The Precious Cultural Heritage of Ramayana

24 Apr

We Thai people have all learned in our Thai class a story from literature in which we had to memorize a number of characters. Those characters are for example Phra Ram (Rama), Thotsakan (Ravana), Hanuman, Phra Lak (Lakshmana), and Nang Sida (Sita). Yes, it is the Ramayana epic or Rammakian as we know in Thai!

The epic, originated in India Ramayana was firstly ascribed to the Hindu sage Valkimi in the Sanskrit language about 2,400 years ago. It spread over many Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia and has been adapted to match the local cultures. All of these countries have the Ramayana as one of their most influential literatures as Thailand does.

Talking about the Ramayana in Thailand, its appearance dates back to sometime in the Ayutthaya kingdom. Then in the Thonburi kingdom, King Taksin the Great composed a play of the epic for royal recitals in the palace but some parts were lost. Later in the Rattanakorin period, King Rama I decided to collect the Thai version of Ramayana and composed the missing parts of the story. King Rama II also took part in the collection as he created his own play of the epic for the purpose of royal performances. It was not until the reign of King Rama VI that the Thai Ramayana was once again revived, but this time His Majesty decided to stick to the original version.

Besides its role as an epic, the Ramayana has also been played out in many traditional Thai dramas such as Khon. Another adaptation of Ramayana that Sukjai cannot ignore is the mural painting at Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. It is the longest mural painting in the world with the depiction spreading over all the 178 rooms of the cloister surrounding the four sides of the ordination hall of the temple, wow!

Would you like to see it? Just go to Wat Phra Kaew! Alternatively, if you want to know more about Ramayana there are many interesting books on the subject available in any good book store. Sukjai is so proud of this masterpiece since it is one of the most precious cultural heritages of our country which we can pass on to the next generation with pride and great prestige.

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