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Culture: Seven interesting points about the Thai Ramakien

Asian and Thai ancient literature lovers certainly know about the Thai Ramakien, which is a famous National Epic of Thailand, based on the Indian epic Ramayana.

culture
By Sirinya Pakditawan

Sunday 14 February 2016, 01:33PM


In short, the Ramakien is about Rama who spends 14 years in exile after being banished by his stepmother. There he lives with his consort Sita and his brother Lakshman. When Sita is abducted by the Demon King Ravana (Tosakanth) and taken to Lanka, Rama and his brother rescue her with the help of monkey warriors. There are also some entertaining facts about the ‘Story of Rama’ which I would like share with you here:

1. The Ramayana was written by the Hindu sage Valmiki and it implies that the epic possesses magic properties? Merely reading one verse of the Ramayana is supposed to guarantee a son to everyone previously lacking a male heir and it also implies that poor readers of the epic will become rich and that errant readers are purified.

2. In the Rama Jataka, the Buddha is quoted as claiming he had been Rama in a previous life. The Rama Jataka is popular in Laos and some northeastern parts of Thailand where it is recited during ceremonies for the dead and cremations.

3. In the oldest version of Rama’s story, which is probably the Dasaratha Jataka, Sita is featured as Rama’s sister.

4. According to an ancient Thai belief, the Ramakien has magic properties. Thus, anyone who is able to read the Story of Rama over seven days and seven nights could command from the heavens three days and three nights of rainfall.

5. The 16th century Chinese classic Hsi-yu-chi (Monkey) incorporated together with other material, Hanuman’s travels in pursuit of Sita. What is more, as early as 251 AD, a Jataka form of the Ramayana was rendered into Chinese.

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6. The Reamker, which is the Cambodian version of the Ramayana, takes about 50 hours to recite.

7. The Ramakien can be called an esoteric allegory of man’s spiritual quest (Rama) for Nirvana (Sita). In this way, it is also a purification of physical and intellectual faculties in which Tosakanth (Ravana) and his brothers are coarse passions and imperfections while the monkey warriors stand for virtues.Personally, I find points one and four intriguing and entertaining. Perhaps we should try to recite the Story of Rama and see what kind of magic we can work. Until next time.

                                                                                                     Yours, Sirinya

Sirinya Pakditawan is a ‘luk kreung’, or half-Thai, born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. She enjoys writing about Thailand, with a focus on culture, art, history, tradition and on the people,
as well as a mix of topics concerning Thai popular culture, travelogues and articles about Thai food. Sirinya’s aim is not only to entertain you but to provide you with information and facts about Thailand, its culture and history that may not be generally known, in particular to the Western world. She has a PhD in American Studies from the University of Hamburg.

To read the original story, and many more, be sure to check out Sirinya’s blog: www.sirinyas thailand.de


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