Although Thailand has never been dependent on another nation, its ancient culture and arts have been shaped by other Asian nations, particularly India and China, over the course of the ages. Not only has this had an effect on the motions, the plasticity, the costumes, and the meanings of forms of expression like dance, theatre, or painting, but it has also changed the beliefs that constitute the basis of all of these kinds of artistic expression. All of these things share a sophisticated appreciation for the arts; some of the most prominent examples include dances (which can be categorised as either classical or folklore), muay thai, tattoos, puppet theatre, or mural paintings, amongst other things. In today’s instalment of our daily post, we go through all of these topics. Get started reading now!
The khon is considered to be one of the most advanced forms of traditional Thai dance. This type of dance theatre incorporates components such as choreography, music (vocal and instrumental), aspects that make references to literature, rituals, and the wearing of masks. It illustrates events from the Hindu epic of Rama, who is an incarnation of the divinity Vishnu. For a significant amount of time, the khon was regarded as an exclusive type of performing art due to the fact that royalty supported the khon. Nevertheless, it is possible for it to be represented by persons from a variety of social strata. Respect for the old, who are seen as a source of wisdom, the identification of good over evil, and societal togetherness are some of the virtues that are emphasised by the khon. It has been included on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as of the year 2019.
The martial art of Muay Thai is extremely well-known in Thailand. In contrast to Krabi Krabong, the ancient discipline of Muay Boran, which included a variety of martial arts but did not involve the use of weapons, is where this technique got its start (krabi is a type of sabre and krabong is a stick). During the prayer that takes place before each match, the wrestlers place a mongkhon, which is a type of headpiece made of rope, on their foreheads. The mongkhon, which is traditionally thought of as an amulet, was presented to the student by the instructor when he judged that the student was ready. When we are in Thailand, we have the opportunity to enrol in Muay Thai initiation programmes that last anything from a few hours to multiple days.
The Sak Yant is a category of tattoos that are widely seen on the body of Muay Thai practitioners because it is thought that they provide the wearer with protection and good fortune. Thai people obtain these tattoos not because they care about how they look, as is commonly the case in Western culture, but rather because they firmly believe in the significance and protective power of the tattoos. Beliefs from Buddhism, animism, and other minority religions are included in its designs. The most common symbols include Hanuman, the monkey god who is associated with bravery; the Gao Yord, which possesses universal powers and symbolises the nine peaks of Mount Meru; the San Yant, also known as the tiger; the Ha Taew, which consists of five lines that are equivalent to as many spells written in Sanskrit; and the Paed Tit, the wheel of Dharma, which consists of eight ways to lead a life free from suffering.
Nǎng Tàlung, the shadow puppets
The shadow puppet show, also known as Thai nang tàlung, is a style of live theatre that is particularly popular in this part of Thailand. The province of Nakhon Si Thammarat is an excellent location to witness a live performance of Thai nng tàlung. We are able to visit Uncle Suchat Sapsin’s shadow theatre in the neighbourhood of Muang, where performances are put on for us. Suchat is not only a talented artist, but also a skilled artisan who is responsible for creating the primary puppets. At each and every performance, the concept of “Thainess” is taken into consideration. This includes giving the utmost respect to Thai customs and traditions, as well as making use of Thai musical instruments. We can also travel to a museum that is located in the artist’s home to learn about the history of puppets and view some of the more interesting puppet characters, such as the governor, the giant, the ghost, or the deity, amongst many more.
Lakhon lek is the name given to the puppet theatre that is performed in Thailand. It is staged with puppets that are approximately one metre in length and are managed by three puppeteers. The performance follows the beat of the music and is accompanied with a narrative of a story from Ramakien, which is the Thai adaptation of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Many of the clay puppets have humanlike appearances, respond to shapes that are reminiscent of Kohn’s dancers, and are fashioned into human shapes.
For realistic limb movement, the arms and legs are constructed out of cotton-filled fabric, while the joints are built out of foldable wood. The hands and feet are carved from Thong Lang wood, which is light and easy to master. Additionally, the outfits are fashioned from homemade fabrics that are sewed by hand using traditional sewing techniques. In order to give the impression that the puppet is dancing gracefully, the puppeteers need to have an in-depth understanding of the khon dance. Furthermore, they need to be able to work in unison to portray a single character. One puppeteer controls the puppet’s head and right hand, while another puppeteer is in charge of the left hand. and finally the feet come in third.
The ram thone is the ancestor of the traditional dance known as the ram wong (ram means dance and thone is a kind of small drum). It is a traditional dance that has its roots in Khmer culture and features both male and female participants. It is performed by dancing in circles, which is exactly what the term refers to, while following the beat of the drum with motions that are quite slow and exquisite using both the feet and the hands. As the hands are brought up from behind the body to the face, partners fold the palms of their hands so that the fingers are at right angles to the wrists. This movement is performed while bending the fingers in sync with the music the entire time. Each hand travels in a different direction, one to the left and one to the right. It is important that the legs move in time with the rhythm but in the opposite direction of the dance partner.
During World War II, the ram wong was popularised as a means of lifting people’s spirits as well as making a cultural statement in response to the introduction of foreign dances such as the foxtrot and the waltz into the country. In order to achieve this goal, a number of steps were adopted, including providing civil servants with a half day off each week so that they can practise it while they are working.
Dance of Apsaras
This is one of the most glaring examples that demonstrate the influence that artists from other cultures have had on our own. The apsarás dance can be traced back to Cambodia and the culture of the Khmer people. The archaeological sites of Phanom Rung and Phimai are evidence that the provinces of Buri Ram and Nakhon Ratchasima were very significant during the time of the Khmer Empire. This may be deduced from the fact that they were found in close proximity to each other. As depicted in the bas-reliefs found in the aforementioned archaeological parks, the dance of the apsaras, who are depicted as water nymphs in Hindu mythology, has been ingrained in Khmer culture for centuries. Additionally, the apsaras are an essential component in the aesthetic appeal of Khmer architecture. The apsaras move their bodies in time to the music played by the Gandharvas, who are Indra’s court musicians. This style of dance is featured as part of the programme for the Phimai festival, which takes place during the second week of November each year.