In Objects: Ramayana across South-Asia!

Within India, there are many tellings of the Ramayana –  Iramavatram by tamil poet Kamban (12th C), the Bengali Ramayan by Krittivasa (14th C), Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas (16th C) and the Jain Ramayana, Paumachariya by Vimalasuri. These various tellings display the vitality, universality and diversity of the epic and the tradition that followed.

Ramayana-south-asia
From the Mewar Ramayana prepared for Maharana Jagat Singh, the ruler of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar in Rajasthan, in the middle of the seventeenth century.

Through museum collections, we discover the stories about Rama that have inspired artists not only across India, but various South-east Asian countries!

The essential tale of Rama spread across Southeast Asia, and evolved into unique renditions of the epic – incorporating local history, folktales, religious values as well as unique features from the languages and literary discourse.

The Kakawin Ramayana of Java, the Ramakavaca of Bali, Hikayat Seri Rama of Malaysia, Maradia Lawana of the Philippines, Ramakien of Thailand (which calls him Phra Ram) are great works with many unique characteristics and differences in accounts and portrayals of the legend of Rama.

One also comes across new aspects of the story – Rama is named Yama in the the Yama Zatdaw (national epic of Myanmar), the Burmese Ramayana.
In the Reamker of Cambodia, Rama is known as Preah Ream. In the Phra Lak Phra Lam of Laos, Gautama Buddha is regarded as an incarnation of Rama.

The legends of Rama are witnessed in elaborate illustration at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok, in numerous manuscripts, in stone, puppets and performances. From spirituality to literature, from visual and performing arts to popular culture, there is practically no aspect of life that is not touched by the Ramayana.


Sheshashayi Vishnu – Madhya Pradesh: This iconography is used to illustrate the opening scene of the Ramayan epic as told through the sculpture. In Ramcharitmanas, the story begins with the gods petitioning Vishnu to stop the dark reign of Ravana. He assures them that he will take human form as the four sons of Dasaratha. In the panel: Vishnu reclining on a bed of naga coils in the Kshirasagar (milky) ocean with his consort Lakshmi massaging his feet. From Vishnu’s navel, a lotus stalk appears with his first creation Brahma who in turn initiates the creation of the natural world. Along the top are the nine planetary deities.

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The Heritage Lab
The Heritage Lab presents stories and resources from museums with a focus on South Asia - featuring its art, culture, history and heritage.

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