The first celebration of the newly established Arakan National Day was held in Rangoon on Wednesday.
Designated during the Arakan National Congress that took place in Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, in late April, the holiday is not yet officially recognised by the union government.
Celebrations were orchestrated by Rangoon’s regional Rakhine [Arakan] Ethnic Affairs Ministry.
The event kicked off at the Arakanese monastery in front of Shwedagon Pagoda, with more than 60 participants including Aye Thar Aung and Aye Maung of the Rakhine National Party (RNP), and Arakanese civil society figures.
Attendees of the Arakan National Congress, held in the western state from 27 April to 5 May, agreed to designate the 1st Waning of Kason – according to the Burmese calendar – as a day of national pride, as it is the date Arakanese people believe that their most-revered Mahamuni Buddha stupa was cast.
Arakanese legend holds that the Maha Myat Muni Buddha stupa was cast around 554 BC, modelled directly from Buddha during his lifetime. The treasure was confiscated by the Burmese during an invasion in 1784 and installed in the Mahamuni Temple in Mandalay’s Amarapura, where it remains to date. The stupa has long been a popular pilgrimage site and is now a major tourist attraction.
“Being able to designate the day the Mahamuni Stupa was cast as the Arakan National Day after more than 60 years of independence, as I see it, signifies a path determined by Arakanese to preserve their race and religion,” said Aye Maung, deputy chairman and upper house parliamentarian representing the RNP.
Celebrations were held in other parts of the country, as well, with Arakanese communities uniting in their home state, and in both Mandalay and Tavoy [Dawei].
“We, the Arakanese, have a rich history;” said Aye Thar Aung, chairman of the RNP, “our kingship and throne.” He said that he and his fellows have long been frustrated by disagreements over the designation of an Arakanese holiday, and that the successful consensus and festivities were a satisfying end.
“I am extremely delighted,” he said.