How Rama is related to Thai culture? India & Thailand connected long time ago?
We have numerous mentions of the Hindu mythology in the Thai Culture. In short Thai mythology is the descendant of the Sindhu tradition. Even their national epic Ramakien is derived from Ramayana. This suggests that Rama is an important God of the Thai people. Does this mean that India and Thailand were connected during those ages? Let’s see. Happy reading!!
The story of Ayutthaya: Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand previously. Now it remains as a historical sight telling it’s rich archaeological past. If you ever visit Ayutthaya, you can notice headless and limbless statues. It seems like a battlefield with the columns missing their roofs. It seems as if a battle was fought the very other day. The ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya can take you back over four centuries to 1351. This place reached its heights during the Siamese rule until it was overrun by the Burmese army. Ayutthaya gets its name from Ajodhya which is the birthplace of Lord Rama. It is situated 100 kilometres away from Bangkok, the heart of Thailand. However, this place remained unnoticed since recent times when a group of Hindus took keen interest in it. Ram Janmavumi Nirman Nyas passed the plan last year that a Rammandir will be constructed near this place. Thailand has been the cultural hub for many Indians. The name of Rama floats around the air of Thailand. Even today all the Thai kings of the Chakri dynasty are referred as Ramakien which is the Thai Ramayana and the national epic of the country. The modern version of Ramakein has prominence of Ravana greater than Rama. It was composed in the 18th century by King Rama I. According to Ramanjun, Ravana in Ramakien is a sympathetic character. His sacrifice of his family for the love of a woman is highlighted. He is a mixture of good and bad like all. His death is of sorrow and not an occasion to celebrate like Valmiki Ramayana. It even explores the possibility of Sita being Ravana’s daughter. According to legends Ravana was cursed to be killed because of his daughter. In rage he threw his daughter into the sea. She was found by the earth Goddess and given to Janaka, the king of Mithila. Queen Mandodari gave birth to Sita by eating a blessed rice ball. Even Hanuman is not a celibate devotee in Ramakien. The Thais enjoyed the details of war rather than Separation and reunion. This is evident from the headless Buddhist statues in Ayutthaya. According to records, Ramayana reached Thailand during the early 7th Century by the oceanic routes of Southern India. Though the extent of Buddhism is much more in Thailand but the Hindu scriptures also had an influential hand in shaping their Culture. One can easily take pleasure of the blending of two religions in Thailand. Once you enter the ruins of Ayutthaya, you see the statue of Thotken or the Thai Ravana. On the compound walls you see 178 images telling the story of Ramakein. Even the dance for Khon originated from Ramakein and is a popular dance performed by the royal society. You can perhaps take a flight to experience Ramayana in its new style.
Ramakein: The Ramakein is the Thai version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to legends, it is influenced by three sources namely The Valmiki Ramayana, the Vishnu Purana and the Hanuman Nataka. Khon and Nag dramas have been derived from it. It has an important role in the Thai Culture. Only the backdrop is changed while the other details remain same as of Ramayana. Many statues from Ramayana is still worshipped in the temples of Ayutthaya. Even Ravana is worshipped and seen as a positive sympathetic character. Even the Pali Canon which is on the past life of Buddha is believed by some historians to be taken from Ramcharitmanas. The Ramakein has been even translated into a Sankrit poem named Ramakirtimahakavyam, in 25 sargas (cantos) and about 1200 stanzas in 14 metres. This work won eleven national and international awards. According to Ramakein, Hanuman never looked like a monkey as Sita addressed him as a demigod. Even mango was brought to India from Thailand or Malaysia since Sri Lanka was a part of India that time. In this epic Ravana is worshipped for his sacrifice of family and victories. His death is a sad happening. Here Pra Ram is the incarnation of Pra Narai that is the Thai representation of Lord Vishnu.
Ravana and Kuber: Ravana attacked Kuber and captured all his wealth including the golden Lanka and all his wealth. Ravana was Kuber’s brother. Are we missing something? Yes if we take a deeper look then Kuber was a God, and Ravana was Kuber’s brother, the sons of the same sage. Perhaps this is the reason why Thailand has temples dedicated to Ravana. Not many accounts suggest the worship of Kuber in the Thai Culture but in some occasions they do worship him as a God of wealth. Ravana is not an evil character in Ramakein. He is instead a humanoid being who has both good and bad qualities much like us. The positive side of Ravana is reflected in the Thai Culture. The Thai version of Ramayana must be appreciated for its outlook.
Other versions: According to the other Buddhist versions of Ramayana, Lord Buddha once visited Lanka to meet Ravana. Buddha is also referred here as a Rakshasha who is a supreme being. In the Dashavatar of Buddha it’s highlighted that Buddha is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and in turn is Rama himself. There are many folk tales based on the Ramakien. In one of the tales after returning to Ayodhya, Rama asks Hanuman to follow an arrow. Wherever the arrow lands will be Hanuman’s kingdom. The arrow lands in Lop Buri where the place turns white due to the power of the weapon. This is the explanation of the white earth where the Lop Buri people use it for making talcum powder. There are more than ten versions of Ramakein in the Thai Culture. They are written in the form of imageries, similes and metaphors. This serves as an inspiration for the poets and artisans. All Thai customs, beliefs are so much interwoven in Ramakein that it has left it’s marks not only in literature but also in history, geography, sociology and anthropology. Even the regional dialect of Thailand is impacted from Ramakein. According to some folktales, Hanuman acted beyond Rama’s order, burning Lanka. Rama was displeased with him. So the simile “ill-fated like Hanuman” came into being. An ungrateful son is called “Thoraphi” because the buffalo Thoraphi killed his own father. “Amorous demon” is an express representative of Thotsakan who tried to force Sita for obtaining her love. There are many such implications of Ramayana and Rama in the Thai Culture sometimes even more than the Buddhist traditions. Similarly the main idea of the victory of good over evil is highlighted in Ramakein which is the main source of all Culture and dance forms in Thailand. Many sculptures have based their works on the fusion of two cultures. So Ramayana remains in every atom of Thailand much like India.This further strengthens the fact that Thailand and India were closely connected long time ago. Perhaps they were the two kingdoms of the same dynasties. Even in some versions it’s mentioned that after the battle of Lanka, many monkeys and demigods flied to Thailand and stayed there. Probably that’s why Thailand attracts us so much.
Keep following us for more such informative articles. We will be back soon. Till then stay safe and take pride in your epics.