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Books > Buddhist > The Buddhist Ramayana : Phra Lak Phra Lam (Original Text, Translation and Critical Study)(Set of 2 Volumes in 4 Parts)
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The Buddhist Ramayana : Phra Lak Phra Lam (Original Text, Translation and Critical Study)(Set of 2 Volumes in 4 Parts)
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The Buddhist Ramayana : Phra Lak Phra Lam (Original Text, Translation and Critical Study)(Set of 2 Volumes in 4 Parts)
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About the Book

This Publication (in two volumes and four parts) unfolds the Buddhist transformation of the Indian epic Ramayana, known as the Phra Lak Phra Lam or the Rama Jataka in Laos. The Laotian text is based on careful collating of six parallel palm-leaf manuscripts available in different monasteries of Laos, Its English translation and critical studies have been carried out in a broader comparative perspective rooted in socio-linguistic and cultural anthropology. For Indian studies in general and for Buddhist studies in particular these volumes offer rare source material.

 

About the Author

Professor Sachchidanand Sahai carried out research for this publication in Vientiane (Laos) and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Recipient of Padmashree award, the author is currently adviser to the Preath Vihear National Authority and Angkor Archaeological Park under the Royal Government of Cambodia.

 

Preface

In 1973, I edited the palm-leaf manuscript of the Phra Lak Phra Lam. collating six parallel texts available in different Buddhist monasteries of Laos. That critical edition in two parts published from Vientiane has long been out of print. I completed the English translation and critical study of the Phra Lak Phra Lam after two decades of sustained research. In 1996, my good friend Praveen Mittal of B.R. Publishing Corporation, New Delhi published this work in two volumes entitled The Rama Jataka in Laos: A Study in the Phra Lak Phra Lam. This English edition is also out of print.

This is a glowing testimony of the popularity of the Phra Lak Phra Lam, the Laotian Buddhist retelling of the Indian Epic Ramayana. In fact, the new revolutionary regime in Laos was prompt to recognize the Phra Lak Phra Lam as a national Laotian epic. When the Laotian Palace at Luang Prabang was turned into a museum, a special institution called the Phra Lak Phra Lam Theatre was established in the Premises of the palace. The Phra Lak Phra Lam Theatre is now a thriving institution where the episodes inspired by this Laotian Buddhist Ramayana are enacted.

I am glad that the “Buddhist World Press” now presents the original Laotian text of the Phra Lak Phra Lam, its English translation and critical study as a set of 2 volumes in 4 parts. I hope this Buddhist Ramayana, retold as the Phra Lak Phra Lam by a Laotian monk called Buddhaghosacarya, will offer an interesting and insightful reading for future researchers and the lay Buddhist readers world over.

 

Introduction

 

Volume I (Part I)

INTRODUCTION After listening to the Ananda Ramayana, a 15th century narration from the mouth of Ramadasa, his disciple said: "What you have narrated is quite different from the original Ramayana supposed to be much more extensive. Only you can remove this doubt which has arisen in my mind."

The narrator assured: "Rama's reincarnation differs from one Kalpa to the other. So does the narration of his life from one Ramayana to the other. Even in the work of Valmiki there are deviations. You should not, therefore, be tormented by doubts. Take it as truth, what I have narrated to you."

After reading the following pages, the reader might feel completely disconcerted like the disciple of Ramadasa, unless he takes the Phra Lak Phra Lam as another retelling of Rama story true for its time and place.

The Text

The aim of this work is primarily to provide access to the first part of the Laotian text, the Phra Lak Phra Lam or the Rama jataka through translation, commentary and analysis. The translation itself is based on a Laotian edition of the text prepared and published by the author, after collating six parallel manuscripts (A-F). A manuscript from the village Ban Naxon Tai, 40 Km. from Vientiane, consisting of 43 sections divided into 4 parts, provides the basic text (MS D). The reading of this manuscript has been compared with the manuscript of Mr. Can Kam of the Village Ban Horn in the vicinity of Vientiane (MS E) and the other manuscripts locally available in Vientiane.

The manuscripts of this text reported from Roi Et, Savannakhet and Champassak suggest that the Phra Lak Phra Lam is widely known throughout Central and Southern Laos and North-Eastern Thailand.

The Date

The Phra Lak Phra Lam or the Rama jataka is a popular text in Laos recited by the monks during the Buddhist lent at different monasteries along the Mekong Valley.4 From the dates given in thecolophons of manuscripts D and H, it is evident that the text continued to be copied in the 19th and 20th century. In 1891 and 1934, two new palm-leaf manuscripts (D, H) were prepared by copying another manuscript, one for a village monastery and another for an individual in the neighbourhood of Vientiane. A final colophon at the end of the manuscript of Ban Naxon Tai (MS D) says that Brah Lammah Kumman was written (khit khyn) by a certain Buddhaghosacarya on Wednesday, the 11th day of the waxing moon of the 7th month of the Culla Sakaraja 1212 in the year kot set, corresponding to the 22nd May 1850 A.D. I have argued elsewhere that the acts of copying and composing a text are normally not distinguished by different verbs in the Lao manuscripts. It appears, however, that the first three colophons in the manuscript D indicate the names of the copyists and the date of copying while the final colophon gives the name of the author and the date of composition. It appears that the present text was developed in 1850 from a smaller nucleus, either from a written text composed in an earlier period or directly from an oral tradition. In fact, the actual Rama story occupies only a portion of the text. The description of Lao place-names, customs, and beliefs has assumed a far greater prominence. The relationship between these two distinct elements in the text obviously implies the superimposition of a mass of details concerning Lao culture on an existing Rama story core.

The Author

No information is found in the text regarding its author. In the manuscripts of Ban Naxon Tai (D) and Can Kam (E), the orthography of the author's name Buddahbocan appears to be faulty. The correct reading should be Buddahgocan (Buddhaghosacarya). It is not certain whether the author of the Phra lak Phra lam is the same Buddhaghosacarya who lived in the kingdom of Lan-Xang and wrote the famous Laotian didactic text Pu Son Lan. It is almost certain that the author of the Phra lakPhra Lam was also a Lao residing in the kingdom of Lan-Xang. Throughout the text, he sings the glory of the kingdom and Rama, its mighty king, and refers to the city of Vientiane-Lan-Xang with great pride and predilection.

I have shown elsewhere the difficulty in identifying Buddhaghosacarya of the Phra lak Phra Lam which was composed in 1850 A.D. according to the last colophon of MS D and H, and Buddhaghosacarya of Pu Son Lan, supposed to be written in the reign of Suriyavongsa (1637-1694).

Buddhaghosa, the scholar-monk of the fifth century A.D. who compiled the commentary on the Pali canon known as the Visuddhimagga (the Path of Purification) became so popular in Indochina that a number of indigenous authors seem to have adopted this name: According to one of the traditions Brah Buddhaghosacarya visited Lanka, copied down the That Phanom Chronicle and brought it to be kept at Indraprasthanagara (Cambodia).

An inscription at the monastery of Tatok (K.892) in modern Khmer dated 1857 A.D. mentions the donation of a number. of Buddhist texts, including a manuscript entitled Buddhaghosa in three; parts--an apocryphal Jataka relating the life of the Buddhist scholar. One of the legends of Angkorsays that Buddhaghosa came to Cambodia from Sri Lanka, carrying with him a set of Tripitaka. The monk presented this set to the king of Angkor. The king, in his turn, offered him Angkor Vat, "the monastery of the city" as a gift. In modern Cambodian Sangha hierarchy, Buddhaghosacarya is the title of one of the high ranking monk of Mahanikaya.

The Thai king Lidaiya, the author of the Traibhumikatha had received the teaching of Brah Mahathera Buddhaghosacariya who lived far away at Haripunjaya through the good offices of the messengers.

Thus the existence of more than one author bearing the name of Buddhaghosa in Laos follows the Indochinese traditions about this author.

The Core-Story

The core-story is compact. A brahma-couple founds the city of Indraprastha (the present-day Cambodia). Their last son Tapa Paramesvara succeeds his father to the throne of Indraprastha. Tapa Paramesvara in his turn gives the throne to his younger / last son Virulaha. Aggrieved, his elder son Dhatarattha leaves Indraprastha, travels northward along the western bank of the Mekong through the present-day north-east Thailand and reaches Ban Phan Phao. Then he crosses the Mekong and opposite Ban Phan Phao establishes the city of Candrapuri Sri Satta Naga (Vientiane).

In Indraprastha a maha-brahma is reborn first as a deformed child Lul Lu2 in the house of a farmer and then as Ravana, the handsome son of Virulaha after the proper remoulding of his soul in the abode of Indra, At the age of three Ravana travels northward, and abducts his cousin Canda, the daughter of King Dhatarattha, from Vientiane, without formally begging her hand in customary Laotian tradition.

Offended, the king prays Indra for powerful sons to take revenge upon Ravana, Indra directs two devaputtas to take birth as twin sons of the aggrieved king of Vientiane: Rams, the Bodhisattva and Lak his younger brother. The god sends a flying horse Mahnikap for the new-born princes. One year ten months old Rama with his younger brother rides to Indraprastha along the eastern bank of the Mekong, recovers his elder sister from the palace of Ravana and brings her back to Vientiane along the western bank of the Mekong.

In course of his expedition against Ravana, Rama and his younger brother contract marriage alliances with a number of princely families in the Mekong valley. But they refuse to take their wives with them without formal proposal in accordance with the Laotian customs. Rama sends messengers to those princely families with bride-price for customary marriage negotiations after he returns to Vientiane and succeeds his father as king.

After his defeat at the mouth of the Bang Muk River, Ravana returns to Indraprastha and sends his messengers with bride-price to beg for the hand of Canda. Following his messengers Ravana reaches Vientiane, and after he fulfils all the conditions laid down by Rama, he is married formally and ritually with Canda, the elder sister of Rama. Ravana dips his sword in water, and drinking that water takes an oath of loyalty towards Rama

Rama and his younger brother Lak have numerous progeny from their different wives. Sixteen of them are meticulously enumerated.

Aggrieved by the bad conduct of his grandson, Ravana, Tapa Paramesvara leaves lndraprastha with his wife, his daughter-in-law and his son Virulaha travels to Vientiane where he is joined by his other daughter-in-law and his eldest son Dhatarattha. All the six travel to Mount Yugandhara.

At Mount Yugandhara Indra consecrates Tapa Paramesvara as the lord of all human beings and spirits and gives him the title of Isvara. Two sons are born to Isvara at Mount Yugandhara. His four sons protect the four quarters of the universe as lokapala.

In brief the conflict between the two cousins-Rama and Ravana has been presented as a family feud between two princely houses of Indochina-Indraprastha (Cambodia) and Candrapuri- Sri Satta Naga (Vientiane), tracing their origin from a common ancestor.

The Repetitions Repetition or replication is the central principle of any structuring. Einmal ist keinmal- it is as if what happens once does not happen at all.11 The plot of the Phra Lak Phra Lam is built on the principle of interacting structure of repetition. Not only are these repetitive phrases, similies, and formulaic descriptions embedded in the core-story, but incidents, scenes, settings and especially relationships are repeated throughout the story with a well calculated plan.

The story could be described as the narration of movements from Akanitha stage of heaven to the earth or vice-versa. The brahma-couple, the founder of Indraprastha descended from this point of the heaven. The Mahabrahma, who incarnated first as the deformed child and then as Ravana, came down from this stage of heaven.

From the Tavatimsa stage of heaven two devaputta descended at Indraprasthanagara to be reborn as Bik Bi (Vibhisana)and Indahji (Indrajit), the younger brothers of Ravana. From the same cosmic plane descended at Candahpuli Si Sattahnak (Vientiane), the two other devaputtas to be reborn as Lak and Lam, the cousins of Ravana. These stages of the Buddhist cosmology figure repeatedly to remind the listener of his links with a superior plane of existence.

The story could be described as repetition of journeys along the Mekong. In the beginning of his narration, the storyteller fixes the two points: Indraprasthanagara on the west bank of the Mekong in the south and Candahpuri Si Sattahnak (Vientiane) on the east bank-of the Mekong in the north.

The story moves between these two points from south to north and from north to south along the Mekong valley. These movements have been analysed in a later section of this study.

The description of natural wealth of Laos, detailing the varieties of banana, sugarcane, coconut, palm trees, fish, gold, silver, copper etc., are repeated frequently to engage the attention of the listener to the aspects of Laotian culture with which he should be familiar.

The dense primary forests with creeper-covered trees (pa) and the clear secondary forests of cik (shorea obtusa) and rail figure alternately. In fact, travelling up or downstream along the western or the eastern bank of the Mekong, one passes through alternating series of these dense and clear forests.

The story is spotted with the revelatory dream-sequences. As signals to the future happenings, these dreams are repeated frequently. The birth of almost every character in the story is preceded by a dream narration. Before conceiving the Maha-brahma in her womb in the depth of the mid-night, the farmer's wife saw in a dream that a very big, bright and beautiful star came down from the sky, went around encircling her body, entered her womb through the top of her head and emitted rays to all the ten thousand lokadhatu in the universe (cakkavala) upto the Tavatimsa stage of heaven (p. 15). The farmer's wife woke up with a start and related the dream to her husband. The farmer interpreted the dream as foreboding the birth of an eminent son and all other happenings (p.17).

The narration is dotted with the pieces of courting-poetry. In course of their expedition to Indraprastha, Lak and Lam meet young women, spend evenings with them arid enter into dialogues characterised by witty statements and indirect proposals. Such pieces would appear out of place in the story of Rama unless they are understood in the context of every day life in Laos.

The Laotian tradition allows that every girl of over sixteen might work alone on the verandah in the evening whilst her parents sleep. In this manner, while the girls remain busy with their spinning wheel, the young men on their round attune their love-songs to the khaen and make sweet overtures to the girl of their choice. After the harvest, festivities are organised in the villages. The young girls and boys of the village and the surrounding areas meet in these gatherings and engage in veritable love duets based on the continued lyrical sequences of questions and answers. By their music, melody and wit the young men have the chance of winning the heart of their chosen one.

The theme of bride-price is also multiplied to demonstrate the force of the Laotian custom. Similarly search for an auspicious day and time occurs incessantly. In a polygamous society, the anxiety of a woman to remain senior to the other wives of her husband is also demonstrated by the mechanism of repetition. In fact, each of the wives of Lak and Lam expresses her concern on this issue and rushes to reach Vientiane first to gain her seniority.

Similarly the Laotian customs of performing sou khuan (calling of the soul), paying respects to the elders (somma), one month confinement after the birth of a baby etc., have been replicated throughout the text.

The objective of the text is to focus certain aspects of Laotian culture and society through the in-built mechanism of repetition in its structure. To preserve this structure the repetitions have been meticulously retained. The purpose of the text will be completely blurred if the repetitions are deleted for stylistic consideration in the process of translation.

Translating the text

I have tried to offer a translation "faithful" to the original text by preserving its basic textual features such as characters, imagery, order of incidents and repetitive structure. Nevertheless it was judged futile to go to the extent of Chapman, the translator of Homer, who tried to reproduce a hexameter and retain the same number of lines as in the original Greek. The Phra Lak Phra Lam, written in a rhythmic Laotian prose, is composed to be "read," that is to be recited melodiously by the monks before a gathering of lay devotees. Since it would be hazardous to reproduce the music of a tonal language in English, no such attempt has been made in this translated text. The flavour, music and melody of the original text which pervaded the monastic compound and countryside during the four months of the rainy season In 1970s have been inevitably lost in the process of translation. However, efforts have been made to preserve the cultural context of the Laotian text. The range 'of Laotian metaphors and similies are very wide. Only by retaining them, the cultural context could be made clear. So instead of using the standard English imagery 'snow-white' I have preferred the original Laotian expression 'cotton-white.'

. Any attempt to achieve geometrical resemblance between Lao and English in a translated piece is doomed to failure. The process of reading and translation from Lao language involves the complex process of deconstruction and reconstruction. Where to draw boundaries in the continuous flow of lines on palmleaves or on printed pages of the Laotian text? As part of deconstruction the line must be segmented consciously into syllables for the purpose of pronuncing correctly, essentially tones: In older texts, such as the Phra lak Phra lam, written tone marks are absent. So all the tonal options and alternatives are to be examined.13The task of reconstruction involves decisions about which syllables must be joined to make words, phrases, and clauses in order to make sense in the process of translation. A single syllable may be a word in one context, but only a part of a word in a compound construction, an elaborate expression or an idiomatic expression.

The visible punctuation marks are not available in the text Such compound expressions as hanle, ka mi le, ka me thein etc., have to be properly identified to mark the end of a phrase. To distinguish the principal and subordinate sentences, it is necessary to distinguish the structure meu’a nan… lev followed by a complementary sentence.

The string of words commonly used in the Lao text are very often not prone to one-to-one transfers of meaning. The expression luk hlan literally means 'son, grandson: But. as a compound word, it denotes 'dependent'. In such cases, the literal word for word meaning has been indicated in the footnotes.

In Lao language, there are different sets of personal pronouns to be used depending on the social scale of rank or estimation of the speaker in relation to that of the person addressed. It is cumbersome to transfer the Laotian differentiation of royal, priestly and secular personal pronouns in English. Gething lists 31 items of Lao personal pronouns restricted to common, secular use and offers an analysis of their significata.15 In addition, the kinship terms- father, mother, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, brother and sister-serve as personal pronouns. In search of a satisfactory system to express the wide range of differentiations and varied nuances of Lao personal pronouns in English, the process of translating the Phra Lak Phra Lam was delayed for many years. After meeting the great masters of Tai group of languages around the world, and discussing this problem with them, I came to the conclusion that no such system has been so far developed. Nor any previous translator of Tai language has elaborated the conventions of Tal language translation which he/she might have adopted for his or her work.

In the present piece of translation as a matter of policy raw brah 011 has been translated as "I, my sacredself' in the beginning of a long dialogue, and subsequently the expression "my sacredself' has been dropped. Similarly the kinship terms used as personal pronouns have been indicated only' once at the beginning of a passage: I (your younger/elder one). The sibling terminology used as personal pronoun expresses the relative age and status of the interlocutor. Therefore, I prefer to use the expression younger / elder one. The expression younger or elder brother / sister has been reserved for such situations where the speaker is the real/blood brother or sister of the person addressed. For example, nan Canda is the cider blood sister of Lak and Lam and the elder cousin of Ravana. However no such differentiation was possible for kinship terms such as father-son, uncle-nephew etc.

In the set of personal pronouns ku-mu'n, the speaker addresses an imaginary foe in a disparaging manner. In such cases, the term ku has been translated as "I" and mu’n as “you, scoundrel." The term "scoundrel" has been used once in a given passage to express the tone and temper of the dialogue.

The pieces of courting poetry embedded in the text are very often obscure due to tilt' extensive use of flora and fauna in a symbolical sense. The symbolical meaning of plants, fruits, fish in Laos remain to be explained. In the absence of such preliminary work, a definitive translation of many passages IS hazardous.

 

Volume I (Part II)

In 1970, when I began my studies on the Rama saga in Laos, none of the existing manuscripts had been published. A number of studies and resumes enabled me to acquire some idea of their relative importance. However, it was not possible to undertake any exhaustive, critical study without a detailed and direct analysis of the original texts, An indirect result of such analysis was my decision to publish certain texts from the original manuscripts in order to give them a wider circulation.

I have chosen to publish the Phra Lak Phra Lam first, primarily because, far from being simply the translation of a foreign narrative into the Lao language, it constitutes one of the finest examples of Lao literature. In the course of an audience graciously granted to me. His Majesty King Sri Savang Vatthana described this work as a "monument of Lao literature executed in the purest Lao style”. In fact, through its vigorous prose style, it graphically depicts the manifold aspects of Lao culture. Its annual recitation at numerous monasteries during the Buddhist Lent testifies to its continuing popular appeal.

Though the text is quite long, the narrator has laid down the sequence of major events in such a way that the relationship of cause and effect between these events can be clearly seen. An introductory section relates the establishment of Inthapathanakhon and Sisattanak (Vientiane), where the events of the first part of the story take place.

At the beginning of the present aeon, a Phom couple descends to the Earth from the Akanittha stage of Heaven. Since their bodies become heavy after' tasting the flavour of earth they are unable to fly back to the heavenly abode and resign themselves to settling by the sea in the South. In the course of time, one hundred and' one children are born to them and a city named Inthapathanakhon comes into being. While their one hundred and one children go to rule in Jambudipa, their youngest son, Tapparamesuan rules in Inthapathanakhon.

Since Tapparamesuan gives the throne of Inthapathanakhon to his youngest son, Virulaha, his eldest son, Thattarattha (Dasaratha). goes to seek his fortune in the north. At the end of his long journey, which is narrated with geographical precision, Thattarattha settles at Phan Phao, Later, on the advice of a seven-heeded Naga the guardian of the Mekong river, he transfers his capital to the opposite side and names the city Sisattanak after the ,name of the seven-headed Naga.

Next, the .narrator relates the, birth of King Virulaha's son, Raphphanasuan (Ravana). In order, to illustrate Raphphanasuan'a conceit, the story of his former life as a Maha Phom (Maha Brahma) is included in this section.

The Maha Phom descended from the Akanittha stage of .Heaven in order to be born on the Earth. On his way, he stopped in the Catummaharajika stage of Heaven. The "Then" advised him to have his spirit remoulded before descending to the Earth, hut because of his conceit -he did not allow this to be done. As a result, he was born deformed into, a farmer's family in the outskirts of Inthapathanakhon and was known as Thao Lun Lu, Taking pity on the new born child, Indra came to him, and after asking him riddles regarding Buddhist doctrines, which he answered satisfactorily, the god took him hack to the "Then'" in the Catummaharajika. After several futile attempts to remould his spirit, the seven "Thens" took him to Indra's abode. He was remoulded there and became as handsome asIndra himself. The latter predicted that in' his next life the Maha Phom would be very proud, greedy and powerful. He could not be killed by any other weapon but the arrow Keo Vasiraphet, which lies on the bed of the ocean.

Thus, after his short life as a deformed child, the Maha Phom is reborn as Raphphanasuan, the son of Inthapathanakhon's king Virulaha. As predicted by Indra, he is endowed with supernatural powers, and armed with a heavenly bow of the third category. At the age of three he flies to Chanthaburi Sisattanak and abducts Nang Chantha, the daughter of his uncle, Thattarattha.

Taking Nang Chantha as his wife Raphphanasuan contravenes the established Lao customs, in, two ways; firstly he violates the taboo against marriage with an elder cousin and, secondly he does not ask for Nang Chantha's hand in the traditional way, which- is by presenting dowry. As we will see later, 'while Lao society can pardon the first fault, it cannot forgive the second.

Worried about Prince Raphphanaeuen'a conduct, Indra sends a thevabut, skilled in astrology, to be born as the Prince's younger brother and to offer him advice. The astrologer's birth as Phik Phi ' (Vibhisana) is followed by the birth of lnthasi (Indrajit), the youngest brother of Raphphanasuau.

Raphphanasuan then travels throughout Jambudipa in search of one who can challenge him. and fights with the Lords of the kingdom of Takkasila and Lomavisay before returning to Inthapathanakhon.

As a result of King Thattarattha's prayer, Indra sends two thevabut, armed with divine bows of the first and second category, to be born as the King's sons, Phra Lak (Laksmana) and Phra Lam (Rama). At the age of one, Phra Lak and Phra Lam Set forth on their journey to Inthapathanakhon Phra Lam takes Nang Chantha from Raphphanasuan who has been lying in a coma for, three months.

Regaining consciousness, Raphphaoasuan follows Phra Lak and Phra Lam in order, to rescue his wife. He fights many battles before surrendering at the mouth of the Bang Muk river. From there, Phra Lak and Phra Lam travel to Chanthaburi Sisattanak in a boat given to them by Raphphanasuan.

After this victorious campaign, Phra Lam is married to Nang Si Phimpha and Phra Lak to Nang Si Kanya and they ate made respectively king and viceroy of the kingdom of Chanthaburi Sisattanak, They then send their officers and the horse Manikap to present dowries and to ask 'for the hands of the' fourteen ladies whom they have married in the course of their expedition to Inthapathanakhon.

Next, Raphphanasuau sends his two officers to Chanthaburi Sisattanak to present dowry for Nang Chantha. He himself goes there and fulfils all the conditions imposed by Phra Lam before getting Nang Chantha back.

When Raphphanasuan returns to Inthapathanakhon with Nang Chantha, everybody except hisgrandfather goes to receive him. In fact his grandfather is unable to reconcile himself with Raphphanasuan who in his eyes, has violated a fundamental norm of Lao society by taking Nang Chantha, his elder cousin. as his wife. He is so disgusted that in the end ho leaves Inthapathanekhon and goes to live on Mount Yukhanthon with his wife, sons and daughters-in-law.

The above analysis shows that the focal theme of the first part of the story is the Lao custom of presenting a dowry prior to asking for a girl's hand. All the major events of the story are designed to stress this custom. Being defeated by Phra Lak and Phra Lam, Raphphanasuan thus pays for his improper conduct. Not quite sure that the moral has made a lasting impression on the audience, the narrator relates further that, as ideal Lao princes, Phra Lak and Phra Lam do not take with them the daughters of the local chiefs, whom they had married in the course of their expedition to Inthapathanakhon, because they could not formally present dowries. They negotiate for them and present dowries subsequently, even though their marriages are accomplished facts. This is followed by Raphphanasuan'8 submission to the established custom.

Finally" the grandfather of Raphphanasuan, who symbolizes the older generation's adherence to the established customs, leaves Inthapathanakhon in protest against this marriage with an elder cousin, even though Raphphanasuan has gone to present dowry for Nang Chantha and ask ° for her hand in the customary way.

 

Contents

 

  Preface iii
  Abbreviations iv
  List of Maps iv
  Acknowledgements v
  Transliteration viii
1 Introduction 1
2 The Jataka Format 9
3 The Mekong Axis 17
4 The Elder Sister of Rama 25
5 The Sibling Rivalry 33
6 The Bride-Price 39
7 The Translated Text: The Phra Lak Phra Lam- Part I 43
1 Dattahratthah Rules Meu'an Candahpuli Si Sattahnak 43
2 Mahha Bom (Maha Brahma) Reborn first as dav2 Lul Lu2 and then as dav2 Rabbahnasvn (Ravana) 54
3 Rabbahnasvn Abducts Nan Canda to Indahpahthahnahgan 84
4 Rabbahnasvn Wanders in Jambudvipa Searching His Rival in Magical Knowledge 90
5 Brah Lam Rescues Nan Canda from Indahpahthahnahgan to Candahpuli Si Sattahanak 96
6 Brah Lak and Brah Lam Negotiate for their Fourteen Wives 222
7 Rabbahnasvn Negotiates For His Marriage With Nan Canda 292
8 Birth of Sixteen Children of Brah Lak and Brah Lam 318
9 Brahya In (=Indra) Establishers Brahya Aiyahsvn (=Isvara) and His Four Sons on Mount Yugandhara 319
  Bibliography 327
  Index 339

 

Volume II

 

Contents

 

  Abbreviations vii
  Transliteration viii
1 The Laotian Ramakatha 1
2 The Laotian Rmakath: A Comparative Analysis 17
3 Marriage, Kinship and Incest 53
4 Towards Lanka 59
5 The Translated Text: The Phra Lak Phra Lam-Part II 73
1 Rabbahnasvn Seducess Sujata, the wife of Indra 73
2 Rabbahnasvn Casts His Daugher (nan Sita) Adrift 85
3 A Hermit Adopts Sita 90
4 Rabbahnasvn Fails to Get hand of Sita as his wife (from the Hermit) 109
5 Rabbahnasvn Obtains Nan Suddo As His Wife (from the Hermit) 124
6 Dav2 Brah Lak and Brah Lam Take Nan Sita (from the Hermit) 131
7 Rabbahnasvn Abducts Nan Sita to Meuan Lanka 151
8 Rabbahnasvn Lodges Nan Sita in a Place Outside Lanka City 161
9 Brah Lam Turned into a Monkey on a Branch of Nigot Tree 163
10 Dav2 Sangip Rules Meuan Kasi Mahhanahgan with Dav2 Brah Lican as Viceroy 171
11 Hullahman Born as the Monkey Son of Brah Lam 174
12 Dav2 Sangip Chases Out His Younger Brother (Dav2 Brah Lican) from Meu'an Kasi 194
13 Nan Ben Si Transformed into a Human Being After Eating a Nigot Fruit 211
14 Dav2 Sangip Killed as a Result of Manipulation of Brah Lican 217
15 Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2 Born as the Son of Brah Lam 222
16 Dav2 Brah Lican offers One Akkhobeni (aksauhani) troops to Brah Lam 226
17 Brah Lam sends Dav2 Hullahman and Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2 as Messengers to Search for Nan Sita 236
18 Dav2 Hullahman and Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2 Search for a Ford to Cross the Ocean 256
19 With the Army Raised from Indahpahthahnahgan City Brah Lam Marches to the Ford 259
20 Rabbahnasvn Throw Dav2 Bik Bi, Dav2 Indahji and Dav2 Jettahkumman in Front of the Troops of Dav2 Brah Lam. Khun Jivha Streches Out His Tongue as a Bridge Between the Island of Lanka and Jumbudip 261
21 Death of Khun Jivha and Welcome of Bik Bi By Brah Lam 263
22 Dav2 Hullahman, Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2, Dav2 Aggidahna, Dav2 Jata Brahya and Dav2 Kallahha Brahya Build the Bridge Connecting the Island of Lanka with the Opposite Shore 267
23 Battle of Lanka 270
24 Dav2 Brah Lam Returns from the Island of Lanka to Candahpuli Si Sattahnak 305
25 King Lammahlat Pronounces Capital Punishment to Nan Sita 313
26 Dav2 Brah Put, the Son of Sita Fights With King Lammahlat 317
27 Buddha Correlates the Past-Story with Present 325
  Bibliography 327
  Index 330

 

Sample Pages

Volume I

Part I









Part II







Volume II

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Part II






The Buddhist Ramayana : Phra Lak Phra Lam (Original Text, Translation and Critical Study)(Set of 2 Volumes in 4 Parts)

Item Code:
NAN065
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2016
ISBN:
9789380852492
Language:
Laotian Text with English Translation
Size:
9.5 inch x 6.5 inch
Pages:
1669
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Weight of the Book: 3.25 kg
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The Buddhist Ramayana : Phra Lak Phra Lam (Original Text, Translation and Critical Study)(Set of 2 Volumes in 4 Parts)

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About the Book

This Publication (in two volumes and four parts) unfolds the Buddhist transformation of the Indian epic Ramayana, known as the Phra Lak Phra Lam or the Rama Jataka in Laos. The Laotian text is based on careful collating of six parallel palm-leaf manuscripts available in different monasteries of Laos, Its English translation and critical studies have been carried out in a broader comparative perspective rooted in socio-linguistic and cultural anthropology. For Indian studies in general and for Buddhist studies in particular these volumes offer rare source material.

 

About the Author

Professor Sachchidanand Sahai carried out research for this publication in Vientiane (Laos) and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Recipient of Padmashree award, the author is currently adviser to the Preath Vihear National Authority and Angkor Archaeological Park under the Royal Government of Cambodia.

 

Preface

In 1973, I edited the palm-leaf manuscript of the Phra Lak Phra Lam. collating six parallel texts available in different Buddhist monasteries of Laos. That critical edition in two parts published from Vientiane has long been out of print. I completed the English translation and critical study of the Phra Lak Phra Lam after two decades of sustained research. In 1996, my good friend Praveen Mittal of B.R. Publishing Corporation, New Delhi published this work in two volumes entitled The Rama Jataka in Laos: A Study in the Phra Lak Phra Lam. This English edition is also out of print.

This is a glowing testimony of the popularity of the Phra Lak Phra Lam, the Laotian Buddhist retelling of the Indian Epic Ramayana. In fact, the new revolutionary regime in Laos was prompt to recognize the Phra Lak Phra Lam as a national Laotian epic. When the Laotian Palace at Luang Prabang was turned into a museum, a special institution called the Phra Lak Phra Lam Theatre was established in the Premises of the palace. The Phra Lak Phra Lam Theatre is now a thriving institution where the episodes inspired by this Laotian Buddhist Ramayana are enacted.

I am glad that the “Buddhist World Press” now presents the original Laotian text of the Phra Lak Phra Lam, its English translation and critical study as a set of 2 volumes in 4 parts. I hope this Buddhist Ramayana, retold as the Phra Lak Phra Lam by a Laotian monk called Buddhaghosacarya, will offer an interesting and insightful reading for future researchers and the lay Buddhist readers world over.

 

Introduction

 

Volume I (Part I)

INTRODUCTION After listening to the Ananda Ramayana, a 15th century narration from the mouth of Ramadasa, his disciple said: "What you have narrated is quite different from the original Ramayana supposed to be much more extensive. Only you can remove this doubt which has arisen in my mind."

The narrator assured: "Rama's reincarnation differs from one Kalpa to the other. So does the narration of his life from one Ramayana to the other. Even in the work of Valmiki there are deviations. You should not, therefore, be tormented by doubts. Take it as truth, what I have narrated to you."

After reading the following pages, the reader might feel completely disconcerted like the disciple of Ramadasa, unless he takes the Phra Lak Phra Lam as another retelling of Rama story true for its time and place.

The Text

The aim of this work is primarily to provide access to the first part of the Laotian text, the Phra Lak Phra Lam or the Rama jataka through translation, commentary and analysis. The translation itself is based on a Laotian edition of the text prepared and published by the author, after collating six parallel manuscripts (A-F). A manuscript from the village Ban Naxon Tai, 40 Km. from Vientiane, consisting of 43 sections divided into 4 parts, provides the basic text (MS D). The reading of this manuscript has been compared with the manuscript of Mr. Can Kam of the Village Ban Horn in the vicinity of Vientiane (MS E) and the other manuscripts locally available in Vientiane.

The manuscripts of this text reported from Roi Et, Savannakhet and Champassak suggest that the Phra Lak Phra Lam is widely known throughout Central and Southern Laos and North-Eastern Thailand.

The Date

The Phra Lak Phra Lam or the Rama jataka is a popular text in Laos recited by the monks during the Buddhist lent at different monasteries along the Mekong Valley.4 From the dates given in thecolophons of manuscripts D and H, it is evident that the text continued to be copied in the 19th and 20th century. In 1891 and 1934, two new palm-leaf manuscripts (D, H) were prepared by copying another manuscript, one for a village monastery and another for an individual in the neighbourhood of Vientiane. A final colophon at the end of the manuscript of Ban Naxon Tai (MS D) says that Brah Lammah Kumman was written (khit khyn) by a certain Buddhaghosacarya on Wednesday, the 11th day of the waxing moon of the 7th month of the Culla Sakaraja 1212 in the year kot set, corresponding to the 22nd May 1850 A.D. I have argued elsewhere that the acts of copying and composing a text are normally not distinguished by different verbs in the Lao manuscripts. It appears, however, that the first three colophons in the manuscript D indicate the names of the copyists and the date of copying while the final colophon gives the name of the author and the date of composition. It appears that the present text was developed in 1850 from a smaller nucleus, either from a written text composed in an earlier period or directly from an oral tradition. In fact, the actual Rama story occupies only a portion of the text. The description of Lao place-names, customs, and beliefs has assumed a far greater prominence. The relationship between these two distinct elements in the text obviously implies the superimposition of a mass of details concerning Lao culture on an existing Rama story core.

The Author

No information is found in the text regarding its author. In the manuscripts of Ban Naxon Tai (D) and Can Kam (E), the orthography of the author's name Buddahbocan appears to be faulty. The correct reading should be Buddahgocan (Buddhaghosacarya). It is not certain whether the author of the Phra lak Phra lam is the same Buddhaghosacarya who lived in the kingdom of Lan-Xang and wrote the famous Laotian didactic text Pu Son Lan. It is almost certain that the author of the Phra lakPhra Lam was also a Lao residing in the kingdom of Lan-Xang. Throughout the text, he sings the glory of the kingdom and Rama, its mighty king, and refers to the city of Vientiane-Lan-Xang with great pride and predilection.

I have shown elsewhere the difficulty in identifying Buddhaghosacarya of the Phra lak Phra Lam which was composed in 1850 A.D. according to the last colophon of MS D and H, and Buddhaghosacarya of Pu Son Lan, supposed to be written in the reign of Suriyavongsa (1637-1694).

Buddhaghosa, the scholar-monk of the fifth century A.D. who compiled the commentary on the Pali canon known as the Visuddhimagga (the Path of Purification) became so popular in Indochina that a number of indigenous authors seem to have adopted this name: According to one of the traditions Brah Buddhaghosacarya visited Lanka, copied down the That Phanom Chronicle and brought it to be kept at Indraprasthanagara (Cambodia).

An inscription at the monastery of Tatok (K.892) in modern Khmer dated 1857 A.D. mentions the donation of a number. of Buddhist texts, including a manuscript entitled Buddhaghosa in three; parts--an apocryphal Jataka relating the life of the Buddhist scholar. One of the legends of Angkorsays that Buddhaghosa came to Cambodia from Sri Lanka, carrying with him a set of Tripitaka. The monk presented this set to the king of Angkor. The king, in his turn, offered him Angkor Vat, "the monastery of the city" as a gift. In modern Cambodian Sangha hierarchy, Buddhaghosacarya is the title of one of the high ranking monk of Mahanikaya.

The Thai king Lidaiya, the author of the Traibhumikatha had received the teaching of Brah Mahathera Buddhaghosacariya who lived far away at Haripunjaya through the good offices of the messengers.

Thus the existence of more than one author bearing the name of Buddhaghosa in Laos follows the Indochinese traditions about this author.

The Core-Story

The core-story is compact. A brahma-couple founds the city of Indraprastha (the present-day Cambodia). Their last son Tapa Paramesvara succeeds his father to the throne of Indraprastha. Tapa Paramesvara in his turn gives the throne to his younger / last son Virulaha. Aggrieved, his elder son Dhatarattha leaves Indraprastha, travels northward along the western bank of the Mekong through the present-day north-east Thailand and reaches Ban Phan Phao. Then he crosses the Mekong and opposite Ban Phan Phao establishes the city of Candrapuri Sri Satta Naga (Vientiane).

In Indraprastha a maha-brahma is reborn first as a deformed child Lul Lu2 in the house of a farmer and then as Ravana, the handsome son of Virulaha after the proper remoulding of his soul in the abode of Indra, At the age of three Ravana travels northward, and abducts his cousin Canda, the daughter of King Dhatarattha, from Vientiane, without formally begging her hand in customary Laotian tradition.

Offended, the king prays Indra for powerful sons to take revenge upon Ravana, Indra directs two devaputtas to take birth as twin sons of the aggrieved king of Vientiane: Rams, the Bodhisattva and Lak his younger brother. The god sends a flying horse Mahnikap for the new-born princes. One year ten months old Rama with his younger brother rides to Indraprastha along the eastern bank of the Mekong, recovers his elder sister from the palace of Ravana and brings her back to Vientiane along the western bank of the Mekong.

In course of his expedition against Ravana, Rama and his younger brother contract marriage alliances with a number of princely families in the Mekong valley. But they refuse to take their wives with them without formal proposal in accordance with the Laotian customs. Rama sends messengers to those princely families with bride-price for customary marriage negotiations after he returns to Vientiane and succeeds his father as king.

After his defeat at the mouth of the Bang Muk River, Ravana returns to Indraprastha and sends his messengers with bride-price to beg for the hand of Canda. Following his messengers Ravana reaches Vientiane, and after he fulfils all the conditions laid down by Rama, he is married formally and ritually with Canda, the elder sister of Rama. Ravana dips his sword in water, and drinking that water takes an oath of loyalty towards Rama

Rama and his younger brother Lak have numerous progeny from their different wives. Sixteen of them are meticulously enumerated.

Aggrieved by the bad conduct of his grandson, Ravana, Tapa Paramesvara leaves lndraprastha with his wife, his daughter-in-law and his son Virulaha travels to Vientiane where he is joined by his other daughter-in-law and his eldest son Dhatarattha. All the six travel to Mount Yugandhara.

At Mount Yugandhara Indra consecrates Tapa Paramesvara as the lord of all human beings and spirits and gives him the title of Isvara. Two sons are born to Isvara at Mount Yugandhara. His four sons protect the four quarters of the universe as lokapala.

In brief the conflict between the two cousins-Rama and Ravana has been presented as a family feud between two princely houses of Indochina-Indraprastha (Cambodia) and Candrapuri- Sri Satta Naga (Vientiane), tracing their origin from a common ancestor.

The Repetitions Repetition or replication is the central principle of any structuring. Einmal ist keinmal- it is as if what happens once does not happen at all.11 The plot of the Phra Lak Phra Lam is built on the principle of interacting structure of repetition. Not only are these repetitive phrases, similies, and formulaic descriptions embedded in the core-story, but incidents, scenes, settings and especially relationships are repeated throughout the story with a well calculated plan.

The story could be described as the narration of movements from Akanitha stage of heaven to the earth or vice-versa. The brahma-couple, the founder of Indraprastha descended from this point of the heaven. The Mahabrahma, who incarnated first as the deformed child and then as Ravana, came down from this stage of heaven.

From the Tavatimsa stage of heaven two devaputta descended at Indraprasthanagara to be reborn as Bik Bi (Vibhisana)and Indahji (Indrajit), the younger brothers of Ravana. From the same cosmic plane descended at Candahpuli Si Sattahnak (Vientiane), the two other devaputtas to be reborn as Lak and Lam, the cousins of Ravana. These stages of the Buddhist cosmology figure repeatedly to remind the listener of his links with a superior plane of existence.

The story could be described as repetition of journeys along the Mekong. In the beginning of his narration, the storyteller fixes the two points: Indraprasthanagara on the west bank of the Mekong in the south and Candahpuri Si Sattahnak (Vientiane) on the east bank-of the Mekong in the north.

The story moves between these two points from south to north and from north to south along the Mekong valley. These movements have been analysed in a later section of this study.

The description of natural wealth of Laos, detailing the varieties of banana, sugarcane, coconut, palm trees, fish, gold, silver, copper etc., are repeated frequently to engage the attention of the listener to the aspects of Laotian culture with which he should be familiar.

The dense primary forests with creeper-covered trees (pa) and the clear secondary forests of cik (shorea obtusa) and rail figure alternately. In fact, travelling up or downstream along the western or the eastern bank of the Mekong, one passes through alternating series of these dense and clear forests.

The story is spotted with the revelatory dream-sequences. As signals to the future happenings, these dreams are repeated frequently. The birth of almost every character in the story is preceded by a dream narration. Before conceiving the Maha-brahma in her womb in the depth of the mid-night, the farmer's wife saw in a dream that a very big, bright and beautiful star came down from the sky, went around encircling her body, entered her womb through the top of her head and emitted rays to all the ten thousand lokadhatu in the universe (cakkavala) upto the Tavatimsa stage of heaven (p. 15). The farmer's wife woke up with a start and related the dream to her husband. The farmer interpreted the dream as foreboding the birth of an eminent son and all other happenings (p.17).

The narration is dotted with the pieces of courting-poetry. In course of their expedition to Indraprastha, Lak and Lam meet young women, spend evenings with them arid enter into dialogues characterised by witty statements and indirect proposals. Such pieces would appear out of place in the story of Rama unless they are understood in the context of every day life in Laos.

The Laotian tradition allows that every girl of over sixteen might work alone on the verandah in the evening whilst her parents sleep. In this manner, while the girls remain busy with their spinning wheel, the young men on their round attune their love-songs to the khaen and make sweet overtures to the girl of their choice. After the harvest, festivities are organised in the villages. The young girls and boys of the village and the surrounding areas meet in these gatherings and engage in veritable love duets based on the continued lyrical sequences of questions and answers. By their music, melody and wit the young men have the chance of winning the heart of their chosen one.

The theme of bride-price is also multiplied to demonstrate the force of the Laotian custom. Similarly search for an auspicious day and time occurs incessantly. In a polygamous society, the anxiety of a woman to remain senior to the other wives of her husband is also demonstrated by the mechanism of repetition. In fact, each of the wives of Lak and Lam expresses her concern on this issue and rushes to reach Vientiane first to gain her seniority.

Similarly the Laotian customs of performing sou khuan (calling of the soul), paying respects to the elders (somma), one month confinement after the birth of a baby etc., have been replicated throughout the text.

The objective of the text is to focus certain aspects of Laotian culture and society through the in-built mechanism of repetition in its structure. To preserve this structure the repetitions have been meticulously retained. The purpose of the text will be completely blurred if the repetitions are deleted for stylistic consideration in the process of translation.

Translating the text

I have tried to offer a translation "faithful" to the original text by preserving its basic textual features such as characters, imagery, order of incidents and repetitive structure. Nevertheless it was judged futile to go to the extent of Chapman, the translator of Homer, who tried to reproduce a hexameter and retain the same number of lines as in the original Greek. The Phra Lak Phra Lam, written in a rhythmic Laotian prose, is composed to be "read," that is to be recited melodiously by the monks before a gathering of lay devotees. Since it would be hazardous to reproduce the music of a tonal language in English, no such attempt has been made in this translated text. The flavour, music and melody of the original text which pervaded the monastic compound and countryside during the four months of the rainy season In 1970s have been inevitably lost in the process of translation. However, efforts have been made to preserve the cultural context of the Laotian text. The range 'of Laotian metaphors and similies are very wide. Only by retaining them, the cultural context could be made clear. So instead of using the standard English imagery 'snow-white' I have preferred the original Laotian expression 'cotton-white.'

. Any attempt to achieve geometrical resemblance between Lao and English in a translated piece is doomed to failure. The process of reading and translation from Lao language involves the complex process of deconstruction and reconstruction. Where to draw boundaries in the continuous flow of lines on palmleaves or on printed pages of the Laotian text? As part of deconstruction the line must be segmented consciously into syllables for the purpose of pronuncing correctly, essentially tones: In older texts, such as the Phra lak Phra lam, written tone marks are absent. So all the tonal options and alternatives are to be examined.13The task of reconstruction involves decisions about which syllables must be joined to make words, phrases, and clauses in order to make sense in the process of translation. A single syllable may be a word in one context, but only a part of a word in a compound construction, an elaborate expression or an idiomatic expression.

The visible punctuation marks are not available in the text Such compound expressions as hanle, ka mi le, ka me thein etc., have to be properly identified to mark the end of a phrase. To distinguish the principal and subordinate sentences, it is necessary to distinguish the structure meu’a nan… lev followed by a complementary sentence.

The string of words commonly used in the Lao text are very often not prone to one-to-one transfers of meaning. The expression luk hlan literally means 'son, grandson: But. as a compound word, it denotes 'dependent'. In such cases, the literal word for word meaning has been indicated in the footnotes.

In Lao language, there are different sets of personal pronouns to be used depending on the social scale of rank or estimation of the speaker in relation to that of the person addressed. It is cumbersome to transfer the Laotian differentiation of royal, priestly and secular personal pronouns in English. Gething lists 31 items of Lao personal pronouns restricted to common, secular use and offers an analysis of their significata.15 In addition, the kinship terms- father, mother, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, brother and sister-serve as personal pronouns. In search of a satisfactory system to express the wide range of differentiations and varied nuances of Lao personal pronouns in English, the process of translating the Phra Lak Phra Lam was delayed for many years. After meeting the great masters of Tai group of languages around the world, and discussing this problem with them, I came to the conclusion that no such system has been so far developed. Nor any previous translator of Tai language has elaborated the conventions of Tal language translation which he/she might have adopted for his or her work.

In the present piece of translation as a matter of policy raw brah 011 has been translated as "I, my sacredself' in the beginning of a long dialogue, and subsequently the expression "my sacredself' has been dropped. Similarly the kinship terms used as personal pronouns have been indicated only' once at the beginning of a passage: I (your younger/elder one). The sibling terminology used as personal pronoun expresses the relative age and status of the interlocutor. Therefore, I prefer to use the expression younger / elder one. The expression younger or elder brother / sister has been reserved for such situations where the speaker is the real/blood brother or sister of the person addressed. For example, nan Canda is the cider blood sister of Lak and Lam and the elder cousin of Ravana. However no such differentiation was possible for kinship terms such as father-son, uncle-nephew etc.

In the set of personal pronouns ku-mu'n, the speaker addresses an imaginary foe in a disparaging manner. In such cases, the term ku has been translated as "I" and mu’n as “you, scoundrel." The term "scoundrel" has been used once in a given passage to express the tone and temper of the dialogue.

The pieces of courting poetry embedded in the text are very often obscure due to tilt' extensive use of flora and fauna in a symbolical sense. The symbolical meaning of plants, fruits, fish in Laos remain to be explained. In the absence of such preliminary work, a definitive translation of many passages IS hazardous.

 

Volume I (Part II)

In 1970, when I began my studies on the Rama saga in Laos, none of the existing manuscripts had been published. A number of studies and resumes enabled me to acquire some idea of their relative importance. However, it was not possible to undertake any exhaustive, critical study without a detailed and direct analysis of the original texts, An indirect result of such analysis was my decision to publish certain texts from the original manuscripts in order to give them a wider circulation.

I have chosen to publish the Phra Lak Phra Lam first, primarily because, far from being simply the translation of a foreign narrative into the Lao language, it constitutes one of the finest examples of Lao literature. In the course of an audience graciously granted to me. His Majesty King Sri Savang Vatthana described this work as a "monument of Lao literature executed in the purest Lao style”. In fact, through its vigorous prose style, it graphically depicts the manifold aspects of Lao culture. Its annual recitation at numerous monasteries during the Buddhist Lent testifies to its continuing popular appeal.

Though the text is quite long, the narrator has laid down the sequence of major events in such a way that the relationship of cause and effect between these events can be clearly seen. An introductory section relates the establishment of Inthapathanakhon and Sisattanak (Vientiane), where the events of the first part of the story take place.

At the beginning of the present aeon, a Phom couple descends to the Earth from the Akanittha stage of Heaven. Since their bodies become heavy after' tasting the flavour of earth they are unable to fly back to the heavenly abode and resign themselves to settling by the sea in the South. In the course of time, one hundred and' one children are born to them and a city named Inthapathanakhon comes into being. While their one hundred and one children go to rule in Jambudipa, their youngest son, Tapparamesuan rules in Inthapathanakhon.

Since Tapparamesuan gives the throne of Inthapathanakhon to his youngest son, Virulaha, his eldest son, Thattarattha (Dasaratha). goes to seek his fortune in the north. At the end of his long journey, which is narrated with geographical precision, Thattarattha settles at Phan Phao, Later, on the advice of a seven-heeded Naga the guardian of the Mekong river, he transfers his capital to the opposite side and names the city Sisattanak after the ,name of the seven-headed Naga.

Next, the .narrator relates the, birth of King Virulaha's son, Raphphanasuan (Ravana). In order, to illustrate Raphphanasuan'a conceit, the story of his former life as a Maha Phom (Maha Brahma) is included in this section.

The Maha Phom descended from the Akanittha stage of .Heaven in order to be born on the Earth. On his way, he stopped in the Catummaharajika stage of Heaven. The "Then" advised him to have his spirit remoulded before descending to the Earth, hut because of his conceit -he did not allow this to be done. As a result, he was born deformed into, a farmer's family in the outskirts of Inthapathanakhon and was known as Thao Lun Lu, Taking pity on the new born child, Indra came to him, and after asking him riddles regarding Buddhist doctrines, which he answered satisfactorily, the god took him hack to the "Then'" in the Catummaharajika. After several futile attempts to remould his spirit, the seven "Thens" took him to Indra's abode. He was remoulded there and became as handsome asIndra himself. The latter predicted that in' his next life the Maha Phom would be very proud, greedy and powerful. He could not be killed by any other weapon but the arrow Keo Vasiraphet, which lies on the bed of the ocean.

Thus, after his short life as a deformed child, the Maha Phom is reborn as Raphphanasuan, the son of Inthapathanakhon's king Virulaha. As predicted by Indra, he is endowed with supernatural powers, and armed with a heavenly bow of the third category. At the age of three he flies to Chanthaburi Sisattanak and abducts Nang Chantha, the daughter of his uncle, Thattarattha.

Taking Nang Chantha as his wife Raphphanasuan contravenes the established Lao customs, in, two ways; firstly he violates the taboo against marriage with an elder cousin and, secondly he does not ask for Nang Chantha's hand in the traditional way, which- is by presenting dowry. As we will see later, 'while Lao society can pardon the first fault, it cannot forgive the second.

Worried about Prince Raphphanaeuen'a conduct, Indra sends a thevabut, skilled in astrology, to be born as the Prince's younger brother and to offer him advice. The astrologer's birth as Phik Phi ' (Vibhisana) is followed by the birth of lnthasi (Indrajit), the youngest brother of Raphphanasuau.

Raphphanasuan then travels throughout Jambudipa in search of one who can challenge him. and fights with the Lords of the kingdom of Takkasila and Lomavisay before returning to Inthapathanakhon.

As a result of King Thattarattha's prayer, Indra sends two thevabut, armed with divine bows of the first and second category, to be born as the King's sons, Phra Lak (Laksmana) and Phra Lam (Rama). At the age of one, Phra Lak and Phra Lam Set forth on their journey to Inthapathanakhon Phra Lam takes Nang Chantha from Raphphanasuan who has been lying in a coma for, three months.

Regaining consciousness, Raphphaoasuan follows Phra Lak and Phra Lam in order, to rescue his wife. He fights many battles before surrendering at the mouth of the Bang Muk river. From there, Phra Lak and Phra Lam travel to Chanthaburi Sisattanak in a boat given to them by Raphphanasuan.

After this victorious campaign, Phra Lam is married to Nang Si Phimpha and Phra Lak to Nang Si Kanya and they ate made respectively king and viceroy of the kingdom of Chanthaburi Sisattanak, They then send their officers and the horse Manikap to present dowries and to ask 'for the hands of the' fourteen ladies whom they have married in the course of their expedition to Inthapathanakhon.

Next, Raphphanasuau sends his two officers to Chanthaburi Sisattanak to present dowry for Nang Chantha. He himself goes there and fulfils all the conditions imposed by Phra Lam before getting Nang Chantha back.

When Raphphanasuan returns to Inthapathanakhon with Nang Chantha, everybody except hisgrandfather goes to receive him. In fact his grandfather is unable to reconcile himself with Raphphanasuan who in his eyes, has violated a fundamental norm of Lao society by taking Nang Chantha, his elder cousin. as his wife. He is so disgusted that in the end ho leaves Inthapathanekhon and goes to live on Mount Yukhanthon with his wife, sons and daughters-in-law.

The above analysis shows that the focal theme of the first part of the story is the Lao custom of presenting a dowry prior to asking for a girl's hand. All the major events of the story are designed to stress this custom. Being defeated by Phra Lak and Phra Lam, Raphphanasuan thus pays for his improper conduct. Not quite sure that the moral has made a lasting impression on the audience, the narrator relates further that, as ideal Lao princes, Phra Lak and Phra Lam do not take with them the daughters of the local chiefs, whom they had married in the course of their expedition to Inthapathanakhon, because they could not formally present dowries. They negotiate for them and present dowries subsequently, even though their marriages are accomplished facts. This is followed by Raphphanasuan'8 submission to the established custom.

Finally" the grandfather of Raphphanasuan, who symbolizes the older generation's adherence to the established customs, leaves Inthapathanakhon in protest against this marriage with an elder cousin, even though Raphphanasuan has gone to present dowry for Nang Chantha and ask ° for her hand in the customary way.

 

Contents

 

  Preface iii
  Abbreviations iv
  List of Maps iv
  Acknowledgements v
  Transliteration viii
1 Introduction 1
2 The Jataka Format 9
3 The Mekong Axis 17
4 The Elder Sister of Rama 25
5 The Sibling Rivalry 33
6 The Bride-Price 39
7 The Translated Text: The Phra Lak Phra Lam- Part I 43
1 Dattahratthah Rules Meu'an Candahpuli Si Sattahnak 43
2 Mahha Bom (Maha Brahma) Reborn first as dav2 Lul Lu2 and then as dav2 Rabbahnasvn (Ravana) 54
3 Rabbahnasvn Abducts Nan Canda to Indahpahthahnahgan 84
4 Rabbahnasvn Wanders in Jambudvipa Searching His Rival in Magical Knowledge 90
5 Brah Lam Rescues Nan Canda from Indahpahthahnahgan to Candahpuli Si Sattahanak 96
6 Brah Lak and Brah Lam Negotiate for their Fourteen Wives 222
7 Rabbahnasvn Negotiates For His Marriage With Nan Canda 292
8 Birth of Sixteen Children of Brah Lak and Brah Lam 318
9 Brahya In (=Indra) Establishers Brahya Aiyahsvn (=Isvara) and His Four Sons on Mount Yugandhara 319
  Bibliography 327
  Index 339

 

Volume II

 

Contents

 

  Abbreviations vii
  Transliteration viii
1 The Laotian Ramakatha 1
2 The Laotian Rmakath: A Comparative Analysis 17
3 Marriage, Kinship and Incest 53
4 Towards Lanka 59
5 The Translated Text: The Phra Lak Phra Lam-Part II 73
1 Rabbahnasvn Seducess Sujata, the wife of Indra 73
2 Rabbahnasvn Casts His Daugher (nan Sita) Adrift 85
3 A Hermit Adopts Sita 90
4 Rabbahnasvn Fails to Get hand of Sita as his wife (from the Hermit) 109
5 Rabbahnasvn Obtains Nan Suddo As His Wife (from the Hermit) 124
6 Dav2 Brah Lak and Brah Lam Take Nan Sita (from the Hermit) 131
7 Rabbahnasvn Abducts Nan Sita to Meuan Lanka 151
8 Rabbahnasvn Lodges Nan Sita in a Place Outside Lanka City 161
9 Brah Lam Turned into a Monkey on a Branch of Nigot Tree 163
10 Dav2 Sangip Rules Meuan Kasi Mahhanahgan with Dav2 Brah Lican as Viceroy 171
11 Hullahman Born as the Monkey Son of Brah Lam 174
12 Dav2 Sangip Chases Out His Younger Brother (Dav2 Brah Lican) from Meu'an Kasi 194
13 Nan Ben Si Transformed into a Human Being After Eating a Nigot Fruit 211
14 Dav2 Sangip Killed as a Result of Manipulation of Brah Lican 217
15 Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2 Born as the Son of Brah Lam 222
16 Dav2 Brah Lican offers One Akkhobeni (aksauhani) troops to Brah Lam 226
17 Brah Lam sends Dav2 Hullahman and Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2 as Messengers to Search for Nan Sita 236
18 Dav2 Hullahman and Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2 Search for a Ford to Cross the Ocean 256
19 With the Army Raised from Indahpahthahnahgan City Brah Lam Marches to the Ford 259
20 Rabbahnasvn Throw Dav2 Bik Bi, Dav2 Indahji and Dav2 Jettahkumman in Front of the Troops of Dav2 Brah Lam. Khun Jivha Streches Out His Tongue as a Bridge Between the Island of Lanka and Jumbudip 261
21 Death of Khun Jivha and Welcome of Bik Bi By Brah Lam 263
22 Dav2 Hullahman, Dav2 Khvan Daw2 Ba2, Dav2 Aggidahna, Dav2 Jata Brahya and Dav2 Kallahha Brahya Build the Bridge Connecting the Island of Lanka with the Opposite Shore 267
23 Battle of Lanka 270
24 Dav2 Brah Lam Returns from the Island of Lanka to Candahpuli Si Sattahnak 305
25 King Lammahlat Pronounces Capital Punishment to Nan Sita 313
26 Dav2 Brah Put, the Son of Sita Fights With King Lammahlat 317
27 Buddha Correlates the Past-Story with Present 325
  Bibliography 327
  Index 330

 

Sample Pages

Volume I

Part I









Part II







Volume II

Part I









Part II






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