The temples of Angkor were carefully constructed and decorated according to strict religious doctrine and meticulous astrological measurements, guided by the brahmins. That said, there was plenty of room for artistic expression by the artisans who crafted these marvelous places, and even humour. This carving of Valin fighting Dubhi, on the base of a pilaster on the central sanctuary of Banteay Samre temple, where we see Valin giving the demon buffalo Dubhi a good spanking, is a great example.
The Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Ramayana, tells the tale of a young but very powerful buffalo named Dubhi (or Dundubhi or Dourabhi in other versions). Interestingly this tale is not part of the original Ramayana.
Dubhi’s father, the King of the Buffaloes, had his sons killed for fear of competition, and Dubhi was the only son to survive the genocide.
While wandering in the forest, Dubhi met Valin, the King of the Monkeys, and they joined in combat. After an indecisive battle in the open, Valin craftily asked Dubhi to fight in a cave, where the buffalo’s bulk would put him at a disadvantage.
Before the fight Valin told his younger brother Sugriva that if, after the fight, light coloured blood flowed from the cave it meant he was dead and Sugriva would have to block the entrance to stop the monster escaping. However, when Valin defeated Dubhi, the flowers showered by the gods turned the blood of Dubhi to a light colour. Seeing this, Sugriva lamented the loss of his brother, whom he presumed dead, and had the entrance of the cave blocked as he had been instructed.
Local legend relates that, because Valin twisted Dubhi’s neck so hard when throwing him to the ground, all buffaloes have deep wrinkles around the neck.
This episode precedes the enmity between Valin and Sugriva, much more on that story in later articles.
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