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Small section from the Ramakian, wall painting in Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok
Part of the wall painting in the cloister of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The Ramakian ( Thai : รามเกียรติ์ , RTGS transcription Rammakian , pronunciation: [ raːmmákiːan ], whereby the Thai spelling reveals the Sanskrit etymology rāmakīrti , with Sanskrit kīrti , 'honor', i.e. 'in honor of Ramas ') is the Thai version of Indian national epic Ramayana .

From the Ramayana to the Ramakian

The Ramayana epic, originally from India , was written in the 3rd century BC. By Valmiki , a scholar who first lived as a hermit in the woods. Indian traders, travelers and scholars brought the story to Southeast Asia , where it first found dissemination in the historical empires of the Khmer ( Funan , Angkor ) and Javas ( Srivijaya ), who were in close economic and cultural exchange with India.

In the late first millennium the epic was also made in, from southern China coming to Southeast Asia immigrant, Thai known. The oldest records of the inhabitants of the Thai kingdom of Sukhothai that report the epic date back to the 13th century. Initially, the story was played out in the form of shadow theaters ( Thai หนัง , nang , German: "leather"), similar to the wayang Kulit known from Indonesia . The characters of the story in the form of flat shadow puppets made of leather, painted and attached to wooden sticks, were moved by the puppeteers in front of an illuminated cloth, on the other side of which the audience sat.

Hanuman protects Rama's pavilion (wall painting, "Room 53" of the gallery in Wat Phra Kaeo)

It was not until the 18th century that the story was recorded in writing in Ayutthaya , the Thai kingdom following Sukhothai. Several additional seals were made. In 1767 the Burmese King Hsinbyushin conquered and devastated the Thai capital Ayutthaya and had the court musicians and dancers kidnapped to Ava . With them also came the Ramakien to Burma. Around 1789, Myawaddy Mingyi U Sa and other members of a commission appointed by the king translated the Ramakien into the Burmese version of Yama Zatdaw .

The best-known surviving version was created under the supervision of King Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok ( Rama I , 1736–1809), the founder of the Chakri dynasty that still exists in Thailand today , who was involved in the drafting of the text between 1797 and 1807.

The paintings with depictions of scenes from the Ramakian on the walls of the Phra Rabiang (walkway, gallery), which surrounds Wat Phra Kaeo in the capital Bangkok , also date from the reign of King Phra Phutthayotfa . His son Phra Phutthaloetla ( Rama II. , 1766-1824) wrote another version for dancers. This special form of courtly dance, Khon ( Thai : โขน ) called only stories from the Ramakian has to content. The dancers wear elaborate costumes and masks. The latter mainly serve to identify the various characters.

Performance of the khon dance in Frankfurt / Main

Originally the khon dance was only performed at the king's court. This art form was introduced to the common people about 100 years ago and is now part of the teaching program of the Thai College of Dramatic and Performing Arts . On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol's throne , 40 dancers and musicians presented the khon dance in a tour from September 13, 2006 to October 1, 2006 for the first time in Germany and Switzerland. Today the khon dance is regularly performed at the Sala Chaloemkrung Royal Theater in Bangkok .

A Thai epic

Bas-reliefs on the jeweled wall of the Ubosot in Wat Pho , Bangkok

The Ramakian has become an integral part of Thai culture since its inception. Today it is hardly seen as an adaptation of someone else's poetry, but rather is part of one's own cultural identity.

The prerequisite for this was that the stories were adapted to the circumstances and way of life of the Thai. Not only were the names of the characters involved, from the god Phra Narai (Ramayana: Narayana ) to the hero Phra Ram (Ramayana: Rama ) to the demon Totsakan (Ramayana: Ravana ) adapted to Thai conditions, but also practically all other details the narrative. (The Thai names correspond to the names or surnames of the heroes in Sanskrit, for example the god Vishnu has the surname Narayana and the demon Ravana the surname Dashakantha , the "ten-necked"). Descriptions of places have also been adapted to the Thai country, for example Phra Ram is born as the son of the king of Ayutthaya (who is named after the Indian Ayodhya, Rama's hometown in Ramayana), as well as the descriptions of the palaces, the clothes of the actors, their customs and manners and much more.

There are also some differences in content to the Ramayana. While the main features of the narrative correspond to that of the Indian model, the role of Hanuman , god-king of the monkeys, for example , has been expanded and a happy ending has been added to the story.

The Ramakian of King Phra Phutthayotfa is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Thai literature and had a great influence on its development. It is still read and taught in schools across the country today. The performing arts , especially Thai dance , were also influenced by it. So go Khon and Nang , originally the royal court imposed dramatic arts, attributed.

The question of whether the Ramakian should not be seen as a Hindu rather than a Buddhist work is answered in the negative by Paula Richman. She quotes the epilogue written by King Phra Phutthayotfa himself: "Those who attend a festive performance of the Ramakian should not be blinded by beautiful glow, they should pay close attention to inconstancy." The Thai word the author used to convey the concept of deception is lailong , a direct translation of the Pali word moha . Moha is a central term in Buddhism, it refers to one of the three poisons of the mind ( kilesa - อา สว กิเลส ): greed ( lobha - โล ภะ ), hate ( dosa - โทสะ ) and delusion ( moha - โมหะ ). The word he used to remind his readers of impermanence is anitchang ( อนิจจัง ), the Thai transcription of the Pali word anicca . Rama I. - according to Paula Richman - has thus again stated in the epilogue his conviction that one can and should experience the Ramakian analogously to Buddhist teachings and insights.

Contents of the Ramakian

The story of the Ramayana is transferred to the Kingdom of Ayutthaya , where Phra Witsanu Vishnu is reborn as Phra Ram.

The main characters


  • Phra Itsuan - supreme god on the mountain of heaven Krai Lat ( Sk.īśvara , nickname for Lord Shiva )
  • Phra Narai - representative of Phra Itsuan (Sk. Nārāyaṇa appears in Sanskrit literature (general) as an epithet for Brahma, Vishnu and Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. In Thai, Phra Narai stands for the god Vishnu .)
  • Maliwarat - god of justice


  • Phra Ram - main character (corresponds to the Rama of the Ramayana), who embodies the good; he is introduced in the Ramakian as the son of the king Ekathotsarot of Ayutthaya and is the incarnation of the god Phra Narai.
  • Nang Sida Nonglak - the enchanting wife of Phra Ram who embodies purity and fidelity
  • Phra Lak, Phra Phrot and Phra Sat Rut - stepbrothers of Phra Ram and incarnations of different gods
  • Ekathotsarot ( Lord of the Ten Chariots ) - Third King of Ayutthaya and father of Phra Ram and his stepbrothers
Thotsakan - wall painting in Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok

Phra Ram's helpers

  • Hanuman - immortal monkey king who supports Phra Ram and symbolizes loyalty and helpfulness
  • Palithirat, Sukhrip - two uncles of Hanuman and successively kings of Kit Kin, the capital of the monkeys
  • Ongkhot - monkey prince and son of Pali Thirat

Opponent of the Phra Ram

  • Thotsakan - ten-headed king of the demons of Long Ka and strongest adversary of Phra Rams
  • Inthorachit - a son of Thotsakan
  • Kumphakan - stepbrother of Thotsakan and a demon with strong powers
  • Maiyarap - as a monkey with magical powers, king of the underworld


  • Thai Ramayana (abridged) - as written by King Rama I . Chalermint, Bangkok 2002 (fifth edition). ISBN 974-7390-18-3
  • Christian Velder: Ramakien: The battle of gods and demons . New Forum publisher, 1962.
  • JM Cadet: The Ramakien: The Stone Rubbings of the Thai Epic . Kodansha International Ltd., New York 1975 (2nd ed.), ISBN 0-87011-134-5
  • Lan Phuong & Matthias Stiefel: Ramakien. The battle of gods, heroes and demons . Hallwag Verlag, Ostfildern 1982. ISBN 978-3444510618
  • Nidda Hongvivan: The Story of Ramakian: From the Mural Paintings Along the Galleries of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha . Sangdad Publishing, Bangkok 2003. ISBN 974-758835-8
  • Jan Knappert. Mythology and Folklore in South-East Asia . Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 983-56-0054-6
  • Paula Richman (Ed.): Many Ramayanas - The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-520-07589-4 (online version here )

Individual evidence

  1. Paula Richman: Many Ramayanas , pp. 56–56

Web links

Commons : Ramakien (Thailand)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files