May 18, 2013
The Ramakien “Glory of Rama”, is Thailand’s national epic, derived from the Hindu epic Ramayana. The word is derived from Sanskrit word Ramakhyan (Ram + Akhyan) where Akhyan means a long story or 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 (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).
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. Although Thailand is considered a Theravada Buddhist society, the Hindu mythology latent in the Ramakien serves to provide Thai legends with a creation myth, as well as representations of various spirits which complement beliefs derived from Thai animism.
A painted representation of the Ramakian is displayed at Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew, and many of the statues there depict characters from it.
May 18, 2013
Reamker is a Cambodian epic poem, based on the Sanskrit’s Ramayana epic. The name means “Glory of Rama”. It adapts the Hindu ideas to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world. More than just a reordering of the epic tale, the Reamker is a mainstay of the royal ballet’s repertoire. Like the Ramayana, it is a philosophical allegory, exploring the ideals of justice and fidelity as embodied by the protagonists, Prince Rama and Queen Sita. The epic is well known among the Khmer people for its portrayal in Khmer dance theatre, called the Lkhaon, in various festivals across Cambodia. Scenes from the Reamker are painted on the walls of the Royal Palace in Khmer style, and its predecessor is carved into the walls of the Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei temples. It is considered an integral part of Cambodian culture.
The Reamker differs from the original Ramayana in some ways, featuring additional scenes and emphasis on Hanuman and Sovanna Maccha.
In the Reamker, issues of trust, loyalty, love, and revenge play out in dramatic encounters among princes and giants, monkeys and mermaids, and a forlorn princess. Though it is understood that Preah Ream is an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, his characteristics and those of the others in the story are interpreted in Cambodia as those of mere mortals, not of the gods as is the case in India. The complex interplay of strengths and weaknesses, though couched in episodes lined with magic, nonetheless represents a decidedly human social behavior.
As in other Southeast Asian countries, the Rama story in Cambodia is not confined to the realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, from sculpture to dance drama, painting and art. Another epic, Lpoek Angkor Vat (“The Story of Angkor Wat”), which dates from the beginning of the 17th century, celebrates the magnificent temple complex at Angkor and describes the bas-reliefs in the temple galleries that portray the Rama story.
May 17, 2013
Ravana was born to a great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikesi. He was born in the Devagana, as his grandfather, the sage Pulastya, was one of the ten Prajapatis or mind-born sons of Brahma and one of the Saptarishi (Seven Great Sages Rishi) in the first Manvantara. Kaikesi’s father, Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Daityas, wished her to marry the most powerful being in the mortal world, so as to produce an exceptional heir. He rejected the kings of the world, as they were less powerful than him. Kaikesi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera. Ravana was a Daitya or Rakshasa and he belonged to the caste of Brahmins. Ravana later usurped Sri Lanka from his half brother Kubera and became the King of Lanka.
Ravana is described as a devout follower of the god Shiva in addition to his tribe’s religious beliefs, a great scholar, a capable ruler and a maestro of the Veena. He has his apologists and staunch devotees within the Hindu traditions, some of whom believe that his description as a ten-headed person (Daśamukha or Daśagrīva) is a reference to him possessing a very thorough knowledge over the 4 Vedas and 6 Upanishads, which made him as powerful as 10 scholars. However, there is mention in Atharvaveda of demonic Brahmans calledDasagva (ten-headed) and Navagva (nine-headed) and the metaphor of a supernatural number of bodyparts to symbolize powers is an ancient one in Indian mythic depictions. Yet another interpretation of the ten-headed Ravana describe him to be a complete man with nine of his heads representing nine emotions that a man may possess (viz.anger, pride, jealousy, happiness, sadness, fear, selfishness, passion, ambition) and one representing the intellect.
The Great Ravana also authored Ravana Sanhita, a powerful book on the Hindu astrology. Ravana possessed a thorough knowledge ofAyurveda and political science.(Kumara tantram of Ravana is one of Ayurvedic book of him) He is said to have possessed the nectar of immortality, which was stored under his navel, thanks to a celestial boon by Brahma. According to some theories, he was a historical emperor who reigned over Sri Lanka from 2554 BC to 2517 BC. The lake Rakshastaal, a salt water formation in Tibet, high up inHimalayas located right next to fresh-water lake Manasarovar is considered to be the place of severe penance tapasya by Ravana.