Grand Visit to the Grand Palace (Part 3): Ramakien on the Grand Palace Walls

Many people came from far away places just to see the Emerald Buddha inside the Grand Palace. It’s true that the Emerald Buddha is the most important item in the Grand Palace but it failed to capture my sense of awe. What really caught my imagination would be the paintings on the wall surrounding the grounds of the royal temples.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: sleeping Hanuman

I thought that the images depict the ancient history of Thailand, which was just embellished with mythical characters. Well, I was wrong because the paintings depict the scenes in Thailand’s national epic: the Ramakien.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: Hanuman versus the Giant

The Ramakien is the Thai version of the Indian epic of Ramayana. The Thais copied the Indian epic but placed the characters in their cultural setting. Thus, the characters wear Thai clothing instead of Indian ones.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: Rama on the move
Note the charioteers wearing the Thai national costume.
I didn’t know about Ramakien or who painted these murals during my Grand Palace tour. What I did know is that these artworks are very important to Thais. I found it weird, however, to find no image of Buddha in any of the murals.

I read that there were many versions of the Ramakien but were lost when the Burmese army destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767. The version depicted in the mural was compiled under the supervision of King Rama I (the founder of Chakri Dynasty – the dynasty ruling Thailand today). The King even wrote parts of the Ramakien epic.1
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: abduction of Sida

The Ramakien is an epic love story where the hero (Rama, who is the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu) defied all odds so rescue his wife Sida from the demon king. It’s kind of a very ancient version of the love triangle story of Super Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: monkey bridge

Various mythical characters assisted King Rama in his rescue mission. One of them is the monkey king Hanuman. He is an albino monkey who was amazing magical powers like enlarging himself (see above image) and producing moons and stars when yawning. He is Rama’s important ally because Hanuman is the general of the monkey army.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: monkey army marching

Rama’s rescue mission is not a walk in the park. Bloody battles ensued between the armies of Rama and demon king Totsakan.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: bloody battle

The Ramakien epic is definitely rated SPG.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: blood everywhere

There were even magical battles like this “earth bending” fight between Hanuman and Totsakan’s minion:
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: earth bending

The murals on the walls around the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are outstanding works of art. The characters, their actions, facial expressions, and even their shiny golden costumes made the painting alive.
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Ramakien in Bangkok Grand Palace: Totsakan

I even felt the action even though the characters were not moving.

I stayed long in front of the murals. In fact, I spent longer time looking at these paintings than visiting the Emerald Buddha. For me, the Ramakien murals are much better than the statue of the Emerald Buddha.

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Read more of my posts about my great Grand Palace tour:

1.  Grand Visit to the Grand Palace (Part 1): From the River to the Palace Gate
2. Grand Visit to the Grand Palace (Part 2): A Quick Peek at the Emerald Buddha

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Some info in this blog post were obtained from these sources:

1. Ramakien - from the Ramayana to the National Epic of Thailand in Veda
2. THAILEX Travel Encyclopedia
3. The Ramakian from Asia's World

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4 comments:

  1. Amazing! So good, you went and put them all down on record. I don't remember seeing them when we toured the palace. I went so very long ago, maybe did not pay so much attention..

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    1. I put them on record because the murals are interesting. It's actually more interesting than the Emerald Buddha.

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  2. ...I found it weird, however, to find no image of Buddha in any of the murals...>>> There is no image of Buddha because there was no Buddha at the time of Ramakien. Or you can say that there is no Buddha in Ramakien story at all.

    Ramakien or Ramayana is an ancient epic, but like many epics ie, Troy, it is belived that it might be based on a true story. No, the world does not have monkey kings or giants. They are just symbols. The history behind Ramayana is the conflict between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, 2 ancient races in India, long ago before Buddha was borned. However the detail of this history is still on debate.

    I would take just one of them and I would say it really short. The Indian was onced occupied by the Dravidian, then one day the Indo-Aryan migrated to India. The conflict started between these 2 races and ended with Indo-Aryan winning, chasing the Dravidain to the lower part of Indian continent. Not so hard to see which symbols stand for which side.

    More if you want to study about it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Aryan_migration_theory

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing this. :-)

      I am glad that you took the time to explain these tidbits.

      Delete

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