National Geographic : 1967 Jul
Ghosts of a glorious past, chedis of a royal temple spike the ruins of Ayutthaya, Siam's capital for four centuries. Ashes of royalty rest within the spired domes, whose peeling stucco walls reveal red-brick cores. A walled town surrounded by waters of the Chao Phraya, Ayutthaya in the 1600's became one of the largest cities south of China. A Dutch trader in 1636 described it as "frequented by all Nations; and... impregna ble." But Burmese armies pierced its defenses in 1767. Today only these crumbling monuments are left to haunt the imagination. To preserve them, the government plans a national historical park. Mask of evil identifies Thosa kanth (right), most heinous villain of the Ramakien, Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. While actors pantomime, a chorus tells of monkey generals, beautiful ladies, and powerful heroes. EKTACHROME(ABOVE)ANDKODACHROMES © NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY Magical giant with blazing eyes rescues the army of the hero Rama. Pursuing an ally of the evil Thosakanth, Rama's soldiers reach a seashore. The stage grows dark. Calling on supernatural powers, a general enlarges his body and lays himself across the water as a bridge. Here, carrying their leaders under a ceremonial umbrella, the army dances to battle. Thailand's Department of Fine Arts in Bangkok trained the actors and produced this episode from the Ramakien for the first time last year, to honor visiting President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson.