the court of Rakhuin pran kri:, as the chroniclers call their home country.

The exile of King Man: Co Mwan in India and the reconquest of his throne with the help of Muslim soldiers.

The use of ‘Muslim’ names by an important number of Arakanese kings between the first half of the 15th and the beginning of the 17th century.

Arakanese silver coins issued between the 15th and the beginning of the 17th century imitate the Bengali coins and contain Persian inscriptions. The Arakanese coins are monolingual, bilingual and trilingual, using Bengali, Persian and Arakanese.

The presence of two famous Bengali poets at the court of Arakan, Dawlat Kadi resided for several years at the court of King Thirithudhamma (from 1622 to 1638) and Sayyid Al-Awwal flourished at the court of King Sa tui: (from 1645 to 1652). ‘At the court of Rosang (as they call Arakan), they were patronized by ministers which are introduced in their poetry with typical Muslim names and titles.

The presence of Persian archers in the royal guard. Their presence in Arakan has been attributed to the arrival of Shah Shuja, the brother of the Mogul emperor who took refuge in Arakan in November 1660. Shah Shuja was killed in 1661 under circumstances which have led to different interpretations as to who is to blame. As it seems, Shuja’s wealth arose the aim of dethroning the king. Many were killed in the ensuing massacres. A part of those men who survived were integrated in to the royal guard.

Everybody will agree that we are in front of evidence of a very diverse nature. But these are actually the arguments which, put on a string, have generally served to justify the thesis that Arakan has been subjected to Muslim influence since the 15th century.

The association of these elements is far from being self-evident as one may probably guess. The use of the so-called Muslim names extends from the 15th to the beginning of the 17th century while the use of Persian legends on Arakanese coins was discontinuous between 1523 and 1638. The arguments related to Shah Shuja and the archers of the Royal Guard pertain to the 17th century.

Appreciations and interpretations of the facts have varied according to the authors. In an article dating from 1925, the former British judge well-known for his romanticizing historical books, Maurice Collis, interpreted the stay of King Man: Co Mwan at the court of the sultans of Bengal as a decisive turn in the history of Arakan. Having reconquered his throne thanks to the military help of the sultan of Bengal, ‘he turned away from what was Buddhist and familiar to what was Mohammedan and foreign. In so doing he loomed from the medieval to the modern, from the fragile fairyland of the Glass Palace Chronicle to the robust extravaganzas of the Thousand Nights and one Night’.

On the use of Bengali-modeled coinage, Collis comments: ‘In this way Arakan became definitely oriented towards the Moslem States’. And so our author concludes: ‘Contact with a modern civilization resulted in a renaissance. The country’s great age begon’.5

Two years after Colli’s article in the JBRS, Bisvar Bhattacharya further developed Collis’s views and arrives at a most surprising conclusion. The author writes: ‘As the Mohammedan influence was predominant, the Arakanese kings though Buddhist in religion, became somewhat Mohomedanised in their ideas….’

The conclusion reads: ‘….the dynasty under which Southern Bengal suffered such untold miseries appears to have been essentially a Bengali dynasty.’.

In his article on the Muslim in burma6, Mohammed Siddiq Khan does not contribute any new elements to the question and what he writes on the Muslims in Arakan is nothing more than a compilation of what you read in the books of Collis, Harvey and Sarkar7. Moshe Yegar, in his important and well-known book on the Muslims of Burma follows to the letter the interpretation of Collis and U San Shwe Bu. The Indian historian Ramesh C. Majumdar speaks of a decisive role of the Muslims in the history of the kingdom of Arakan8 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 Muslims9. Suniti b. Qanungo, starting from the gratuitous affirmation that Arakan had been dominated by Muslim powers, writes: ‘The Muslim subjugations of Arakan from time to time undoubtedly increased the Islamic influence in that country.’10

In two lesser known articles, A.B.M. Habibullah and S.M. Ali, are a good deal more sensible in their interpretation of facts.

In his excellent article on Arakan in the pre-Moghol history of Bengal, published already in 1945, A.B.M. Habibullah used for the first time previously neglected Persian and Bengali sources.11 In his contribution on the Arakanese government in Chittagong, S.M.Ali provides us with a useful synthesis on the period from 1550 to 1666.12

Habibullah notes an increasing Bengali Muslim influence starting from the reign of Mong Saw Mwan, but he does not exaggerate the role of Muslim officers at the Court.

Was Arakan politically dependent of the sultanate of Bengal after king Man: Co Mwan’s return to power? All the authors previously quoted are more or less affirmative on this point. But political subjection of Arakan to Bengal at this time is indeed far from being a historical truth. Habibullah does not hide his doubts when writing: ‘In these instances of Bengal’s influence one cannot, however, read anything like proofs of Arakan’s continued political subjection. How long and in what form Meng-tsau-mum’s vassalage was given expression in detail will remain a problem’….And he joins a persuasive argument: ‘Nor was Bengal, after Jalaluddin’s death, in a position to demand its fulfillment.13

The opinion that the adoption of Muslim names by Arkanese kings betrays a strong Muslim influence at the royal court of Arakan, seems to be still very popular in Bengal. So popular that in 1986 professor Alamgir M. Serrajuddin (from the University of Chittagong) strongly argued against it. This historian pointed- at last I should say- to the paradoxical fact that Muslim influence at the court is most prominent at a time when the Arakanese kings were no more assuming Muslim names and titles! We are talking about the first part of the 17th century.

The quality of Serrajuddin’s article suffers nevertheless from the prejudices of its author. Relations between Arakan and Bengal are analysed as relations between a superior and an inferior culture. Arakan qualifies as a little tribal kingdom14, the Arakanese are styled as ‘tribal and backward’,Arakanese society is said to be primitive, the Bengal army escorting King Man: Co Mwan on his way back to Arakan is characterized as host of adventures, fortune hunters and admirers.15

The Italian traveler Nicole Manucci16 relates the rumour that Shah Shuja had been disgusted by the table manners of king Candasudhamma17, a king who is generally considered as one of the most pious Buddhist kings of Arakan. Serrajuddin is using this gossip as a historical argument to establish that the superior culture of the Muslims did not produce any major effects on the manners and customs of the Arakanese kings. SO this author’s interpretation is falling into another extreme.

Recently Professor Snajay Subrahmanyam of the Delhi School of Economics presented a diametrically opposite stand on the subject. He quotes Arakan as an example of the Persianisation of Southeast Asian courts. I do not favour this thesis which he bases on (what is termed) the translation of a letter of king Sirisudhamma in the Baharistan-i-Ghaybi of Mirza Nathan and the presence of Persian traders in Arakan18. I will put forward my arguments a little bit later.

It is quite astounding to see how far-reaching conclusions have been drawn for a century from such scarce evidence. Most of what has been said and thought on Arakan history is founded on Phayre’s and harvey’s chapters on the country. Their major source was the rajawan of Na Man, a learned Arakanese who wrote his chronicle in 1842 on the express demand of Arthur Phayre. Na Man responded perfectly to Phayre’s demand of a comprehensive history barring most supernatural digressions and making a choice among concurrent versions of a story.

What can actually be read in English are bare summaries of Arakanese history.

As far as other source material is concerned, the absence of any on-going research is a serious hindrance to a revision of earlier assumptions. Arakanese coins have been collected but were poorly studied.

Now it is time to expose my own hypotheses and present my arguments.

(1) It is still difficult to know anything clear on the relations between Bengali and Arakan in the 15th century as the traditions we find in different Arakanese chronicles are contradictory and as there are little Bengal sources on the question.

As I have previously said, the presence of Muslims at the court has been generally linked to the exile of King Man: Co Mwan in India. So let us turn to the biography of this king as it is found in the Arakanese sources.

The tradition followed by Harvey and Phayre tells us that the king arriving on the throne in 1404, was chased by the Burmese in 1406 and after an exile of some two decades reconquered his throne with the military help of the sultan of Bengal. In 1430 he founded a new capital, Mrauk-U, abandoning thus the old capital of Lon Krak.

In the rajawon of the minister Wimala, in Pandi’s Dhanawati rajawon sac19 and in Na Man’s rajawon, the three texts I am using here, the king assumed the name under which he is generally known only after he reconquered his throne. And the minister Wimala whose text is one of the oldest Arakanese historical texts (dating from 1536) joins ‘Mong Saw Mwan’ to the names of all the kings reigning from 1430 to 1525. So I think that this is not a name but an epithet, very probably honorific.20

So what was the proper name of our king? One tradition calls him Naranu, the other one Naramit-hla. The tradition which calls Naranu the king who ascended the throne calls his younger brother Naramit-hla, the future governor of Sam twe.21 The tradition which calls Naramit-hla the king, presents Naranu as a younger step-brother and future governor of Sam twe.22

The source do not even agree on the name of his father.23 Even the date of the king’s accession to the throne is variously indicated as 1401 or 1404. It seems however that the last date has been more generally accepted. I should mention that in the Maharajawan of U Kala, the date of accession of the king is given as 1403, but the king’s name is given by U Kala as Thora.

To appreciate what kind of influence Bengal Muslim culture should have had on the king on his court and maybe on Arakan generally, we should know these dissimilar and partly overlapping traditions tell us on the king’s stay in Bengal.

A. Tradition according to Wimala-

At the death of his father in 1401, Naranu ascended the throne and called his younger brother Naramit-hla to administrate Sam twe. According to this tradition, king Rajadaruik offered to the king of Arakan one of his minister’s daughters, called Shwe Chum. This lady, once she had become queen, provoked conflicts between the king and his Arakanese ministers until the king exiled his ministers to Sam twe, the province governed by his younger brother. At the same time, three Mons Phon Teja, Lakya Kri24, and Mon Khawn were appointed as ministers and advisors to the king. Once they were in charge, they invited king Rajadaruik and their fellow compatriots to invade the country.

King Naranu, says the tradition, fled to ‘Rum pashya’ ‘who governs the royal city of Delhi in the country of Indriya’. Naranu asked him for military assistance and Rum pashya offered him a coalition treaty, the king of Arakan should submit to his authority after reconquering Arakan and cede to him ‘the twelve towns of bengal’. Thus our author implies that Bengal belonged to Arakan.

While Naranu was marching at the head of 10,000 soldiers against Lon Krak, the capital of Arakan, his brother Naramit-hla supported the attack with 10,000 men from Sam twe. Once the country was free from the Mons, Narunu Saw Mwan reigned under the authority of Rumpashya strating from 1405.

(Naramit-hla succeeded to the throne at the death of his elder brother in 1432. He was then known as Naramit-hla Mong Khari.25)

It might strike us that this is a totally different story than the one which is generally known. It is not only different from the story we know from Phayre and Harvey, but it is indeed different from what U Kala’s chronicle suggests. We learn next to nothing about the stay of the Arakanese king in India. Even without anticipating a comparison with other traditions, we can easily see the improbabilities of this tradition.

The expression ‘Rum pashya’ residing in the city of Dili should evidently refer to the Moghul Sultan. Around 1398-1399, Timur invaded and sacked Delhi, and the last sultan of the Tughluq dynasty, Nasir ud-din Mohmud, and his minister Mallu Iqbal were strictly not in the measure to retrieve the lost territories. under the Sayyid dynasty (from 1414 to 1451) the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate went on. The request for armed assistance of the Arakanese king is thus entirely contradicted by the historical context. The Turkish Sultan of Delhi, being unable to reestablish his own authority, could surely not pretend to conquer Bengal and to help the exiled king.26

B. Tradition according to U Pandi-

When Naramit-hla became king in 1404, he appointed his brother as governor of Sam twe. He married Rhwe Chum, the daughter of Rajasu, the governor of Malwan and appointed his father-in-law as chief of the royal guard. By her immoral behavior and intrigues Queen Rhwe Chum incurred the dislike of the people and the former ministers of the king’s father. Some of these old ministers and chiefs fled to Naranu, the king’s brother and governor of Sam twe, and tried to push him to revolt against his brother. But the good-hearted Naranu refused.

Naramit-hla heard of the intrigues of those ministers, distrusted his brother and wanted to go and attack him. He even distrusted his brother when Naranu warned him against the imminent attack of the Burmese under the crown prince Man: Co Mwan, son of king Mong khon.27 Naranu’s messenger was considered as a spy and tortured.

After the conquest of Arakan by the Burmese in 1418, Naramit-hla took refuge in the 12 towns of Bengal, to employ the frequent expression of our author.

After thirteen years of Burmese government under Narathaa, who was married to the Burmese king’s daughter Rhwe pran khyam: sa, it was Naranu, Naramit-hla’s brother, who thanks to a coalition with the Mon king Rajadhiraj28 , reconquered Arakan from the Burmese, it was Naranu who called back his brother from exile and put him back on the throne.

So the tradition reported by U Pandi does not mention the stay of Naramit-hla in India at all. The reconquest of the throne is not at all put into relation with Bengal forces and it is not even related to the exiled king. The dates given by U Pandi do not match with those given by Phayre, Harvey and other writers as they do not match with the tradition of Wimala we just mentioned.

So once more we do not find any solid evidence which we could use as a proof for any kind of Muslim immigration, presence or even just influence on the court.

C. Tradition according to Na Man

While turning to the third tradition, I am not either confident to say that it is more reliable than any of the other traditions. Once again the names are not the same, the story is a different one and the dates do not match.

There is not need to completely retell the story as it is given in Phayre’s article on the history of Arakan, which is a convenient, though imperfect translation of the Na Man chronicle. I would above all stress one point as regards Na Man’s narration while dealing with this king’s reign.

The chapter on king Man: Co Mwan, as Na Man calls the king from the beginning, might be divided into three parts. First the chronicler explains the reason of the king’s exile. According to Na Man, the governor of Talak asked for Burmese help to dethrone the king who had raped the governor’s sister. Secondly the chronicler tells us what happened in Arakan during the 20 years extending from 1406, the year of conquest, to 1426, the date of the first attempt to reconquer the throne. This part of the story is quite laconic in style (as the chronicles mostly are) but gives detailed events and precise dates.

The third part is concerned with Man: Co Mwan’s stay in Bengal, which is called the country of the king of Suratan. The name ‘king of Suratan’ is another standard expression in Arakanese historical literature for Bengal. The etymology which has been suggested is Sultan. This part of the story on which a whole line of arguments has been built as regards Muslim presence and influence on the country, is the vague narration of adventures that the Arakanese king should have gone through Bengal.

Since this narration does not contain any proper name, nor any date, nor any geographical reference allowing to replace the adventures into a general historical setting of Bengal’s history of that time, even a superficial reading of these adventures must lead a critically-minded reader to throw heaps of doubts on the reliability of the stories.

Na man is boasting our exiled hero as somebody who teaches the Bengalis how to tame elephants and devises stratagems for the defence of their land while definitely ignores that the only enemy who confronted the Bengal sultan at that period was not the ‘king’ of Dili, but Ibrahim Sharqi, the sultan of Jaunpur. Thus it has been repeated that the actually read in Na Man chronicle is more a kind of anecdotes than historical accounts. When the army of the Sultan was blocked by a forest of bamboos, Man: Co Mwan told the Sultan to throw thousands of coins into the forest so that the local population would cut the bamboos and free the way.

Confronting the three traditions is not giving us a definite clue to recognize facts and fiction. It could be admitted that the king, after having been in exile somewhere in India and most probably in Bengal, came back after some years with support of arms and men to recover his throne. Still the circumstances of his exile, the extent of his stay, the conditions of his return to Arakan and the question who exactly gave him this support remain unknown and bound to speculation unless other sources confirm part of the tradition.

Another major problem related to the personality of Man: Co Mwan is the alleged dependence or vassalage of Arakan to Bengal after the reconquest of the throne.

Wimala’s assertion is categorical: Arakan was subject to ‘Musalaman Rum Pashya’29 for 125 years from Man: Co Mwan’s return from Bengal, dated 1401 to 1525.30 We could possibly understand that the Arakanese king was under an obligation to the sultan, but the fact is that we do not have any proof of it. Man: Co Mwan is precisely the king who did not adopt a Muslim name and who did not mint any coin on the Bengal model! His direct successors lead a policy of reconquest of the area south of Chittagong which does not conform to the idea of recognizing one’s suzerainety. No Muslim source confirms the hypotheses of any military aid from Ghiyas-ud-din Azam Shah (1389-1410) to Man: Co Mwan and the suzerainty of Bengal over the kings of Arakan. Habibullah thinks, as we mentioned, that the sultans were hardly able to provide such a help and to enforce their rule.

If the Bengal intervention happened at the end of the second decade of the 15th century (following the Na Man tradition), Jalal-ud-din, the son of Raja Ganesh converted to Islam under the pressure of the nobles would have been the one to provide the aid. He controlled by then the thriving port of Chittagong.31 Would geographical proximity render more probable a military intervention?

The origins of a first Muslim community in Arakan have been as well related to the name of the founder of Mrok U (Mrauk-U). The mercenaries at his disposal would have built the Santikan mosque at the Mrok-U. But this attribution to the 15th century seems to belong to the popular tradition, According to Forchhammer, the construction technique of the Santikan mosque is closely related to the Dukkanthein and Chitethaung pagodas which date from the first half of the 16th century.32 it is precisely at this period that we have a first written account of a Muslim religious mission at the Arakanese court.

Let me draw a first conclusion to this expedition into the evidence of Arakanese source material. I do not reject the Arakanese chronicles as sources of information, either do I completely reject the possibility of an Indian exile of our king. But I do not think that on the available written evidence which is, as I have shown, extremely controversial, one can build any argument testifying Muslim or Bengal influence on the Arakanese court.

2. The fact that an impressive number of Arakanese kings were apparently using so-called Muslim titles and names has been used as a most convincing argument to prove that there has been a steadfast Muslim influence at the Arakanese court.

But even for someone acquainted with Arakanese history it is difficult to quote spontaneously such Muslim names of Arakanese kings. They have been very popular and making a list of these so-called Muslim names has been a painstaking task for me. The list I have compiled can nowhere be found in such a complete form. I is an artificial compilation put together from a large range of sources, mainly dynastical lists joined to the chronicles.

Even those authors who, like Collis overestimated the Muslim influence, were unable to quote more than four names. Phayre gives none and Harvey mentions just three. Phayre observed in 1844 that ‘they (the kings) assumed foreign names…which are now frequently applied to them, though the some Indian names are not always applied to the same individual kings, even by the best informed among the Arakanese.33

Some of the names are known by the coins. The Arakanese written sources mention them erratically. As Arakanese numismatics have been insufficiently studied until now, a few general remarks must be sufficient to support my point which is: the use of Muslim names on the coins seems to be a political one, it may be interpreted as the expression of political overlordship over a Muslim community in the area south of Chittagong and maybe in parts of Arakan as well; but the available evidence leads me to think that the importance of the use of Muslim names should not be overrated. (See detailed list at the end of this paper!)

From this I infer that no major cultural influence can be related to the use of such names whose spelling has frequently been commented on as curious by Bengali authors.

The 15th century is considered as a great time of Bengali coinage and it is not surprising at all that the Arakanese kings some time later tried to imitate their prestigious neighbours and started to use silver coins using a similar device. Incidentally it should be interesting to point out that it has not been established yet who did the coinage and where the silver used for it, come from, since it was not locally produced.

If we provisionally accept that the Arakanese kings were using coins with so-called Muslim names and Persian legends to demonstrate their overlordship over their Muslim subjects, in the same way as did the Bengal sultans, there are nonetheless many puzzling facts that hardly conform to his candid explanation.

We should first notice of the fact that Bengal authors commenting on the coins have spoken of ‘curious’ Muslim names. It is indeed not easy to find out what original name the names of the coins are derived from. As my list shows, this is sometimes of the order of pure speculation.

-It is equally worth pointing out that these names are never mentioned in any Bengali sources as the names of the Arakanese kings.

- Little attention has been paid until now to the inscriptions in the nagari script on the coins. Difficult to read or even quite unreadable, no conjections have been formulated until now. When we look at Paton’s strange list of Arakanese kings, we might be puzzled at first at the way the names of the kings were written. There is no doubt for me that Paton transcribed the list with the help of a Bengali Muslim interpreter. But with the exception of one name, not a single Muslim name in the list is known from a coin.

- The Arakanese kings of the 15th centuries to whom Muslim names are attributed, did not all control the Chittagong area where a majority of Muslims may have lived.

- A trilingual coin is attributed by U San Tha Aung to king Cakrawate: (1564-1571) though this king did not have a Muslim name and he lost Chittagong.

- There are only two Arakanese kings whose Muslim names may be found on the coins and in the dynastical lists of the chronicles. These are two of the warrior kings: the famous Mong Razagri (1593-1612) and his equally famous successor Mong Kha Moung (1612-1622).

- While the Arakanese control over Chittagong extended until 1666, Arakanese kings did not use Muslim names any longer after 1622. Futhermore, after 1634, the coins did not bear Persian inscriptions any more.

When we analyse the history of Arakanese coins from the middle of the 15th to the 18th century, we get a clear picture of its evolution. In the middle of the 15th cent., inscription were in Persian only. in the middle of the 16th cent., a hundred years later, we find bilingual and trilingual coins. But starting from 1634 – as I just mentioned –inscriptions on the coins were in Arakanese only.

It is a striking fact to see that at the time when Arakanese kingship was at its peak and Muslim presence at the court and in the kingdom was prominent (a point I will stress later), the kings of Arakan did not feel compelled to use Muslim names any more to state their power. We are definitely dealing with self-conscious Buddhist kings, proud of their power, governing and employing Muslim subjects without resenting any Muslim cultural dependence.

There is only one Arakanese king whose Muslim name was more popular than his Arakanese name. He is the brother of king Naramit-hla/ Mng Saw Mwan, a prince always appearing in a very favourable light in the sources: a good-hearted, pious and virtuous man. One might speculate about any Muslim influence on the king. Might this king, reigning from 1434 to 1459, indeed have been a subject of the Bengal Sultan? Besides the fact that the thesis of subordination of Arakanese kings to Bengal sultans is difficult to uphold (there is not a single Bengal source affirmative on this point). King Ali Khan is said to have reconquered the territories north of the Naf river up to Pan Wa, i.e. Ramu. The famous meeting between the assembled court of Arakanese king and the court of king of Ava, Thuparum dayaka Narapati Mong, on mount Bhui: khon nway khyui (1454), shows the power and prestige of the Mrok U: dynasty34 at this time.

The successor of Ali Khan was his son Ba Co Phru (1459-1482). The Arakanese conquered Chittagong probably at the beginning of the reign, but lost the town a few years later. Around 1474, it was under the control of sultan Rukh-ud-din Barbak Shah (1459-1474), one of the great conquering sultans of Bengal.35 Ba Co Phru surprisingly adopted the title Kalima Shah, but coins bearing this title cannot be safely attributed to him.36 Owing to this title, the hypothesis was expressed that coins wearing the kalima (known since the 16th century only) had already been minted since the middle of the 15th century.37 It is at the court of Ba Co Phru that the minister Adu Mong Nyo38 composed the famous Mok-to-ekhran39, the first poem of the Burmese literature we know. The king, a pious Buddhist, is equally known as a builder of pagodas.4

Under the leadership of these two kings, the dynasty reached thus first political and cultural apogee while showing its military strength. The control exercised by the kings over a Muslim population in conquered territories and assuming a slightly growing influence of the prestigious Bengal sultanate can give us a satisfying answer to the adoption of Muslim titles.

Between 1474 and 1515, the Arakanese kings did not possess Chittagong. After the reign of Ba Co Phru until 1501, Arakan was governed by weak and insignificant kings. In Bengal however Ala-ud-din Husain Shah reigned since 1493, hailed as the greatest of the independent sultans of Bengal. In 1513 the king of Tripura took control of Chittagong and invaded, according to the Rajamala41, Arakan. But the invaders were rapidly repelled. Around 1515, Man: Raja (1501-1513/23) conquered Chittagong, but the heir-apparent of Bengal, Nasir-ud-din Nusrat Shah, retook the place in 1517 and the city remained under the Husain Shahi sultans until 1538.42 When Sher Khan Sur had it occupied by one of his generals.43

It is under the reign of Nasir-ud-din Nusrat Shah (1519-1532) that happened an episode which perfectly illustrates the influence of the prestigious court of Gauda: the arrival of a religious mission from Bengal aiming at converting the Arakanese to Islam. Wimala reports that the ‘ambassadors’ kadi, Musha et Honumya, having arrived in 1525, were preaching to the crowd, founding schools, Some Buddhist Arakanese were converted. The king receiving presents is said to have had much sympathy for the missionaries.44 if this mission and its results, which can not be traced in any other chronicle, are a historical fact, it is according to my knowledge the only available written instance to fix an origin to an indigenous Muslim community.

It is not clear which king the mission actually arrived. Mong Co the Old, became king at the age of 60 and reigned only 6 months. The foundation of three pagodas is attributed to him.45 His successor Sajata 91525-1531), crowned at the age of 52, is said to have minted an unlingual (Persian) coin with the kalima.46 The use of the Kalima deserves attention. It was Jalal-ud-din (1418-1433), the son of Raja Ganesh converted to Islam, who used the kalima for the first time in Bengal on his coins; this was interpreted as a symbolic gesture directed towards the Muslims to gain their support.47

While the use of the kalima on Arakanese coins can hardly be interpreted as an instrument of religious policy., it may possibly be looked upon as something on the court of the Arakanese kings is sensible through numismatic evidence and equally probable in the context of that period, we are still left with the problem of the Bengal-Arakan relationship at that time. The fact that the dependence of Arakan from the Bengal should precisely have stopped at the movement the mission arrived, as Wimala put, is quite inconsistent. The reign of this quite insignificant king is badly known. He was dethroned in 1531 by king Mong Ba, the greatest of the Arakanese kings of the 16th century.

Drawing a tentative conclusive to the analysis of the so called Muslim names or titles and the numismatic evidence, we might sum up like this. The imitation of Bengali coinage over a fairly long period of time is a remarkable sign of influence of the splendid court of the Sultans of Bengal on the tiny but wealthy Arakanese court. The use of coinage is linked to the king’s prestige, demonstration of power, overlordship and glorification. The use of the so-called Muslim names of the kings can hardly be interpreted as a proof of stronger Bengali Muslim influence as these names were neither very popular in Arakan, nor were they apparently used by the Bengalis themselves. Exceptions are Ali Khan and one of the warrior kings previously mentioned (Mong Raza Gri) whose Muslim name is well known through the Portuguese sources (Xalamixa, that is Salim Shah).

Analyzing the numismatic evidence, we can see clearly that the influence of Bengal on the court of Arakan was declining from the early 16th to the 17th century. But even in the 16th century, when Bengal Muslim influence may have been prominent, there is no conspicuous proof of political authority or cultural ascendancy on our Buddhist Arakan.

3. The Muslim in Arakan and at the royal court. What do we actually know about the Muslims living in Arakan between the 15th and the 18th century? Which kind of Muslim communities or individuals can possibly be identified?

Slaves – Through a Dutch source of the 17th cent., we know that the majority of the countrymen abducted from Bengal to be sold as slaves were hindoos, but it can be supported that an increasing number of those country-folk were Muslims. I would rather believe that these simple people about whom we do not have much information, formed the majority of the Muslims in Arakan. English sources from the end of 18th and early 19th century pretend that in some areas of Arakan, these Bengalis represented up to a quarter of the population. But in fact these estimations are contradicted by the more reliable figures of the early British period (after 1825) which do not confirm the former opinions.

Traders – Traders came mostly from Bengal ports48, Orissa and the Coromandel. They definitely belonged to all the nationalities and races of India and the Middle East trading in the Bay of Bengal49. Most of them were Muslims. The importance of the Muslim traders in Arakan has been largely underestimated until now. The reasons for this are quite clear: lack of sources, little interest of the western trading companies in Arakan, lack of information on the traders going to Arakan, the fact that the Arakanese themselves did apparently not visit South Indian ports etc.

Manrique mentions their presence specifically in Urac ton (Orietan) and Ton bhak che: (Dobazi50) ‘Where there are settlements of merchants of various nationalities most of them being Maumetans with a captain of the same faith.51 Incidentally Dutch sources contain information on the Muslim traders in Arakan.52 According to Schouten, the numerous Muslim traders in the kingdom, coming from Persia, from Surat, Golconda (port of Masulipatam), Pulicat, Orissa and Bengal, were trading in cloth, precious stones, elephants and spices.53 Only a few had been born in Arakan; most of these traders did not settle in the country. Schouten specially notes that they were all under a strict control of the Arakanese authorities.

Since when Muslim traders had come to Arakan, we do not exactly know. I do not wholly agree with my Arakanese friends who think that Muslim traders only came to Arakan during the Mrauk-U period, nor do I easily accept that Arab traders had settled in Arakan since the 8th or 9th century.

Pretending that Arab traders had come to Arakan since the 8th or 9th century, as has been upheld by those who want to stress the antiquity of Muslim presence in the area, is just a matter of speculation. As far as I understand those who have been arguing the problem, this precise question is linked to the early history of Chittagong. if you sustain that the Arab ‘Sadkawan’ can be identified with Chittagong, you can speculate on the presence of Arab traders in the area.

Western Bengal had been under Muslim control since the beginning of the 13th century, but it took much more time to extend and to strengthen the sultans’ control over southeastern Bengal. An increasing number of Muslim traders may have taken part in the coastal trade from that period onwards, without necessarily settling in the Arakanese kingdom.

What kind of influence these traders may have had on the court and on the country generally, is -for the movement – equally a matter of speculation.

Muslims at the Arakanese court. – Friar Manrique mentions the presence of ‘Moorish’ officers and ‘many others of the latter faith’ at king Sirisudhamma’s crowning ceremony in 1634. But that is above all that we can learn about Muslims at the court of the Arakanese kings in this author’s book.54 We should bear in mind that Manrique, an Augustine monk and advocate of Portuguese interests, was always ready to vilify the Muslims of the good cause of propagating the truth of his own faith. The best example is in chapter 31 ‘the false preceptor, a Mohammedan’ who according to our Catholic author prompted the king to commit ‘murders and holocausts’ to become invisible and ‘obtain the vast empires of Delhi, Pegu and Siam.55 The fact is that Manrique had never any reason of complaining about conflicts with Muslim officers at the court.56 From the evidence of Manrique’s book, we cannot conclude that any important functions at the court were held by Muslims. M. Collis inferred from Manrique’s scant remarks on the palace that there was a ‘seraglio’, suggesting in way that the court’s style matched a sultan’s or nabab’s court. But there is nothing in Manrique’s text to support such an assumption. While talking about ceremonies e.g., Manrique specifically speaks about ‘the true Magh style’57.

A.B.M. Habibullah writes that ‘…a large number of offices in the court and government appear to have been held by Bengali Muslims’…Arakanese sources do not provide us with useful information on this question, but Dutch sources confirm the presence of these Muslim offices. The shabandar, (master of the port) of the capital’s port for instance, was a Muslim until 1785, when the Burmese conquered Arakan.

The presence of Muslim officers is testified as well by the works of two Bengali poets who lived at the court in the 17th century. Those Muslim ministers are presented as patrons of arts and letters. The two Bengali poets were Dawlat Kazi and Ali Awwal. Both are extremely famous and in a Bengali general history or a history of Bengali literature, one may find a chapter on Bengali literature at the court of Arakan. Dawlat Kazi who lived at the court of Surisudhamma (1622-1638) is the author of ‘Sati Maynamati’ written for Asraf Khan, his patron at the court.

Al Awwal wrote his magnus’ opus ‘padmavati’ at the request of Magan Thakur whom the poet characterizes as the principal minister of the king. He lived at the court of Narapati Gri: (1638-1645) and Sa tui (1645-52). Born in 1600, Al Awwal, a poet and a musician, fled to Arakan after having escaped Portuguese pirates and spent some years as a horseman in the king’s cavallery.

The presence of these foreign poets at the court, the protection given to them by the kings as much as the description of the court ceremonial by Dutch writers are an ample demonstration of the splendor of the Arakanese palace. This brilliant and refined court in its marvelously situated capital was at peak of its greatness in the middle of the 17th century, powerful and self-conscious, tolerant and open to foreign influences. The presence of Muslim artists and officers at the court at this time is just another sparkling element of cultural refinement at the Arakanese court.

Muslim mercenaries. Their role may sometimes have been exaggerated in the same way than the importance of the Portuguese pirates was exaggerated by travelers like Bernier.

While approaching this point, we should bear in mind that Buddhist Arakan and Muslim Bengali were rivals in the area for centuries. They were not the only competitors as you know. The little kingdom of Tripura and the semi-autonomous Portuguese communities were at times bold and staunch opponents. The Chittagong area was at the core of this rivalry. Once the Arakanese kings had done away with the Portuguese peril after the first decade of the 17th century, they were employing an impressive number of Portuguese mercenaries in their armies. I think it is unlikely that the same time i.e. in the three following decades up to the middle of the 17th century, they would have employed an important number of Muslim mercenaries.58

The presence of Muslim mercenaries in the Arakanese palace guard has generally been connected to the flight to Arakan of Shah Shuja, the brother and rival for the throne of Emperor Aurangzen. Shah Shuja fled with his followers to Arakan at the end of 1660. There he met with the hospitality of the Arakan king. it seems that he greed of the court for the incredible fortune of Shah Shuja and a conspiracy premeditated by Shuja’s attendants were the cause of the subsequent massacres of which Shuja himself ultimately became a victim. It is said that one part of the survivors among Shuja’s followers were integrated into the Royal Guard, other survivors ‘were didtributed in different parts of the kingdom. Lands and implements of husbandry were assigned to them, and they were further encouraged to marry with the women of the country.59 They were called ‘Kamanchis’, a Persian word referring to their prior occupation as archers. Harvey writes that the end of the 17th century ‘they, the Muslim archers, murdered and set up kings at will’, ‘rooming over the country, carrying the fire and sword wherever they went’.

This is an oversimplification of Na Man’s text. it seems to me that just as the Arakanese marine was not onlyu composed of Portuguese pirates, the Arakanese royal guard was not only made up of Muslim mercenaries. The major political problem of the period 1685 to 1710 were the revolts of the native populations north of the Naf river and the rebellions of the Mons that the royal guard proved unable to tackle .

The communities of Kamanchis were progressively integrated into Arakanese society fitting their behaviour to their surroundings, as English sources of the first half of the 19th century testify.60

It has been correctly said I think that the Muslim mercenaries received fresh arrivals from India after the conquest of Chittagong. But it is quite possible that even long before the fall of Chittagong, at the time of Islam Khan. Turco-Afghan soldiers losing ground in Bengal, fled their deadly enemies, the Moghuls, and took refuge in Arakan where they found employment at the royal court.

The historical content and the political situation in southeastern Bengal in the first half of the 17th century would, according to my opinion, favour such a hypothesis.

The arrival of three Sinhalese embassies (1693, 1696 and 1697) is mentioned by the chronicles and bears testimony to Arakan’s outstanding prestige as a Buddhist country in Ceylon, the cradle of Therawada Buddhism.

Recently Professor S. Subrahmanyam has tried to prove his thesis of persianisation in the Bay of Bengal by quoting extracts of the Baharistan-I Ghaibi of Mirza Nathan (17th century). Mirza presents an exchange of letters between Mir Abd-us Salam Mashhadi (Islam Khan), the subahdar of Bengal, and the king of Arakan, Thirithudhamma. I think it is an error to treat these documents as an original correspondence and interpreting them like this. S. Subrahmanyam thinks that the formulation of the letter where references are found to Persian heroes gives evidence of a Persian influence at the court of Arakan. I disagree with this point of view as the letters were very probably rearranged according to the gusto of the Persian author.

G. Bouchon and L.F. Thomaz published a letter of the king of Arakan to D. Manuel dated around 1518 and written in Portuguese.61. We evidently cannot deduce from this letter that the royal chancery of Arakan was using the Portuguese language and Portuguese diplomatic turns of phrase.62 The (rare!) letters of Arakanese kings that I came across do not use either Portuguese or Persian diplomatic terminology. Grandiloquent and sophisticated, they display in sumptuous Pali expressions the Buddhist conception of kingdom.

The study of Arakan, a small Buddhist kingdom situated on the fringe of a predominantly Muslim cultural area, needs still further attention. Conceptually speaking, this study implicates an analysis of the interactions between military and cultural resistance, tending to a relative isolation, and the insertion into a socio-economic network of the Bay of Bengal, implementing a gradual opening to influences form abroad.



Mong Saw Mwan never adopted a ‘Muslim’ name. Among the eighteen kings by whom he was succeeded, there were fifteen to whom ‘Muslim’ names were attributed.

The following list has been compiled from various dynastic lists and chronicles. One does not find a manuscript listmentioning all the Muslim names. Nor does any of the English-language articles quoted in the bibliography mention all the names.63 This list is only fairly identical with U San Tha Aung’s review of the Arakanese kings in his book on Arakanese coins64, but for one exception. San Tha Aung counts 19 kings for the period under consideration. The succession of the Arakanese kings from 1501 to 1531 has not yet been accurately established. Modern Arakanese authors attribute to the reign of Mong Raja65 a length of 12 years while Phayre, Harvey and Collis say 22 years.

All the lists do harmonize on the length of the three succeeding reigns. The gap of ten years between 1521 and 1531 (the undisputed date of the accession to the throne of the great Mong Ba) resulting from the first hypothesis is filled by the reign of a king variously called U: Don Raja, Mong Khoung Raza or Ton Raza.66 As no ‘Muslim’ name is attributed to this king and as far as the existence of the king himself has not been firmly established, I felt no need to join him to the list.

Names of the kings are presented in the following order:

Transliteration of the Arakanese name: the usual English transcription between (brackets): varieties of the ‘Muslim’ names found in the Arakanese sources: various transcription of ‘Muslim’ names in secondary works in [square brackets]; comments on the names and kings.67

Mong Kha Ri (Minkhari); Ali Khan, Ali Khan, Ali na khan, Alac Khan [Ali Khan].

Younger brother of Mong Saw Mwan68 whose youth name would be Naranu or Naramit-hla, according to one or the other source discussed. He is the only Arakanese king better known by his ‘uslim’name than by his Arkanese name. Curiously enough Wimala, does not mention his ‘Muslim’ name.

Ba Saw Phru (Basawpyu); Kalama shya, Kalama shya, Kalamra rha:, Kulama69 rha70: [Kalima Shah]. ‘Kamoola tha’ is a transcription of a 19th cent. English author.71 Son of his predecessor. This king,well known by his ‘Muslim’ name (‘a curious Muslim name’ says Habibullah72),is the first of the so-called Dhanawati dynasty to whom coins are tentatively attributed.73 The attribution is rather doubtful in my eyes.74

Do Lhya, Do Lhya, Do lya, Do lya, (Dawlya): Po Khu rha, Mo khu shya, Mon khu shya [Mokhu shah75, Mokhusya76].

Bha Co Nui, Na Ce nui, Mom nui (Basawnyo); Maha rhok rhi rha, Maha mok shya, Mahamat shya [Maha Moshah78, Mahamauk tha, Mahamosya].

Ran On, Ram On (rare) (Yanaung); rhi rha:, Non shit shya, Rhi shya [Nan Sheet tha].

Son of Do lya. I did not found in any source available to me ‘No ri shya’given by San Tha Aung. Ba Shin has (‘Norisya’) which he reads as Nuri Shah.

Ca Lan Ka Su, Ha Lan Ka Su, Ca Lan Su, Sin ga su (Salingathu): Do la shya, Sak khon ton rha:, Sak khon do lo shya [Sakkokdolasya; Secunder Shah].80

Maternal uncle of his predecessor. Ba Shin reads the name as Sheikh Abdulla Shah.81 I would rather derive the name from the Persian Sikandar.

Mom raja (Mong Ra Za); Bhali rha:, I shya [Pelee tha, Ili Shah, Illisya].82

Son of Ca Lan Ka Su. Should be read as Ilyas Shah according to Ba Shin.

Gajapati (Kasabadi), Ganhapati83; Ila shya.

Son of Man raja, Ba Shin does not mention this king. Serrajuddin includes him in his list of kings with Muslim names and interpretes the name as Ilyas Shah.84

Given the identity of names of this king and his predecessor, we are strongly reminded of Phayre who observed in 1844: ‘they [the kings] assumed foreign names …. which are now frequently applied to them, though the same Indian names are not always applied to the same individual kings, even by the best informed among the Arakanese.85

Mam Co (the od), Mam Jo, Mam Jo Si ri su (Mongsaw-O); Jalatta mam, Jala shya, Jala rha: [Jal Shah, Jalasya].

Younger brother of Ca Lan Ka su, paternal uncle of Mam raja, Ba Shin reads as Jalal Shah.

Sajata, Sajata, Sahajata, Sahatajata (Thatasa86); Ala shya [Itali Shah, Ilisya].

Sajata was the son of Do lya87. Okkantha presents the curious reading Itali Shah.88 Ba Shin interpretes Ilisya as Ali Shah89, a name given as well by San Tha Aung. According to an Arakanese source, he was also called Kamala tha.90 An undated coin with Persian inscription on the two faces, with the kalima on one face and the title Sultan Ali Shah, father of the victorious, on the other, is attributed to him (1525).91

Mam ba:, Mam ba, Mam pa, Mam pa (Mongba); Kok Pok rha:, Jok Pok shya, Jok Bhok shya [Zabuk Shah, Zabauk Shah, Zubbur].

Son of Mam raja. Habibullah considers the name as ‘apparently a misreading either for Mubarak or Barbok.92 Undated bilingual coins (Persian/Arakanese and Bengali/Arakanse) have been quoted as proofs for Mam Ba’s control of Chittagong.93 Phayre read Jatkane as Chatiganu, i.e. Chittagong.

(the three kings whose reign stretches from 1553 to 1571 did not assume ‘Muslim’ names.)

Mam pha lom (Mongphaloung94): Shyok kyindra shya, Shyo kindra shya raja, Rhok kannara rha:; [Secundra95, Sekendar Shah, Sikandar Shah96]

Uncle of his predecessor, called sive Mam cakkya sive Cakrawate:, and son of Mam ba.
Robinson ascribes to his king a monolingual coin with the name Sikandar.97 San Tha Aung does not transcribe the Persian and Bengali text on a trilingual coin that he refers to this king. The Arakanese text on the coins variously reads as Naradhipati urito mahasisura98 or.. ….urito siri shya.99 The king’s Pali name was Sirisuriyacandra mahadhammaraja.100

Mam raja kri: (Mongrazagri)101; Thin lin rha:, Cho lim shya, [Salim Shah].

Son of Mam pha loung. Contemporary Portuguese sources quote the king by his Muslim name Xilimixa.102 First dated coin according to Robinson. On his trilingual coins the titles Lord of the White Elephant, Naradhibbati Cholim Shya and Shah Sultan are found.

Mam kha mom (Mong Kha Moung)103; U: Shyon shya, U Shyon rha [Hosein Shah, Husein Shah].

Son of Mam raja kri:, his trilingual dated coins are close to those of his predecessor. A coin quoted by Robinson reads Lord of the White Elephant Waradhammaraja U: Shyo:, shya.104 San Tha Aung presents a coin with the increasingly ncomplex title Lord of the White Elephant, Lord of the Red Elephant Mam : tara kri: U: Shyon Shya.

Sirisudhamma raja (Thirithudamma).

Son of Mam Kha moung:, Some authors call him Salim Shah II not to confuse him with Mam raja kri:, but the attribution of this name may eventually be erroneous.105 The only authority to my knowledge mentioning his name as Salim Shah is Manrique who calls him twice Xalamiza, the second of that name106. The trilingual coins of Sirisudhamma shown by Robinson and San Tha Aung bear an unread Persian inscription107, which apparently is not Salim. Habibullah writes: ‘For the next two kings, Narapadigri (1638-1645) and Thirithudhamma (1622-1638), no Muslim titles which undoubtedly were designed to represent their Muslim oppellations.’108. The coin issued at Sirisudhamma’s crowning ceremony is monolingual (in Arakanese)109, the king assuming the prestigious titles of Lord of the White Elephant and Lord of the Red Elephant. Dating from Narapati kri’s reign, all the Arakanese coins were monolingual110.


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Publisher: the Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient


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