Page 11



was told in the shade theater, shadow -puppet show in a style adopt from Indonesia, in which the character were portrayed by leather dolls manipulated to cast shadows on a nearby screen while the spectators watched from the other side. The Thai version of the legends were first written down in the 18th century, during the Ayutthaya kingdom, follow -ing the demise of the Sukhothai government. Most editions, however, were lost when the city of Ayutthaya was destroyed by armies from Burma (modern Myanmar) in the year 1767. The version recognized today was compiled in the Kingdom of Siam under the supervision of King Rama I (1736-1809), the founder of the Chakri dynasty, which still maintains the throne of Thailand. Between the years

of 1797 and 1807, Rama I supervised the writing of the well-known edition and even wrote parts of it. It was also under the reign of Rama I that construction began on the Thai Grand Palace in Bangkok, which includes the grounds of the Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The walls of the Wat Pra Kaew are lavishly decorated with paintings representing stories from the Ramakien. Rama II (1766–1824) further adapted his father's edition of the Ramakien for the khon drama, a form of theater performed by non-speaking Thai dancers with elaborate costumes and masks. Narrations from the Ramakien were read by a chorus to one side of the stage. This version differs slightly from the one compiled by Rama I, giving an

PA G E 0 9

expanded role to Hanuman, the godking of the apes, and adding a happy ending. Since it’s introduction to the Thai people, the Ramakien has become a firm component of the culture. The Ramakien of Rama I is considered one of the masterpieces of Thai literature. It is still read, and is taught in the country's schools. In 1989, Satyavrat Shastri translated the Ramakien into a Sanskrit epic poem (mahakavya) named Ramakirtimahakavyam, in 25 sargas(cantos) and about1200 stanzas in 14 metres. This work won eleven national and international awards.