The Ramakian (Ramakien)

  • The Ramakian is the Thai version of the Indian Hindu epic written over 2,000 years ago, '' Ramayana ''. The Ramayana is a long and complex epic concerning the reincarnation on earth of the Hindu God Vishnu.
  • The epic was introduced throughout South East Asia during the Indianization of the region and features in the theatrical, dance and decorative arts of the region including, Bali, Java and Cambodia as well as in Thailand.
  • The Thai Ramakian version was written in the reign of King Rama 1 at which time the 178 large panels of murals at the Emerald Buddha Temple were commenced.
  • The purpose of the epic and also the murals is to exemplify the virtues in easily comprehended fashion.

Hunoman the monkey in a mural.

The Hindu Ramayana

  • Valmiki, a legendary Hindu sage is historically regarded as the author of the Raymayana. It consists of 24,001 verses in seven Kandas (Books) and tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodha (the name from which the Thais adapted the name '' Ayutthaya '' or '' Ayodyha '')  whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king Rakshasa king of Lanka. 
  • In its current form, the Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BC to 100 BC.
  • Whilst the theme of the story is fantasy as also are its characters, its purpose is to ever present conflicts of duty and moral obligations as between duty to different people or situations. Valmiki portrays Rama not as a supernatural being, but as a human with all the attendant shortcomings, who encounters moral dilemmas but who overcomes these by simply adhering to the Dharma, the righteous way.
  • There are several instances narrated in the Valmiki Ramayana which cast shadows on the pristine character of the hero and reinforce the theme of Rama struggling with mortal flaws and prejudices whilst struggling to follow the path of Dharma.

Thai Ramakian Theatre

  • Ramakian is the national epic of Thailand and is based on the Indian Ramayana epic. A number of versions of the epic were lost in the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767. Three versions currently exist, one of which was prepared in 1797 under the supervision of 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. The Khon Dramas are based upon it.
  • While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, 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.
  • While Thailand is considered a Theravada Buddhist society, the Brahman mythology derived from the Ramakian serves to provide Thai 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 other former beliefs.