The various interpretations of the Indian epic Ramayana, originally written in Sanskrit by sage Valmiki, take the basic plot but modify it according to their own cultures. The popular ones can be found in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, among other countries. In Dashratha Jataka, the Buddhist version of the Ramayana, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are sent to a hermitage in the Himalayas for 12 years in order to protect them from his over-ambitious third wife Kaikeyi, instead of being banished from the kingdom as is popularly believed. In the Jain version, it is Lakshmana who kills Ravana and both of them go to hell. In the end, Rama renounces his kingdom and becomes a Jain monk to attain moksha. In Hikayat Seri Rama, the Malay version of the epic, Lakshmana is glorified and given more importance in some incidents as compared to Rama. Ramakien is the Thai version where Hanuman essays a prominent role.
The event was initiated by ICCR with an aim to further enhance India-Asean ties. “India enjoys strong civilisational links with all ASEAN countries. Ramayana is read and performed in various countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The epic is not only a reflection of the strong cultural and civilisational links we have with these countries but it also strengthens the bond which is a mutual heritage and a binding factor”, said Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, president, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). The ongoing event can be witnessed in the city till tomorrow.
The oldest and universally acclaimed epics of history have been the backbone in restoring cultural values where religion is given prominence. Therefore, the efforts of ICCR are a stepping stone in this regard as the values are slowly being forgotten by the millenials.
At the ASEAN-India commemorative summit, the leaders released a commemorative Ramayana postage stamp. “Ramayana is considered to be one of the signature epics of the entire Eastern world and, therefore, its influence is not confined to the Indian boundaries. It’s a great platform to unite the countries with different sensibilities, religions and linguistic backgrounds to the ethos of this epic,” said Sahasrabuddhe.
The different Southeast Asian countries participating in the festival presented their own viewpoint of the epic. It will travel to Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Ayodhya, and Kolkata. Riva Ganguly, Director General, ICCR gave us an insight. “The event was inaugurated with the mask dance-drama of the Ramakien from Thailand called Khon. It unveiled the metaphor of the chase of the golden stag followed by the royal combat between Pra Ram (son of the king Thotsarot of Ayutthaya), and Thotsarot (King of Ayutthaya and father of Phra Ram and his brothers) on the other side.” While the main story of Ramakien is identical to that of the Ramayana, several other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the costumes, weapons, topography and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style.
This was followed by Royal Pontaw from Myanmar and Phralak Phralam (Lao Ramayana) from Lao PDR. In the two-episode series, the first depicted the Sita Swayamvar and Rama pursuing the enchanted golden deer and the other showed the abduction of Sita. There were also performances from other countries – Malaysia (Kshetra Academy), Indonesia (Legong Jobog), Brunie (Seri Rama, a Bruneian epic) and Philippines (Ramayana group). “Our attempt has always been to take our incoming cultural troupes from abroad to different cities of India and this time, we’re trying to take them to such parts of India where international culture doesn’t take place like Shillong, Iswal etc. This would help in fulfilling our aim of taking international art and culture to all parts of India”, she further added.
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