Musical Ballet on Ramayana Wows All at ASEAN Opening Ceremony

Rama Hari, staged by ballet dancers from the Philippines, is based on Maharadia Lawana, the country’s version of Ramayana.


A musical performance based on the Hindu epic Ramayana enthralled Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the opening ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit held at Manila’s cultural center on Nov. 13. Titled Rama Hari, the rendition was performed by the group Ballet Philippines. The musical originally premiered in 1980 and was restaged in 2012.

Ramayana in the Philippines is known as Maharadia Lawana or King Ravana and the musical, Rama Hari, is based on this version. The famous dance of the Philippines, Singkil is also based on the Ramayana.

The other attendees at the opening ceremony of the two-day summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders of other ASEAN countries. The group comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Commenting on the Filipino ballet, which was choreographed by Alice Reyes and composed by Ryan Cayabyab, Modi said that the performance was “stupendous” and various parts of the Ramayana had been “beautifully highlighted”. It also showed India’s “deep bond” and shared heritage” with ASEAN countries.

The Ramayana is a common feature shared between many ASEAN countries, who have their own versions of the epic. In 1998, the 6th ASEAN summit in Vietnam staged Realising Rama, featuring dancers from each of the member countries. The ancient Indian epic was also performed at the semi-annual meeting held in Laos in 2016.

An ASEAN Plus Ramayana Festival was also held last year as part of the first ASEAN Cultural Expo, where dance troupes from the member countries performed different episodes from the tale.

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