TRAVEL | ADVENTURE | MYANMAR
Dawn to dusk in Mrauk-U
Mrauk-U formerly known as Mrohaung is an archaeologically famous town in northern Myanmar. With its hilly landscape, Mrauk-U in the Rakhine state is home to hundreds of ancient temples and pagodas that rise endlessly towards the sky. Standing tall, despite their weather-beaten appearance, these well-preserved monuments are a testament to the mighty empire that once flourished in Myanmar. Historical records reveal that between 1430 and 1785 Mrauk-U was the epicentre of the Mrauk-U kingdom, one of the most powerful and respected seats of power in the Rakhine territory
Photographer Viran de Silva recounts his journey in Myanmar to Lisa Wydeman
A thousand stars cannot count the hours of my heart
As here I sit before the dawn
Darkness not quite light
Is it the calm before the storm
Will I see a new tomorrow
Wash my troubles by the light of the fading moon
As the sun preens behind the clouds
Yet soon, to fill the heavens with her golden light.
Under the Mrauk-U sky
The night before, in snatched sentences in English, a language they speak little of, the villagers told me about the beauty of the skies above Mrauk-U (pronounced Meow). Under an ebony sky illuminated by a million stars, I went to sleep and awoke the following morning to witness phenomenal dawn. Dark navy skies were stained with hues of orange and pink which gently parted to allow enigmatic blue mists to dance before me as fluffy clouds appeared in the sky to make way for the brighter light of dawn.
When I marvel at the blue mists I am reminded of the story the villagers related to me that the blue mists are a result of the night fires being extinguished at first light. The billowing smoke gathers in voluminous clouds floating overhead to form the perfect backdrop for the temples and pagodas which were built centuries ago. Camera in hand I manage to capture the beauty of Mrauk-U dawn and marvel at the beautiful juxtaposition of nature and architecture.
I remember why I am here. Equipment packed, I set off on a trek deep into the canopied wilderness in search of the temple – the purpose of my visit here. I enter the temple and witness temple life first hand. Crumbling, weary temples which have stood for centuries stretch in step formations as far as my eye can see. These temples once the proud boast of an ancient civilisation were revered as the path to devotion and spirituality. The beauty is breathtaking and the silence divine, a perfect environment for me to get to work, capturing the beauty of this temple which lies off the beaten track
The spirituality of Mrauk-U
The air of spirituality hangs heavy in Mrauk-U. I ponder on the difference between spirituality and religion. My own discovery is that religion is rooted in a specific set of organized beliefs and practices that are shared by groups of people. Spirituality, on the other hand, I would describe as a need to fulfil a sense of peace in one’s soul. The ancient texts reveal that there are seven spiritual needs. In a nutshell, spirituality embraces a connection to something higher than ourselves. It is a universal human experience that touches us all.
This spirituality is almost tangible in Mrauk-U for Buddhism plays a major role in the lives of its people. A deeply religious population where 80% are practising Buddhists, their religion is non-negotiable. From chanting, and offering flowers to providing alms to monks, people go about their lives with a great emphasis on the spirituality their religion provides them with.
Namotassa Bhagwato Arahto Sama-Samasumbudhassa !
Paths to Freedom of the Mind
Letting go of one’s history of experiences and embracing that precise present moment in which you stand, is what I have come to believe is, finding my spiritual connection with the earth, nature, the universe and all higher power.
Love of my surroundings, seeing into the souls of others that walk beside me at different moments in my life and witnessing all of creation, in its spectacular glory…is part of what finding ‘Spirituality’ is to me.
Boys between the ages of 6 and 13 are expected to enter the monastery as novice monks for a few weeks to several months. Then they have a choice to return home and live outside the monastery at any time or stay on as monks if they so desire to.
Catching the playfulness of the novice monks
in between prayers.
“A unique Being, an extraordinary Man arises in this world for the benefit of the many, for the happiness of the man, out of compassion for the world for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men. Who is this Unique Being? It is the Tathagata, the Exalted, Fully Enlightened One. ”
Anguttara Nikaya PT. 1, XIII P. 22.
Myanmar is a photographer’s dream. At every turn, there are ancient monuments which warrant a photo, while friendly people make for the most amazing portraits one can wish for. The beauty of its archaic monuments, rustic landscapes and its rich cultural history all lure people on a meandering path of an adventure of a lifetime.
A truly unforgettable experience, my photographic expedition into Mrauk-U has enriched me and provided me with a collection of wonderful photographs that capture this destination's beauty.
“A unique Being, an extraordinary Man arises in this world for the benefit of the many, for the happiness of the man, out fo compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men. Who is this Unique Being? It is the Tathagata, the Exalted, Fully Enlightened One. ”
ANGUTTARA NIKA YA PT. 1, XIII P. 22.