Influence of Ramayan in Thailand

Discussion in 'Ramayana' started by garry420, Feb 7, 2016.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    Ramayana is immensely popular in Thailand. Huge statues of Sugriva and other characters from Ramayana decorate the courtyard of the Royal palace, surrounded by huge corridors depicting the whole story of Ramayana in large paintings from floor to ceiling. Ramayana sculptures adorn the walls and balustrades of several other Buddhist temples in Thailand. In the Thai version of Ramayana called Ramakian, rediscovered and re-composed by the Thai King, Rama I in the 18th Century, Hanuman is a powerful figure. There are also several areas where Hanuman is worshipped. There is a huge statue of Hanuman on a hillock facing a major Buddhist monastery.

    Several kings of the royal family of Thailand (including the present king) adopted the name ‘Rama’, over the last three centuries. Before the capital was shifted to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand (then Siam) was called Ayuthya (Ayodhya) as a mark of respect to Rama.

    Ramakien is Thailand's national epic. It is derived from the Hindu Indian Ramayana epic and from the Cambodian Ramayan in the 14th century when they invaded Khmers and defeated them. The Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya, named after Rama’s capital of Ayodhya, was itself sacked and destroyed by invading armies from Myanmar in 1767, resulting in the loss of a number of versions of the epic.

    When the Thais established a new capital at Bangkok shortly after, one of the first tasks of King Rama I, who took on the name of the hero of the epic, was to have the lost Ramakian composed again. The episodes were rearranged, however, in a more linear time fashion. In addition, Tamil tradition probably played an important role in the royal literary effort, for the Thai epic has many features in common with southern Indian ideas, such as strong females (which also is an indigenous Thai trait), soul transfer, and characters magically transforming themselves into other beings. Many of the ogres have special powers or weapons, and they are defeated in unique ways with help from Vibhisana. The brothers of Rama and even his sons battle against the surviving ogres and destroy them, thus repeating several motifs and greatly increasing the length of the epic. While the main story is identical to that of the Indian Ramayan, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography and elements of nature which are described as being Thai in style.

    Three versions currently exist, one of which was prepared in 1797 under the supervision of (and partly written by) King Rama I. His son, Rama II, rewrote some parts of his father's version for khon drama. The work has had an important influence on Thai literature, art and drama (both the khon and nang dramas being derived from it).

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