BANGKOK: Thailand’s Ayutthaya, India’s Ayodhya: Divided By Borders, United By Faith

BANGKOK: Thailand’s Ayutthaya, India’s Ayodhya: Divided By Borders, United By Faith

BANGKOK: Ayodhya and Ayutthaya, one in India and the other in Thailand. Separated by geographical boundaries, the two towns are united not just in name but also in faith with the religious fervour in the home of Ram finding echo 3,500 km away in a foreign land.

As Ayodhya gets ready for the consecration of a grand Ram temple three days away, devotees in Ayutthaya are also preparing to join the celebrations.

The Ayodhya temple trust has also received soil from Ayutthaya — named after Ayodhya — and water from Thailand’s three rivers, including Chao Phraya, Lop Buri and Pa Sak for the Ram temple.

Nestled along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the ancient city of Ayutthaya is located 70 km north of Bangkok and features on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites for its rich and vibrant cultural history.

According to a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) member from Bangkok, huge screens are being put up in Hindu temples in Ayutthaya and other cities in Thailand for the live telecast of the January 22 ‘pran pratishtha’ ceremony.

‘Diyas’ (earthen lamps) will be lit at all the temples and the enactment of the epic Ramayana will also take place while people will sing Ram bhajans on the day, she said.

“We have put up big screens where the devotees will see the consecration ceremony live. We have made arrangements for lighting diyas and prasad will also be distributed,” the VHP leader said.

Champat Rai, general secretary of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust said Ayutthaya is the Ayodhya of Thailand.

“We have received holy soil and water from the rivers there for the consecration ceremony,” he said.

Swami Vigyanand, founder and global chairman of the World Hindu Foundation (WHF) said Ayutthaya is named after Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, establishing a connection with Hinduism and the Ramayana. “King Ramathibodi, the first ruler of Ayutthaya, named the city, showcasing the influence of the Ramayana on the region’s culture. Subsequent kings, including those of the Chakri dynasty, adopted the name Rama, further solidifying the connection to Lord Ram,” he told PTI.

“What makes Ayutthaya fascinating is the fact that here we can see that the Ramayana, which was introduced to Southeast Asia by Buddhist missionaries, was adapted into the Thai version known as Ramakien. This happened during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. This is how we see the impact of Rama’s life on Thai culture,” he added.

The Historic City of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (official name), founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom.

It was established by Siamese King U Thong, who came to be known as King Ramathibodhi. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries, during which time it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a centre of global diplomacy and commerce.

The city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burnt it to the ground and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. It was never rebuilt in the same location and remains an archaeological site.

Once an important centre of global diplomacy and commerce, Ayutthaya is now an archaeological ruin, characterised by the remains of tall prang (reliquary towers) and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, which give an idea of the city’s past size and the splendour of its architecture.

Eminent Sanskrit scholar and Padma Bhushan awardee Satya Vrat Shastri has translated the Thai Ramakien in Sanskrit.

“The Ramakien does not necessarily follow the Valmiki-Ramayana or other versions of the Indian Rama story. It takes an independent line in a number of cases by introducing new episodes not figuring in the former,” Shastri had said in the description of his book “Ramayana in South East Asia”.

According to Suresh Pal Giri, an Indian professor in Thailand, when Burmese soldiers overran this city in the 18th century, a new king rose.

“He called himself Rama I, established the city now known as Bangkok, wrote the epic Ramakien, which is Ramayana in the local language, making it the national epic, and got it painted as murals on the walls of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, patronised by the royal family, it is believed.

“Though he was a Buddhist, the king established his royal credentials by identifying himself with Lord Ram, who was as much a hero for Buddhists of Southeast Asia as he was for the Hindus of South Asia,” he said.

The connection between the two countries is not just limited to Lord Ram and Ayodhya but is also reflected in the festivals and cultural practices.

As India celebrates Kartik Poornima and Dev Deepawali, Thailand also marks Loy Krathong, known as Thailand’s festival of lights.

At prominent places, the idols of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, and Indra, among others, are installed, where people pay their devotion.

The Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok also has huge sculptures depicting “Samudra manthana” detailed in the Vishnu Purana.

Besides Ayuthhaya, the Hindu temples in Thailand are gearing up for grand celebrations on January 22.

The first phase of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is nearing completion and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in its consecration ceremony on that day.

The Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in 2019, settling a temple-mosque dispute that dated back more than a century. The court backed the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site and ruled that an alternative five-acre plot must be found for building a mosque.

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