Another Ramayana
Shekhar Sen
HIKAYAT SERI RAMA: THE MALAY RAMAYANA by Harry Aveling Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2020, 287 pp., 900.00
August 2021, volume 45, No 8

The remarkable story of the Indianization of South-East Asia is an instance of historical spontaneity. Hinduism and Buddhism travelled there with indomitable traders, adventurers and priests carrying along their religion and culture which the local population accepted enthusiastically. What impressed them most was perhaps the two Indian epics. These permeated their social customs, religion, literature, folklore, art, sculpture and architecture. In time, they had their own Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The Ramayana underwent changes here to include local stories, many non-Valmiki lores which sailors, traders and travellers heard during their visits to Indian ports. We have Rama Zadtaw/Rama Thagyin (Burma), Ramakien (Thailand), Reamkien/Ramakirti (Khmer), Pha Lak Pha Lam (Laos) along with Phra Ram Sadok (a Buddhist Jataka version), Ramayana Kakawin (Indonesia), Ramacavacha (Bali), Hikayat Seri Rama (Malaya), and Maharadia Lawana (the Philippines).

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