Ramayana is an epic ancient scripture which highlights the legend of Shri Rama and is considered one of the greatest Hindu literary works of all time. Due to Hinduism’s far-flung outreach not only in India but in many other Asian and non-Asian countries as well, Lord Rama’s adventures, his heroism, and his valor is venerated all across the world since centuries!
The Ramayana was the brainchild of a Vedic-era sage, Valmiki who strived towards presenting the life-story of Lord Rama for his disciples who wish to follow the eternal path of ‘Dharma’ (righteousness) and to interpret the meanings of the Vedas in our life with respect to a more virtuous lifestyle.
The Ramayana has permeated physical boundaries of the world and is now revered across many nations such as Japan, China, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Philippines, Cambodia, Tibet, Myanmar, Thailand, etc. in various forms and by different names.
Let’s look at how the Ramayana is known as in different countries of the world:
Ramayana in Asian Culture
Ramayana in Myanmar (Burma)
The Ramayana in Burmese is known as the ‘Yamayana’, ‘Yama’ or ‘Zatdaw’ (acted play of Jataka Tales). It is the unofficial national epic of Myanmar. In this version, Rama is called ‘Yama’, Sita is called ‘Thida‘ and Ravana is called ‘Yawana’.
Ramayana in Cambodia (Kampuchea)
In Khmer literature, Ramayana is known as Reamker (Ramakerti – Lord Rama (Rama’s) + Kirti (Glory). It adapts concepts of Hinduism and Buddhism together and the balance of good and evil in this world.
It is different from the original Ramayana in many ways because it does not have many scenes like the emphasis of Lord Hanuman and Suvannamaccha [Goldfish-like daughter of Tosakantha (Ravana)]. It has many influences from the Thai and Lao version of the original epic.
Ramayana in Malaysia (Melayu)
In Malay literature, Ramayana takes the form of Hikayat Seri Rama which is almost similar to the original Sanskrit epic.
In some branch stories, Malay storytellers have produced versions in which Laksmana (Lakshman) plays a bigger role than Rama (the elder prince) similar to the Phra Lak Phra Lam of Laos where Laksmana takes center-stage for his courage and Rama is perceived to be weaker than his brother.
Ramayana in Thailand (Siam)
In Thailand, it is known as Ramakien and is also considered as the national book of Thailand. In early Thailand (Siam), the Kings of the last dynasty called Rama (Ram) held themselves as the true descendants of Lord Shri Rama and thus the capital of Siam was known as Ayutthaya (similar to Shri Rama’s capital of Ayodhya in India). Most Kings had Rama as a prefix or suffix in their names as well.
Ramayana in Indonesia (Bali, Java, Sumatra)
Ramayana is known differently on different islands of Indonesia. It is called Ramakavaca in Bali, Kakawin or Yogesvara Ramayana in Java and Ramayana Swarnadwipa in Sumatra.
The Indonesian Ramayana traces its roots to the Sri Lankan version of Ramayana written in Tamil by Rishi Kamban and called Ramavataram. In the original Ramayana and the Indonesian version, the first half is same (Bala Kanda and Ayodhya Kanda), however, the latter part is different. For example, the Indian Ramayana portrays Goddess Sita as timid and soft, whereas the Indonesian version shows her as a strong and powerful woman who fights the Asuras herself without depending on Lord Rama.
Ramayana in Japan
In Japan, ‘Hobutsushu’ and ‘Sambo-Ekotoba’ are the most popular versions. In Ramaenna or Ramaensho, another adaption of the epic, Hanuman is ignored.
In another version is known as Bontenkoku, Tamawaka (Lord Rama) is portrayed as a flute player who rescues Himegini (Sita), his wife who was being held captive by King Baramon (Ravana).
Ramayana in the Philippines
The Maranao version is known as Maharadia Lawana (Ravana). In this one, many characters, names, and events are different from the original since it seems to narrate the adventures and life of the monkey-king, Maharadia Lawana who has a gift of immortality from the supreme gods.
The Singkil dance of Philippines is inspired from this epic.
Ramayana in China
In the Chinese Jataka stories of Rama, Liudu ji jing, a Buddhist text tells the story of Ramayana. In popular folklore, Sun Wukong, a monkey-king bears a stark resemblance to Lord Hanuman.
Ramayana in Laos
Lao people believe that Laos was a city of King Lava who was the son of Rama (Lava-Kusa were sons of Rama and Sita) and their mention is found in Phra Lak Phra Ram, the national epic of the Lao’s.
Ramayana in Iraq
During archaeological excavations in Iraq, 6000-year old carvings of apes and men have been found in a cave chapel built in Silemania, Iraq. The carvings resemble Warad Sin and Ram Sin of Larsa who ruled Mesopotamia for 60 years. The Jataka tales also confirm that Lord Rama ruled his kingdom for 60 years.
Ramayana In European Culture
Ramayana in Russia
The Kalmyks of Russia trace roots from Mongolia. In Mongolia, a commentary by Dmar-ston Chos-rgyal of Dbus commentates about the Ramayana in Subhasitaratnanidhi.
Russian researchers claim that Kaikeyi (Queen of Ayodhya) was from Russia and also that the Vedas were written in Arctic Russia.
Ramayana in Italy
In some archaeological excavations, wall paintings in Italian houses from 7 BC depict scenes from the Ramayana such as many persons with tails and two men accompanied by a lady, and the men have bows and arrows on their shoulders.
Ramayana In South American Culture
Ramayana teachings in South America tell the story of Hanuman traveling to Patala Loka (South America) through a tunnel in Madhya Pradesh while trying to rescue Rama and Lakshman who were kidnapped by Mahiravana, the step-brother of Ravana.
As you can see, thanks to the Ramayana, the legend of Shri Rama has transcended many religious, cultural and physical boundaries of the world.
Due to the influx of many travelers to and from India to the world, the Ramayana had become very popular in many civilizations across the world and led to the emergence of various local versions of the epic poem.
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