This high relief depicts a narrative scene. It is framed by a multi-lobed rampant arch surmounted by raised leaves and culminating in multi-headed naga. The scene refers to an episode from the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic of which Vishnu, appearing in the guise of his avatar Krishna, is one of the heroes. On either side of an ogival-shaped tree, the two asura (demons) Sunda and Upasunda are fighting for possession of the apsaras Tilottama created by the gods to bring about war between the two brothers and to restore peace on earth. Ascetic onlookers are watching the conflict take place. In Khmer art, the extremely lively relief images are in stark contrast to the more hieratical and impersonal religious statuary. Accurate rendering of nature, flawless execution, and an imaginative blend of gracious figures and lush decorative vegetation are the hallmarks of the Banteay Srei style. These were the earliest well-preserved narrative scenes and would influence the ulterior ornamentation of Khmer monuments.
The relief was sculpted in a high quality pink sandstone and the ornamental details have survived almost intact. It comes from the east porch of gopura east III, a cruciform tower the facades of which were decorated with such pediments.
The Banteay Srei style emerged around 967, stimulated by the patronage of the Brahmin Yajnavaraha. Its appellation derives from the contemporary name of the temple, located some twenty kilometres north east of Angkor. This monument is unquestionably the work of the greatest artists of the day.