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Panji – Diponegoro – La Galigo from the UB Leiden/KITLV collections

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Three Indonesian heroes in the Memory of World Register of UNESCO

The Panji stories, the autobiography of Prince Diponegoro and the epos I La Galigo are narrative works from Indonesia that, in their very own way, bear relevance to the cultural history of the region. The Leiden University Libraries hold a substantial number of manuscripts related to those three heroes. With an exhibition the UB Leiden is currently celebrating the extraordinary fact that, over the years, the above-mentioned items have been included in the Memory of the World Register of the UNESCO.

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Cod.Or. 1965, Ken Tambuhan, one of the hundreds of Panji manuscripts held in Leiden. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

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Masks used for staging Panji plays (loan Clara Brakel). Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

Panji and I La Galigo stories always travelled between media, from dance performance to stage theatre to manuscript, from oral traditions and recitations to printed matters – the written text often being a mere ‘back up’ version. The exhibition focusses on the various forms of presentation of these stories.
Diponegoro, being an historic figure, takes a special stand in this group of Indonesian heroes.  However, the items on display confirm that historiography is just another form of narration (freely quoting Hayden White).

Adventures
Panji stories originate from Java but gained a growing popularity throughout Southeast Asia from the 14th and 15th centuries onwards, competing successfully with the dominating Indian epics. Within the Javanese narrative traditions the Panji stories may be considered the most popular genre, one that is meant to entertain. The UB Leiden holds hundreds of Panji manuscripts, c. 200 of which have been selected for the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. In essence and ignoring all the side tracks, these stories depict the adventures of the Javanese Prince Panji and his lost love, Princess Kirana (both keep changing their names continually). The narrative’s ingredients are universal: love, jealousy, even murder, grief and pain, and – at least in most of the Malay versions – a happy ending.

Rebellion
Prince Diponegoro (1785-1855), one of the first indigenous rulers to seek independence from the Dutch, wrote his chronicles in exile in North-Sulawesi. Tricked by the Dutch, he was captured in 1830 when he agreed to negotiations in Magelang. The original text has not even survived the 19th century, but an early Dutch translation could be preserved and is on display now. Diponegoro’s account is often championed as the first Indonesian autobiography, but more relevant is that it forms the core of a very powerful national narrative in the modern state of Indonesia.

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D Or 13 Buku Kedhung Kebo  (1866)
Javanese manuscript that presents (part of) the ancestral history commissioned by Raden Tumenggung Cokronegoro of Purworejo (formerly called Kedhung Kebo). Raden Cokronegoro was in office from 1830 until 1862 and as fierce an opponent of Diponegoro’s as he was a loyal ally to the Dutch. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

Genesis
Flourishing in South Sulawesi since the 14th century, this oral Buginese tradition was translated from the ancient Buginese and put in writing by Queen Siti Aisyah We Tenriolle of Tanete (and/or her daughter). This mythical epos, in fact a poem built upon a metre of five syllables, narrates the genesis from a Buginese perspective. The UB Leiden holds 12 volumes which form the largest and also the opening part of what is the most voluminous literary work in the world. The complete work is estimated to contain 6.000 folio-sized pages and, because of its enormous length, no single manuscript exists that contain the complete text.

 

 

DorisBC La Galigo

NBG Boeg 188 La Galigo. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

The Buginese, the largest ethnic group of South Sulawesi with an estimated population of 2.5 million people, have a distinct language and script. I La Galigo – apart from being considered sacred and by some an historical source – is certainly also an intriguing piece of literature.

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Cod.Or. 5475, a fragment of the La Galigo epos on palm leave (late 19th or early 20th century) . The strokes of palm leaves are sewed to form one long stroke. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

UNESCO Memory of the World

By enlisting them in the Memory of the World Register as cultural heritage to be protected, UNESCO has certified the cultural (and socio-historical) relevance of the above-depicted manuscripts. In cooperation with libraries in Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, the Leiden University Libraries/KITLV already successfully gained this special status for the three heroes Panji, Diponegoro and La Galigo.
Maybe it’s now time for a woman?

The exhibition is still on until 1 September 2019.

(Doris Jedamski, University Library Leiden)

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Marhaen: An Indonesian Journal from 1980s West Berlin

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In 2011 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt acquired the library of the Stiftung Asienhaus (“Foundation Asia House”, then located in Essen, now in Cologne), an association of several German NGOs working on Asia. Among the many uncatalogued materials of this collection we recently found three volumes of a small Indonesian-language leftist journal named Marhaen: Analisa & Berita Bulanan.

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Marhaen volume 1, front cover

This journal was published in West Berlin and does not have any reference to a particular publisher, thus, it must have been published by the editorial staff themselves. As editors are listed Christin Litan, Sammy Litan, Mohamad Isa and Agus Darmadji. In Frankfurt, the volumes 1-3 of this monthly journal are available. As in volume 3 a fourth volume is announced, one can assume that several further issues have been published  (Waruno Mahdi, personal communication, 11.01.2019). However, there is only one further holding of this journal known to me: The German Berlin-based human rights group Watch Indonesia! keeps the first volumes of Marhaen in their collections (Alex Flor, personal communication, 21.01.2019; Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

There is no publication date found in all existing volumes, but as its contents contain citations from contemporary political magazines (such as Far Eastern Economic Review or Indonesie: Feiten en Meningen) from early 1985 it seems fair to estimate the date of appearance from 1985 onwards.

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Marhaen volume 3, front cover

The last existing issue known to me is volume 6 from 1986, unfortunately not available in the Frankfurt collections (Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The text is completely written in Indonesian, the available issues consist of 10 pages (vols. 1-2) or 14 pages (vol. 3). Later issues became more voluminous, e.g volume 6 consists of 48 pages. They are among the last breaths of the pre-computer era, as they were type-written. The volumes contain some illustrations like photo-copied photographs or critical cartoons. As the volumes are small it is not surprising the articles and essays are usually very short and often bear the character of an annotation or footnote, in particular in the section “Berita & Ulasan” (“News & Commentaries”).

Not much is known about the editors except for the late Mohamad Isa (1922-2008). He became cultural attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Prague in 1964 and was removed from this position in 1966. Mohamad Isa could not return to Indonesia after General Soeharto took over power in 1965. In 1967 he therefore moved to East Berlin to escape the harassments of the new representatives of the Indonesian so-called New Order-regime as there was no Indonesian embassy in the German Democratic Republic until 1976. He then worked until 1981 as lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University, until he was replaced by a former Indonesian student from Moscow and lost his work permit as well as his residence permit for the German Democratic Republic for political reasons. After his application for asylum was rejected in the Netherlands he and his family moved to West Berlin. Mohamad Isa’s daughter Reni became lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1989 (Keller 2014). The other editors are not known. For a good overview of Indonesian (student) activities in Berlin including their publications (but not Marhaen!) from the 1950s until today see Hasyim (2014). Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja thought that they might be of the same generation as Mohamad Isa (personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The title Marhaen indicates the closeness to the Sukarno-style form of socialism Marhaenisme, which the first President of Indonesia Sukarno labeled after a Sundanese peasant named Marhaen whom he had allegedly met in the 1920s (Sukarno 1970: 157, for deeper analysis of Sukarno’s form of socialism see Mintz (1965) and Mortimer (1974)). Thus, it is not very surprising that most of its contents and articles are highly critical towards the dictatorial regime of his successor Soeharto.

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Example of a type-written page from volume 3 of Marhaen

For example, there is an article on the Roman emperor Caligula, seemingly unfavourably indicating a comparison to the former Indonesian dictator. Another essay is entitled “Betina yang Paling Kaya di Dunia” (“The Richest Woman in the World”), but the Indonesian term betina for ‘femaleness’ is used for animals only and here refers to Soeharto’s wife Siti Hartinah (called ‘Ibu Tien’), widely known for her greediness (Schulze 2015: 164). Other articles discuss contemporary developments in Indonesia such as “1985: Jakarta Bebas dari Becak” (“1985: Jakarta is Trishaw-Free”) or “ABRI lawan ABRI” (“ABRI Fights ABRI”, ABRI is the Indonesian acronym for the Indonesian National Armed Forces). Further essays e.g. are entitled “Moral dan Anti-Moral” (“Moral and Anti-Moral”), “Rasisme terhadap Cina” (“Racism towards the Chinese”), “Suharto di atas Punggung Macan” (“Suharto on the Back of the Tigers”) or “Teori-teori Kaum Penindas” (“Theories of the Suppressors”).

The existing issues of the journal “Marhaen” in Frankfurt are available under the shelf mark “ZS 1082” and can be ordered to be viewed in the reading room at Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg.

References:

Hasyim, Syafiq (2014): Challeging a Home Country: A Preliminary Account of Indonesian Student Activism in Berlin. In: ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 7 (2), 183-198.

Keller, Anett (2014): Ziviler Ungehorsam als Lebensprinzip. In: Südostasien 30 (4), 34-36.

Mintz, Jeanne S. (1965): Mohammed, Marx and Marhaen: The Roots of Indonesian Socialism. London: Pall Mall Press.

Mortimer, Rex (1974): Indonesian Communism under Sukarno: Ideology and Politics 1959-1965. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Schulze, Fritz (2015): Kleine Geschichte Indonesiens: Von den Inselkönigreichen zum modernen Großstaat. München: C.H. Beck.

Sukarno (1970 [1957]): Marhaen, a Symbol of the Power of the Indonesian People. In: Indonesian Political Thinking 1945-1965 (Herbert Feith, Lance Castles, eds.), 154-160. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

 

by Holger Warnk

J.W.Goethe-Universität, Library of Southeast Asian Studies

(Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Alex Flor, Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja and Waruno Mahdi for their help and for providing much background information.)

NELITI – bilingual online database of Indonesian research materials

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NELITI (from the Indonesian word ‘meneliti’, ‘to research’) is a bilingual online database of Indonesian research materials that offers access to 1055 online academic journals and 515 libraries. Most of the journals and institutions are in Indonesia, but the site also includes a small number of international publications and links to institutions in Australia, Canada, China and Europe.

Much of the content of the research materials is in Indonesian, but many Indonesian journals now include abstracts of articles in English, and so keyword searches can be made in either Indonesian or English. Through the listing of Libraries, it is also possible to see all the research materials published by a particular institution. This is a valuable resource offering access to materials which are difficult to find outside Indonesia.

Tjenderawasih: A 1950’s Indonesian Children’s Journal in the Library of Southeast Asian Studies in Frankfurt

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Indonesian cultural journals have played a great role in the production of modern Indonesian literature and in the Indonesian publishing scene in general (Kratz 1994). As many authors did not have the financial means to have their works printed in book form, authors of short stories and poetry had only the choice to get published in journals and newspapers. Ulrich Kratz has demonstrated the great importance of journals for the production of modern Indonesian literature in his monumental bibliography of nearly 900 pages. It is not surprising therefore that those cultural journals of nation-wide importance like Horison, Zenith, Mimbar Indonesia, Basis, Pujangga Baru or Medan Sastera, to mention only a few, are comparatively well available in European libraries and collections. Local periodicals like Pawon (Surakarta), Puisi (Magelang), Catatan Kebudayaan (Denpasar) or Genta Budaya (Padang) which often appeared for only a few years are far less represented. Cultural journals for children and young readers are nearly totally absent in Western collections.
The Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main acquired in 2011 the collection of books of Prof. Ulrich Kratz, formerly professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Ulrich Kratz was a regular visitor of the Malay world since the early 1970s and acquired many rare titles published locally. His main research interests were literature and culture, so his library consisted of more than 9,000 titles from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, mainly in Indonesian/Malay.
Among the many periodicals in the collection of Ulrich Kratz is an incomplete set of the first two volumes of the Indonesian childrens’ journal Tjenderawasih: Madjalah Bulanan Anak-Anak (‘Bird of Paradise: Monthly Magazine for Children’), which so far is not listed in the World Cat and thus being unique.

Illustration 1: Front cover of the first volume that was released in September 1951

Its first volume was released in September 1951, and the last available issue is volume 2, Number 7, published in June 1953 (illustration 2). All issues were published by Ganaco, a well-known publishing house in Bandung from the 1950s to the late 1970s. It is not known when the journal ceased its publication.

Illustration 2: Front cover of volume 2 number 1 of Tjenderawasih

The journal describes itself on its back page as a “magazine for our children based on education” (madjalah anak² kita jang berazaskan pendidikan) managed by “experts of education” (ahli² pendidik). Therefore its contents were considered suitable for all classes in Indonesian elementary schools and were adapted to their courses of instruction. What, then, are the contents of Tjenderawasih? We find in it short stories und poetry, inspirational songs, games and riddles, cartoons and illustrations, Hari Raya wishes, reports (e.g. on a soap box derby in Jakarta in 1952) or educational texts on geography (e.g. the Great Chinese Wall, see illustration 3 below) or history (e.g. on Robert Baden Powell and the Boy Scouts movement).

Illustration 3: Tjenderawasih volume 2, number 2, p. 9: Tembok Tiongkok (‘The Great Chinese Wall’)

Short stories, reports, songs and cartoons reflect very well the nationalist spirit of Indonesia in the early 1950s when the country still suffered from the traumata of the Japanese occupation in the Second World War and four years of the Indonesian Revolution 1945-1949. The hilarious cartoon shown below is a good example: Indonesian national schools had to teach the new national language Bahasa Indonesia to native speakers of Javanese, Sundanese, Batak and hundreds of other languages.

Illustration 4: Tjenderawasih volume 2, number 7, p. 23: Politik – Politur

The new language, still being unfamiliar to many, led to funny creations when it came to the formation of new words. Several short stories were written for entertaining its young readership by presenting exotic and adventurous tales like the story of the American Indian girl Mega Putih and the red bear (illustration 5) or the Eskimo boy Ikwa (illustration 6).

Illustration 5: Tjenderawasi volume 2, number 7: p. 5: Mega Putih dan beruang merah (‘Mega Putih and the red bear’)

Illustration 6: Tjenderawasi volume 2, number 2: p. 13: Ikwa Anak Eskimo (‘Ikwa, the Eskimo boy’)

Only occasionally the articles were signed with an author’s name or an indication of the author, e.g. like “Ibu Tjenderawasih”, most likely the editor S. Rukiah herself. The rest remained anonymous.
The editorial staff of Tjenderawasih consisted of several members, by far the most well-known was S. Rukiah (1927-1996). She was one of the most prolific female authors of Indonesian prose literature of the 1950s, her most well-known novel Kedjatuhan dan hati (‘The fall and the heart’) received much acclaimed critics (Rukiah 1950). In 1951 she moved to Bandung to become editor of Tjenderawasih (Rukiah 2011), although the journal’s editiorials were listed only beginning with volume 2, number 2 in December 1952 mentioning her as editor. Later she became member of the communist influenced cultural organization LEKRA and stopped writing after the mass killings of 1965.

As “pedagocial adviser” (penasehat paedagogi) served Sikun Pribadi, who wrote his PhD at Ohio State University in the United States in 1960 and later became professor of educational science at the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia in Bandung. A permanent member of the editorial staff was Daeng Sutigna (1908-1984), a well-known performer and teacher of Indonesian Angklung music. Sutigna ran courses on Angklung for the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture from 1950 onwards. Further permament members were: 1. A. H. Harahap, author of several reading books for elementary schools together with Oejeng Soewargana, the publisher of Ganaco. Furthermore Harahap wrote a few general introductions on Indonesian geography, e.g. on the island of Madura (Safiudin & Harahap 1956). Haharap was active as author until well into the 1970s, nearly all his works were published by Ganaco; 2. Karnedi, an artist who founded in 1948 the art studio Jiwa Mukti with the well-known painter Barli Sasmitawinata (1921-2007) and Sartono (Mulyadi 2008: 279); 3. E. S. Muljokusumo, a civil servant in the Indonesian Ministry of the Seas and Fishing, who wrote several articles on natural phenomena like the sun, stars, the Indonesian seas and the like; 4. Sudigdo, maybe identical with Muljokusumo; 5. Ibu Suparti, and finally 6. Nn. Rukmini Sudirdjo. On these last three persons no further information was available.

Cartoons were included in the journal on an unregular basis. The magazine was printed partly in colour, but photos and many of the cartoons appeared in black and white. The cartoons were signed with acronyms like “Tosa” for the Si Amin-series (see e.g illustration 7) or “Dana” (Illustration 4). No further information on these cartoonists could be obtained so far. All their cartoons – as well as many other contents in the magazine – show a certain moral or ethics, in particular to strengthen the national spirit among its young readers.

Illustration 7: Tjenderawasi volume 1, number 8, p. 17: Si Amin beladjar merokok (‘Amin learns to smoke’)

A few lines from the anonymous poem Madju dja….lan (‘Way of progress’, volume 1, number 10, 1952, p.3) will illustrate this:

Drap, drap, drap !
Terdengar kaki menderap.
Itulah barisan Sekolah Rakjat
Harapan bangsa, penuh semangat

Beladjar disekolah sungguh-sungguh.
Bekerdja dirumah sungguh-sungguh.
Berbaris dilapangan madju dja…lan !
Itulah anak kemerdekaan …

Drap, drap, drap !
Rhythmic steps can be heard
These are the lines of the People’s School
Hope of the nation, full of spirit.

[They] learn hard in the school.
[They] work hard at home.
[They] line on the square for the way of progress!
These are the children of independence…

Further examples are e.g. a photo series on the celebrations of the national Kartini Day on 21 April 1952 or a report on General Abdul Haris Nasution, the hero of the revolution and one out of only three of Indonesia’s five star generals.

The magazine was published by the Bandung-based publishing house Ganaco, which was active from 1950 onwards until the death of the publisher in 1979. In the 1950s they also had branches in Jakarta and Amsterdam. Its publisher was Oejeng Soewargana (1917-1979; other spellings of his name are Uyeng Suwargana, Oejeng S. Gana, Ujeng S. Wargana or Ujeng Suwargana), a quite well-known figure in the field of education and prolific author of school books and reading books, often co-authored with A. H. Harahap or Amin Singgih (Ensiklopedia 2004, Jilid 15: 170). It is quite interesting to note that Soewargana kept close relations to several high-ranking members of the Indonesian armed forces such as Abdul Haris Nasution and wrote several books on the incidents of 1965, rather from the Orde Baru perspective (Harry Poeze, personal communication), while S. Rukiah as editor of Tjenderawasih was standing on the leftist side.

Ganaco also published in other languages than Indonesian. In the 1950s they produced an English-language magazine Window on the World (see the advertisement in Safiudin & Harahap 1955). In the same period many titles of modern Sundanese literature and on Sundanese language learning came out, but introductory books on member states of the non-aligned movement (e.g. Burma or Saudi-Arabia) were also published.
Tjenderawasih contains no commercial advertisements except those from the publishing house Ganaco itself, although they announced prices for them. Prices ran from 500,- Rupiah (c. 43,- US$) per page, 275,- Rupiah (c. 24 US$) for a half page to 150,- Rupiah (c. 13,- US $) for a quarter page. A yearly subscription of the journal costed 22,50 Rupiah (5,90 US$ in 1951, 1,97 US$ in 1953). Due to its contents and the relatively high subscription rates for Indonesia in the early 1950s the circulation of the magazine was probably limited to young middle and upper class readers of the major urban centres of Java like Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya or Yogyakarta.

References:
Ensiklopedi (2004): Ensiklopedi nasional Indonesia. Jakarta: PT. Delta Pamungkas.
Kratz, Ulrich (1988): A bibliography of Indonesian literature in journals – Bibliografi karya sastra Indonesia dalam majalah. Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press.
Kratz, Ulrich (1994): La place des revues dans la production littéraire. In: Henri Chambert-Loir (ed.), La littérature indonésienne: une introduction [Cahier d’Archipel 22], pp. 151-158. Paris: Association Archipel.
Mulyadi, Efix [ed.] (2008): The journey of Indonesian painting: the Bentara Budaya Collection. Jakarta: KPG.
Rukiah, S. (1950): Kedjatuhan dan hati. Djakarta: Pudjangga Baru, Special Issue Nov.-Dec. 1950.
Rukiah, S. (2011): The fall and the heart. Jakarta: Lontar Foundation.
Safiudin & Harahap, A. H. (1955): Madura: pulau kerapan [Seri kenallah tanah airmu]. Bandung: Ganaco.
https://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daeng_Soetigna [accessed 30 September 2017].

Article by Holger Warnk (Library of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main)

Online Exhibition on Sayyid `Uthman of Batavia

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From 1 December 2014 until 23 January 2015, the ‘Oude UB’ or Old University Library at Rapenburg 70, Leiden, highlighted aspects of the life and work of Sayyid `Uthman in the exhibition Sayyid `Uthman of Batavia (1822-1914): A Life in the Service of Islam and the Colonial Administration. This exhibition is now available online.

Sayyid ‘Uthman was the most prominent Islam scholar of his era in the Netherlands East Indies, providing guidance to the Muslim community. In 1889 the famous Dutch Islam scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje engaged his services as an advisor and informant to the Colonial Government.

The exhibition was organised on the occasion of the publication of a monograph on Sayyid `Uthman by Dr Nico Kaptein (LIAS) in 2014. It was a joint effort of the Art Commission Oude UB, Leiden University Libraries and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS). The exhibition displayed a selection of objects from the special collections of the Leiden University Libraries, including the recently incorporated collection ot the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), and showed how well the UBL and KITLV collections complement and reinforce each other.

The objects have long since been returned to the stacks and vaults of the University Library, but the Sayyid ‘Uthman exhibition is now permanently available in English online for the benefit of the academic community in the Netherlands, Indonesia and beyond. To view the exhibition, please visit the Leiden University website and click on the image thumbnail.

(reported by Dr. Nico J.G. Kaptein)

Genealogical tree of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (Courtesy of Old University Library, Leiden)

Genealogical tree of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (Courtesy of Old University Library, Leiden)

The Ramayana in Southeast Asia

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Originally composed in India in Sanskrit over two and half thousand years ago by Valmiki, the Ramayana is also one of the most popular masterworks throughout Southeast Asia. This is reflected not only in the literary traditions, but also in the performing and fine arts, as well as in architecture and modern design. The epic tells the story of Rama, his brother Lakshmana and Rama’s wife Sita, who was kidnapped by the demon king Ravana. The main part of the epic is about the fight between Ravana and Rama, who wants to get his wife back. In this battle, Rama is supported by his brother and a monkey chief, Hanuman, with his armies.

Hanuman facing Ravana asleep in his palace after having abducted Sita. From a 19th century album of drawings by an anonymous Thai artist.  British Library, Or.14859, pp. 58-59

Hanuman facing Ravana asleep in his palace after having abducted Sita. From a 19th century album of drawings by an anonymous Thai artist. British Library, Or.14859, pp. 58-59

Knowledge of the Ramayana in Southeast Asia can be traced back to the 5th century in stone inscriptions from Funan, the first Hindu kingdom in mainland Southeast Asia. An outstanding series of reliefs of the Battle of Lanka from the 12th century still exists at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Ramayana sculptures from the same period can be found at Pagan in Myanmar. Thailand’s old capital Ayutthya founded in 1347 is said to have been modelled on Ayodhya, Rama’s birthplace and setting of the Ramayana. New versions of the epic were written in poetry and prose and as dramas in Burmese, Thai, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Javanese and Balinese, and the story continues to be told in dance-dramas, music, puppet and shadow theatre throughout Southeast Asia. Most of these versions change parts of the story significantly to reflect the different natural environments, customs and cultures.

Serat Rama Keling, a modern Javanese version of the Ramayana, illuminated manuscript dated 1814.  British Library,  Add.12284, ff.1v-2r

Serat Rama Keling, a modern Javanese version of the Ramayana, illuminated manuscript dated 1814. British Library, Add.12284, ff.1v-2r

When mainland Southeast Asian societies embraced Theravada Buddhism, Rama began to be regarded as a Bodhisatta, or Buddha-to-be, in a former life. In this context, the early episodes of the story were emphasized, symbolising Rama’s Buddhist virtues of filial obedience and willing renunciation. Throughout the region, Hanuman enjoys a greatly expanded role; he becomes the king of the monkeys and the most popular character in the story, and is a reflection of all the freer aspects of life. In a series of articles on the British Library’s Asian and African Studies blog, curators Annabel Gallop, San San May and Jana Igunma explore how the Ramayana epic has been rewritten and reimagined in the different parts of Southeast Asia.
To read the articles, go directly to the Asian and African Studies blog.