Mrauk-U the last royal Rakhine capital was built in the 15th Century as a walled city. Spread across a hilly terrain, the city straddled the banks of Aundat chaung, a tributary of the Kaladan River and was bordered by lush forests. Most of the walls were on the eastern side of town. The west, north and south were well protected by natural barriers of ridges, streams and hills. The city wals were built by joining the higher points of ridges and in places hill slopes were levelled for ramparts. A maze of moats and lakes were constructed both inside and outside the city as protective barriers and also to ensure a steady water supply for the inhabitants.

     A tour of this ancient city must begin at the Royal Palace though not much remains of it. It was a magnificent structure built in three terraces. Within the palace walls is a museum showcasing religious sculptures. Buddha images, votive tablets and the like belonging to the Mrauk-U, Veithali and Konbaung period. As well as Krishna statues and frescoes from the Shittaung temple which should be your next pport of call. It is one of the most well-preserved temples. The name refers to the 80,000 images inside. Built in 1535 by King Minbin, the pagoda is constructed of six feet thick sandstone in a layered quadrangle lined with stupas that rise towards the central shikara. The central pagoda is surrounded by 33 smaller ones. This tample was assembled withour any mortar to cement the laterite and sandstone blocks.
     To the Northeast of the Shittaung Paya is the Andaw shrine in which is enshrined a tooth relic of Buddha. The shrine was built in 1525 AD and then rebuilt in 1595 AD by Mina-razagyi the King of Mrauk-U. The shrine is octagonal in pure sandstone with two internal concentric passages. Fifteen brick pagodas surround the shrine on the north, west and south. To the east is the prayer hall. This eight sided monument has small windows like the Shittaung which admit light and ventilation. In the innermost core an eight-sided pillar supports the roof.
     To the north of the outer wall of the Andaw shrine is Ratnabon Pagoda. But only the bell portion and the base remain. The pagoda is surrounded by 24 small pagodas (now in ruins) and a brick wall. The four corners are guarded by a sandstone Chinte (lion).
     West of the Ratnabon lies the Dukhathien Pagoda. The temple stands on a 30 foot mound and was built by King Minphalaung in 1571 AD. Stone sculptures of seated ladies with elaborate coiffures adorn the vaulted passage. These sandstone reliefs depict 64 different hairstyles of the ladies of Mrauk-U.
     There are about 70 pagodas in this complex so there is a lot to see. The best time to visit this city is during the Paya Pwe (Pagoda festival) organised in mid May every year.

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