March 14, 2013

The Meaning of Monkeys. {Photos} ~ Brian Holihan

What I call, “The Ramacola at Angkor Wat.”

I rarely take monkey photos in Asia, but I couldn’t resist this one.

This little guy’s on the main terrace at Angkor Wat. The monument’s huge, so even our simean friends need an energy boost to keep exploring it.

He was juicing right in front of this carving:

This is no exaggeration—these are pictures 1271 and 1273 within the same file. So these images bracketed me. The scene’s of the final battle in the Ramayana, in which the monkey general, Hanuman, and his warriors help Rama regain his kingdom. Did they get a caffeine jolt before the fray?

In many cultures, monkeys have two different meanings.

They have symbolized vitality and appetite, and several cultures have associated them with wanton sexuality. But they have also symbolized intelligence. Monkeys are both unlike and like civilized humans. So their meanings have been complex, and the Ramayana combined both into images that artists all over southern Asia have produced.

Khmers loved action scenes, and the monkeys help project Angkor Wat’s majestic power.

The real monkeys were mellow, but if they keep ingesting American junk food, will they become as ornery as the ones in Angkor Wat’s carvings?

Brian Holihan is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and he became fascinated by the variety of the world’s cultures at the age of seven. He has studied and traveled in China, Southeast Asia, India, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He loves books, music, hiking, running, the ecology, animals and humor. Some of his favorite travel memories are of playing music, including accompanying an opera singer in Kaifeng, China, playing metal in a rock band in Kota Bharu, Malaysia, and playing reggae with locals on the beach in Mauritius. He’s finishing a book about a new way to perceive the world’s cultures which will promote the most peace, happiness and creativity.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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