When Anita Bose first arrived in Thailand she was surprised to see how integral to its culture the Ramayana was. Buddhism is followed by 95 per cent of the population and yet it was, and still is, compulsory to study the national epic, Ramakien (meaning Glory of Rama), in all government schools. Then there is the popular dance form of khon that portrays episodes from Ramakien.
It doesn’t end there. A month-long Ramayana festival is an annual royal event, in which eight nations, including India, participate. And even the king of Thailand assumes the title of Rama at his coronation.
In subsequent years, Bose had the opportunity to travel the rest of Southeast Asia. The writer of the book, Ramayana: Footprints in South-East Asian Culture and Heritage, tells The Telegraph, “Increasingly I realised that the Ramayana does not stand for religion in these countries. It has been embraced in Muslim, Buddhist and Christian majority nations as well.”