Tag Archives: kamba ramayanam

Festival of India in Cambodia – Dance Festival and Buddhist Festival


Rama Pattabhishekam – Rama Attaining Throne


The Embassy of India and the Ministry of Culture, Government of India recently hosted The Festival of India in Cambodia. There were two events held in February. One the Buddhist Festival with a Buddhist themed photo exhibition and the other, Ramayana Classical Dance Performance by the world acclaimed and well esteemed Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai.

The epic Ramayana was performed by Artists from the famous Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, Tamilnadu, in Siem Reap province for two days at Sophitel Pokheetra Hall (14.02.14 and 15.02.14) and in Phnom Penh at Chaktamouk Theatre for three days (17.02, 18.02 and 19.02.14).


captivating performances..





Kalakshetra was established in 1936 after the extraordinary success of Rukmini Devi’s first performance of Bharata Natyam at the Theosophical Society, in Adyar, a suburb of Madras, in the South of India. The founding members, Rukmini Devi, her husband George Arundale, and their associates at the Theosophical Society, were deeply committed to Theosophy and an arts academy was an extension of this commitment. The academy was also symbolic of the struggle for India’s independence; it was to culturally revive a country that was losing its identity under British rule. http://www.kalakshetra.net/history_1.html


Rukmini Devi founded Kalakshetra in 1936. She devoted the next fifty uears – until her death in 1986 – to this institution, now India’s premier dance school. It focuses on bharatanatyam, carnatic vocal and instrumental music, the visual arts, traditional crafts, textile design and heritage, besides history and philosophy.


Director of Kalakshetra Priyadarsini Govind



The Dancers, Vocalists, Instrumentalists and the very important Behind the Screen Technical Artists arrived as a crew with the Director of Kalakshetra,  Priyadarsini Govind a renowned dancer herself. She is immensely respected for her gentle blending of traditional dance with new choreography. Her inseparable talent has loaded her with numerous awards and honours, among which are the Prestigious ‘Kalaimamani’ title by the Government of Tamilnadu in 1998 and ‘Yuva Kala Bharathi’ in 2000.
Ramayana on Stage

The classic dance drama, not only showcased the rich cultural and artistic heritage of India but also served as a connecting link between many of the Asian countries. Ramayana is popular in various parts of south east asia, where the epic is adapted according to the country’s culture and life style. Even within India, Ramayana in each language, adapted from the original Valmiki Ramayana, has unique features of the respective territory.


As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the ramayana survive. In particular, the ramayana related in north India differs in important respects from that preserved in south India and the rest of south-east Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayana

Here in Phnom Penh, Guests from various countries thoroughly enjoyed the rendition and felt the connect.

The connect was not only because of Ramayana, but due to the immensely talented artists who performed on stage – who brought the characters in true picture. The enthralled spectators would have been comparing their version of Ramayana with that performed on stage.


the artists






and instrumentalists


The Performances were a class apart, with the incomparable discipline in the steps and outstanding co-ordination of movements, the super speciality of Bharata Natyam.The traditional way of having the vocalists and instrumentalists on the side stage, with live music was another feather on the cap!

Rukmini Devi based her production largely on Valmiki’s classical version, but had made minor differences in the sequence of events. In her own words –


There are certain fundamental differences between Valmiki, Kambar and the great Ramayana poets. There is no definite mention in Valmiki of Surpanakha transforming herself into a beautiful maiden in order to tempt Sri Rama.
We are also accustomed to think Ravana lifting Sita with the part of the earth on which she was, to protect himself from magnetism which was like fire, destroying him. This is not so according to the Valmiki version, which says Ravana lifted her physically.
I have made slight differences in the sequence of events for it is important to think of what appears best on the stage. – Rukmini Devi Arundale


The performances were done under three themes, one on each day –
1. Jatayu Moksham
2. Choodamani Pradhanam
3. Mahapattabhishekam

These are some of the pictures which would explain the sheer beauty and poise of the dance and the stunning stageappearance and the almost real characters on stage!

In Tamil, names have the suffix  ‘an’ for male names as raman, lakshmanan, bharathan and ravanan; and here ‘ai’ for female names as in seethai and surpanakai. As I am comfortable in addressing the characters in the Tamil version, the names are mentioned likewise.
1. Jatayu Moksham

For info on the topic, I found this blog – http://ramayanainfo.blogspot.com/2010/06/jataayu-moksha.html%22 helpful.


seethai, raman and lakshmanan



raman and seethai



encounter with surpanakai, ravanan’s sister



ravanan in his court



ravanan disguised as an ascetic to kidnap seethai



ravanan kills jatayu


2. Choodamani Pradhanam and Lanka Dhahanam

Please refer http://srimadramayana.blogspot.com/2007/04/choodamani-pradanam.html for the story of the episode.

Also http://www.kalakshetra.net/choodamani_pradanam.html


hanuman lifts raman and lakshmanan



war between vali and sugreevan



the war



hanuman watches the pathetic state of seethai from behind the bushes



seethai hands over her ornament to hanuman



3. Maha Pattabhishekam

Read http://www.kalakshetra.net/maha_pattabhishekam.html for details of the story.


war between raman and ravanan



post war – seethai meets raman



raman accepts seethai



raman and seethai arrive for the coronation



elegance personified





Crisp Steps of ‘Bharatha Natyam’, co-ordinated with other forms like ‘Kathakali’ made the performance an undoubtedly unique affair. The make-up, jewellery and the importance given to costumes gave a feel of a celestial wonder!

The verses sung were in Sanskrit from the original Valmiki Ramayana. Yet, the translated version which was displayed continuously on side monitors helped in comprehension of the scenes better.


Committed to artistic excellence whether in classrooms, in auditoria or during tours around the world (as a performance company), Kalakshetra productions are widely recognized for their in-depth research, impeccable technique and refined aesthetics.


Formerly, the Buddhist festival was held at Wat Ounalom, with the Himalayan monks performing Lama Chanting, a specialized form of chanting that produces multiple distinct pitches simultaneously. The monks also created sand mandalas and butter sculptures showing an innovative version of Buddhist worship medium. A photo exhibition named Dhamma Dharshan portrayed various aspects of Buddha’s life and the eight important places in the life of Buddha – the venues located in India. It was surely a wonderful journey and a unique experience of knowledge gaining of the great Man’s life under one roof.

Still in store – a Food Festival and Film Festival are also being organized here in Cambodia in the month of April, as part of the Festival of India. Surely the True Flavor of India!


The Grand Palace – Bangkok


So, we cross the road and enter into the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace was the official residence if the Kings since 1782 and has been renovated often to preserve its grandeur. Though the Royal Family does not reside here, it is open for public view and is used for ceremonial purposes. Most of the buildings inside the Palace complex are closed to the public.




As we walk inside the long palace path, we come across three strikingly beautiful towers. These represent three different styles of temple architecture – Srilankan, Thai and Khmer. The golden stupa to the left representing19th century Srilankan, the middle pillared tower representing Thai and the right representing Khmer Architecture. The Srilankan Stupa is worshipped as the most sacred of all the three towers as Buddha’s relics – a piece of Buddha’s breast bone- are preserved here.

We are greeted by Yakshas – Demons guarding the Palace –




The intensely ornate Thai style architecture Library which contain sacred Buddhist manuscripts.



and the tranquil Buddha sitting in stone on the side of the library –






The Ramakien (รามเกียรติ์, “Glory of Rama”, sometimes also spelled Ramakien) is Thailand‘s national epic, derived from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style.

The Ramayana came to Southeast Asia by means of Tamil Indian traders and scholars who traded with the Khmer kingdoms (such as Funan and Angkor) and Srivijaya, with whom the Indians shared close economic and cultural ties.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramakien



In Tamil, Ramayanam is called ‘Kambaramayanam’ – Ramayanam written by Poet Kambar. Kambaramayanam occupies special place in the history of Tamil Literature for its distinct literary presentation and delivery of emotions through crisp language skills – by the ‘King of Poetry’ – Kavichakravarthy Kambar as he is hailed.

Kambar adopted Valmiki’s original Ramayana in the Tamil style, with changes made according to Tamil Culture. In other words, it is the re-telling of the story of Lord Rama without alienating from the Tamil lifestyle.


One of the situations is where Ravana the king abducts Sita from the hut where she is staying with Rama. In the Sanskrit version, Ravanaa lifts Sita and carries her. But this is unthinkable to the Tamilian. So Kambar makes a deviation and states that he lifted her up along with the hut and the earth below it and carried that piece of earth, hut and the lady in it. There are several such instances. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kambar_poet


Scenes of Ramakien, the Thai version of the Ramayanam decorates the walls in the Royal Palace Complex.




Is this Hanuman helping Rama’s force cross the sea to Lanka?




A stone model of Angkor Wat, Cambodia – the largest religious structure in the world, can be seen-



Kinnara and Kinnaree

Golden statues of Kinnara and Kinnaree greet the visitors –

In Southeast Asian mythology, Kinnaris, the female counterpart of Kinnaras, are depicted as half-bird, half-woman creatures. One of the many creatures that inhabit the mythical Himavanta. Kinnaris have the head, torso, and arms of a woman and the wings, tail and feet of a swan. She is renowned for her dance, song and poetry, and is a traditional symbol of feminine beauty, grace and accomplishment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinnara


This Kinnaree is an exclusive one – body of a female and legs and tail of a lion! Please do let me know if she is also a Kinnaree or has any other specific name in the mystical world.



and her counterpart – half male and half lion – our guide mentions he is also called Narasimha – the sanskrit word for man and lion.




And the exclusive Naga – Snake – with the head of an apsara – devine female and body of a snake… The usual Naga has the head of a demon and body of a snake – our guide tells us!



Wat Phra Kaew – The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew is considered the most sacred of the Buddhist temples in Thailand. The statue of Buddha is just over 2 feet tall and no photographs allowed from inside the temple room. Buddha is seated in a well crafted shrine, glittering in gold.

The Emarald Buddha is adorned with different costumes three time a year – summer, winter and the rainy months of the year. Only The King touches the statue and changes the costume of Buddha.




and the costumes for the three seasons –




Then we proceeded to the Grand Palace Grounds – the different Halls, added and renovated by successor Kings. Ancient Buddha stupas, Temples and Murals from literature, Ornate Temple Architecture in glittery gold – and a Palace Hall with a European touch – visit to Grand Palace has been an enthralling majestic experience. The shine of gold in bright sunny daylight and the master piece architectural beauty cannot surely be captured in one’s camera.

The efforts put to safeguard these important symbols of culture and literature –  the endless renovation works being carried over are truly commendable. I would never miss another chance to visit again!