Mrauk U is an archaeologically important town in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. It is also the capital of Mrauk-U Township, a sub region of the Sittwe District. It was the capital of Mrauk U Kingdom, the most important and powerful Rakhine (Arakanese) kingdom, from 1430 to 1785.
Mrauk U lies roughly 11 km east of the Kaladan River on the banks of its minor tributaries. The town is located on a small outcrop of the Rakhine Yoma on the eastern side of the Kaladan's alluvial plain. Thus, the surrounding countryside is hilly yet also contains a great deal of marshes, mangroves and lakes.
Mrauk U, like much of Rakhine State, is situated in a coastal tropical monsoon rainforest climate region. The town receives over 1200mm of rain a year from the Southwestern Monsoon, making it one of the wettest regions in Myanmar. The Monsoon season usually begins in late May and ends by mid October.
Although located in a tropical region, Mrauk U enjoys lower temperatures when the Northeastern Monsoon falls. From mid October to mid March during the Cool Season, temperatures can drop to 13°C. This season coincides with the tourist season for Myanmar.
The rainfall in 19 July 2011 was nearly 24 centimetres (9.4 in), the highest for 33 years. There was flood because of continuous heavy rains in July 2011.
A popular myth amongst the Arakanese and the Burmese people is that the name Mrauk U was derived from a legend of a monkey offering Gautama Buddha an egg as a sign of devotion. From this legend, it is purported that the name Monkey Egg (Myauk U) stuck with the region, and from it, the current Mrauk U was derived.
Another dismissed myth was that in the region where Mrauk U was to be constructed, lived a lonely female monkey. She met a peacock and the two later cohabited. The female monkey conceived with the peacock, and it laid an egg. A human son was born from the egg and he grew up to become a mighty prince. The prince later built a city near the jungle, and in respect of his birth story, the city was called Myauk-U meaning ‘Monkey’s Egg’.
As Mrauk U and her kingdom prospered, the kings, ministers and peasants built many pagodas and temples around the town to reflect their faith. Thus, Mrauk U houses a rich collection of temples and pagodas second only to the Central Burmese town of Bagan, in Myanmar. Most of Mrauk U's temples were constructed of hewn stone bricks, unlike the mud and clay bricks of Bagan.
The most notable temples in Mrauk U are the Shite-thaung Temple (Temple of 80,000 Images or Temple of Victory), Htukkanthein Temple (Htukkan Ordination Hall), the Koe-thaung Temple (Temple of 90,000 Images) and the Five Mahn pagodas.
• Shite-thaung Temple
• Htukkanthein Temple
• Koe-thaung Temple
• Andaw-thein Ordination Hall
• Le-myet-hna Temple
Although Mrauk U is a primarily Buddhist site, there are several religious buildings of other faiths. The most notable would be the old Santikan Mosque, built during Min Saw Mon's reign, in the southeast of the town. Friar Manrique also mentions the presence of a Roman Catholic Church and a small number of converts and foreign born Catholics (including ronin who were forced out of Japan due to persecution by the shogunate of Tokugawa Ieyasu).
The area around Mrauk U ranks second in the production of rice in Myanmar, after the Irrawaddy Delta.
Today, Mrauk U is a major archaeological and tourist destination. The main attractions are the temples and ruins around the town. The remains of the main palace roughly form the centre of the town. The most popular mode for tourists to travel to Mrauk U is to take a domestic flight from Yangon to Sittwe and board a boat from Sittwe against the Kaladan River. The hotels in Mrauk U also arrange private boat services to and fro Sittwe.
Mrauk U houses a growing tourist industry, as it has only recently become a reachable tourist destination.