Introduction to The Story of Ramakian
The mural paintings on the walls of the gallery surrounding theTempleof the Emerald Buddha depict the various avatar of Phra Narai as well as the complete story of the Ramakian. The murals were first executed in the reign of King Rama I the Great after his coronation as the first king of Chakri Dynasty. The king had ordered the contruction of the temple within the enclosure of the Grand Palace, in accordance with ancient tradition, and named the temple “Wat Prasrirattane Sassadaram”. The Ubosot, or chapel, housed the Emerald Buddha image. He also directed that the gallery surrounding the chapel be decorated with murals depicting scenes from the “Story of Ramkian” which he had composed himself in 1782.
Over the years, due to dampness of the walls, the murals became faded and parts even fell off. They have thus been repaired several times, as follow:
The Rama III’s reign, the murals were repainted to celebrate Bangkok’s 50th anniversary, in 1832.
In Rama V’s reign, the murals were repaired to celebrate Bangkok’s 100th anniversary, in 1882.
In Rama VII’s reign, the murals were repaired to celebrate Bangkok’s 150th anniversary, in 1932.
In Rama IX’s reign, the murals were repaired to celebrate Bangkok’s 200th anniversary, in 1982.
The murals on the walls of the gallery are divided into two parts, those in rooms 1 to 178 depicting the story of Ramakian from start to finish. The pictures are accompanied bt verses which were composed in Rama V’s reign, engraved on marble slabs embedded in the columns surrounding the gallery. The story begins in room 1, near the north gate opposite Viharn Yod, and continues to the right. Before entering the rooms, near the doors and in little corners, there are panels depicting the various avatar of Phra Narai before he became Phra Ram, numbering 80 in all.
There are two important versions of the Ramakian, the complete version composed by Rama I and a shorter version composed by Rama II. Both versions are of high literary merit and very pleasant readings.
This edition of Ramakian is based on Rama I’s version, since it uses the murals to illustrate the story. Thus both the story and the spelling of certain words may not correspond with other versions.
Also, only some of the murals, the more important scenes from the story, are reproduced here. These scenes are well-known and almost often adapted for performance in the Khon, or masked play.
For continuity between each illustration, the story is told as succinctly and as detailed as possible within the limitation of space. Thus by reading the text accompanying the illustrations, the reader will be able to understand the important points of the story.
The accompanying text is based on the verses composed by Rama I in the “Story of Ramakian”.