The Ramakien, the soul of culture and arts of Thailand
The Ramakien, the most famous national epic of Thailand, deived from the Hindu epic Ramayana, has had a profound influence on culture and arts.
The plot of the story is Rama’s life of 14 years in exile after being expelled by his stepmother. While he lives with his consort Sita and his brother Lakshmana there, Sita is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana(Tosatkan) and taken to Lanka. Then Rama and Lakshmana rescue her with help of monkey warrior.
While the main narrative is similar to that of the Ramayana, there are many fundamental differences within the Ramakien. Particularly, making the peculiar Thai Buddhist version, Rama turned into Phra Ram, a reincarnation of Buddha instead of being incarnated from the Hindu god Vishnu. In Ramakien, name, customs, clothes and topography all related to the Thai context. For instance, Phra Ram is the ruler of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thai and no longer prince of Ayodhya as in the Ramayana.
The Ramakien characterize how an honorable person should behave himself, as the same in the Ramayana. It seems no coincidence that 10 kings of Thailand taken the name Rama since 1973.
A painted representation of the Ramakien is displayed at Bangkok’s Wat PhraKaew, and many of the statues there depict characters from it.
Khon played with the inspiration of Ramakien
Khon, a dance drama of Thailand, has been peformed since the Ayutthaya Kingdom(1350–1767). It is traditionally performed solely in the royal court by men in masks accompanied by narrators and a traditional Piphat, a kind of ensemble in the classical music of Thailand, which features wind and percussion instruments.
Kon is based on the tales of the Ramakien, as Thai literature and drama draws great inspiration from Ramayana.