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Sovanna Phum Art association

Performs every
Friday and Saturday
19:30 – 20:30 (7:30 – 8:30pm)
At Sovanna Phum Theatre

#159B, St. 99 (corner of St. 484), Phsar Doem Thkov, Chamkarmon

The Reamker

Stone reliefs on Cambodia’s temples from as far back as the 10th century depict scenes from the epic narrative of Indian origin, the Ramayana. The literary text of the Khmer adaptation of the Ramayana, the Reamker, dates to the 16th or 17th century.

The story is center on Preah Ream, a prince who was exiled to the forest for fourteen years. Following many adventures, including the abduction of his wife Neang Seda by the evil giant Krong Reap, and her eventual rescue with the help of an army of monkeys guided by Hanuman, Preah Ream returns home in triumph and claims his throne.

Though the general storyline of the Ramayana was conserved in Cambodia, the Khmer text contains episodes and innovations unique to Cambodian and other Southeast Asian cultures. An example of a story that does not appear in Indian texts and performance is that of the encounter between Hanuman, the monkey general, and Neang Suwannamachha, the mermaid, a favorite of Cambodian audiences.

In the Reamker, issues of trust, loyalty, love, and revenge are played out in dramatic encounters between princes and giants, monkeys and mermaids, and a forlorn princess. Indeed, 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 (bravery, foresight) and weaknesses (distrust, trickery) – though couched in episodes lined with magic – nonetheless represents aspects of decidedly human social behavior.

The Reamker serves as an inspiration for various genres of performance in Cambodia. Classical dance-drama, all male masked dance-drama, and shadow puppet plays all include episodes in their repertoire. The Reamker is traditionally the only story performed by all-male masked dance-drama and large shadow puppet plays troupes.


  • Agni: god of fire
  • Chandra: god of the moon
  • Lakshmi: goddess of prosperity, incarnates as Neang Seda
  • Manimekhalla: lightning goddess
  • Preah Adity: god of the sun
  • Preah Indr: god of storms, elements, lord of celestial musicians and dancers
  • Preah Isur: god of destruction and reincarnation
  • Preah Nearay: god of life and preservation, incarnates as Preah Ream
  • Preah Peay: god of wind; breath, and energy
  • Preah Taprohm: god of creation
  • Prithivi: goddess of the earth
  • Ramesur: god of thunder
  • Varuna: god of the sea
  • Virupakkh: god of wealth


  • Aiyudhya: capital city of Dasharath’s kingdom
  • Khatkhin: monkey kingdom
  • Langka: ogre kingdom
  • Mithila: kingdom ruled by Janak
  • Khrut: sun bird; king of the birds; vehicle de Vishnu
  • Dandakarany: forest of Preah Ream’s exile


  • Ahalya: wife de Gautama; mother of Anjanadebi, Bali and Sugrib
  • Angkut: son of Bali and Neang Debi Tara; adopted son of Sugrib
  • Anjanadebi: daughter of Gautama and Ahalya; mother of Hanuman
  • Asurapada: son of Hanuman and Neang Ponhakay
  • Bali: son of Ahalya and Preah Indr; twin half-brother of Sugrib; father of Angkut
  • Dasarath: husband of Neang Kosakalya, Neang Kaikesi and Neang Sramud; father of Preah Ream, Preah Bhirut, Preah Leak and Preah Sutrut
  • Enthachi: son of Krong Reap and Neang Mondokiri
  • Gautama: husband of Ahalya; father of Anjanadebi
  • Hanuman: son of Anjanadebi and Preah Peay
  • Jupaleak: son of Preah Ream and Neang Seda; twin brother of Ramleak
  • Kaikasi: mother of Krong Reap, Kumbhakar, Pipek, and Surapanakha; wife of Vishrava
  • Krong Reap: husband of Neang Mondokiri; father of Enthachi
  • Kumbakhar: younger brother of Krong Reap; older brother of Surapanakha and Pipek
  • Machhanu: son of Hanuman and Neang Suwannamachha
  • Neang Debi Tara: wife de Sugrib; mother of Angkut fathered by Bali
  • Neang Kaikesi: second wife of Dasarath; mother of Preah Bhirut
  • Neang Kosakalya: first wife of Dasharath; mother de Preah Ream
  • Neang Mondokiri: wife of Krong Reap; mother of Enthachi
  • Neang Ponhakay: daughter of Pipek; mother of Asurapada fathered by Hanuman
  • Neang Seda: wife de Preah Ream; mother of Ramleak and Jupaleak
  • Neang Sramud: wife of Dasharath; mother of Preah Leak and Preah Sutrut
  • Neang Suwannamachha: daugther of Krong Reap; mother of Machhanu
  • Pipek: younger brother of Krong Reap, Kumbhakar and Surapanakha; father of Neang Ponhakay; ally of Preah Ream
  • Preah Adity: father of Sugrib
  • Preah Bhirut: son of Dasharath and Neang Kaikesi; younger half-brother of Preah Ream; older half-brother of Preah Leak and Preah Sutrut
  • Preah Indr: father of Bali
  • Preah Leak: son of Dasharath and Neang Sramud; younger half-brother of Preah Ream and Preah Bhirut; older twin brother of Preah Sutrut
  • Preah Peay: father of Hanuman
  • Preah Ream: oldest son of Dasharath and Neang Kosakalya; husband of Neang Seda; father of Ramleak and Jupaleak
  • Preah Sutrut: youngest son of Dasharath and Neang Sramud; younger half-brother of Preah Ream and Preah Bhirut; younger twin brother of Preah Leak
  • Ramleak: son of Preah Ream and Neang Seda; twin brother of Jupaleak
  • Shamba: son of Surapanakha and Vidyutjihva
  • Sugrib: son of Ayalya and Preah Adity; half-brother of Bali
  • Surapanakha: sister of Krong Reap, Kumbakhar, and Pipek; wife of Vidyutjihva; mother of Shamba
  • Vidyutjihva: husband of Surapanakha
  • Virupakkh: son of Vishrava; older half-brother of Krong Reap
  • Vishrava: father of Virupakkh, Krong Reap, Khumbhakar, Surapanakha, and Pipek

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