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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ancient Indian wisdom-RAMAYAN IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA


Ancient Indian wisdom-RAMAYAN IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA

RAMAYAN IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA

The universal themes and ideals in the Ramayana, have long appealed not only to the Hindus of India, but also to the diverse cultures of Southeast Asia. The story of Lord Ram as an individual who established human values in society can be seen and heard in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. All these countries have a majority non-Hindu population, yet the non-Hindu people of these countries have made the Ramayana a part of their culture.

In Thailand, the Ramayana is called Ramakien. In the past 200 years nine kings of Thailand have been named Rama, and for 400 years the capital of Thailand was Ayutthaya, named after “Ayodhya”, the birthplace of Lord Ram`s birthplace and his kingdom. Later, the capital was moved to Bangkok which is 45 miles south of Ayutthaya. The highly theatrical "Khon" mask play depicting the Ramayana in a dance-drama fashion has become the national dance of Thailand.

In Laos and northeastern Thailand there is a version of the Ramayana entitled Phra Lak Phra Lam. The people of these regions speak the same language, have similar customs, and enjoy the same literature. To the people of this region Lord Ram represents the ideals of righteousness and his life is depicted in dance, music, art, narrative, oral, and folkloric tradition. Another version of the Ramayana in this region is Gvay Dvorahbi and is used for instructional and entertainment purposes.

There are literary and folktale versions of Ramayana in Malaysia. The Hikayat Seri Rama exists in both written and oral form, and the Wayang Kulit Siam is a shadow play from Kelantan on the border of Malaysia and Thailand. The main purpose of the Hikayat Seri Rama is to show the ideals of righteousness, love, loyalty, and selfless devotion. This Malaysian version has combined elements of the Indian Sanskrit Ramayana with local traditions and beliefs to create a highly developed story which is enjoyed by many. In 1989 the largest Rama temple in Malaysia was built in the northern state of Perak on the Thai border which is about 150 miles from Kuala Lumpur. The temple has 1001 sculptures and pictures relating the Ramayana story.

In Indonesia, the Ramayana is titled Ramayana Kakawin. Puppet shadow plays Wayang Kulit and the Wayang Purwa depicting Ramayana are held in Sumatra, West and Central Java, and in Bali. They are a great source of entertainment as they are performed during family celebrations, festivals, and cultural events. There are also masked dance dramas, wooden doll puppet plays, and ballets depicting the Ramayana. The Indonesians have launched an annual opera based on Ramayana that includes a cast of hundreds of players. It is performed for tourists as a way to introduce them to an Indonesian cultural performance. The Ramayana story and its characters provide a store of names and images for modern use. There are streets, banks, and travel agencies, and other places of business which carry the names of characters from the Ramayana.

In Cambodia during the medieval centuries, several versions of literary texts entitled Ramaker were written based on the Ramayana. Today the Ramaker manifests itself in oral tales, visual, and performing arts, especially classical dance of the Cambodian court. Besides Ramaker`s instructional and religious importance, episodes from the Ramaker are often performed within villages for magical purposes. When there is a drought the people hope that the performance will produce rain. There is a monastery in Phnom Penh with approximately 193 paintings of the Ramayana.

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