When India export its culture : the “ramayana” revisited

Actors playing the “khon” drama. Thailand.

“Khon” is a masked dance-drama depicting scenes of the Ramakien – the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana, the book that relates the life of the hindu god Rama, his search for his beloved princess, Sita, who has been abducted by the demon-king Ravana. Rama is assisted by mythical half-human, half-animal characters including the monkey-god Hanuman. In all khon performances, 4 characters are represented – male humans, female humans, monkeys and demons. Monkey and demon figures are always masked with elaborate masks. Behind the masks and make-up, all actors are male. One of the Thailand’s most sophisticated art forms, “khon” is a very expensive production – Ravana’s retinue alone consists of over 100 demons, each with a distinctive mask.

Perhaps because it was once limited to royal venues, it has never gained a popular following in Thailand where most of the population is buddhist. Yet, hinduism appeared in the country between the 7° and 11° centuries under the influence of the Khmer kings.

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