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Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Kingdom of Mrohaung in Arakan (Re-submitting)


by D.G.E. Hall

Arakan stretches for some 350 miles along the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal to the south of the Chittagong division of East Bengal. It is separated from Burma by a long, deep range of mountains, the Arakan Roma, through which there are only two serviceable passes, the Ann connecting with Minbu on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, and the Taungup connecting with Prome. The Arakanese call themselves Rakhaing and their country Rakhaingpray. According to Sir Arthur Phayre, the word is a corruption of the Pali rakkhaso (Skt. rakshasa) meaning ‘’ogre’’ (Burmese bili) or guardian of the mansion of Indra on Mount Meru. Sir Henry Yule identifies the Angyre or Silverland of Ptolemy with Arakan. But Arakan produced no silver and the previously accepted views of Ptolemy’’s idea concerning the Indo-Chinese peninsula are now open to question.
The Arakanese of today are basically Burmese, though with an unmistakable Indian admixture. Although mainly Buddhist, they have been influenced by long centuries of contact with Muslim India. Their language is Burmese with some dialectical differences and an older form of pronunciation, especially noticeable in their retention of the ‘’r’’ sound, which the Burmese have changed to ‘’y’’. The Bengalis refer to them by the name Magh, a word adopted by seventeenth-century European writers and written ‘’Mugg’’. The name is also applied to a class of people belonging to Chittagong who are Buddhists but speak Bengali and are not Mongoloid. Much that is fanciful has been written about its possible etymology, but the question is as yet unsolved.

Buddhism would seem to have reached Arakan long before its arrival in the interior of Burma, and the famous Mahamuni image, brought from Arakan by the Burmese in 1785, and now to be seen in the Arakan Pagoda at Mandalay, may date from the early Christian era.

Buddhism would seem to have reached Arakan long before its arrival in the interior of Burma, and the famous Mahamuni image, brought from Arakan by the Burmese in 1785, and now to be seen in the Arakan Pagoda at Mandalay, may date from the early Christian era. Inscriptions mention a Candra dynasty, which may have been founded as early as the middle of the fourth century A.D. Its capital was called by the Indian name of Vaisali, and thirteen kings of the dynasty are said to have reigned there for a total period of 230 years. The Arakanese chronicles claim that the kingdom was founded in the year 2666 B.C., and contain lists of kings beginning that date.

The Burmese do not seem to have settled in Arakan until possibly as late as the tenth century A.D. Hence earlier dynasties are thought to have been Indian, ruling over a population similar to that of Bengal. All the capitals known to history have been in the north near modern Akyab. It was a district subject to chronic raids from hill tribes- Shans, Burmese, and Bengalis- and there were long periods when settled government can hardly have existed. But the spirit of independence was always strong, and in the business of raiding the Arakanese could usually give as much as they received. Their main activity was by sea into Bengal, and they developed great skill in sea and riverine warfare. By the middle of the sixteenth century they were the terror of the Ganges delta.

North Arakan was conquered by Anawrahta of Pagan (1044-77), but was not incorporated in his kingdom. It remained a semi-independent feudatory state under its hereditary kings. When Pagan fell in 1287 Arakan asserted its independence under the famous Mong Hti, whose reign, according to the chronicles, lasted for the fabulously long period of ninety-five years (1279-1374). His reign is also notable for the defeat of a great Bengali raid. After his death Arakan was for a considerable time one of the theatres of war in the great struggle between Ava and the Mon kingdom of Pegu. Both sides sought to gain control over it. First the Burmese, then the Mons, placed their nominees on its throne.

When in 1404 the Burmese regained control King Narameikhla fled to Bengal, where he was hospitably received by King Ahmed Shah of Gaur. During his exile he distinguished himself while assisting his host to repel in invasion, and when in 1426 Ahmed Shah died and was succeeded by Nazir Shah the new ruler provided him with a force for the recovery of his kingdom under the command of a general called in the Arakanese chronicle Wali Shah. This man, however, turned traitor, and in league with a disloyal Arakanese chieftain imprisoned Narameikhla. The king managed to escaped, and in 1430 regained his throne with the aid of a second force supplied by Nazir Shah.

He thereupon built himself a new capital named Mrauk-U in Arakanese, but usually known by its Arakanese name of Mrohaung. The date of its foundation is given as 1433. King Narameikhla held his kingdom as the vassal of Gaur, and in token of this he and his immediate successor, though Buddhists, added Mahommendan titles to their Arakanese ones and issued medallions bearing the Kalima, the Mahommendan confession of faith.

In 1434 Narameikhla was succeeded by his brother Mong Khari, also known as Ali Khan, who declared his independence of Gaur. His son Basawpru, who succeeded him in 1459, took advantage of the weakness of Barbek Shah of Gaur to seize Chittagong. He and his successors continued to use Mohammedan titles, no longer as a sign of vassaldom but as a token of their sovereignty over Chittagong, which was recognized as lying beyond the geographical borders of Arakan. Chittagong had for centuries been a bone of contention between Arakan and Bengal and had often changed hands. It was not to remain in Arakanese hands until 1666, when the Mughals recovered it permanently for India.

Basawpru was murdered in 1482 and his country entered upon a half-century of disorder and dynastic weakness. No less than eight kings came to the throne; most of them were assassinated. Then in 1531 a capable young king, Mong Bong, came to the throne and Arakan entered upon a new era. It was in his reign that the first European ships made their appearance, as raiders, and that the Portuguese free-booters (feringhi) began to settle at Chittagong. It was in his reign also that Tabinshwehti revived Burmese power, conquered the Mon kingdom of Pegu, and threatened the defences of his capital with massive earthworks and dug a deep moat, which was filled with tidal water from the river. Hence in 1544, when the inevitable Burmese attack came, although Mong Bong could not defeat the invaders in the open, the defence works of Mrohaung proved an obstacle against which even the great Tabinshwehti could not prevail when he appeared before them in 1546. While the siege was on the Raja of Tipperah raided Chittagong and Ramu with his wild tribesmen. But again victory was on the side of the Arakanese.

When Mong Bong died in 1553 he had a force of Portuguese mercenaries. His sea power, based on Chittagong, was the terror of the Ganges region, and his country was on the threshold of the greatest period of her history. But her somewhat spectacular rise was hardly due to the genius of her rulers. It coincides with a period of weakness in Bengal, when, before the gradual extension eastwards of the Mughal power, the native governments of that region were tottering. The possession of Chittagong was the key to the situation; for Mong Bong leased to the feringhi who took service under his flag the port of Dianga on the seacoast south of the mouth of the river Kurnaphuli, some twenty miles south of the modern city of Chittagong. The place soon attracted a large European and Eurasian population which drove a thriving trade with the ports of Bengal. But piracy and slave-raiding were the chief occupations of the feringhi, who gathered there in increasing numbers and before long became as great a source of embarrassment to the King of Arakan as to the Viceroy of Goa.

Matters came to a crisis during the reign of Mong Razagri (1593-1612). He was the king who employed Philip de Brito in his attack on Nanda Bayin of Pegu, thereby opening the way for the feringhi leader to make himself master of Syriam.

Matters came to a crisis during the reign of Mong Razagri (1593-1612). He was the king who employed Philip de Brito in his attack on Nanda Bayin of Pegu, thereby opening the way for the feringhi leader to make himself master of Syriam. When de Brito defeated the Arakanese flotilla sent to dislodge him from the Mon port and captured the crown prince, Mong Razagri decided that he must break the power of the Portuguese at Dianga. For that port also was coveted by de Brito; he planned to use it as a base for the conquest of Arakan. In 1607, therefore, the king sent an expedition which attacked Dianga by land and massacred its inhabitants without mercy. Six hundred Portuguese are said to have fallen.

Among those who escaped was the egregious Sebastian Gonzales Tibao. He had been engaged in the salt trade. Now with other refugees he took to piracy, and in 1609 made himself ‘’king’’ of Sandwip Island by exterminating the Afghan pirates who had made their nest there. At Sandwip he received a refugee Arakanese prince who, as Governor of Chittagong, had quarreled with his brother, King Razagri. Tibao married the prince’’s sister and when he died suddenly, probably from poison, seized all his treasure. Soon afterwards the Mughal Governor of Bengal began an attack upon the district of Noakhali, east of Ganges mouth, which had submitted to Arakan. This threw Tibao and Mong Razagri into one another’’s arms. But while his ally was conducting an unsuccessful land campaign Tibao took possession of the Arakanese fleet by luring its leaders to a conference and murdering them. Then he raided up the Lemro River to the very walls of Mrohaung, capturing the royal barge as a trophy.

When in 1612 Mong Razagri died his successor, Mong Khamoung (1612-22), decided that the power of Tibao and his ruffians must be finally broken. His first effort failed because the Raja of Tippera raided at the crucial moment and he had to withdraw his forces. Tibao, aware of his precarious position, with hostile Bengal on one side and revengeful Arakan on the other, appealed to Goa, urging the viceroy to avenge the massacre of Dianga. He suggested a joint attack on Arakan and offered to pay annual tribute to the Portuguese crown for his island ‘’kingdom’’. The viceroy sent a fleet of fourteen galliots, which arrived off the coast of Arakan at the end of the wet monsoon in 1615. Mrohaung was attacked, but partly through faulty arrangements for cooperation and partly through the help given to the Arakanese by a Dutch ship lying in the harbour the Portuguese failed to effect a landing and sailed away. Two years later Mong Khamoung captured Sandwip, wiped out the feringhi settlement and destroyed its fortifications. Tibao is said to have escaped, but is heard of no more.

The feringhi had now shot their bolt. Philip de Brito’’s escapade at Syriam had already come to its sorry end in 1613. So they made their peace with the king and settled down once more to assist him in his efforts to gain control over the southeastern parts of Bengal- ‘’the conquest of the middle land’’, as the Arakanese Chronicle euphemistically calls it. There was no conquest in the real sense, though for a time Arakan held the districts of Noakhali and Backergunge and some of the Sunderbunds delta. What chiefly took place was slave-raiding, in 1625 even captured and held for a short time. This kind of thing could never have occurred had it not been for the crisis in the Mughal Empire resulting from Shah Jahan’’s rebellion in 1612 against his father Jehangir. Year after year the feringhi armada returned to Dianga bringing thousands of Bengali slaves. Before long not a house was left inhabited on either side of the rivers between Chittagong and Dacca.

Mong Razagri’’s attampt to rid himself of the Portuguese coincided with the first Dutch trading voyage to Arakan. In 1605 they had planted factories at Masulipatam and Petapoli on the Coromandel Coast. From these two centres they began to explore the possibility of establishing trading relations with Bengal and Arakan. An invitation from King Razagri led to the dispatch of two merchants, Pieter Willemsz and Jan Gerritsz Ruyll, to Mrohaung in 1607, the year of the Dianga massacre. The king, like so many other rulers in South-East Asia, received them with delight, offered them customs-free trade in his dominions, and expressed the hope that they would assist ‘’to drive the Portuguese our’’.

He asked particularly for their help against Philip de Brito at Syriam. ‘’So would he give us to wit the aforesaid Castle in Pegu, the island of Sundiva, Chittagong, Dianga, or any other places in Bengal, as he had given the same previously to the Portuguese,’’ wrote Pieter Willemsz in his report. And he went on to represent that if the opportunity were not seized the Portuguese would ‘’determine it so well for themselves that it would be to the great detriment of the Company’’. But the Dutch wanted trade, not war, even against the Portuguese, in this region, for, with their hands full with the struggle to gain contemplate an expedition against Syriam.

The envoys returned to Masulipatam in May 1608. In September 1610 van Wesick, the Dutch chief of the Coromandel factories, decided to make a trial venture with an established factory at Mrohaung. Jacob Dirckszoon Cortenhoof went to take charge of it. The king, however, wanted the Dutch to built a fort at Dianga. In 1615, as we have already seen, they played an important part in warding off the attack of the Portuguese fleet on Mrohaung. They had, however, no desire to become involved in Mong Khamoung’’s wars, and especially in his projected operations against Tibao, because, as they put it, ‘’of the small profits, which could be made there, and the great expenses the Company must first be put to, in order to establish the king again in his kingdom, which at present is much in trouble’’. The factory was accordingly withdrawn in 1617.

But Arakan remained on the programme, and from 1623 Dutch ships were going there to buy the Bengali slaves captured by the marauding feringhi, and the surplus rice that the country produced as a result of the abundant slave labour available for cultivating the fields. Early in 1625 the Dutch planted another factory at Mrohaung, with Paulus Cramer Heyn as its Chief. It came about through an expedition under Anthonij Caen which had been despatched from Batavia in September of the previous year to attack Portuguese vessels. He was instructed to call at Mrohaung and discuss with king Thirithudamma (1622-38) the possibility of cooperation against ‘’our common enemy’’, and to conclude an agreement for the export of rice and slaves. Little came of the negotiations, although the king sent an envoy to Batavia in 1627, and as the slave did not go Well Jan Pieterszoon Coen issued orders for the factory to be closed for the second time.

Trade, however, continued. The free burghers of Batavia were allowed to have a share in it, and envoys passed frequently between Batavia and Mrohaung. The Dutch, having completely depopulated the Banda Islands and given over the land there to Company’’s servants to cultivate with slave labour, were anxious to buy all the slaves that Arakan could spare from the proceeds of the feringhi raids. So the Cornelis van Houten, the chief factor, reported that trade had been brought to a standstill by a terrible famine and pestilence. He was accordingly withdrawn and the trade again thrown open to private merchants.

Meanwhile Dianga and the feringhi had once come into the limelight. In 1630 Thirithudamma appointed a new Viceroy of Chittagong, who took so violent a dislike to the feringhi that he sent an alarmist report to Mrohaung alleging a Portuguese plot to admit the forces of the Mughal Viceroy of Dacca into Chittagong. His intention was to persuade Thirithudamma to administer to Dianga a further dose of the medicine given in 1607. As the feringhi fleet was away upon its annual slaving expedition, the inhabitants, who got wind of the scheme, deputed two envoys to hurry to the capital to persuade the king that the rumour was without foundation. They were a feringhi captain, Gonzales Tibao, a relative of the erstwhile ‘’king’’ of Sandwip, and Fra Sebastiao Manrique, an Augustinian friar of Oporto, who had recently arrived in Dianga as its vicar under the jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Goa. years later, after his return home to Portugal, Manrique told the story of his travels in detailed memoirs, which are of exceptional interest and value.

The mission was successful. The king called off a large expedition he was preparing for the punishment of Dianga. He also gave permission for the construction of a Catholic church in the suburb of Daingri-pet, on the western side of the capital, where the Portuguese mercenaries of the royal guard lived. The outspoken friar, who did not fear to adjure the king to abandon his false religious beliefs and become a Christian, was treated as an honoured guest. He was shown the loot taken from Pegu in 1599 and was greatly impressed by the white elephant. Nanda Bayin’’s daughter, who had been carried off to Mrohaung and married to King Razagri, received him and related the story of her sufferings with deep emotion. Early in 1631, after a stay of six months, Manrique returned to Dianga.

In the following year Shah Jahan, now the Great Mughal, decided to wipe out the Portuguese settlement at Hugli. He suspected it of being implicated in the intolerable slave-raids of the Dianga free-booters. His religious fervour also had been deeply stirred by the abduction in 1629 by the feringhi of the wife of a high official near Dacca and her subsequent conversion to Catholicism by Fra Manrique. The town put up a desperate resistance, but without timely help could not possibly hold out. Some of the defenders cut their way out, boarded their ships and got away to Saugar Island, just outside the river mouth, where they proceeded to establish themselves. At the same time they sent a Jesuit, Father Cabral, to ask King Thirithudamma for help. News of the seige, however, had already reached him long before Cabral’’s arrival, and he had ordered the feringhi armada of Dianga to make a surprise attack upon the Mughal fleet in the Hugli River. The armada was held up by bad weather, and when at last it was able to sail it arrived too late to save the city. It managed, however, to follow up the Mughal fleet and destroy it. Then it fell back on Saugar to await reinforcements.

In launching this attack the king appears to have had a double object. He aimed at preventing the Mughals from attempting the capture of Chittagong; he naturally expected this to be their next objective after taking Hugli. He hoped also that a decisive victory over the Mughal fleet would enable him to persuade the Viceroy of Goa to join forces with him in an invasion of Bengal. The viceroy was indeed willing to discuss matters, and in 1633 deputed Gaspar de Mesquita to proceed to Mrohaung for this purpose, with Fra Manrique as his adviser. The negotiations, however, came to nothing. The king’’s grandiose scheme for the conquest of Bengal had to be dropped.

The Goanese envoy sailed away, but Manrique had to remain behind. The king liked him. Moreover, he knew too many state secrets to be allowed to return at once to Dianga. Not until two years later, in 1635, was he permitted to depart. His book tells of further strange adventures while at Mrohaung. He gives also a vivid description of Thirithudamma’’s coronation, which was not celebrated until 1635 because of a prophecy that he would die within a year of it. Before it took place barbarous propitiatory sacrifices were made to avert this fate. But three years later his chief queen procured his murder and placed her lover on the throne. He was King Narapatigri (1638-45).

Manrique makes no mention of Thirithudamma’’s relations with the Dutch. In 1633 he had sent two envoys to Batavia to invite them to reopen their factory. They were engaged upon the blockade of Malacca and needed the food supplies that could be obtained from Arakan.

Manrique makes no mention of Thirithudamma’’s relations with the Dutch. In 1633 he had sent two envoys to Batavia to invite them to reopen their factory. They were engaged upon the blockade of Malacca and needed the food supplies that could be obtained from Arakan. Two Dutch ships, therefore, with cargoes of goods for sale escorted the Arakanese envoys home, and in 1635 Adam van der Mandere reopened the factory. At first trade went well. But soon difficulties arose. The king wanted a military alliance, and when he heard that Mughal ambassadors had been received at Batavia he sent an angry letter to warn the governor-general that the Mughals were his enemies. Moreover, van der Mandere’’s relations with the king were bad. The king established a royal monopoly over rice, and when van der Mandere objected to the price and attempted to buy his supplies in the open market serious trouble resulted.

Van der Mandere’’s conduct was considered undignified by Governor-General Anthony van Diemen and his books were found to have been carelessly kept. He was accordingly transferred elsewhere, and van Diemen directed that in future ‘’men of good bearing and not slovens’’ should be appointed to Mrohaung. The next Chief, Arent Jansen van den Helm, got on extremely well with the usurper Narapatigri as a result of lavish presents of wine and spirits, which the latter much appreciated. But in 1643 the king’’s health broke down and he lost control over affairs. Then an incident occurred which caused the Dutch to close the factory once more. A frigate belonging to a Dutch free burgher, bound for Chittagong with a valuable cargo of piece-goods, was decoyed into Mrohaung harbour, its cargo confiscated and its captain and crew imprisoned. When efforts for their release failed and several of them died in prison the Dutch broke off relations. For eight years the factory was empty, and the Dutch subjected Arakanese shipping to severe reprisals.

Narapatigri’’s nephew Thado, who succeeded him in 1645, was a nonentity and reigned for only seven years. But his son Sandathudamma, who came to the throne in 1652 and reigned for thirty-two years, became famous as one of the best of the Arakanese monarchs. Although he was quite young at the time of his accession, it soon became known at Batavia that he had a more enlightened attitude towards trade than his predecessors. And as the directors of the V.O.C. were urging Batavia to reopen trade with Arakan, a Dutch envoy, Joan Goessens, left in October 1652 with a long list of stipulations for negotiations with the new king. Agreement seems to have been easily reached, and the terms, embodied in the form of a treaty, were accepted by both parties in 1653. Its main provisions were to the effect that the Dutch were to enjoy customs-free trade under royal licence and be exempt from the necessity of buying and selling through the king’’s agents. Goessens was much impressed by the riches and splendour of the Court. There can be no doubt of the prosperity of the kingdom at this time.

The Dutch factory, thus reopened in 1653, carried on successfully until 1665, when it was again closed, this time for a political reason. Shah Shuja, the second son of the Great Mughal Shah Jahan, had been appointed Viceroy of Bengal in 1639. In 1657, when the emperor fell so seriously ill that there were premature rumours of his death, a struggle for power began between his sons. It was won by Aurangzeb, who deposed his father in 1658 and became emperor himself. Shah Shuja refused to accept this arrangement but was defeated by Aurangzeb’’s general Mir Jumla, and after failing to hold Bengal fled from Dacca to Chittagong, together with his family and a bodyguard of some 500 faithful followers. Sandathudamma granted him permission to continue his journey to Mrohaung on condition that his followers surrendered their arms. He arrived there on 26 August 1660 and was favourably received by the king, who assigned him a residence near the city on the right bank of the Wathi Creek at the root of Bahbudaung Hill. He asked for ships to convey him and his people to Mecca and was promised that they would be supplied.

But the promise remained unfulfilled and the fugitive prince soon found his situation intolerable. Repeated demands for his surrender came from his fleet off Dianga and sent up reinforcements. A state of alarm developed and a rumour spread that Mir Jumla had taken Dianga. Moreover, the king asked for one of Shah Shuja’’s daughters in mirriage and his request was indignantly rejected. Thus were bad relations fomented; deliberately, suggests Phayre, in order that Sandathudamma might have a specious cause for quarrel, since he was only too conscious of the contempt in which the haughty Mughal held him and was greedy to get possession of the rich hoard of treasure the other had brought with him.

Shah Shuja, realizing his peril, made a desperate attempt to escape from the country. But his plans miscarried, and when the populace set upon his followers the latter ran amok and set fire to a large part of the city before they were rounded up and massacred. That was in December 1660. It was given out that he had attempted to seize the palace. The king, it was said, had only been dissuaded by his mother from having him killed. She argued that killing princes was a dangerous spot for which his own subjects might acquire a taste. But on 7 February 1661 Shah Shuja’’s residence was attacked and there was another massacre. Shah Shuja was never seen again. It was rumoured that he had fled to the hills with his sons but had been caught and put to death. Not until months afterwards did Gerrit van Voorburg, the Chief of the Dutch factory, discover what had happened. His report is summarized in the Daghregister thus:
‘’The prince Chasousa, of whom in the previous Arakan advices of 22 February last it was said that he was a fugitive, and had not been found either alive or dead, is believed, though with no certainty, to have perished in the first fury, but his body was made unrecognizable by the grandees in order the better to be able to deck their persons with the costly jewels which he wore. His three sons together with his wives and daughters have been taken; the wives and daughters have been brought into the king’’s palace, and the sons, after being imprisoned for some time, have been released and permitted to live in a little house. Every day the gold and silver, which the Arakanese have taken, are brought into the king’’s treasury to be melted down.’’ /p>

As soon as the Viceroy of Bengal heard, through the Dutch factory at Dacca, of Shah Shuja’’s murder he commandeered a Dutch ship to carry an envoy to Mrohaung with a peremptory demand for the surrender of his children. It was refused, and the king protested to Batavia against the use of a Dutch ship by a Mughal envoy. As the threat of war increased, so did the Dutch position as neutrals become correspondingly more uncomfortable. In July 1663 a desperate attempt to rescue the three captive princes failed. Thereupon the king burnt his boats by having them beheaded and slaughtering a large number of Bengalis and Moslems at the capital. Early in the next year the feringhi fleet sailed up the river towards Dacca, put to flight a Mughal flotilla of 260 vessels, destroying more than half of them, and carried away hundreds of people into slavery.

The time was now past when that sort of thing could go on with impunity. Shayista Khan, Aurangzed’’s maternal uncle, had just been appointed Viceroy of Bengal and was determined to burn out the pirate nest at Dianga. He called on the Dutch for assistance and threatened them with expulsion from all their Bengal factories if they refused. At the same time the King of Arakan, who was preparing yet another great raid on Bengal, ordered them to lend their ships for service with his armada. Luckily for them, a storm shattered his fleet before it sailed, and while he was repairing the demage the Dutch ships got away. When at last it did sail it carried out an even more devastating raid than the previous one.

In July 1665 the Council of the Indies at Batavia held a special meeting at which secret orders were passed for the abandonment of the Mrohaung factory. The king was cleverly hoodwinked, and on a dark night in November the factors hurriedly loaded everything that could be carried away on four ships and decamped. At the mouth of the river they were overtaken by a special messenger bearing a letter from the king for delivery to the governor-general. Why, he asked, were the Dutch so much afraid of the Viceroy of Bengal? It would be easier for him to build the Tower of Babel than conquer Arakan.

But the feringhi navy was to raid Bengal no more. Shayista Khan, who had built and equipped a new fleet, had already seized Sandwip Island as a base for an attack upon Dianga. What would have happened had the feringhi decided to fight it out it is hard to say, for they were more than a match for the Bengal navy. But at the crucial movement they quarrelled with the Arakanese, and when Shayista Khan seized the opportunity to invite them to change sides most of them did so. Then early in 1666 he assailed Dianga by land and sea. In February he defeated the Arakanese fleet in a fierce fight. Dianga surrendered, and the whole of the Chittagong district down to the River Naaf was annexed to the Mughal Empire.

Shorn of its powerful fleet the Arakan kingdom declined rapidly after 1666. Some years later the Dutch returned and reopened their factory, but we know little about it. The Daghregister for 1682 contains a letter from Governor-General Cornelis Speelman to King Sandathudamma announcing that owing to the lack of trade the factory was to be ‘’reduced’’. A resident factor would no longer remain there after the business of collecting outstanding debts had been completed. He hoped, however, to send one or two ships annually for the purchase rice.

When Sandathudamma died in 1684 the country became a prey to internal disorder. As Harvey puts it: ‘’the profits of piracy had gone but the piratical instinct remained, rendering government impossible.’’ Many of Shah Shuja’’s followers had been taken into the royal service as Archers of the Guard. Their numbers were maintained by a constant supply of recruits from north India. In 1685 they murdered Thirithuriya, Sandathudamma’’s son and successor, plundered the treasury, and placed his brother Waradhammaraza on the throne. When he was unable to give them their promised pay they mutinied and set the palace fire. Then they roamed about the country doing as they pleased. After some time they came to terms with the king, and he returned to his capital. But in 1692 they deposed him and placed his brother Muni Thudhamma Raza on the throne, only to murder him some two years later and place another brother on the throne.

So things went on until 1710. In that year an Arakanese chieftain Maha Danda Bo, with the support of a band of devoted men, overcame the Archers and deported them to Remree island, where their descendants still live, speaking Arakanese and retaining their Mahomedan religion. Maha Danda Bo became king Sandawizaya and reigned until 1731. But he spent little of his time on constructive work and much of it in raiding neighbours. He made war on the Raja of Tippera and collected booty and prisoners. He took advantage of the weakness of the Toungoo dynasty’’s hold on central Burma to cross the mountains and raid Prome and Malun. The decline of the Mughal power after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 tempted him to push his authority towards the north and raid Sandwip Island. But nothing came of all these efforts, and when he was murdered in 1731 the country relapsed into chaos.

Fourteen more kings came to the throne before King Bodawpaya’’s armies entered the kingdom and deposed the last king Thamada in 1785. Long before the event Arakanese chieftains were fleeing to the Court of Ava and urging Burmese intervention. When at last it came it brought such evils that half the population of Arakan fled into the Chittagong district and a situation was created that again challenged the security of Bengal, this time with consequences of far greater moment. For it was one of the main causes of the first Anglo-Burmese war of 1824-6.

(mentioned in the Independent News, BD)

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