Lao Ramayana Gvay Dvorahbi (Rendering Into English from "Lav" Language)

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About the Book

The monograph offers a unique version of the Ramayana from Laos, considered as an “out-post” of Indian civilization in South-East Asia. The original palm leaf manuscript of the Gvay Dvorabhi which forms the basis of this study was preserved in the collection of the Royal Palace, Luang Prabang in 1970s. The title of the text pronounced as Khvay Thuaraphi, buffalo Dundabhi is a well-known character of the Valmiki Ramayana in its Kiskindha kanda. With this title, however, the whole story of the Ramayana has been narrated by the Laotian author.

In its introductory chapter, the reader rediscovers the interesting process of localization by which the events of the Ramayana have been placed in different parts of Laos.

This section also explores the elements of Laotian folklore integrated into the Ramayana story. The following chapter (II), critically compares Gvay Dvorahb with the Indian and extra Indian versions of the story of Rama.

Chapter III offers an annotated English translation of the Laotian text. Chapter IV comments on the mural paintings of Vat Oup-Moung in Vientiane, (Laos) which describes the story of Ramayana in 33 panels as known to the Laotian painter. These panels assume greater importance today as the edifice whose walls they adorned have been recently demolished in course of reinnovation of the monasteries.

Chapter V offers the text of the Gvay Dvorahb in the Laotian language and script as copied from the original Yuan manuscript by the scribes of the royal palace.

In an illuminating foreword, Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, the renowned Indian linguist, highlights the importance of this Publication in the study of Ramayana and the culture of Laos.

About the Author

Professor Sachchidanand Sahai

(Born 1941) served as Pro-Vice Chancellor, Magadh University, Bodh-Gaya in 2001. Currently he is Member, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. Professor Sahai obtained his M.A. degree in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology from Banaras Hindu University, with the award of A.S. Altekar Gold Medal in 1962. His researches on ancient Cambodia under the guidance of eminent French savant George Coedes in the University of Paris (Sorbonne) during 1965-69 lead to a doctoral degree and the Publication of pioneering work Les institution politiques et I’ organisation administrative du Cambodge ancient, EFEO, Paris, 1971.

Professor Sahai was offered a Fulbright post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Visiting Fellowships at Australian National University and Maison de Science de I’ Homme, Paris.

Under the auspices of Indian Council for Cultural Relations Professor Sahai worked as Visiting Professor of Asian Civilization at Sisavangvong University, Vientiane, Laos. He also worked as Research Professor at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. Professor Sahai is the author of a number of books and research papers on the cultural history of South East Asia. He is the founder of the South East Asian Review. and the International Conference on Thai Studies.

Foreword

The Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki, which perhaps attained to something like its present form some time during the beginning of the Christian era, is unquestionably one of the greatest books of the world, and has been a work of paramount importance practically throughout the greater part of Asia. In modern Europe also the value of this work as the repository of a great historical or romantic saga, which has helped to build up the moral character of peoples among forty nations, has been universally admitted. The importance of the Ramayana in the national life of most of the peoples of Asia outside the Christian and Islamic worlds is acknowledged by everyone and a recent Ramayana Seminar held at Djakarta in Indonesia and at New Delhi in India testify to the value of the Ramayana as a great creation of literature. The Second International Seminar on the Ramayana held at New Delhi from the 7th to the 10th December 1975, which was attended by eminent scholars who have been working on the Ramayana in different languages not only in India but in the countries of Asia as well as in some of the European countries and also in America, created great enthusiasm, and the sixty and more scholars who took part in it all composed and read or delivered lectures on certain aspects of the Ramayana in various languages of the world. It was realise by the participants, in a way which was not appreciated before, how the Ramayana formed a sort of a National Epic for ever so many nations in their own languages-not only in Sanskrit and the ancient languages of India, but in all the various medieval and modern Indian languages as well as languages outside India like Indonesian in various forms, “Thai, Lao and other related languages, Cham, Khmer or Cambodian, Mon or Talaing, Burmese, Sinhalese, Chinese in its various forms, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, Tibetan, old khotanese, etc. etc.”.

The basic story of Rama and his adventures as in the Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki has on the whole been retained intact. But in all the countries both in India and outside India, there have been a series of variation in the Rama story which gave us new versions or recensions in most of these languages. And these differ in some cases in certain fundamental matters from the Sanskrit version of valmiki. It is to be noted that within India itself there are other versions than that of Valmiki which give new topics and new situations in the story not found in Valmiki. This means that within India itself there were, in addition to the version presented by Valmiki. Other form of the Ramayana story which give the legend in different forms. The Ramayana story as current in various non-Indian languages becomes a subject of study of highest importance in Comparative Literature.

Among the various non-Indian versions of the Ramayana, the Indonesian and the Thai or Siamese have their own special importance, and they show certain characteristics which are well worth a study, to find out how and when these versions took their form. In that great book written in Hindi by the Belgian scholar in Ranchi, India, Father Camille Bulcke S.J., viz. “Rama-Katha”, we see the extent and variations of the Rama saga in its different versions in the various languages. A detailed study of the Indonesian and the Siamese versions of the Rama story for instance bring to us quite a mass of fresh material not known to the Sanskrit, and among these extra-Indian versions, the most aberrated and bizarre appears to be the version of the Ramayana as current in the country of the Lao in Indo-China.

There has been already some kind of study of the various versio