The Newsletter 71 Summer 2015

Impermanent frescoes: Localization of the Rāmāyaṇa in mainland Southeast Asia

William Noseworthy

Unlike the handful of European texts that can truly claim global popularity, the influence of Valmiki’s Rāmāyaṇa has not been due to its ‘permanence’, but rather its flexibility. Hundreds of variations blossomed across South and Southeast Asia for the past two and a half millennia, making the Rāmāyaṇa one of the most accessible texts in the history of literature. Known as the Ramakien in Thailand, the Rian Reamkerti in Cambodia and the Phra Lak Phra Lam to the Lao people, the text has inspired popular performance traditions and several schools of painters who worked on the canvases of royal halls and temple walls.