Reamker (Khmer: រាមកេរ្តិ៍ [riːəmkeː], also romanized as Ramakerti) is a Cambodian epic poem, based on the Sanskrit’s Ramayana epic. The name means “Glory of Rama”. It adapts the Hindu ideas to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world. More than just a reordering of the epic tale, the Reamker is a mainstay of the royal ballet’s repertoire. Like the Ramayana, it is a philosophical allegory, exploring the ideals of justice and fidelity as embodied by the protagonists, Prince Rama and Queen Sita. The epic is well known among the Khmer people for its portrayal in Khmer dance theatre, called the L’khaon, in various festivals across Cambodia. Scenes from the Reamker are painted on the walls of the Royal Palace in Khmer style, and its predecessor is carved into the walls of the Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei temples. It is considered an integral part of Cambodian culture.
The Reamker differs from the original Ramayana in some ways, featuring additional scenes and emphasis on Hanuman and Sovanna Maccha.
In the Reamker, issues of trust, loyalty, love, and revenge play out in dramatic encounters among princes and giants, monkeys and mermaids, and a forlorn princess. Though it is understood that Preah Ream is an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, his characteristics and those of the others in the story are interpreted in Cambodia as those of mere mortals, not of the gods as is the case in India. The complex interplay of strengths and weaknesses, though couched in episodes lined with magic, nonetheless represents a decidedly human social behavior.
As in other Southeast Asian countries, the Rama story in Cambodia is not confined to the realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, from sculpture to dance drama, painting and art. Another epic, Lpoek Angkor Vat (“The Story of Angkor Wat”), which dates from the beginning of the 17th century, celebrates the magnificent temple complex at Angkor and describes the bas-reliefs in the temple galleries that portray the Rama story.