Ramayana weaves a trail across South and Southeast Asia
The legend of Shri Rama and the Ramayana has been the greatest cultural contribution of India to the world. The Ramayana was composed by Vedic sage Valmiki to expound and reinforce the true meanings of Vedas. The life story of Rama inspires everyone to learn and follow the path of Dharma – the righteousness in every aspect of human life.
The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times in different parts of the world, which led to the emergence of various versions of local Ramayana in different countries such as Thailand, Tibet, Burma, Cyclone, Cambodia, Philippines, Japan, China, Mongolia, and many other countries with varied episodes, events, and names. Though the episodes and events may differ slightly from the original Ramayana but the hero of the epic ‘Rama’ remains everywhere the best among men, the most shining and the most virtuous character in the epic.
Ramayana in Thailand
Ramayana in Thailand is called Ramakien, which is also the national book of Thailand. The capital of early Thailand was called Ayutthaya, named after Shri Rama’s capital of Ayodhya. The Kings of Thailand considered themselves the descendants of Shri Rama.
The last ruling dynasty of Thailand is called Rama (Ram). And, Shyam’s country – “Siam”, was the old name of Thailand, which was changed in 1939 with the new name Thailand which means free country. The story of Ramayana is very popular in Thailand and many of the kings had the name ‘Rama’ as either prefix or suffix in their name ruled this country. Various dramatic versions of Ramayana and dance-based upon Ramayana are organized and performed in Thailand.
Ramayana in Burma
Ramayana in Burma is called ‘Yamayana’ which is the national epic of Burma, albeit unofficially. It is also called Yama (Rama) Zatdaw (Jataka). In Burma, Rama is pronounced as ‘Yama’, and Sita is called “Me Thida”.
Ramayana in Cambodia
Reamker, also called Ramakerti – Rama (Rama’s) + Kirti (Glory), is the Cambodian epic poem, based on the Sanskrit Ramayana epic. The name of the epic itself means “Glory of Rama”. It adapts the Hindu ideas to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world.
Ramayana in Malaysia
Hikayat Seri Rama is the Malay version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. The main story of Hikayat Seri Rama remains the same as the original Sanskrit version, but some aspects of it were slightly modified to a local context such as the spelling and pronunciation of names.
Ramayana in Java, Indonesia
Rāmâyaṇa in Java, Indonesia is called ‘Kakawin Rāmâyaṇa’, the Javanese form of kāvya, a masterpiece modeled on traditional Sanskrit meters.
Ramayana in Philippines
Ramayana in the Philippines is called Maharadia Lawana. The famous dance of Singkil from the Philippines is inspired by the Ramayana of the Philippines.
Ramayana in Laos
Laos is the city of Lava, the son of Rama, as per the belief of the people in Laos. Phra Lak Phra Ram is the national epic of the Lao people and is adapted from Valmiki’s Ramayana. There are still temples in Laos that depict the scenes of Ramayana.
Ramayana in China
Various Jataka stories of Rama were popular in China, the earliest known telling of Ramayana was found in a Buddhist text, Liudu Ji Jing. The impact of Ramayana on Chinese society is evident from the popular folklore of Sun Wukong, a Monkey King who is similar to Hanuman from Ramayana.
Ramayana in Japan
There are two versions of Ramayana in Japan, one is called ‘Hobutsushu’, and the other one is called ‘Sambo-Ekotoba’.
Ramayana in Russia and Mongolia
Legends of Ramayana had been popular among the Kalmyk people of Russia. They trace their roots to Mongolia. Mongolians had an epic that closely resembles the Ramayana.