In Myanmar, there is a beautiful island shaped of a duck. This island has a great history of Arakan (Rakhine) dynasty. It is said that many craftsmen, astrologers, soothsayers and advisors from that island were renowned people who had served during the period of Arakan dynasty.
The name of the island is Ramree Island (Yangbye Island in Burmese) and it is located off the coast of Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma). This island is originally referred to as ‘Duck Island’ because of its shape like a duck swimming in the sea by the people of Arakan. Then somehow it had changed to “Island of Guardian Spirits” reflecting the legendary history of Tandwe, “Flying Town” which then was attacked by the enemies and disappeared and landed on Ramree Island.
Kyaukphyu, located on the north western corner of Ramree Island, second capital, a major town of Rakhine State. It is 250 miles (400 km) northwest of Yangon. It consists of (8) quarters. It is surrounded by many villages. Even though this place is not well known in the world yet many visitors have started to discover the place. Mainly the visitors are from China and other countries such as Japan, Singapore, Europe, Australia, and North America.
Another town called Zediya Ywa (Village belonging to Pagodas in English translation and formerly called Zay village) is located in the bank of Bay of Bengal. This village beautifully lies between mountain and sea. The most surprisingly, there are wells everywhere in the village and the quality of water is good as it is crystal clear and not salty. Convincingly some companies have already been establishing businesses relating to water industry.
There are three mountains off the village. The local people called them; Zetiyat Taung (Mountain Belonging to Pogodas), Taung Bu Chay (Small mountain) and Laung Ta Pauk Taung (Mountain like a Slice of Hull). Among them, Zediyat Taung is well known because many pagodas including Buddha statues and traditional statues have been established there. It is also located along the road to Yangon not far from Kyaukphyu town. It is about 2.5 miles away from kyaukphyu town.
There are 3 places that people visit within pagodas in Zediya Taung (Mountain). The first one is Dek Poung Su Zedi (Relics Enshrined Pagoda in English). Local people call it as “U Ba Saw's Pagoda” because it was discovered by the late U Ba Saw during his minister period (1951to 1960) Kyaukphyu. According to the history of pagoda, 4561 combination relics of Lord Buddha and his principles were enshrined in it.
Next to this pagoda, there is a Bodhi Tree standing. This is not an ordinary tree. It is linked with original Bodhi tree of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment. During the full of day of Kason festival, people from village go and pour water and pray for all beings will be free from obstacles. Let me share how they celebrate the full day of Kason in related with that Bodhi tree. (I had seen it many years ago.) Gathering lasses and lads at the crossroads of the village, the lasses brought water pot with flowers and Thapyae (the sprigs of Eugenia). The lads bring the big drums and small drums, and other musical instruments including fipple-flute and cymbals. After that, the leader of lads and lasses gave assignment some lads to take care all the people of villages and explained safety plan along the way to the mountain. And then they started walking in sequence (in a row). It is about one mile to walk to get the mountain from the village. The lasses put the water pot on their heads in balance. Along the way, hobbyists are dancing in harmony in accord with the music. Dancers were very fond of dancing with excitement while playing drums and flute together with cymbals. The music and tunes from mixing fluting and beating drums make us people joyful and excitement at the same time. As soon as they reached the mountain, they went around tree for three times from left to right (counter clockwise position). And the lads place the water pot around the fencing branches of Bodhi tree, they recited the poem; “In praise of Bodhi Tree”, composed by the late head monk of the village. I asked one copy of this poem from the organizer. At the ending paragraph of the poem, they poured the water in the pot under the tree by praying in order to be free from obstacles and hindrances of all beings how beautiful it was! It is lovely traditions for who inhabit in that village as well as for the visitors who has values on ritual customs. I am worried that such valuable ritual traditions and customs will die out in one day because of changing practices of new modern era.
The second pagoda was built by Japanese Veteran as memorable of their comrades who died during the Second World War II in that area. Local people called it “Japanese pagoda”. After Japanese veteran came and looked for remaining of the comrades’ bodies they constructed this pagoda as a memorable landmark.
The third one is located at the end of the mountain. The name of pagoda is "Sasana 2500 Paya (It was dedicated to the 2500 memorable years of Lord Buddha)”. You can look at the enticing panoramic view from this pagoda. I am sure that you will feel overwhelmed with the scenery that you have never seen before. The fresh air gives you a sense of revitalization. It is such an amazing place! I almost forgot to mention that there is a manmade cave in Laung Ta Pauk Taung. It was made by Japanese soldiers during the War World II. Very few people know where the actual location of the cave.
There is one more important place to highlight about Kyaukphyu. It is called Kyaukphyu Taung (White Stone Mountain). Some believe that the name of Kyaukphyu was derived from those stones. It is near the Ohn Taw village (Village of Coconut trees forest in English). It is not easy to get there because there is no proper tarred road. On the way to Kyaukphyu Taung there are a lot of steep slopes. Only few local people climb up by riding motorcycle.
At first I thought those colossal stones are marbles. When I arrived there I realized that they are lime stones indeed! On the top of the colossal stone, there was a small pagoda in the form of ministerial building. There was only one monk staying there. The monk told me that local people have misunderstood about those stones. The monk said “I have no idea where these came from.” However according to the old folks nearby this area said that there is something to do with the labour workers from India stationed here to construct the road during the time of under British colonial rule. Apparently those workers are used to chewing betel leaves (Paan). When they cannot get enough slaked limes, they detached some pieces out from these stones. They boiled it with water and add in the betel leaves together with other ingredients. At first, here are two stones. Local people called these stones “Brother and Sister" or also known as a “Couple Stone” (wife and husband). But sadly the Sister Stone had disappeared. This is why I am trying to maintain and preserve this place with the help of local people.
This is the story of white colossal stones.
If we talks about Kyaukphyu, we cannot forget Kang Ko Taw Paya (Buddha Statues of Mesua Ferrea Forest). There are two famous and fascinating statues in the Mesua Ferrea Forest.
The most important place that I encourage people to visit is “Nat Kyauk “(Guardian Rock or Rock of Guardian in English). It is about 4 miles from downtown Kyaukphyu. It is located on the other side of Kyauk Ta Lone Pagoda, which was built by King Min Bin.(known as Min Pa-Gyi, who was the powerful and greatest king of Akaran History) There are many ancient Buddha statues and other historical statues in this place.