The Dolphin and the Dragon: Comparing Hindu and Buddhist Aspects of a Human/Animal Transformation - An example of Metamorphosis in Two Cambodian Myths



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In my paper, I would like to analyse the “dragon” features in the Cambodian Buddhist ordaining ceremony and explain how this type of metamorphosis serves as a model of spiritual growth. This will be illustrated by the example of the legendary narrative about a dragon who wanted to become a Buddhist monk and compared with two other versions of Khmer human/animal transformation legends dealing with the origin of the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris, in Khmer ph’sout), living in Cambodia in the northern part of Mekong River. In south of Cambodia people believe them to be mythical creatures already, similar to dragons. Dragons themselves play a crucial role in legends all over the world, and in Cambodia, which is predominantly a Buddhist country with Hindu ancestry and long observed traditions, is no different, for it is the dragon princess who can be considered the principal hero of the Cambodian creation myth. The dragon has also its place in many other traditional tales and legends dated back to different periods of Cambodian history, and even until modern times the Khmer people remind themselves the importance of the dragon symbol in the religious ordaining ceremony. This is because the word that Khmer language uses for “a dragon” also refers to a future monk before the initiation – neak, bombonous neak, “the ordained dragon” (which comes from a traditional folk story). I decided to compare Hindu and Buddhist aspects of a human/animal transformation on an example of metamorphosis in two Cambodian myths, showing a connection of Male and Female features, resulting into correlation of the Earth and Water, furthermore on a dissimilar level as an affiliation between a Human and a Mythological creature, leading to Land of nowadays and consequentially into Khmers, Descendants of this link.
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