The Universal Relevance of Ramayan

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

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    ‘Ramanama is for the pure in heart and for those who want to attain purity and remain pure.’ – Mahatma Gandhi.

    The number of literary works available to us in all languages from different societies is infinite. So, it looks almost impossible to choose a literary work that can be relevant to all people at all times. Valmiki’s Ramayan is one of the rare literary masterpieces that are eternally relevant and useful. The various types of situations depicted in Ramayana are very similar to those that commonly occur in our lives and hence relevant to all mankind. It describes the nine sentiments (rasas) as follows: Love between Sita and Rama; Valor in breaking the Shiva’s bow while putting the string; Pathos on Kakasura when he surrendered; Marvel in building the bridge for ocean; Humor when Shoorpanakha approached Rama; Terror and Disgust in the battlefield; Fury while slaying RavaNa; Peace in interaction with sages. It only shows its eternal relevance. It is our experience even in our times that Ramayana captured the attention of the people through TV serial, the modern communication media.

    The epic Ramayan written in Bharat traveled to South East Asia more than one thousand years before. The Khmer of Cambodia had Reamker and the Thais of Thailand had the Ramakien. Indonesians, Malays, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Mongols, Siberians, Tibetans, Burmese, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Pakistanis, the ancient Turks, Arabs and the Persians too had their own versions of Ramayan. The Ramayana story was recomposed as Yama Watthu in Myanmar.

    The capital of early Thailand was called Ayutthaya, possibly named after Sri Ram’s capital of Ayodhya. Another ancient city in Thailand is Lavpuri named after Ram’s son Lav. The Royal king in Thailand is called ‘Bhumipal Athulyatej, Rama IX’. The country Laos is named after Ram’s son Lav. Burma is named after Lord Brahma and the old name for Vietnam is Champa. Singapore is called the lion city from its Sanskrit origin. The capital city of Brunei is Bandar Sri Bhagwan and that of Indonesia is Jaya Karta the city of Victory.

    The Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya, was sacked and destroyed by invading armies from Myanmar in the 18th century, resulting in the loss of literary works. When a new capital was established 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. A painted representation of the Ramakien is displayed at Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew, and many of the statues there depict characters from it. Thai kick boxing which is based on the military skills of Vali and Sugreeva is now an event in International Olympics.

    The story in Myanmar does share some features with the Thai version due to the conquest, but there are important differences, notably the absence of a Buddhist tone to the epic in spite of the fact that most people in Myanmar are followers of Buddhism.

    Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia are considered Theravada Buddhist societies. The Brahman mythology derived from Ramayan serve to provide their legends with a creation myth, as well as representations for the spirits that both help and hinder humans on their way to enlightenment, as well as a balance to the superstitions derived from Chinese animism.

    The ministers in Malaysia take oath of office in the name of Lord Ram’s Paduka ‘Urusan Seri Paduka’ and the agong or royal president takes oath of office in the name of the dust of Ram’s Paduka ‘Urusan Seri Paduka Dhuli’. Even if a masjid has to be built in Malaysia, the government orders are issued in the name of ‘Urusan Seri Paduka’.

    Despite Islam’s ban on theater and dance, the performing arts based on Ramayan and Mahabharat survived in Malaysia and Indonesia. In Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic nation, Ramayana and Mahabharata are compulsory subjects in most of the universities. Indonesians take pride in saying ‘Islam is our Religion but Ramayan is our Culture’.

    This story consciously and unconsciously, through puppet shows, art, temples, stage shows, etc., continues to exert its influence in all these Asian societies. The role of Sri Hanuman is also beyond comparison in all these versions. All across India, temples dedicated to Sri Hanuman far out-number those of Rama or any other character. In Thailand, tattoos or images of Sri Hanuman worn on their bodies bestow strength, courage, endurance and protection against pain.

    The Southeast Asian Games in 1997 used Sri Hanuman as its mascot. He is a popular figure or diety in all these countries. Hanuman or Hanumat or Aanjaneya or Anjata or Maruti is known by different names in these countries: Hanoman in Balinese, Anoman and Senggana in Javanese, Haliman in Karbi, Anjat or Anujit in Khmer, Hanmone(e), Hulahman, Hunahman, Huonahman, Huorahman in Lao, Haduman, Hanuman Kera Putih, Kera Kechil Imam Tergangga, Pahlawan Udara, Shah Numan in Malay, Laksamana (yes, and Laxman is known as Mangawarna) in Maranao, Hanumant in Sinhalese, Anuman in Tamil, Anchat or Wanon in Thai and Hanumandha or Hanumanta in Tibetan.

    From 1967 to 1979 Cambodia was waging bitter guerrilla and civil wars. About 1.7 million Cambodians, or about 20 percent of the population, were worked, starved, or beaten to death under Pol Pot’s regime. Yet the Ramayan tradition managed to survive under the most terrible conditions in Cambodia, proof of its strong and lasting appeal.

    Throughout the tumultuous centuries, and especially more in recent history when nations in the region struggled to become independent and modern entities, Ramayana has survived. It has withstood time and distance by adapting to religious change, political crises, social upheaval, and modernization. The eternal epic provides guidance for coping with change. For many Asian cultures, it has been more than just a story, and a very good one.

    Ramayana and Mahabharata the two ancient Sanskrit epics of India exerted a profound impact upon the cultures of South East Asia and have played no small role in the Indianisation of the major portion of that region. Out of ASEAN TEN at least seven nations Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia have received the influence of Hindu culture since the early days of Indian contacts.

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