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Balaha (बलह)

Sanskrit-Khmer. Name of a talking, flying white horse, that rescues those who repent from their sins, as well as merchants from perils at sea. According to one legend, it helped rescue the chief merchant Samhala and five hundred merchants, whom were held captive by a group of Rakshasa. The horse is considered to be the king of horses and is described as the embodiment of one of the former incarnations of the Buddha himself, as well as an emanation of the bodhisatva Avalokitesvara. It bears a chintamani, i.e. a wishing gem or wish-fulfilling jewel, on its back, akin to the Wind Horse Lung Ta found on Buddhist prayer flags in Tibet and Nepal (fig.). In Khmer mythology, the story of the horse Balaha was immortalized in a stone sculpture found at Neak Pean in Cambodia and which dates back to the 12th century AD, in the middle of the Angkorian Period, and of which today a copy stands at the entrance of the International Airport in Siem Reap (map). Also referred to as Balahaka and Valaha, and reminiscent of Kanthaka, i.e. Prince Siddhartha's snow-white horse, on which he leaves his father's palace during the Great Departure, flying through the sky with his servant Chandaka hanging on its tail (fig.). See also Mah Pihk.