When Nai Pan Hla came to Japan in 1988 as a research fellow of Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, he brought with him numerous copies of Mon documents dealing with the Dhammathat code of laws, inscriptions by King Kyansittha and other monarchs in Mon, histories of Dvaravati, Hanthawaddy and Dhammazedi, Mon songs and folktales and so forth. When he left Kyoto, he gave me several documents dealing with Mon linguistics and Mon literature.
Among these papers I found two hand-written copies of a Mon version of the Rama story. The first copy is composed of 190 pages, all in verse and transcribed from an original palm-leaf manuscript preserved in the Bernard Free Library, Rangoon, Burma, several decades ago. The second was brought from Lopburi, Thailand, to Burma by a Mon citizen named Mahaphun in 1950. It is composed of 372 pages, also all in verse. According to the preface of the original palm-leaf manuscripts, both were written in 1834 by a Buddhist monk named Uttamu. In content, the two copies were found to be identical, and it is evident that they derive from the same original. The title of the Mon Rama story is given as “Loik Samoing Ram.”
At the 12th International Ramayana Conference held at Kern Institute, Leiden University, Holland, in August 1995,I introduced the general structure and order of arrangement of the Mon Rama story. Here, I shall present the salient features of the Mon Rama story in comparison with Vālmīki Rāmāyana, Non-Vālmīki Rāmāyanas, and other local versions of the Rama story prevalent in Southeast Asia.
Comparative study with other versions of Rāmāyana revealed the following noteworthy points in the Mon Rama story. (1) The story begins with Uttara Kāṇḍa, (2) Ram (Ramā) is described as having previously been a Bodhisattva (Future Buddha), (3) Soite (Sītā) is the incarnation of Indra's consort, Wunjeta, (4) Bali (Vāli) is the son of the Sun God, and Soingrid (Sugrīva) is the son of the Moon God, (5) Paddama Devi (Maṇḍodarī) springs from a big lotus flower, (6) the story includes the pre-matrimonial love of Ram and Soite, (7) Totsagri (Rāvaṇa) attends the archery contest, (8) Ram is exiled for twelve years instead of fourteen years as stated in Vālmīki Rāmāyana, (9) Soite changes into a female ape and becomes pregnant with Anuman (Hanumān), (10) the sister of Bali and Soingrid, Swaha, is the real mother who gave birth to Anuman, (11) Sammanukot (Śūrpaṇakhā) is related to Khara and Dūṣaṇa as mother and her children, (12) Sammanukot transforms herself into a golden hind, (13) the blood pouring out of the cave after the duel between Bali and a buffalo changes color from dark to light. The buffalo's blood is in fact diluted by rain, (14) a gigantic crab destroys the foundation of a causeway, (15) Suponnakha, the daughter of Pipek (Vibhīṣaṇa), transforms herself into the dead body of Soite, (16) Lekkhana (Lakṣmaṇa) does not behold Soite's face for three years, (17) Soite drawas a portrait of Totsagri (Daśagrīva) and is exiled from Ram's palace, (18) Soite delivers a son, Ni Kwe. His replica, Ni Choa, is miraculously created by a hermit, (19) King Ram fights with his two sons, (20) Ram and Soite are reunited, (21) Soite, Ongkhut (Aṇgada) and Inda Reje (Indrajit) are mentioned as siblings each other, since Paddama Devi, Totsagri's wife, gave birth to them (two sons and one daughter).
It is evident that Loik Samoing Ram derives directly from the Burmese version of the Rama story,
(View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)