A Timeless Tale
India - Beyond Borders
Bali, Indonesia - Southeast Sojourns
Cambodia, Khmer - Islands and Isthmus
Thailand - Adaptations across Asia
Java, Indonesia - Modern Manifestation
IMPORTANT NAMES depending on the versions
Rama, Ram, Bhargava
Ravana, Dashagriva, Dashakantha, Dashamukha, Asura Vana
Shiva, Ishvara, Mahadeva
Sita, Janaki, Maithili
Three examples of the different treatments of a story depending
on the versions.
1- Battle of the Buffalo
2- Perfect Prize
3- The Sorrow of Separation
|A Timeless Tale|
Ramayana, the ancient Indian tale of devotion, separation, and reunion, is a story almost as old as civilization itself. It is an expression of the eternal battle between good and evil, ranging from short stories to lengthy epics. Combining elements of religion, romance, myth, magic, action, adventure, fantasy, and a fascination cast of characters including gods, goddesses, semi-divine humans, amazing monkeys, and powerful ogres, the story of Rama’s love for Sita and her abduction by Ravana, king of the ores, has withstood the rest of time and nationality. For over two thousand years, the story has captured the imagination of peoples from India to Iran, Tibet to Thailand, Cambodia to China, Japan to Java, Malaysia to Myanmar, and Sri Lanka to Siberia. In journeys beyond the geography of its setting and origin, it was even adapted by other religions in the process, local cultures have transformed Ramayana – more than any other story in the world – into a rich source of inspiration for the arts in a great variety of literary traditions, narrative expressions, artistic manifestations, and performance styles.
In this timeless tale, the birth of Ravana and the ogres throws the universe into chaos as they attack heaven, earth, and the underworld, yet Ravana’s wicked deeds do not go unpunished; everyone curses him. To help defeat Ravana, the god’s father monkeys, most prominent among who is the powerful Hanuman. Meanwhile, Ravana continues his rampages and is even captured. Promising good behavior, he is released, but resumes his terrorizing ways, and is cursed by even more people. The god Vishnu finally incarnates as Rama and his brothers, while a goddess violated by Ravana is reborn as Sita. When Rama grows up, he wins the hand of Sita in a contest. Rama’s aging father wishes to crown Rama as his successor, but it thwarted by a joiner queen, who forces her husband to put her own son on the throne. Rama is banished to the forest. Meanwhile, similar events are taking place in the monkey kingdom. Due to a misunderstanding over a fight with a buffalo demon, the monkey king Vali expels his brother Sugriva.
While Rama and Sita are living in exile, an ogress sties to seduce Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, who accompanies them. Disgusted, he mutilates her, but she lies about this to her older brother Ravana. She convinces him to abduct Sita and make her his wife. An ogre changes into an enchanted deer to tempt Sita and lure Rama and Lakshmana away from her. The plan succeeds, and Ravan comes in disguise to abduct Sita. A huge bird tries to rescue her but fails. When Rama and Lakshmana return to find Sita missing, they begin to search for her. Along the way they run into Sugriva, who offers his help on condition that he is made king of the monkeys again. Rama restores him to the throne, and Sugriva sends in the monkey forces. Following many leads, they learn where she has been taken, and Hanuman leaps across the sea to find her. He meets Sita and tells her of Rama’s continuing love for her. Hanuman allows himself to be captured by the ogres who try to burn him to death, but he breaks free and sets their kingdom on fire.
The monkeys construct a causeway to reach the island where Sita is held captive, and together with Rama they march across and take siege of the city. Ravana refuses to negotiate a peaceful settlement, and ignores advice from his younger brother, Vibhishana, to return Stia in order to avoid destruction of the ogres. Furious, Ravana banishes him and Vibhishana joins forces with Rama. War breaks out. The ogres use magical weapons, but the gods help Rama. With Vibhishana’s help in revealing the ogres’ weaknesses, the monkeys are victorious. Ravana summons his gigantic younger brother and his most powerful son into battle, but after ferocious clashes, they are killed. An ogre abducts Rama and Lakshmana to the underworld and tries to slay them, but Hanuman comes to the rescue. Other friends of Ravana give their support but are killed also. Finally, Ravana goes to the battlefield and meets his death at the hands of Rama.
Before Rama is reunited with Sita, however, he orders her to undergo a trial by fire to prove her purity during her long captivity. She survives the public ordeal and returns home with Rama and them monkeys. Vibhishana is crowned king of the ogres as a reward for his assistance, but some surviving ogres and the sons of Ravana depose him. Rama sends his brothers to restore Vibhishana to the throne. Peace does not last very long, for there is lingering suspicion over Sita’s behavior during her captivity. Rama banishes her to the forest where she gives birth to twin sons. Finally, Rama conducts a grand ritual to show his supremacy and meets his sons. He tries to persuade Sita to return to him, but she is disgusted with his treatment of her. She feels s it is time to end her long suffering and descends into the earth. Rama reigns for a long time before leaving the mortal world and resuming his divine form. In heaven he is reunited with the goddess who was Sita.
In India, here the epic originated, the poet Valmiki may have composed Ramayana in Sanskrit as early as the 8th century BCE or even as recent as the 4th century CE. Most scholars, however, agree upon a time between 400-200 BCE. Whatever the year may actually be, the story gradually grew over the centuries until it reached epic proportion. While other narratives undoubtedly existed then as they do today in nearly every language in India, Valmiki Ramayana represents a compilation of various oral and literary traditions, including Vedic myths from the 12th century BCE. Nearly 25,000 verses are divided into around seven hundred chapters and grouped into seven books. Other different narratives in Sanskrit include the 12th century Bhushundi Ramayana, Adbhuta Ramayana and Adhyatma Ramayana, and 17th century Ananda Ramayana. Followers of the Jain religion adapted the epic with Paumachariyam in Prakrit as early as the late 3rd or early 4th century. Since killing is a sin in Jainism, Lakshmana fights Ravana to the death and is punished for it. Rama and Sita remain celibate, which is a Jain virtue, adding doubts not only to Sita’s chastity during her captivity but also regarding the paternity of the sons born to her.
Hindi and northern narratives of the epic, such as the 16th century Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, emphasize the divine nature of Rama that developed from Vishnu devotional cult since the 10th century. While northern and Sanskrit variations are popular in Nepal, local writers during the 19th century also composed Sundarananda Ramayana and Adarsha Raghava in Nepali. Changes appeared earlier during the 14th century in the northeast with Katha Ramayana from Assam and Krittivas Ramayan from West Bengal and later in the eastern coastal state of Orissa during the 16th century with Jagamohan Ramayana. Minor changes also took place in the western Indian states of Gujarat with Ramabalalila in the late 15th or early 16th century and Ramavatar from Punjab during the 17th century. In south Indian traditions, there are trends toward stronger female characters, increased importance of the monkeys, more sympathetic portrayals of the ogres, and frequent use of magic. These features appeared as early as the 12tgh century in the Malayalam Rmacharitam and Tamil Kamban Iramavataram, 13th century Telugu Rangganatha Ramayanam, and later in the 16th century Kannada Torave Ramayana.
Further south and across the narrow straits to Sri Lanka, the ogres become more noble and heroic. Based on its name and geographic location. The island even might be Langka of the epic. A series of natural formations in the narrow straits between India and Sri Lanka are believed to be remnants of the causeway. While Hinduism may have been dominant in the past and is practiced by the minority Tamil population today, the majority of Sinhalese are overwhelmingly Theravada Buddhists. Yet the 7th century Janakiharana is not a Buddhist tale mainland Southeast Asian Theravada Buddhist countries. In Sri Lanka, the story did not evolve as much, which may have been reinforced by the introduction of traditions from southern India during the 19th century.
As evidence of the extent that the epic traveled – along inland trade routes – variations of the story are found in areas towards the north, west, and central parts of Asia. Between the 13th to 19th centuries, the Persian and Mogul sultanates adapted Hindu culture into Islaamic art and literature, resulting in such works as the 16th century Dastan-e-Ram O Sita and Razmnama from Persia (Iran), and 18th century Pothi Ramayan in Urdu, the language of Pakistan. During the 19th century, Ramavatara Charita was written in Kashmir, another predominantly Muslim area. The story, however, was not Islamised in any of these narratives. In distant Xinjing in northwest China, the 9th century Khotances Ramakatha has a Buddist orientation. This probably was due to influences from Dunhuang, an important central Asian Buddhist center during the 7th to 9th centuries. Dunhuang also had a later impact on the 13th century Tibetan Son-om Gar-a and 15th century Zhang-zhung-pa Chowanga-drak-pai-pal.
During the early 9th century, a vassal Cambodian prince of the Buddhist Shailendra kingdom that ruled Java during the time established his own empire of Angkor. The Khmer Reamker is quite distinct from the Old Javanese Hindu literary tradition that developed toward the end of the same century. Instead, the Khmer probably received the epic through southern Indian sources, for it also differs from northern narratives. In Indian mythology, Vishnu incarnates as Rama and later as Buddha, thus enabling the previously Hindu Khmers to continue accepting the epic and spreading it wherever their vast empire reached. Numerous bas-reliefs of the epic at the 10th century Banteasy Srei temple and 12th century Angkor Wat temple are proof of this Hindu-Buddhist syncretism. With the Thai destruction of Angkor during the 14th century, what the Khmers lost the Thais continued as Ramakian. The Khmer version was recomposed in two parts during the 16th or 17th century and 18th or 19th century, probably based on indigenous folk narratives along with Thai traditions.
The Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya, named after Rama’s capital of Ayodhya, was itself sacked and destroyed by invading armies from Myanmar in the 18th century, resulting in the loss of literary works. When a new capital was established at Bangkok shortly after, one of the first tasks of King Rama I, who took on the name of the hero of the epic, was to have the lost Ramakian composed again. The episodes were rearranged, however, in a more linear time fashion. In addition, Tamil tradition probably played an important role in the royal literary effort, for the Thai epic has many features in common with southern Indian ideas, such as strong females (which also is an indigenous Thai trait), soul transfer, and characters magically transforming themselves into other beings. Many of the ogres have special powers or weapons, and they are defeated in unique ways with help from Vibhisana. Hanuman becomes as lover to many women and has several wives, thus completely going against the entire Indian tradition in which he remains celibate and unmarried. The brothers of Rama and even his sons battle against the surviving ogres and destroy them, thus repeating several motifs and greatly increasing the length of the epic.
The story in Myanmar does share some features with the Thai version due to the conquest, but there are important differences, notably the absence of a Buddhist tone to the epic in spite of the fact that most people in Myanmar are followers of Buddhism. Myanmar is geographically closer to India and shares an eastern border with northeast India. This region is home to several tribal groups with Ramayana traditions of their own that differ from classical northern and eastern Indian literature. The rugged terrain, however, was not conducive to extensive cultural contact between tribal groups and court centers in Myanmar. Instead, there are interesting similarities between the 17th century Myanmar Yama Watthu and 19th century Maha Yama with Malay tradition.
Islands and Isthmus
In Indonesia, the Hindu Javanese Kakawin Ramayana in the Old Javanese or Kawi language from the 9th century CE closely follows the Valmiki narrative but in an abridged form, for it was based on a summary in a manula on Sanskrit grammar. The 9th century Prambanan temple complex in Central Java and 14th century Panataran Temple in East Java is rich with narrative bas-relief carvings of the epic. Javanese in fluence on the neighboring island of Bali began during the 11th century, and Kawi literature also became a part of Balinese tradition. With the coming of Islam to Java and the rise of sultanates on the island during the 16th century, the Javanese adapted the epic to the new religion. The 18th century sultanate of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat, more popularly known as Yogyakarta or Yogya, was named after the capital city of Rama, Ayudhay. Rama also became one of the ancestors in the royal genealogy, and new episodes were created and borrowed for the 19th century Serat Rama that is used in the leather puppet theatre up to the present. Java could not entirely abandon fifteen centuries of Hindu Buddhist tradition, but the Balinese continued the practices with great exuberance that continues today.
In Malaysia where Islamisation began earlier during the 13th century, the divine status of Rama was greatly reduced. He is more human, capable of committing errors and susceptible to his emotions, thus retaining and gaining acceptance among Malay Muslims by the 15th century. Through various indigents in Hikayat Seri Rama and Cherita Maharaja Wana that were written during the late 16th or early 17th century, all the main characters are closely related to each other, with Sita as the daughter of Ravana, and Hanuman being the son of Rama and Sita. As in the Thai tradition, Hanuman is a great lover o woman. The contest to win the hand of Sita involves numerous tests of the problem over the succession to the throne. The large number of new episodes, especially in the leather puppet theatre, shows how popular Ramayana remained in Malaysia due to centuries of Cambodian and Thai influences with which it shares many features. As with the Javanese, it was a story that could not be forgotten let alone eliminated even among Muslims, for it remains deep in the Malay subconscious. Some episodes also are based upon local folktales and variations of Javanese romances. While Malays are ethnically, linguistically, and culturally related to the Javanese, their Ramayana traditions are quite different. Most similarities are as recent as the 19th century and seem to indicate that t he Javanese also may have borrowed from the Malays.
Among one Islamic group on the southern island of Mindanao in predominantly Christian Philippines, Maharadia Lawana is unique. The Maranao people are seafarers with ethnic, cultural, and historical links to other maritime communities and sultanates in the area, so journeys by boat are common in life and literature. While some motifs may have come from Malay and Javanese traditions, the elements have evolved and changed so much between the mid-17th and early 19th centuries that the story can be considered as an independent tradition. These include ball-kicking games, rattan tightropes, and water buffalo and crocodile allies.
Interestingly enough, Lao narratives have much in common with Malay traditions in spite of their ethnic and linguistic differences and the geographic distance between them. Perhaps this may be due to the ancient Cambodian kingdoms that once encompassed these diverse areas. Subsequent Thai and Vietnamese attacks by land against the Khmer center led to the loss of traditions in the fertile plains, but not in the further reaches of the empire in t he remote mountainous interior and distant coasts of the peninsula. The epic takes place mostly in Laos with boat journeys along the Mekong River, a reflection of the geography and isolation in this land-locked country. As in most Asian countries, the origins of local place names are based on events in the story. Rama is considered to be a previous incarnation of Buddha in Laos, just as he is in Cambodia and Thailand. Female characters are very strong and even become amazon warriors in Guay Duorahbi that may date from the 15th or 16th century, which is reflected in the independent character of Lao women today. Pha Lak Pha Lam from the 19th century involves the abduction of two women by Ravana, which accounts for its considerable length. A unique addition is a magical flying and talking horse, a motif found in a more basic form in some Malay stories. Hanuman also is the son of Rama as in Malaysia. Dream sequences frequently appear in both Lao and Thai tradition.
Adaptations across Asia
Temple inscriptions from Champa in resent-day Vietnam indicate that the epic already was known there by the 7th century CE. However, the tradition disappeared there and has only resurfaced recently. The story of the monkey Sun Wu Kong in the 16th century Chinese classic Journey to the West, more popularly known as Monkey, often is compared to Ramayana. While motifs were undoubtedly borrowed from the epic, the basic plot does not deal with love, separation, and reunion. There are basic parallels with a monk’s efforts to obtain sacred Buddhist scripture, assisted by a powerful monkey who helps in battles against demons. However, China and Japan have stories that are closer in plot to the epic itself, although the battles are greatly reduced in number or even eliminated in some cases. These shortened summaries from the 3rd century CE of Ramayana are known as Jataka tales, stories of the former lives of Buddha that usually are embedded in such religious texts as Six Parimitra Sutra. Abridged Japanese variations were written during the 10th century as Sambo Ekotoba and 12th century as Hobutsushu. Mongolia also has its own tale in the 19th century Bolor Toli as part of religious literature. While nothing has been found for Korea so far, this does not mean that the tradition does not exist, only that research needs to be done. Considering the historical, cultural, and religious ties with its neighbors, it would be very unusual if Korea did not have some form of the epic. Every country around Korea has some variation of the story, including Siberia since the 18th century.
Language, culture, custom, history, and religion have shaped Ramayana throughout Asia, but the basic story can still be recognized in its many different manifestations, ancient and modern. Oral and literary versions of the epic have inspired the visual and performing arts everywhere, proof that it remains a living tradition. In India, these include ancient temple carvings in stone and wood, classical and folk paintings, dances, and ceremonial dramas, all sorts of puppets, and toys. Bengali singers travel room village to village, unrolling painted scrolls of episodes from the story to the accompaniment of narrative songs. Every year for at least ten days, Hindus across many parts of India celebrate the Deshara festival. During this time episodes from Ramayana are performed, culminating in the death of Ravana and the burring of huge ogre effigies to symbolist the victory of good over evil.
The epic is so famous that some Chinese and Vietnamese opera troupes have a adapted it into their repertoires by selecting Ramayama characters from the great number of traditional opera roles. In Myanmar, temple carvings, dances, marionettes, and elaborate applique hangings portray scenes from the story. Variuous types of puppets, court and popular dance dramas, and temple murals and carvings are common throughout Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. It is common to find Ramayana episodes depicted next to Buddhist images stories in temples, as at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. Of all the performing arts, however, nothing else can match the complete spectacle of the Cambodian nang sbek thom and related Thai nang yai. To the accompaniment of gongs, drums, and wind instruments, dozens of large figures cut from leather are animated by many dancers in the front and back of a huge screen lit by fire (even by a large cremation pyre) or electric lights. This clearly shows the close connections between dance and puppetry, for silhouettes of the performers are visible throughout the performance. From the royal courts evolved lengthy dramas with elaborately dressed dancers wearing fantastic masks. Even village groups adapted the masked dance style.
Malay puppeteers perform old and new episodes from the epic with small leather figures that have only one moveable arm. Similar all night puppet plays with stylized figures that have two articulated arms take place in Java, in addition to dance dramas as refined courtly ceremony and popular operatic style. Ancient Javanese temple carvings visually narrate the story in long series of bas-reliefs. The Balinese paint and carve popular scenes and characters from Ramayana for their temples and houses, as well as restaurants and hotels. During religious ceremonies, the Balinese recite the story in poetry, or perform episodes in masked dance dramas and leather puppet plays with shadows cast by the flickering flame of an oil lamp. Mysterious illnesses can be cured by puppet performances in which ogres are destroyed, since the Balinese traditionally believe that evil spirits are responsible for health problem.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, Ramayana continues to exert its influence in many aspects of contemporary society. All across India, temples and shrines dedicated to Hanuman far outnumber those for Rama or any other character. A television series of the epic produced during the late 1980s became one of the most popular events in Indian broadcasting history. Viewers stopped work and school to watch with great devotion, and many even decorated their television sets with flowers like temple shrines. The series also was extremely popular in other countries where it was shown.
Perhaps nowhere else in Southeast Asia is the epic so evident as in Thailand. Rama is a previous incarnation of Buddha, and as the supreme monarch he is deemed faultless. Even today, it is against the law to insult the king. Since the current dynasty was established in the 18th century, Thai kings have been called Rama. Ordinaries Thais accord their monarch divine status, while influences of the epic permeate many aspects of s social and cultural life. Four of the Thai royal barges have monkey figures straddling cannons that are mounted on their bows, while modern naval vessels and aircraft are named after some of the characters. Bamboo rockets used during annual rain making rituals sometimes bear colorful cutout images of aerial scenes from the epic. Total destruction caused by storms as well as fatal traffic accidents that claim many lives are named after Ravana. Sacred Buddhist manuscripts often are stored in lacquered cabinets decorated with gold leaf illustrations from the epic. Traditional astrology is based upon characters and episodes, while some figures are invited to attend house purification rituals. Classical dancers pray to masks of the characters placed upon an altar with offerings before performing, and dolls dressed as court dancers are displayed in many homes. Techniques in traditional massage bear the names of hermits and their particular skills known in the story. Thai kick-boxers use fighting positions named after characters and incidents as metaphors of movement. Tattoos or images of Hanuman worn on their bodies bestow strength, courage, endurance, and protect against pain during bouts. On a more mundane level, images from the epic appear on advertisements, kites, T-shirts, calendars, coasters, postage stamps, telephone cards, matchboxes, and twice as collector cards in cigarette packs in the past.
The epic influences social, economic, and political life in some very interesting ways. For the Javanese, the contrasting actions of Kumbhakarna who supports and defends his country even if the king is leading it into disaster, versus Vibhishana who deserts his erring monarch for a just one but betrays the nation, is a focal point of debate. Perhaps it helps explains the confusing alliances and shifting loyalties throughout modern Indonesian political history. The Javanese identify with epic characters and often seem to be following different interpretations of the plot. The term of address for a highly respected Javanese man in Rama, which is pronounced Romo and also refers to a Roman Catholic priest in Indonesia. Streets, shops, and manufactured products are named after characters from the story, and a series of postage stamps once bore images of dancers in important roles. The Southeast Asian Games held in 1997 used Hanuman as its mascot. Balinese puppet style paintings from the epic decorate bamboo hats, lampshades, fans, cloth wallets, canvas portfolios, coconut shells, cups, boxes, and wooden egg ornaments.
In Lao, Malay, and Filipino traditions, Rama is not exiled due to conflict over the throne; power is passed on with out question. Lao women continue to have considerable power and influence in society. The numerous scandals and the need to continuously prove oneself in the Malay stories take on more importance in light of recent events in the country. Similarly, the theme of civil war between Rama and his sons in the Khmer Reamker perhaps adds poignancy and helps in understanding the horrific period of the Killing Fields. Yet the tradition managed to survive under the most terrible conditions in Cambodia, proof of its strong and lasting appeal.
Throughout the tumultuous centuries, and especially more recent history when nations in the region struggled to become independent and modern entities, Ramayana has survived. It has withstood time and distance by adapting to religious change, political crises, social upheaval, and modernization. The eternal epic provides guidance for coping with change. For many Asian cultures, it has been more than just a story, and a very good one.
In the text Sanskrit names are used, followed in parentheses by the name in the language of the episode when it appears for the first time although shortened forms are use throughout the text, complete names are given below. Only names that are different from Sanskrit are listed, but that proceeded by an asterisk are not found in the Valmiki Ramayana.
While spellings vary considerably, attempts have been mad to include t he most common forms. Letters or parts of words in parentheses are optional. In Thai and Lao, the pronunciation usually is shown rather than the actual spelling. Vowel signs and diacritical marks are not shown. However, “c” has been spelt as “ch”, and “s” with any diacritical mark as “sh”, and “n” with a dot above it as “ng” (except in the case of Sri Lanka, pronounced Shri Langka, and Begal, pronounced Benggal). In Myanmar “th” is pronounced as in “thing”, “gy” as “j”, and “ky” as “ch”.
|Ayodhya: capital city of Dasharatha’s kingdom|
Chinese: Yem-bu-dai, Yen-fu-ti
Javanese: Ayudya, Ngayodhya, Mandrapura
Lao: Meuang Chandahpuli Si Sattahnahgan, Meuang Chandahpuli Si Sattahnak, Kung Si Ahyutdiya Mahanahgan, Kung Si Ahyutdiya Mahahnak, Kung Si Ayuddiya Mahanahgan, Kung Si Ayuddiya Mahahnak (kingdom of Rama’s sons)
Malay: Andyapuri Negara, Ayodyapuri Negara, Ispahaboga, Mandarapura Negara, Sertapura, Siusia Mendarpapura, Tiutia Mendarapura
Maranao: Pula Agama Niog, Tanjong Bunga
Thai: Ayudhya, Ayutthaya, Luang
Vietnamese: Ho Tom Tinh
|Brahma: god of creation|
Japanese: (Dai) bon-ten
Khmer: Preah Brahm, Preah Taprohm
Lao: Ph(r) a Bohm, Ph(r) a Bommah
Mongolian: Esrua, Esrun Tengri
Thai: Phra Brom
Tibetan: Tshangs-pa dKar-po
|Garuda: sun bird; king of the birds; vehicle of Vishnu|
Chinese: jinchi niao
Lao: kut, khut
|Hanuman, Hanumat, Anjaneya, Anjata, Maruti: sof of Anjana and Vayu; monkey leader|
Javanese: Anoman, Senggana
Khmer: Anjat, Anujit
Lao: Hanumon(e), Hulahman, Hunahman, Huonahman, Huorahman
Malay: haduman, Hanuman Kera Putih, Kera Kechil Iman Tergangga, Phalawan Udara, ShahNuman
Maranao: Laksamana (Mangawarna is the name of Lakshmana)
Thai: Anchar, Wanon
Tibetan: Hanumandha, Hanumanta
Chinese: long, lung
Javanese: Ragawa, Ramachandra, Sri Rama(wijaya)
Khamti: Chao Laman
Khmer: Preah Ram, Preah Ream
Lao: Ph(r)a Lahmahrat, Ph(r)a Lamma
Malay: Agung Gempita, Seri Rama
Maranao: Radia Mangandiri
Thai: Daranoi, Phram, Phara Ram
Vietnamese: Chung Du
Javanese: Rahwana, Dasamuka
Kawi: Rawana, Dasamukha
Khmer: Rab(n), Rabana, Krong Reap
Lao: Bommahchak, Dotsakhan, Haphanasun, Rabbahnasun
Malay: Dauwichit, Gambar mahasakti, maharaja Duwana, maharaja Wana, Rahana, Raja Di Rimba, Rawana
Maranao: Maharadia Lawana, Maharadia Duwan
Mongolian: Mangus, Tesegiriy, Tisegiri
Tibetan: Ashapa, mDa’shagriba
Vietnamese: Trang Minh
Balinese: Bhatara Guru, Iswara, Mahadewa, Siwa
Hindi: Ishvar, mahadev, Shiv
Japanese: Daijizai-ten, Jizai-ten
Javanese: Bhathara Guru, Manikmaya, Siwa
Khmer: Preah Eyso, Preah Isur
Malay: Bentara Guru, Dewata Mulya Raya, Gangga Sakti
Sundanese: Isora, Mahadewa, Siwa
Thai: Phra Isuan
Balinese: Dewi Sita
Javanese: Dewi Sinta
Karbi: Ita Kunri
Khmer: Neang Seda, Neang Seta, Neang Sita
Lao: Nang Sita
Malay: Puteri bungsu Hanyut, Chahaya Keinderaan, Sakutum Bunga Satangkai, Sita Dewi, Siti Dewi
Maranao: Tuwan Potre malaila Ganding, Tuwan Potre Malono Tihaia
Thai: Nang Piphat That Loi, Nang Sida
Tibetan: Rol-rNyed-ma, Zita
Vietnamese: Bach Tinh
Balinese: Dewi Tara
Javanese: Dewi Tara
Khmer: Neang Debi Tara
Lao: nang Kottahrat
Malay: dewi Bermakomala, Tuan Puteri Kacha
Sundanese: Puah Nilasita
Thai: Nang Kaew Dara
Khmer: Preah Bisnu, Preah Naray(n), Preah Nearay
Lao: Ph(r) a Nalai
Malay: Bisnu, Dewa Berembun
Thai: Phra Narai
Malay: Cherita Maharaja Wana
A cow buffalo secretly gives birth to Dundubhi (Katibihara) in a cave to save
to him form his father, who kills his sons at birth so as to remain the most
powerful buffalo. Dundubhi swears to end the tyranny of his father and waits
until their hoof prints are of the same size to ensure a fair fight. He asks
the Dewa Empat (Four Gods; probably Indra, Yama, Varuna, and Kubera) for help.
They empower each of his hoofs, and he kills his father.
Dundubhi challenges Vali (Bali) but denies receiving divine help when Vali asks about his strength. This offends the four gods, so they leave his hoofs. Vali kills the buffalo by twisting his neck, and foam comes out of the dying animal’s mouth, making his blood look lighter. Since Vali’s blood is white, Sugriva (Sagariwa), who is waiting outside for his brother, mistakenly concludes that Vali is dead,. He seals the cave with a boulder and returns to Kishkindha (Katakina), where Anggada and Nila (Anila) agree that he assumes the throne.
The Dewa Empat feel sorry for Vali, and in a dream tell him to cut off the head of Dundubhi and hurl it at the boulder blocking the entrance. Vali sets himself free and returns to Kishkindha. He finds Sugriva asleep with his three wives. Vali hurls Sugriva into the forest and banishes Anggada and Nila along with him. Sugriva weeps so heavily he becomes covered in a mound of his own eye mucus.
Thai: Ramakien (Ramakerti)
A celestial guardian bothers a goddess and is cursed to be reborn as the buffalo Torapa. Aware that he will return to heaven if killed by one of his sons, Torapa destroys all of them at birth. One of his wives secretly gives birth to a son named Dundubhi (Torapi). Dundubhi measures his hoof prints against those of Torapa until they are of the same size. He kills Torapa and terrorists others, even threatening the monkey. Vali (phali) tricks bundubhi into revealing the secret of his power. Dundubhi praises his horns without acknowledging the gods, so the deities abandon him and Vali kills him. Rainfall dilutes the dark blood and maker it lighters: Sugriva (Sukhrip) thinks Vali is dead and seals the cave. Vali cuts off Bundubhi’s head and uses it to break open the cave, then chases Sugriva away.
A ferocious buffalo king kills his own sons, so one of his wives hides her
baby son Dundubhi (Dubhi). The buffalo king eventually learns about his secret
son. When they meet, Dundubhi kneels in respect, but the buffalo king accuses
him of cowardice. Angered by his arrogance, Dundubhi fights and kills his father,
fully aware of what a terrible sin it is. Vali (bali) devises a plan with Sugriva
(Sugrib) and tricks the buffalo into entering a cave. Dundubhi encounters difficulty
because the space is too small, and Vali kills him. His dark blood flows out
and desecrates the hermitage of a sage, who curses the person responsible to
die. Celestial beings send down showers of flowers that make the blood look
lighter. Sugriva weeps, thinking his brother is killed. The monkeys seal the
cave it rocks. Sugriva returns home and becomes king.
Vali finds the entrance blocked, so he cuts off Dundubhi’s head and hurls it at the boulders, scattering rocks everywhere. He accuses Sugriva of treachery. Sugriva flees, with Vali in pursuit. Sugriva seeks refuge in the mountains where the sage lives, knowing that Vali will not go there due to the curse of death put on him. Attended by Hanuman, Sugriva hides and weeps bitter tears that flow like a river.
Lao: Pha Lak Pha Lam
A buffalo learns the incantation to become impervious to injury. He grows
powerful and arrogant. One of his wives plots to destroy him. She asks him to
teach her the spell for her won protection. Later, she secretly gives birth
to as son in a cave but lies that he had a miscarriage. She teaches her son
Dundubhi (Duorahbi) the incantation, and tells him to hone his fighting skills
by using his horns to tear vines to pieces. Next, he has to ram trees and pierce
the fruits as they fall. Then, he learns to fling away his own excrement with
his horns before they drop to the ground. After he masters those skills, his
mother tells him to wait until he matches the size and strength of his father
to challenge him.
Dundubhi compares their hoof print sizes until they are the same, then challenges his father. He makes love with his father’s wives; since then, buffaloes mate with their own mothers. When Dundubhi’s father sees this, he fights with his son. Dundubhi injures his father many times, and each time his father retreats until his wounds are healed. Finally, Dundubhi kills his father by piercing his heart, but he has committed the sin of patricide. Dundubhi grows arrogant and attacks Kishindha (Kasi). Tara (Kottahrat) volunteers to fight, but because she is pregnant, Vali (Lichan) and Sugriva (Sanggip) help her. Tara is injured and falls to the ground; twin sons burst out of her womb. Vali takes the afterbirth and throws it at Dundubhi, who intercepts it with his horns, but he loses one fourth of his power. As Vali and Sugriva take Tara and her two-son back to safety, Dundubhi taunts, “You retreat with a woman, so you should wear skirts like her!” Insulted, Vali and Sugriva return to fight him. They fly up into the sky, but Dundubhi invites them down to fight in his cave. Vali cuts off the buffalo’s head, but rainfall dilutes the blood that flows out like water in which meat has been washed. Sugriva seals the cave with a boulder to keep Dundubhi inside, and returns home. Sugriva tells Tara that her husband is dead, but she does not believe him because he did not see the body. She goes to investigate and hears Vali calling out for help. They con not move the boulder, so Vali takes the head of Dundubhi and hurls it at the rock, which shatters. He and Tara return and chase Sugriva away.
Sanskrit: Valmiki Ramayana
Dundubhi ridicules Vali, who is drunk and in the company of women. Vali picks him up, twirls him around, and dashes him to the ground. He kicks the demon’s body away but it lands near a hermitage. The sage curses the person responsible to death, and for his friends to turn into stone if they enter the forest. Dundubhi’s son attacks in revenge, but Vali chases him into a cave and tells Sugriva to stand guard outside. The sounds of a terrible battle roar inside, and then torrents of blood gush out. Sugriva fears that his brother is dead, rolls a boulder across the entrance, and returns to home. Vali, who has killed the demon, frees himself and banishes Sugriva, who seeks safety in the forest here, the sage’s curse keeps Vali away.
Lao: Guay Duorahbi
Vali (Bari) offers a thousand pieces of gold to the one who can get rid of
the buffalo herd Dundubhi (Douorahbi). His wife and younger sister Anjana (Kasiratdita)
accept the challenge even though she is pregnant. She kills many buffaloes,
but one beast pierces her eyes with his horns and rips her skirt to sheds. Since
then, buffaloes have curved horns. Anjana gives birth to two sons, one of whom
is Anggada. The people sew together the pieces of her skirt for her to wear,
which is why Lao women make patchwork skirts. Blinded, Anjana lives under a
tree with her mouth open upwards, waiting for fruits to fall.
At this time, a demon kills people with his poi9sonous hand. A woman named Gandharvi (Guandawbi) accepts a king’s challenge to kill the demon. She entices him with her feminine charms and agrees to become his wife if he dances with her. The demon follows her movements and kills him when she points to her head. The king is aroused to see her dance and has an orgasm. Gandharvi collects the sperm and pours it into the mouth of Anjana, who gives birth to Hanuman (Hanumon). One day, Hanuman mistakes the sun for a fruit and flies over to eat it but it burned. The sun sprinkles the elixir of life on the remaining bubbles of blood to restore him. Hanuman now is endowed with power and the ability to change into any form or size.
Meanwhile, Vali and Sugriva (Sanggip) are ashamed at their cowardice. They chase the buffaloes into a cave. Vali kills them inside, but rain makes their blood clear, so Sugriva leaves and becomes king. Vali returns and tries to kill Sugriva, who flees into the forest and weeps bitterly over his fate. He becomes covered in a mound of his own eye mucus, from which his tears flow like a stream.
Sankrit: Valmiki Ramayana
Janaka tells Vishvamitra, Rama, and Lakshmana that no one has been able to handle the mighty bow of Shiva. “If Rama can discharge the weapon,” he says, “then Sita is his.” Thousands of men bring in the bow, which is mounted on a cart. Rama easily picks it up, but when he attempts to string it the bow breaks in half with a thunderous roar. Janaka is pleased and sends messengers to Ayodhya to inform Rama’s family of the marriage. Dasharatha is overjoyed and leaves the following morning with the royal entourage. The wedding takes place with great celebration.
Malay: Cherita maharaja Wana
Janaka (Maharesi Kali) decides that Sita (Sita Dewi) is old enough get married.
With divine help he creates an enormous underground serpent with a palm tree
growing on each of its forty curves. The gods send down an arrow, and its sheath
grows into a huge teak tree. Janaka decrees that whoever lifts the arrow and
uses it to shoot the trees will win Sita’s hand, Janaka invites the sons of
Dasharatha (Dasarata) to the contest but warns that an ogre, a huge scorpion,
and a fire-breathing rhinoceros guard the way. Janaka takes Rama (Seri Rama)
and Lakshmana (laksamana) with him, and Rama kills the three monsters.
Rama lifts the arrow and shoots it , but it pierces only seven trees. Lakshmana observes that the trees are moving and discovers the serpent below. He tells Rama to step on the3 serpent’s head while the pulls on the tail to straighten the trees, which Rama then successfully shoots. The other participants claim that they did it, so Janaka asks them to uproot the teak tree. Rama is the only one who can do it, using his toes. Ravan leaves and waits along the way, planning to abduct Sita.
Janaka wants to invites everyone, including the gods, to the wedding. He tells Rama to wait for him to return, and hides Sita among thirty-nine statues of her in the temple. DRama gets impatient and starts searching for Sita.
“Use a coconut leaf rib and tickle the eyes of each figure,” suggests Lakshmana. The real Sita blinks, and she leaves reluctantly with Rama and Lakshmana, fearing her father’s reaction. When Janaka returns, he angrily predicts their separation.
Lao: Pha Lak Pha Lam
Ravana (Ravanasura=Rabbahnasun) hears about the beauty of Sita, so the hermit
asks him to lift his bow. Ravana fails and falls over on his rear end. “If you
try to take Sita away, you will not be able to even touch her without feeling
burned,” warns the hermit, “She is only suitable for a bodhisattva, a future
Buddha.” Ravana is insulted and asks the hermit to lift his bow, which he does
with one hand. Ravana plucks his bowstring that explodes like a hundred thousand
thunderclaps. The hermit plucks his, and the sound drowns out the noise, echoing
throughout the universe. The noise and hide in the lotus pond frighten Sita
and her companion.
The hermit defeats Ravana in several fights, but feels sorry for the ogre, he creates Mandodari(Suddo) for him. “You will die if you marry Sita,” he explains. “Take this woman instead. The nine sons born to her will have great supernatural power. If they are wounded her body will heal them. The first and second only need to lick the tears from the right and left eyes, the third and fourth her right and left ears, the fifth and sixth her right and left nostrils, and t he seventh her mouth. The eighth and ninth have to suckle at her right and left breasts.”
Ravana still wants Sita and goes to her palace but finds it empty, so he follows the footprints to the lotus pond. He multiplies his hands to ten thousand and pulls Sita and her companions out. They cry for help, and the hermit plucks his bowstring. This startles Ravana and he dorps them and flees with mandodari. Sita and her companions run back to hide among the lotuses. The hermit calls out for them, and they emerge from their hiding place.
Maranao: Maharadia Lawana
Spectators marvel at the ball-kicking skills of Rama (Mangandiri) and Lakshmana
(Mangawarna). Rama spins around three times as his rival suitor’s approach,
and then kicks the ball up into Sita’s (Malano Tihaia) open window. She places
her ring, handkerchief, and a small bag of betel chew into the ball and throws
it down onto Rama’s lap. He takes out the contents and scatters the contents
of the bag. Rama and Lakshmana leave as the others fight over the betel chew.
When the sultan asks to see the ring, handkerchief, and betel bag, none of them can show the items. Three days later, they return with three objects that they claim being to her. The sultan asks Sita to identify her items, but she finds none of them are hers. She asks her father to search the kingdom for her property. Finally, the sultan visits the old woman. He sees Sita’s handkerchief and betel bag hanging form the wall. The old woman tells him that they belong to Rama. When the sultan identifies the objects as the property of his daughter, the old woman hides because she fears that Rama is a thief.
The sultan sees Sita’s ring on Rama’s finger and invites him and Lakshmana back to he palace to begin preparations for the wedding of Rama and Sita. His wife first asks that Rama kill the giant serpent in the mountains, which has been blocking out the sun. Rama and Lakshmana return home to make bows and arrows, and find the serpent asleep. “It would be cowardly to kill a sleeping enemy,” says Rama, “When it wakes up, each of us will shoot one of its eyes at the same time.” They climb a tree and wait. The serpent smells their presence and opens its eyes, and the brothers shoot their arrows and kill the monster.
The wife of the sultan does not believe that the serpent is dead and asks for proof. Rama tells there to wait for seven days; during this time the body rots, emitting an over powering stench. The people cut the serpent up into pieces and throw them into the sea. The sun shines again, and on that day the marriage of Rama and Sita is celebrated. Several days later, Rama feels homesick and asks to return home. The sultan is concerned of the dangers at sea, so Rama suggests a land journey, a carriage is built and loaded with provisions for them. At the edge of the forest some men build a house and garden for them. Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana settle there in happiness.
Myanmar: Thiri Yama
Ravana (Dashagiri=Datthagiri) is only able to lift the bow as high as his knees, but he claims victory and demands the hand of Sita (Thida). Lakshmana (Lakkhana) easily picks up the bow, but he puts it back down for Rama (Yama) to try. Rama lifts the weapon, strings it, and fires an arrow with a thundering sound that disrupts Parashuraama’s (Bhazuyama’s) meditaion. Parashurama angrily descends from his mountain hermitage. He confronts Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana but refuses to accept Rama’s apology. After a prolonged fight, Parashurama surrenders and asks for forgiveness from Rama.
Dasharatha (Sahasravahu) steals the cow of a priest, so that the holy man and his son Parashurama are reduced to begging. Parashurama does penance for twelve years, and Brahma grants him an axe with the power to kill kings. He slays Dasharatha, so Kausalya hides Rama and Lakshmana underground for twelve year. When the boys emerge, they search for Parashurama and kill him in revenge for their father’s death. While wandering in a forest, Rama and Lakshmana see Stia. They fall in love with Sita, and t he hermit allows her to go with them.
Sanskrit: Valmiki Ramayana
Rama and Sita and their entourage meet Parashurama, a sworn enemy of the ruling class since one of them murdered his defenseless father. He says to Rama, “Now try your hand with my bow!” Rama easily strings the weapon because it belongs to Vishnu and points the arrow at Parashurama, who begs for forgiveness. As the arrow must have a target, Parashurama offers his magical vision. After arriving home, Bharata, accompanied by Shatrughna, leaves soon after to spend time with his grandparent.
Sanskrit: Valmiki Ramayana
Sita sees Jatayu and screams for help. The bird shouts, “The wife of another
must be protected as one’s own!” The aerial battle of Ravana and Jatayu is like
the collision of flying mountains. Ravana cuts off Jatayu’s wings and speeds
off to Langka. While in to air, Sita spots five monkeys below, removes her jewels
and bundles them in her shawl, and throws the parcel down to teem. Ravana puts
Sita in his palace chambers. “Be my wife and enjoy life. If you do not accept
me in twelve months, I will eat you for breakfast!” threatens Ravana. “By then
nothing will be left of me,” Sita replies. The ogresses to take Sita to a rove.
Indra descends from heaven and puts the female attendants to sleep. He lets
Sita see that his feet do not touch the ground, and that his eyes do not blink.
“Eat this celestial food and you will never feel hungry, thirsty, or tired,”
he tells her.
Meanwhile Rama and Lakshmana find Sita missing. By observing the movements of animals, they turn their search towards the south. Soon they find broken weapons, parts of a chariot, and blood. Rama threatens to destroy the universe. “You can not punish all of creation for the sin of one person,” advises Lakshmana. When they find Jatayu, Rama suspects him and rushes up to kill the bird. With his dying breath, Jatayu explains the events. Rama throws his weapon aside and embraces the bird, which soon dies. Rama performs the cremation rites.
An ogress tries t o abducts Lakshmana and suffers the same mutilation as Shurpanakha. Kabandha, a headless ogre with its face on its belly, catches Rama and Lakshmana in his long arms. They cut themselves free and kill him. Released from a curse, the ogre turns back into a celestial being. Kabandha says, “One way to overcome hardship is to find someone in a similar situation. A monkey named Sugriva has been deprived of his kingdom and wife. Help him regain the throne, and he will help you rescue Sita.” Kabandha returns to heaven, and Rama and Lakshmana follow his advice. They meet Shabari, a female ascetic who points the way to Sugriva’s dwelling. She then enters the sacrificial fire and ascends to paradise.
Tamil: Kamban Iramavataram
Jatayu (Chatayu) tries to rescue Sita (Shitai) and estroys Ravana’s (Iravanan’s) chariot. Ravana cuts off the bird’s wings and continues on to Langka (Langkai) by foot. Rama (Iraman) and Lakshmana (Ilakkumanan) find Jatayu. When the bird dies, Rama cremates him. Lakshmana goes to find some water for Rama. An ogress falls in love with him and carries him off, but Lakshmana cuts off her ears and nose.
Sita calls out for an egret to tell Rama (Ram) of her abduction. Then Jatayu sees Ravana (Rab) and they battle. Their clash makes sounds like thunder. The bird destroys Ravana’s chariot, but the ogre hurls Sita’s ring at Jatayu, breaking his wings. Meanwhile, lakshmana(Laksm) and Rama meet jatayu. Rama promises the bird a place in heaven. Jatayu dies and Rama performs the cremation. When Kabandha (Kumbhanda) seizes Rama, he breaks off the ogre’s fangs and Lakshmana helps to destroy him. The egret tells Rama and Lakahmana of Sita’s abduction, but they get annoyed that he egret will spread the news. “Spare my life, and in the future I will fly three times around the palace of Langka to bring about its ruin,” pleads the bird.
Thai: Ramakian (Ramakerti)
Jatayu (Sadayu) boasts to Ravana (Dashakantha=Thotsakna) that the ring of Sita (Sida) is the most powerful weapon. Ravana throws it at the bird, cutting his wings. Jatayu falls to earth with the ring in his beak. Sita throws down her shawl to a group of monkeys. Meanwhile, Rama (Ram) and Lakshmana (Lak) find Jatayu, who presents Sita’s ring and gives up his soul. Rama cremates the grid with llaming arrows.
Malay: Cherita Maharaja Wana, Hikayat Seri Rama
Ravana (Maharaja Wana) tricks Jatayu (Jentayu) into revealing that his life force is in his wings and cuts them off. Sita asks to speak to the wounded bird and places her ring in his beak. As Ramana carries her off, she tears up her shawl and casts bits of it down as a trail. Meanwhile, Rama (Seri Rama) and Lakshmana (Laksamana) find some salty tasting water. It leads them to the dying Jatayu. Rama takes the ring from his beak and Jatayu dies. They bury him and them come across the trail made by Sita’s shawl.
Malay: wayang kulit Siam
Ravana and Jatayu collide in the sky, which breaks the bird’s wings. Ravana deposits the white swallow that is Sita’s soul with a demon. Without her soul, Sita stays awake all the time. Ravana is unable to touch her because when he tries, blood comes out from his pores. Meanwhile, Rama and Lakhsmana follow a foul smelling stream and find Jatayu. Rama cremates the bird by holding the body in his arms, because the ground for the pyre of such a noble creature must be pure and never stepped on.
Lao: Pha lak Pha Lam
Finding Sita missing, Rama (Lam) wants to kill Lakshmana (Lak) but the flying
horse Kaustabhamani (Mahnikap) stops him. Rama orders Lakshmana to make a fire
for cooking, but is puzzled when he burns only one stick at a time. “You are
like this piece of wood, consumed with flaming anger when you tried to kill
me,” explains Lakshmana, “You would have been alone and powerless. We must work
together, just as a good fire is made from a bundle of sticks.” Rama sees the
wisdom in this.
Rama and Lakshmana mount the flying horse and being their search for Sita. Three goddesses change themselves to look like Sita, but Rama knows that they are illusions. When Rama asks to see the real Sita, Kaustabhamani recites a spell that makes Ravana (Ravanasun=Rabbahnasun) and the stone figure ring her back. While they are flying through the sky, the garuda (gut) bird expands his wings to hide the sun, creating darkness everywhere. Unable to see, Ravana wanders about.
Laughing at his confusion, the bird boasts, “only the ring of Rama is stronger than me!” Hearing this, Ramana takes Rama’s ring from Sita’s finger and throws it as garuda, cutting his wings and making the sky bright again. With Kaustabhamani’s spell also broken, Ravana returns to Langka with Sita. The tow brothers find the injured bird. Rama recites an incantation and blows his breath on garuda, healing his damaged wings. The bird promises to help Rama and flies away.
In a path between two hills, a huge bird tries to block the sage who is abducting the wife of the bodhisattva king. The sage resumes his form as a dragon and fights the bird, breaking his wings with lightning bolts. He continues on with the queen to his island home. Meanwhile, the bodhisattva king finds his wife missing. He searches for her and finds the wounded bird that tells him of the abduction with his last breath. The king buries the bird at the top of a mountain and goes to the south to find the dragon king.
Malay: Syair Agung
Rama (Agung Gempita) searches for Sita (Chahaya Keinderaan) alone but gives
Lakshmana (Halam Gempita) a ring with a white stone ring that will turn red
if he is in danger. With an arrow, Rama creates a flying green horse. He pauses
to rest under a tree, not knowing that a family of three ghosts lives there.
Their ugly daughter is infatuated with Rama, but he spurns her. They torture
Rama until he falls unconscious.
The stone on Lakshmana’s ring turns red. Realizing that Rama is in danger, he creates a flying white horse with his sword and goes to find him. He rests under a tree inhabited by three monkeys who are cursed celestial beings. They know that Lakshmana can set them free. Lakshmana overhears them and climbs up. But his sword falls out and beheads the three monkeys. They turn back into a god, goddess, and their daughter. The god and goddess give Lakshmana a magical ring and arrow. They change their daughter into a man named Hanuman (Pahlawan Udara, Wind Warrior) and give him a flying horse.
Meanwhile, the three ghosts threaten to burn Rama in a hole, but Shiva (Gangga Sakti) takes Rama to heaven and revives him, then makes him invulnerable. Shiva returns Rama to earth and gives him a magical gemstone to call the god for help, and a ring that can grant any wish. Rama resumes his search for Sita and meets Lakshmana and Hanuman. They kill the three ghosts, who are released from their curse and return to heaven. Rama, Lakshmana, and Hanuman continue their search for Sita.
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