Versions of Ramayana
Ramayana is one of the two major Hindu sacred texts in ancient Indian history. With Mahabharata, it is considered the Ramayana describes the Hindu chronicle tales. Ramayana is the major literature to understand the true History of Hinduism, its myths, and beliefs. This epic written by Maharishi Valmiki describes the legend of the Hindu god Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was the legendary prince of Ayodhya city in the kingdom of Kosala, who defeated the demon king Ravana. The Ramayana mentions an archery tournament organized by King Janaka, where Sita and Rama married.
But do you know this ancient literature differs in each country? The tales of Ramayana are spread across the borders of India mostly in Asian countries like Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, and China. Though the initial manifestation of the theme remains the same, the storyline differs through each border. Some of the most eminent Sanskrit versions of Ramayana are Adhyatma Ramayana, Vasistha Ramayana, Laghu Yoga Vasishtha, Ananda Ramayana, Agastya Ramayana and Adbhuta Ramayana.
The Basic Storyline Of Ramayana
The Mythology Ramayana, folklore well known by each one of us. Lord Rama was the son of King Dasharath of Ayodhya, ruler of Kosala. He had three siblings Lakshman, Bharata, and Shatrughna. Lord Rama was married to Devi Sita. Though he was born into the Royal family, his life was never more than of a saint. He spent fourteen years in exile with his wife and brother Lakshman.
When Devi Sita was kidnapped by Ravana (incarnation of Jaya), Lord Rama with his brother Lakshman challenges Ravana in a war. In the war, monkey king Sugriva along with his army and Hanuman stood beside Rama. A historic battle took place between Rama and Ravana. From Ravana’s side stood his brother Kumbha-Karna (incarnation of Vijaya), and his son Indrajit. The battle lasted seven days resulting in the defeat of Ravana.
This is the basic story with which most Indian’s are familiar, but one astonishing fact is that not every Ramayana has Lord Ram as a hero.
Ramayana In Different Countries
Dasarata Jataka is the Buddhist version of Ramayana. The story is the same, as, by the order of King Dasaratha, Lord Ram along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman is sent into exile. But surprisingly, this version of Ramayana does not include the abduction of Devi Sita. In fact, Sita in Dasarata Jataka was Rama’s half-sister! Astonishing, isn’t it?
Ramakein is Thailand’s version of Ramayana. This version is highly influenced by Dasarata Jataka. It was penned by King Rama I who traced back the origins from Valmiki’s and Jataka’s Ramayana. The clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature whereas where the events unfold in this version slightly differ majorly because of the cultural differences. The story pays major importance to the character of Hanuman. Since its introduction, Ramakein has become a popular Thai culture, the text is taught in schools as a part of Thai literature. It is considered a masterpiece by King Rama I.
Phra Lak Phra Ram
Lao people have Phra Lak Phra Ram version of Ramayana. It is yet another adaptation of Dasarata Jataka, but the story focuses more on the previous life of Buddha named Ram. This version is named after the brother duo, Phra Lak or Lakshaman, and Phra Ram or Rama. It was introduced by King Chao Fa Ngoum and was simultaneously adopted by musicals, theatres, and ‘Classical Nataks’. However the story reached the people much later than the Thai version, thus it is heavily influenced by the amalgamation of Hindu, Khmer, Thai, and Javanese traditions.
Hikayat Seri Rama
It is the Malay literary adaptation of Ramayana. The center storyline remains the same as Valmiki’s Ramayana but some changes were made in terms of pronunciation and names. Though the Hikayat Seri Rama remains almost alike it also witnessed some major changes with time like the role of Lakshman which was particularly more legendary than the role of Lord Rama himself. To date, Lakshman is praised for his courage and loyalty by the Malay people.
The Yama Zatdaw is the Myanmar version of Ramayana. The story has witnessed some changes in the names and events according to the Burmese language. It is not known whether the story was adapted by Valmiki’s version or not but traces of Hanuman can be seen in various Burmese literature and there are also some elements of Ramakein as well. One of the major temples of the country is Nathlaung Temple also known as Vishnu Temple has walls with sculptures of Lord Rama and other characters.
Siddhidas Mahaju, a great poet of Nepal composed Siddhi Ramayana, the translation of the Valmiki’s Ramayana during 1913. While the ‘Maharadia Lawana’ is a Maranao epic version from the Philippines. Then we have ‘Langka Sip Hor’ in Tai Lu language, ‘Janakiharan’ from Sri Lanka and ‘Ramakavaca’ from Indonesia.
Why Sri Lankans have Ravana as a hero?
While Indians believe that the start of the war in Ramayana was initiated by the abduction of Sita by Ravana, the Sri Lankans believe otherwise. According to them, it all started with Lakshman cutting off Surpanakha’s nose after she proposed Lord Rama, and the abduction of Sita was justified as to avenge his sister.
Also, keeping the personality and intellect of Ravana, opposing the fact that he indeed was an ideal man is arguable. It is well known that he had 10 heads which logically gives him 10 brains, thus people often say this gave him a special gift of knowledge. In fact, Ravana has penned several Ayurveda books which make him a great physician of the bygone era. Not only this, the flying vehicle in which Ravana abducted Sita (pushpaka vimana), can be predicted as one of the masterpiece which proves that he had a keen knowledge of science as well. He was an exceptional devotee of Lord Shiva which is evident by the fact that he had the power to use divine weapons. Surprisingly, some theories also suggest that the Ravana intentionally abducted Sita in order to be killed by Lord Rama. As if the demon already knew his end and deliberately wished to succumb to fate.
These traits together make him a man worth praising.