Delfín a drak : Srovnání hinduistických a buddhistických aspektů transformace lidských bytostí a živočichů – příklad metamorfózy na dvou kambodžských mýtech

Title in English 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 2020
Type Article in Proceedings
Conference Od stability ke změně. Kulturní vývoj na území Asie a Afriky
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Cambodia; Khmer mythology; Buddhism; Hinduism
Description In Cambodia, where, especially in the rural areas, the beliefs of animism are widely spread, we can find the faith in the mythological origin of the land and certain animal species still deeply rooted in the folkloric and religious traditions. Admitting the possibility of a transformation from a human being into an individual of an animal character or vice versa (their alliance, mutual communication etc.) doesn`t represent any massive leap in the mundane perception of most Cambodians. After all, the Khmers themselves happen to be, according to their traditional legend, true descendants of dragons. In this respect, there is no reason why they should find the idea of a dolphin`s being of a human origin anyhow troubling. The freshwater dolphins living in Cambodia, so called Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris, in Khmer ph’sout) belong amongst the critically endangered species whose population is being annihilated due to the excessive dam-building, contamination and hunting. The almost complete extermination of these rare freshwater cetaceans, causes that they are looked upon, by the local riverine communities, as if they were the same mythical creatures whose existence belongs exclusively into the long-passed history. In this respect, the Irawaddi dolphin has earned a status not much different from the dragon. As the myth of the people`s origin implies, dragons (or snakes in general) also play a very important role in a Buddhist ordaining ceremony, in which a large percentage of young Cambodian men become, at least for some time, Buddhist monks. This ritual is called “The ordained dragon” and is thus linked to the Khmer creation myth and to the myth of the human origin. In my paper, I would like to analyze the “dragon” features and motifs in the Cambodian Buddhist ordaining ceremony and explain how this type of metamorphosis might serve as a model for spiritual growth. This will be illustrated on 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.
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