Ram and India's Geopolitical Embrace

Greater India was once a Civilizational Entity that engaged via Cultural Embrace. Shri Ram was the greatest ambassador. Over time bonds loosened and India's civilization trampled upon. That is being restored with Ram Mandir prana prathishtha.

Ram and India's Geopolitical Embrace
Photo by Mauktik Dave / Unsplash
2+ Free Ram Mandir & Krishna Images - Pixabay
"One who says “Fate is directing me to do this” is brainless, and the goddess of fortune abandons him. Hence, by self-effort acquire wisdom and then realize that this self-effort is not without its own end, in the direct realization of the truth." - Sage Vashishta to Shri Ram in "Vasistha's Yoga" (English translation of "Yog Vashisht")

It is a moment that comes once in many millennia. When a civilization wakes up from the slumber of subjugation and abuse.

January 22nd is that moment. When Shri Ram will be established again in Ayodhya, the place of his birth.

Who is Ram and why is this moment so epochal?

Everyone will fight belief. For, belief is necessarily rigid. You see, a belief has no logic, no basis in truth or fact. It just is... an imposition! Of Untruth over Truth.

That is why when you push you belief, you will have resistance and battles.

But Culture? That is a different aspect of human life altogether.

It is as humanistic as things get. Culture is one's own and if that has assimilated an imported component then it does not revolt against it. It makes it its own.

Shri Ram, his story, his character and above all every moral sinew of Ramayana intertwined into the cultural structures of the societies, where the story was introduced. They realized the magnitude of the being of Shri Ram.

Ram needs no selling. He is a civilizational phenomenon and ambassador.

We will explore that today in the context of the Ram Mandir.

Jai Siya Ram.

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When Greater India Was a Reality

India has been a major area of interest for hundreds of years. Authors such as Ilieronymus, Dracontius, Avitus, and Hierocles have shared historical accounts and geographical descriptions related to India. There have been multiple accounts of Indian culture and geography, including travels to Muziris, Ceylon, and encounters with the Brahmans, shedding light on their customs, religious practices, and lifestyle.

Check this document out.

India was not just a country or a few kingdoms. It was a civilizational entity that stretched beyond the geographical boundaries.

People who came in touch with his entity would understand it as the "Greater India." Far bigger and vast than the "Akhand Bharat" that is discussed today.

Greater India aligned with the historical concept of the spread of Indian culture, religion, and influence beyond the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Southeast Asia. The concept encompasses the diffusion of Indian cultural elements, such as art, architecture, language, and religious beliefs, to regions such as Java, Cambodia, and Champa. The Asians perceived Greater India as a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, with various scholars and researchers offering different perspectives on the extent and nature of Indian influence in Southeast Asia.

These were regions where Indian culture and civilization had a significant influence. This included not just the immediate South Asia but also parts of Southeast Asia, where Indian culture, religions (especially Hinduism and Buddhism), art, architecture, and languages had a profound impact. Greater India, in this sense, is more of a cultural and civilizational concept than a strictly geographical one.

India as a region was divided into India Major which refers to a region that was considered large and fertile, inhabited by people skilled in war and the arts. It was mentioned in the context of the Indian Embassies to Rome, from the Reign of Claudius to the Death of Justinian. India Minor were the regions that were impacted by the Indian culture and were aligned to it culturally and spiritually.

Source: The medieval expansion of Europe by JRS Phillips

The linguistic landscape of Asia is characterized by a rich and diverse tapestry of languages, influenced by different cultural spheres. Specifically, the Indospheric and Sinospheric influences play a significant role in shaping various language families.

In the Indospheric sphere, which is heavily influenced by Indian culture and languages, we find the Munda and Khasi branches of the Austroasiatic language family. Additionally, several languages within the Tibeto-Burman family, particularly those spoken in Eastern Nepal, align with this sphere. A notable subset of the Tibeto-Burman family is the "Kamarupan" group, which prominently includes Meitei (Manipuri), a language with deep historical and cultural roots in the Indian subcontinent.

On the other hand, the Sinospheric influence, emanating from Chinese culture and languages, is evident in several other language families. This includes the Hmong–Mien family, known for its distinct linguistic features and spread across various regions in Asia. The Kam–Sui branch of the Kadai language family also falls under this sphere, along with the Loloish branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. Vietnamese, which is part of the Viet–Muong group, is another significant language that has been shaped by Sinospheric influences.

Furthermore, some languages exhibit a unique blend of influences from both these cultural spheres. Thai and Tibetan are prime examples of this, having absorbed elements from both Chinese and Indian cultures at different points in their historical evolution.

Source: Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction by James A Matisoff

This is important to understand because it is the basis of what was known as India.

Given the vast and varied geography of the landmass itself, complicated by different cultural identities within the subcontinent which then disseminated far and beyond the boundaries that were used to define Bharat or India by insiders and outsiders - commentators, travelers, and historians of the ancient times had to grapple with this concept of India. So, they adopted different terminologies to distinguish between the core that is India and the areas that were culturally different to begin with but had become a cultural replica in many ways of the core Indian cultural identity.

That is why the "Greater India" concept. And also the most common terms like "India Major" and "India Minor." These were used to describe different regions in and around the Indian subcontinent.

India Major: Historically, this term was often used to refer to the Indian subcontinent itself, encompassing the modern-day countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and sometimes parts of Nepal and Sri Lanka. It represented the primary landmass where the predominant cultures and societies of the Indian civilization were based.

India Minor: This term was less consistently defined but was sometimes used to refer to the peripheral regions influenced by Indian culture but not part of the Indian subcontinent. It could include areas such as modern-day Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where Indian cultural, religious, and linguistic influences were evident.

With that geographic lesson with us, we will look at the most important influences and above all, the role of Ramayana in carrying that cultural ethos and heritage across geographies and generations.

Ramayana as a story and ideal became the moral North Star (Dhruv Tara) and cut across countries and peoples. Wherever it went, Ram's story became the greatest cultural work of that land.

But let's first start with how Ramayana's personages define the administrative and military traditions of most of Southeast Asia even today. No matter what the prevalent religious identity in those countries.

Lakshaman and the South East Navy

The title "Laksamana" holds significant historical and cultural importance in Southeast Asian maritime nations, particularly in the Malay sultanates and contemporary countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. This title, equivalent to the rank of "Admiral" in modern naval forces, has deep roots in the region's historical connection with the Indosphere of Greater India. This connection dates back to ancient times, including the era of the influential Hindu Srivijaya Empire.

As you can see it goes across many countries - Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. All are completely Muslim countries now. Yet Lakshman rules their Navies!

Source: Brunei Navy / Indonesian Navy / Malaysia Maritime

This title was not merely symbolic but was integral to the administrative and military structures of the Malay sultanates.

Laksamanas played crucial roles in maritime governance, naval expeditions, and defense, underscoring the maritime prowess of these sultanates.

In contemporary times, the legacy of the Laksamana continues in the navies of nations like Indonesia and Malaysia, symbolizing both historical continuity and the enduring legacy of the region's ancient connections with the Indian cultural sphere.

Kakawin Ramayana and the impact of Ram on Indonesia

Countries like Indonesia were influenced by Hinduism and then by Buddhism.

Hinduism came to Indonesia at around the second century. The first two major kingdoms (Tarumanegara in Western Java and Kutai in Western Borneo) were based on Hinduism. Buddhism came to Indonesia a few hundred years after Hinduism. It reached its peak at the time of the Sriwijaya's dynasty rule, which was once the largest Buddhist kingdom in South East Asia, from around the 7th century until the 14th century. During that time, many Buddhist colleges and monasteries were built, and famous Buddhist scholars, such as Dharmapala and Sakyakirti, were teaching there. Another major Buddhist kingdom was the Mataram kingdom, which was ruled by the Sailendra clan during the eight and ninth century in Central Java. Many Buddhist temples were built and Buddhist texts were inscribed on the stones tablets (called prasasti) during this time. (Source: "Indonesian Buddhism" / Buddhanet)

What is interesting is the "Buddhist Kingdoms" were of the Shailendra clan. Shailendra is another name of Lord Shiva.

When Ramayan went to Indonesia, it became Kakawin Ramayana. What is important to note is that it is considered to have a unique position in the Javanese and Indonesian literature.

The Kakawin Ramayana, arguably the oldest Old Javanese epic text in Indic metres (circa 9th century AD), holds a unique position in the literary heritage of Indonesia. The poem has retained a remarkable vitality through the centuries in the Archipelago, inspiring many forms of artistic expression not only in the domain of literature but also in the visual and performing arts, from the reliefs of the majestic Central Javanese temples to modern puppet-show performances. (Source: The Ramayana in the Literature and Visual Arts of Indonesia / Brill)

Ramayana, in one sense, was the fountainhead of many cultural art forms to come out in Indonesia.

Kakawin Ramayana is an ancient Javanese take on the Indian itihaas named Ramayana. It is a significant work in Indonesian literature. It is named so because it is in kakawin meter in the Old Javanese language. (Source)

The origins of Kakawin Ramayana are traced back to the era of the Medang Kingdom in Java, spanning between the 9th and 11th centuries. This period was marked by a profound Indian influence, evident in the region's art, architecture, and literature, due to extensive trade and cultural exchanges. However, the Javanese adaptation goes beyond mere replication, infusing the narrative with local flavors and perspectives. The transmission of this epic through oral traditions and palm-leaf manuscripts has played a crucial role in preserving and propagating Javanese culture and values.

This is an excerpt from the sacred Javanese Hindu text "Kakawin Ramayana", in Balinese script.

The verse says the following.

“You must always defend the dharma in this world
Follow the ways of the wise ones
They do not look for wealth, sensual pleasures, nor fame
The success of the really wise ones lies in the fact
that they are able to understand the dharma in this world”

Focus on the above verses a bit closely. This accurate an enunciation of Dharma is very tough to get from even Indian scholars these days.

The Indonesian Temples

The temples on the Dieng Plateau, near Banjarnegara in Central Java, are the earliest Hindu temples in Indonesia. For example, the Arjuna Temple, made during the Hindu civilization in the Ancient Mataram Kingdom, was founded in the 8th and 9th centuries AD.

In 1924 a Dutch archaeologist had examined the Arjuna Temple, and in his opinion, the size and parts of Arjuna Temple clearly followed the rules of Vastusastra. The decoration is very simple, the roof of the temple is filled with decorative ornaments (cymbals), and Kala-makara decorations on the temple door and the three niches on the temple body. The frame of this door at the bottom is connected with the cheek of the stair that curves to the left and right of the entrance stairs. The middle room (garbhagrha) has been empty, it used to be filled with Shiva statues which may now be stored in the Jakarta National Museum. The Yoni pedestal is still in the room now. (Source: Arjuna Temple / Dieng Places)

The Dieng temples, dating back to the beginning of the ninth century A.D., are among the earliest remaining temples of entirely non-perishable construction. They are Saivite shrines located on the Dieng plateau and represent a stage in the development of distinctive Indo-Javanese architecture.

The temples exhibit a distinctive character influenced by both Indian and local cultural elements.

As with the other places, the architectural and sculptural characteristics of the Dieng temples reflect a blend of Indian and local influences. The presence of the kala-makara motif, a Pallava innovation in Indian art, over doorways, indicates the influence of Indian art.

Additionally, the Dieng temples show a preference for the lingas, a characteristic of Lord Shiva in Hinduism, which would have been very acceptable to the Javanese. The architecture of the Dieng temples, with a square plan, symmetry, roof stages, and stress on horizontal lines, shows similarities to South Indian art, suggesting predominant South Indian influence.

The sculpture and ornamentation of the Dieng temples also exhibit Indian motifs such as garlands and lotus petals, with complex foliage motifs not yet appearing. The local influence in the Dieng temples is seen in the manifestation of the kala-makara motif contributing to the development of a distinctive Indo-Javanese architectural and sculptural style.

(Information gathered from "Making of Greater India" by H.G. Quaritch Wales)

‘Hobutsushu’ and ‘Sambo-Ekotoba’ in Japan

Ramayana also had an impact in Japan. And like other places, the original story was adapted to the local culture over the years.

Hobutsushu" (宝物集), also known as "Treasure Collection," is a Japanese Buddhist text. It's not a direct translation of the "Ramayana," but rather an adaptation that incorporates elements from it.

The Hobutsushu text integrates the story of Rama (from "Ramayana") into a Buddhist framework. The narrative often emphasizes Buddhist virtues and teachings, transforming the original Hindu epic into a vehicle for Buddhist moral and spiritual lessons. "Hobutsushu" reflects the syncretic nature of Japanese religious culture, where Buddhist, Shinto and other indigenous religious elements often merge. The adaptation of a Hindu epic into a Buddhist text is an example of this cultural and religious synthesis.

"Sambo-Ekotoba" (三宝絵詞), also known as "Illustrated Tales of the Three Treasures," is a set of illustrated scrolls from medieval Japan. The scrolls contain illustrations and narratives that are influenced by the "Ramayana." However, similar to "Hobutsushu," the story in "Sambo-Ekotoba" is not a direct retelling. Instead, it incorporates elements of the "Ramayana" into a unique narrative that aligns more closely with Japanese cultural and religious contexts. They are an important example of how Indian literature and art influenced Japanese culture. The adaptation of the "Ramayana" in these scrolls demonstrates the cross-cultural exchange between India and Japan, especially in the medieval period.

Source: The Ramayana and the Rhizome: Textual Networks in the Work of Minakata Kumagusu / Verge: Studies in Global Asias(Vol. 7, Issue 1)

"Hobutsushu" and "Sambo-Ekotoba" are significant in the context of cultural exchange between Japan and India.

Reamker or Rāmākerti: The Glory of the 'Cambodian' Rama

The "Reamker" (or "Ramakerti" in some references) is a crucial part of Cambodia's cultural and literary heritage, reflecting the profound influence of the Indian epic "Ramayana." The "Reamker," as you mentioned, is based on the Sanskrit "Ramayana" epic by Valmiki. It's a Cambodian adaptation that retains the core story but incorporates unique local elements that reflect Cambodian culture, beliefs, and traditions.

"Reamker" translates to "Glory of Rama," indicating its focus on the hero Rama, who is also the protagonist in the original "Ramayana."

Source: Reamker Performance in Khmer Society / Silparkorn University

The earliest known reference to the Reamker in Cambodia dates back to the 7th century, as per the Veal Kantel inscription. This inscription provides valuable historical evidence of the epic's presence and significance in early Cambodian culture.

Shri Ram called "Preah Ream" (प्रिय राम)? is integral to the Khmer spiritual history.

In the Reamker, issues of trust, loyalty, love, and revenge are played out in dramatic encounters between princes and giants, monkeys and mermaids, and a forlorn princess. Indeed, though it is understood that Preah Ream is an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, his characteristics and those of the others in the story are interpreted in Cambodia as those of mere mortals, not of the gods as is the case in India. The complex interplay of strengths (bravery, foresight) and weaknesses (distrust, trickery)—though couched in episodes lined with magic—none the less represents aspects of decidedly human social behavior. (Source: "The Cambodian Version of the Ramayana" / Asia Society)

Let us understand the full impact of Ramayana on Cambodia.

Cultural Fusion: Within Cambodia, the Reamker holds a position of significance that extends beyond its literary value, permeating various facets of Cambodian culture, from religious rituals to traditional dance, theater, and artistry.

Artistic Depictions: This epic narrative is prominently portrayed in Cambodian classical dance and is a fundamental component of Khmer shadow theater. Bas-reliefs adorning the walls of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and the Angkor Wat temple vividly illustrate scenes from the Reamker.

Spiritual and Philosophical Dimensions: While the Reamker follows the narrative of the Ramayana, it interweaves Buddhist elements, mirroring the prevailing religious beliefs in Cambodia. This amalgamation of influences is a defining characteristic of the Reamker.

Diversifications and Alternative Renditions: Alongside the Reamker, alternative versions such as the "Trai Bhet" coexist in Cambodia, although the Reamker holds greater prominence. These variations attest to the adaptability of the epic and its profound resonance across diverse strata of Cambodian society.

Burma and Yama Zatdaw

The Ramayana in Burma is known as "Yama Zatdaw." It has been adapted to reflect local cultural and religious beliefs, integrating elements of Buddhism and indigenous Burmese folklore. This version still retains the core storyline of the original epic, focusing on the virtues of Rama and the moral lessons of the story.

The great Indian epic Ramayana is known in Burmese as Yama Zatdaw. This beautiful illustrated folding book depicts the episode when Rama (with green face), his wife Sita and and his brother Lakshmana are living in exile. The demon king Ravana plots to abduct Sita by sending one of his demons in the form of a golden deer. Sita begs Rama to catch the golden deer for her (left), and so he leaves Sita under the protection of Lakshmana and goes off to shoot the golden deer with his bow and arrow. (Source: Literary manuscripts from Southeast Asia on display / British Library)

Here is one depiction of Yama Zatdaw from Manipur.

The Ramayana has significantly influenced traditional Burmese performing arts, especially in puppetry and classical Burmese dance and drama. The epic's stories and characters are commonly portrayed in these art forms, often with unique Burmese interpretations.

(Source: Literary manuscripts from Southeast Asia on display / British Library)

The Yama Zatdaw is an essential part of Burmese literature.

Abeyadana temple is a 12th-century Buddhist temple located in Bagan, Myanmar. It has Hindu and Mahayanist deities in the hundreds of tondos in the temple. There are paintings of Vishnu, Rama, and Hanuman. It provides a unique context for understanding the influence of the Ramayana and Indian culture in the region. The temple was built during the 11th century, a period when Bagan was a significant center of Buddhist learning and culture. This was also a time when Indian cultural and religious influences were prominent in Southeast Asia. The Abeyadana Temple is known for its intricate frescoes and carvings, many of which are influenced by Hindu iconography. This includes depictions from the Ramayana.

The presence of an idol or depiction of Rama in the Abeyadana Temple is particularly significant. It underscores the syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist traditions in ancient Myanmar. The depiction of Rama, a Hindu deity, in a Buddhist temple, illustrates how the Ramayana's narrative transcended religious boundaries and became embedded in the broader cultural fabric of the region.

The Abeyadana Temple, with its Hindu-influenced iconography, stands as a symbol of this rich intercultural dialogue, illustrating how stories like the Ramayana found a new home and interpretation far from their place of origin.

Korean Princess of Ayuta (Ayodhya)

The impact of Ramayana has a special place in South Korea. A fascinating aspect of this influence involves the story of Princess Suriratna, known as Heo Hwang-ok in Korea, which intertwines with Korean history and legend.

Source: The Indian princess who became a South Korean queen / BBC

According to Korean legend, Princess Suriratna, known as Heo Hwang-ok, was a princess from the ancient Indian city of Ayodhya, the same city which is the setting for much of the Ramayana. She is said to have traveled to Korea in 48 CE and married King Suro of the Gaya kingdom, becoming the queen of the Geumgwan Gaya.

Talking about Samguk Yusa, while it primarily focuses on the history and legends of Korea, the cultural exchanges between India and Korea over centuries likely resulted in the integration of certain thematic elements or storytelling techniques derived from Indian epics like the Ramayana. However, the "Samguk Yusa" does not directly incorporate the Ramayana's narratives.

In 2022, a park was built on the bank of the Sarayu River in Ayodhya to commemorate this link. While the southeast corner of the memorial has a statue of Queen Huh Hwang-ok, the northeast corner has a statue of King Kim Suro. Princess Suriratna's sea journey has been recreated at the memorial with the help of a pond and footbridge (Source: Why an Indian Princess's memorial in Ayodhya is a big draw for South Korean tourists / India Today).

Source: Why Ayodhya will be a special attraction for South Korean tourists / Times of India

The Tibetan Ramayan

The Tun-Huang manuscripts are a significant collection of historical documents discovered in the early 20th century in the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang, in north-western China. Among these manuscripts, there are texts related to the Tibetan version of the Ramayana story, which is a unique and important part of this collection. The Tibetan Ramayana story, as found in the Tun-Huang manuscripts, differs in various ways from the classical Ramayana. While it retains the core narrative of Rama's quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana, the Tibetan version includes unique elements and variations in the storyline, characters, and themes.

The manuscripts are written in classical Tibetan, and their style indicates a period when Tibetan literature was heavily influenced by Indian Buddhist literary traditions. The elements of the original Ramayana in Tun-Huang story include:

  • Rama’s Exile and Quest: Like the Indian version, the Tibetan Ramayana recounts Rama's exile from his kingdom and his journey to rescue Sita.
  • Battle with Ravana: The central conflict with the demon king Ravana is a key element.
  • Buddhist Elements: The Tibetan version often incorporates Buddhist values and teachings, which may manifest in the characters' actions and motivations.
  • Moral and Ethical Lessons: Similar to the Indian Ramayana, the Tibetan version also conveys moral and ethical lessons, though these may be interpreted through a Buddhist lens.

This version of Ramayana had a strong influence on the story in another language - Khotanese.

Khotanese Rāma story - the current-day Uyghurs

Khotan, or Hotan, was an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin, in what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. (Source: Ancient Khotan by M. Aurel Stein)

Source: The Rāma Story in Khotanese by H. W. Bailey / Journal of the American Oriental Society

The Khotanese, the current-day Uyghurs were at one time not just Buddhists but also followed a Vedic way of life with the story of Ramayana as their cultural heritage.

Khotanese kings were Mahāyāna Buddhist but we know this sect incorporates Vedic and Tantric systems, with all the devas such as Indra, Śiva, Viṣṇu and Sarasvatī, and just places the Buddha at the head of the system (as in Vidyākara’s Treasury). There was also Krishna worship in Khotan and we find the Rāma story in Khotanese language, of which there is also a Tibetan version. The Buddhists put a characteristic spin on the Rāma story, which has had immense power on the imagination of the people all over Asia. In their variant, Rāvaṇa, after losing the war is spared his life, and becomes a worthy Buddhist to accord with the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, set in Laṅkā, in which the Buddha instructs Rāvaṇa. (Likewise, in order not to lose followers of Rāma, Jain texts show him as a faithful Jain.) (Source: "The Rāma Story and Sanskrit in Ancient Xinjiang" / Subhash Kak)

Interestingly, many cities in that region had Sanskrit names.

Many Khotanese cities had Sanskrit names. For example, Khotan in Sanskrit was Gaustana गौस्तन (or Gosthāna गोस्थान) and the modern city of Kashi (Kashgar) was called Śrīkrīrāti (in Sanskrit Śrī+krī+rāti, श्रीक्रीराति, ‘Glorious Hospitality’). Kashgar itself appears to be the popular name from Sanskrit Kāśa+giri (काशगिरि, bright mountain). The Khotanese called their language hvatanai ह्वतनै which later became hvaṃnai ह्वंनै; this is equivalent to the name deśī that is used for language in India (vatan, from svatana = deśa). (Source: "The Rāma Story and Sanskrit in Ancient Xinjiang" / Subhash Kak)

The language spoken in Khotan, known as Khotanese, belonged to the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Khotanese was heavily influenced by various sources due to the kingdom's position on the Silk Road. Given the region's role in the spread of Buddhism, Sanskrit, and its derivatives had a considerable impact on the religious and cultural aspects of Khotanese. Many Buddhist texts were translated from Sanskrit into Khotanese. However, as an Eastern Iranian language, Khotanese was influenced by other Iranian languages of the period, such as Sogdian, which was widely used in trade across the Silk Road.

Interestingly, the script used for Khotanese was derived from the Brahmi script, further indicating the influence of Indian culture and language.

(Source: Brahmic Scripts)

Religion, culture, and language were all influenced by the Indian civilizational elements.

Chinese Ram and Lanka Story

In the Chinese culture, the Ramayana is known but not as widely celebrated or integrated into the cultural fabric as in South or Southeast Asian countries. However, there are versions of the Ramayana that have been absorbed into various ethnic narratives, including possibly among the Tai Lü or other Tai-speaking communities, as well as in other cultural traditions within China.

Tai Lü language is part of the Tai-Kadai language family. Tai Lü (also known as Tai Lue, Tai Le, Xishuangbanna Dai, and other names) is spoken by the Dai people in China, particularly in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province, and also in parts of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Interestingly, Tai Lü has maintained its distinctiveness and is still actively spoken today.

"Langka Sip Hor", where Langka is a derivative of Lanka. Nangsida in this story was Sita and Loma was Ram. The stories were very different and often influenced by the inter-group rivalries across the Chinese landscape.

Source: Ramayana Trail across the World – Chinese Ramayana / Religion World

Today, the term "Langka Sip Hor" in Tai Lü refers to a traditional festival celebrated by the Dai people. It is also known as the "Water Splashing Festival," which is the most significant festival for the Dai community. The festival is similar to the Songkran festival in Thailand and the Thingyan festival in Myanmar. It typically involves several days of celebrations, which include religious ceremonies, parades, dragon boat races, and, most famously, the splashing of water. The water splashing is both a fun activity and a symbolic gesture, as it is believed to wash away bad luck and bring good fortune and happiness in the new year.

When you look at all the stories from across Southeast Asia with respect to Ramayana, you realize how robust its influence has been across the region.

So, let us see its appeal in today's world. A group of Hindus in the US capital Washington DC looked at the impact of Ramayana beyond just the Indian borders. The response was tremendous.

Ramayana Beyond Borders

When Hindu American non-profit organization HinduACTion held a conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on January 10th, with an event called ‘Ramayana Across Asia and Beyond’  aimed to underscore the importance of cultural heritage in contemporary geopolitics, it was strongly backed by administrations and people across the Southeast Asian countries.

There were representatives from many countries.

Key embassy staff from Guyana, Bangladesh, think tank members from Sri Lanka, Thailand’s ambassador were also present at the event. However, the presence of members of the Afghan Hazara community was a significant highlight of the event. (Source: Event on Capitol Hill highlights Ramayana’s teachings / New India Abroad)

The Host of the show was Se Hoon Kim, the Senior Correspondent: of East & South Asia of GlobalStratReview.

So, Ramayana is relevant in the region even today.

Shri Ram's Consciousness Betows a Geopolitical Moment on India

Ramayana is not a Disney movie that needs selling.

It became a cultural vehicle on the strength of its moral and humanistic appeal. Its elements took the timeless human values and teachings of governance, love and sacrifice to everyone. And they responded by assimilating it within their own lives and cultural underpinnings.

Ram, Sita, and Lakshman were welcomed in every country and culture, irrespective of language or original history.

What is most striking is that despite the over-arching religious structure being Buddhist, the story of Ramayana was carried nevertheless. This leads one to wonder if there was indeed a strict delineation between Buddhism and Hinduism, as is made out by the ideological Western "historians" and "anthropologists".

And when over time Islam upended Buddhism and Hinduism as the widespread religion in those areas, the culture still clung to the stories of Ramayana.

Culture trumped Religious edicts!

Religion is based on belief. Belief is a narrative. Even false ones, when imposed ruthlessly enough, can prevail in a population.

But culture works outside that. It is a social stream of values that has flowed through the ages and has been built into the lives of people.

While Culture dictates the definition of "Divine" in a society, replacing the "gods" via conversion, whether by force or otherwise, cannot fully destroy the culture. For, it is rooted in that area.

When a cultural import is adopted and assimilated as one's own, it is not imposition. It is an embrace!

Once it is part of the local cultural edifice and incorporated into folk lore, it is very difficult to change it.

Cultural bonds are therefore less imposing and more readily accepted than religious bonds. Culture also provides a more enduring platform to build a mutual relationship of trust and shared values.

That is where the prana prathishta of Ram Mandir becomes so critical. It takes a spiritual structure that is intertwined more deeply than any civilizational component into a large number of societies in the East and makes it central to the Indian national character once more.

India becomes Ram's unabashed ambassador once more.

All these years, forces subverting India had undermined the very cultural and spiritual aspects that made India, India!

January 22nd is the first time India is breaking loose from that debilitating and destructive siege on our civilizational character! That is the most important significance of this moment.

People know it instinctively. The ones who pretend to lead, politically and religiously, have no freaking idea of the potency of Ram as a force. That is why they are fighting against the tide.

Oceans, you see, never kill anyone. Those who do not know how to align with them get crushed. Ones who know how to be in tune with the oceans can surf waves of even 100ft effortlessly and when not in tune, even large ships are destroyed by 50 feet waves.

So will Ram destroy those who deliberately abuse him? No. But when Ram, the underlying consciousness manifesting as the cultural ethos is taken on, then the ocean of collective consciousness will pound the aggressors to pieces.

It is the nature of things.

In that context, PM Narendra Modi has an opportunity. To again regain India's spiritual leadership of humanity. He is been the deliverer of trillions of dreams that were seen over the last 500 years.

An event that again creates the resurgence of India's ancient spiritual embrace of all.

If this Cultural and Civilizational moment is utilized to recreate and reinforce those bonds across the Eastern hemisphere, then it will bring in the leadership mantle that was India's Dharmic character for many centuries!

In that sense, Ram Mandir's prana prathishta also becomes a geopolitical moment.

It is time.

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