วันเสาร์ที่ 3 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2553
Although fully costumed and mashed. actors in khon performances must perform rigorous, even gymnastic maneuvers as the battle scenes unfold. Here Hanuman attacks a demon.
A solitary reed flute wails sonorously across a darkened and empty stage. A white masked dancer enters in an unmistakably simian crouch wearing a bejeweled and form fitting costume. An even more fantastically attired partner, whose green painted mask is adorned with frightening tusks, joins him. As the orchestra slowly builds, they engage in a combative duet. Simultaneous with a crash of cymbals and orderly rhythm .of xylophones, the pair is joined by their respective armies of monkeys and demons, all resplendent in painted masks and iridescent costumes, to engage in a gymnastic performance of ritual battle. Thus begins a performance of khon, Thailand's signature artistic performance. Bedazzling and enchanting to the first time viewer, it is in fact only one of many representations of a theme that pervades not only the artistic, but social and even political realms of Thailand. Khan performances detail episodes of the Ramakien, a Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana.
In addition to the masked dance performances of the khon, the Ramakien story is told in a variety of the performing arts, notably puppetry, including shadow puppet performances. Beyond the performing arts, the Ramakien tale emerges in the visual arts in painting, sculpture, gilded lacquerware and mother of pearl inlay. The tale has also permeated folk art and most significantly the very essence of Thai life, the monarchy. The oldest extant version of the Ramakien was authored under the auspices of the first king of the current Chakri dynasty, who is now known as Rama 1. King Bhumipol Adulyadej, Thailand's revered monarch is known as Rama IX, following the lineage of his royal predecessors that began with Rama I over 200 years ago. So, what is this Ramakien, and how did it evolve from an Indian tale of the Hindu gods to become the national epic of the predominantly Buddhist Kingdom of Thailand?
The Ramayana, which can be translated from the original Sanskrit as 'the glory of Rama' tells the story of a mythical Prince Rama who appears in the tale as an incarnation the Hindu god Vishnu. Original versions are as old as history, but an Indian poet and scholar known as Valmiki is said to have compiled the oral recitations of the tale that existed at his time, over 2300 years ago, into 24,000 coupled verses of Sanskrit. Considered a sacred text, the Ramayana codifies the Hindu concept of the righteous God King in a primordial struggle against the forces of evil. Like its Thai successor, the Ramayana combined art, entertainment, and religious and political edification. It is clearly not by chance that the abode of the dark demon race was located in the South and known as Longka, this at a time when the light skinned Aryans were in conflict with the Dravidian Tamil people who had taken refuge on the island now known as Sri Lanka. It was, however, not the religious significance, much less the political usefulness of the tale that gave it such immense popularity among the people of India, or that insured its diffusion across Asia. The romance of Prince Rama and his lovely bride Sita, her abduction by the evil demons of Longka, and the loyalty of Rama's brother and his wily monkey ally in their struggle to recover the princess continues to enthrall audiences across dozens of cultures. It is indeed the versatility of the saga that has insured its popularity and relevance to the art and culture of South and Southeast Asia.
Scholars debate how the Ramayana reached Thailand, but influences of the tale are found in bas-relief sculpture as early as the Sukhothai period in the 13th century. Indeed the Thai king credited with developing the Thai writing system took his royal appellation from the tale, and was known as King Ramkamheng, or King Rama the Valiant. Sukhothai was eventually eclipsed by another Thai kingdom, whose capital was named Ayuthaya, in honor of the city of Prince Rama in the Ramakien epic.