The Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian Rama yana, is an allegory of the triumph of good over evil. The hero, Rama, is a paragon of virtue – the ideal king. The villain, the demon king Tosakan, is a tragic character of great dignity. This epic tale is thought to have become established after the Thais occupied Angkor in the 15th century. It has been an inspiration for painting and classical drama. All the Chakri kings have taken Rama as one of their names, and the old capital of Ayutthaya was named after Ayodhya, a fictional kingdom in the story.
Rama, the heir to the throne of Ayodhya, is sent into exile for 14 years, through the intrigues of his stepmother. His wife, Sita, and brother Lakshman go with him deep into the forest. Tosakan, the demon king of Longka (Sri Lanka), abducts Sita and carries her off to his island kingdom in the hope of marrying her. The brothers pursue him. Hanuman, the white monkey god, volunteers his services. Together they win the alliance of two monkey kings, Sukrip and Chompupan, each with a powerful army. They march south to the coast opposite Longka. The monkey armies build a road of stone through the sea and lay siege to Longka. Many victorious battles are waged against Tosakan’s demon armies. Finally, when all his champions have been defeated, Tosakan fights Rama and is killed. Rama then crowns his ally, Piphek (Tosakan’s banished brother), as King of Longka and returns with Sita to resume his reign in Ayodhya.
Ramakien Murals at Wat Phra Kaeo
The Ramakien is beautifully depicted through a series of 178 colorful murals, dating from the late 18th century, at Wat Phra Kaeo. In this scene Hanuman displays his supernatural powers to assist Rama in rescuing Sita by building a stone causeway across the sea.
The Main Characters
Hundreds of characters are featured in the many episodes of the epic Ramakien. However, the central thread of the drama is carried by the five most important figures, who are described below.
Rama, often depicted with a deep green face, is an incarnation of the god Vishnu. Rama’s purpose is to defeat the demon race whose power threatens the gods.
Sita, the daughter of Tosakan’s consort and incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi, remains loyal to Rama while held captive by the evil Tosakan.
Lakshman, Rama’s loyal younger brother, is often shown in gold. He accompanies Rama into exile in the forest.
Hanuman, the white monkey, son of the wind god, is totally devoted to Rama, but still finds time to seduce beautiful women.
Tosakan (meaning “ten necks”), the demon king of Longka, has multiple heads and arms. In the Indian version of the Ramayana he is called Ravanna.
Hanuman finds Sita imprisoned by the wicked king of Longka, Tosakan. He gives her Rama’s ring and tells her she will soon be rescued. Hanuman, the white monkey, son of the wind god, is totally devoted to Rama, but still finds time to seduce beautiful women. Tosakan (meaning “ten necks”), the demon king of Longka, has multiple heads and arms. In the Indian version of the Ramayana