Ramayana, one of the most well-known texts in the Indian subcontinent dates back to the Treta Yuga. The epic, composed by Valmiki is an integral part of the ‘Indian’ identity. Ramayana was a part of the oral tradition and hence there wasn’t any written text as such. This lead to several versions of Ramayana in India and abroad. We are to discuss today the various popular adaptations of Ramayana in other countries where the text found its way through socio-cultural contact and religious influences across boundaries.
Here are some countries where people associate with Ramayana, just as much as Indians do, in their own unique way.
6 International Versions Of Ramayana You Must Know
1. Myanmar – Yama Zatdaw
It is unofficially Myanmar’s national epic. Written in the Burmese language, the name of the story is ‘Yamayana’, while ‘Zatdaw’ refers to the stage production or acted play as a part of the Jataka tales of the Theravada Buddhism.
The story of ‘Yama’ (Lord Rama) and ‘Thida’ (Sita) and their quest against ‘Datha-giri’ (Ravana) is same as the Indian version. The play is characterized by traditional colourful costumes that are a mixture of Bamar and Thai elements.
2. Cambodia – Reamker
The name means ‘glory to Rama’ in the Khmer language. It is an adaptation of the Sanskrit epic with almost the same plot.
It has some extra details on Hanuman on how he faces resistance from mermaids during the construction of the bridge to Lanka, and decided to capture the mermaid princess Neang Machha and eventually falls in love with her.
The aspect of performance is very important in the reception of Reamker. It is well known among the Khmer people for its portrayal in ‘L’khon’, a form of dance theater, very popular in Cambodia.
3. Indonesia – Kakawin Ramayana
It is an Old Javanese adaptation of the epic, written in the kakawin meter, native to Indonesia. Written approximately in 870 CE during the reign of King Mpu Sindok of the Medang Kingdom, it is considered a pinnacle in the literary history of Indonesia.
Some of the variances in its plot include the meeting of Krishna and Arjuna with Rama and Lakshmana. It is said that during the construction of the bridge, Arjuna fired arrows towards Alengka (Lanka) on Rama’s request, creating the bridge instantly.
It has inspired popular performances in the ‘Wayang Kulit’ – the oldest form of shadow puppet theater in the region.
4. Malaysia – Hikayat Seri Rama
In the Malay epic, the plot is fascinatingly different. ‘Siti Dewi’ (Sita) is the biological daughter of ‘Maharaja Wana’ (Ravana). ‘Hanuman Kera Putih’(Hanuman) is also depicted as the son of ‘Seri Rama’ (Rama), born to him in his former life as ‘Dewa Berembun’ (Lord Vishnu).
(Yes. You read that right!!)
And that’s not all.
Kiyakat Seri Rama in Malaysia makes King Dashrath, the father of Rama, the great-grandson of Adam, the first man.
Similar to the Khmer and Thai variants of the epic, there is a sub-plot of Hanuman marrying the fish princess, Puteri Ikan, to dissuade her from destroying the bridge to Lanka.
5. Laos – Phra Lak Phra Lam
The national epic of the Lao people, is adapted from Valmiki’s epic. But it doesn’t retain any association with Hinduism and is considered a Jataka story, a previous lifetime of Lord Buddha.
The principal characters are ‘Phra Ram’ (Rama), ‘Phra Lak’ (Lakshmana), ‘Nang Sida’ (Sita) and ‘Hapmanasouane’ (Ravana). In this variation, Ravana is the cousin of Rama, who is portrayed to be an incarnation of Buddha.
It has various cultural adaptations in Laos, like in the ‘khône’ and the ‘lakhone’ dance-dramas. The episodes from the text have inspired sculptures, lacquer ware, paintings and carvings which adorn temples and palaces all over Laos.
6. Thailand – Ramakien
The most revered epic in Thai literature, Ramayana came to Thailand and broadly South-East Asia with the Indian traders and scholars who visited these kingdoms. Many versions of this text were permanently lost during the destruction of the city of Ayutthaya by the Burmese Army in 1767. However, three versions exist till date.
There are new characters introduced in this version like ‘Maiyarap’ – King of the Underworld, who is embodied as a donkey.
A painting inspired from ‘Ramakien’ is displayed at Bangkok’s ‘Wat Phra Kaew’ (Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist temple). Many of the sculptures there also depict characters from it.
Summing It Up
When you see someone tagging a vested agenda with Ramayana or Lord Rama, remember that it is a beautiful piece of literature which transcends the boundaries like geography, culture, religion, society, etc. created by man.
And any time when you visit any of these amazing countries, proudly relish the common origin of their culture with yours.