Sunday, January 8, 2012

Understanding the Rohingya People: Similarities and differences between Bengalis and the Rohingya people of Arakan

Abid Bahar

Historically speaking, due to its location on a racial faultline, Arakan has remained an epicentre of refugee production in the region until our present time. In understanding these phenomena, for historians in particular, I think several dates are significant in the history of Arakan, beginning from 957 AD, through the 1430, 1660, 1666, 1784, 1824 and 1982. In consideration of the above premise, when I say most of the Rohingyas have historically similar background as was with people of Bengal until the 11th century, I mean several things:

1.    Like in Arakan, Bengal was first Hindu then became Mahayana Buddhist. In Arakan, the Mohanuni statue was by the Mahayana Buddhists of the Chandra time and racially people were 100% of Indo-Aryan stock. “The coins of Wasali had the image of Siva engraved on it.” Arakan was known to Indian missionaries as the “Kalamukha” (land of the dark-skinned people). “The second phase of Indianization of Arakan occurred between the 4th and the 6th century AD, by which time the colonists had established their kingdom, and named their capital Vaishali.” By this time Arakan became a Mahayana Buddhist kingdom. As a port city, Vaishali also developed some pockets of Muslim settlements from Arab and Persian businessman who on their way to the East settled in Arakan and Chittagong. In the process the name Arakandesa, Arakan, Arabic and Desha is Sanskrit became the name of the kingdom. This was Arakan until the middle of the 10th century. What was the language of these people? The language of the Chandras was proto-Chittagonian: Sanskrit, Pali, and Arabic mixed. See the “The Anand Chandra Inscription, which contains 65 verses (71 and a half lines) and now sited at the Shitthaung pagoda, provides some information about these early rulers.  ... This 11-foot high monolith, unique in entire Burma, has three of its four faces inscribed in a Nagari script, which is closely allied to those of Bengali and north-eastern India. There is no trace Burmese or Arakani script on it.

2.    Something happened, historians’ records in 957 AD when Tibeto-Burman people in large numbers entered Arakan and took its control over defeating the Chandra Mahayana and imposing Hinayana Buddhism, the latter adapted from the Mons in the south who in their turn took it from Sri Lanka. Similar changes didn’t happen in Bengal. In Bengal, most Mahayana Buddhist were converted to Islam by Sufi mystics. With the fall of Arakan to the look alike Tibeto-Burmans, the Chandra Indians were either pushed to the north of Arakan or some even left Arakan for Bengal. Around this time, the defeated Chandra Royal family was found to settle in Chittagong proper. The Dev Pahar, named after Dev Chandra was the site of the new Buddhist kingdom. In North Arakan, mostly Chandra Hindus (lower casts also known as the Rakkhas) slowly adapted Islam converted by the already existing Muslims of Arakan and Persian descent and most Buddhist elites joined the Tibeto-Burnan Theraveda group or a defeated small number of Buddhist adopted Islam. Arakan became on one hand Theraveda Buddhist with largely Tibeto Burman stock, later came to be known as the “Mog/ Mug”. Moghs settled in the south and Muslims, Hindus and the other kulas Indian look alike people settled in the north. During the Chandra times and to its end in Arakan, we see the traces of Arabic names such as Rambree, Sufi sites on Myu Mountain tops, and Badre Patis in the Northern part of Arakan. From the 11th century, clearly with the Tibeto-Burman rule, Arakan now began to look east only until the year 1430.

(Continues to part 2).

Source: kaladanpress

No comments:

Post a Comment