How the Ramakian Heritage Survives in Thailand

Srisurang Poolthupya

Professor Emeritus of History, Director of India Studies Centre (1993-97), Thammasat University;
Fellow of the Royal Institute, Academy of Arts.


The Ramakian, based on the main theme of the Indian Ramayana epic, is a valuable Thai heritage. How it has survived through centuries to the present is not accidental. A literary work of the Ayutthaya period, partly lost during the fall of the kingdom, the Ramakian was recollected and rewritten by several Thai kings to preserve the work for posterity. The main reasons for the survival of the Ramakian are due to King Rama I and his successors’efforts to keep alive the Ramakian as literature, a performing art as well as a fine art. The Ramakian was composed to serve the past and present needs of Thai society: Buddhist, social, and political Thai traditions were woven into the original Indian story that belongs to the Hindu tradition. The Ramakian relates the life of Rama, an ideal king. The story frowns upon treason and other bad practices. The Ramakian is kept alive through literature, performing arts and fine arts. Other countries in Southeast Asia also have their Ramayana stories; having the same tradition serves to encourage friendship and a shared culture between these countries. The present age of globalization may threaten to destroy the Ramakian-Ramayana heritage and we need to find ways to preserve it, perhaps by globalizing it so that its value may be well-accepted by all.

Key words: The Ramakian heritage in Thailand