CEREMONY IN CAMBODIA
12 May 2009
Although there are various other scientific methods
to forecast the weather and to determine harvests,
Cambodians have their methods to foretell the
future. Through traditional rituals that are often
ceremoniously celebrated nationwide, Cambodians are
warned of calamities, assured of good harvest and so
The Royal Ploughing ceremony, or Pithi Chrat Preah
Neanng Korl in Khmer, and the Festival of Water and
full Moon Salutation, know as Pithi Bonn Om Touk and
Ak Ambok Sampeah preah Kher in Khmer, are such
ceremonies. Predictions gleaned from these
traditional ceremonies for the coming year are taken
The Festival of Water and Full Moon Salutation is
celebrated usually in late October. Drippings from
burning candles predict rainfall distribution to
provinces across the country. The Royal Ploughing
Ceremony predicts the weather, epidemics and farming
By observing what feed the royal oxen choose after
the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Cambodians believe
they can predict a range of events including
epidemics, floods, good harvests and excessive
This year, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony was held on
May 12 at the Veal Preahmein Square, situated across
the road from the northern perimeter of the Royal
At the end of a symbolic Ploughing procession before
His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, the royal oxen
were relieved of their harnesses and led to seven
golden trays containing rice, corn, sesame seeds,
beans, grass, water and wine to feed. The royal oxen
chose to eat out of only three trays this year and
because their feast consisted of varying percentages
of rice and corn while they largely ignored the
trays of sesame seeds, grass, water and wine,
prognostications were as follows: Farmers would
enjoy a moderate output for their rice harvest but
good yields in secondary crop production, especially
corn and beans. Because the royal oxen only sniffed
on the tray of water and turned away from the wine,
the prediction was made that farmers would not
suffer any serious floods.
Every year, Cambodian farmers anxiously await the
predictions at the end of this ritualistic ceremony,
which they observe with strong faith and belief.
Most Cambodians today still consult traditional
manuals before making any major decisions regarding
business matters or meeting important persons, etc.
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been observed for
many centuries at the initiative of an earlier Khmer
king who had paid great attention to farming
conditions of the people. Traditionally, the Pithi
Chrat Pheah Neang Korl is performed in the month of
the Khmer calendar and marks the beginning of the
rainy season in Cambodia.
When asked, most Cambodians stand staunchly by these
traditional methods of predicting the future and
vouch for their accuracy. It is comforting to
believe that the angels are still watching over us.
As they say in Cambodia, long live the Khmer
traditions. Long Live Cambodia.
"When the living relatives offer the food to the
spirit, the spirit will bless them with happiness",
According to the monk, legend has it that Phchum Ben
came about because relatives of King Bath Pempeksa
defied religious customs and ate rice before the
monks did during a religious ritual. After their
death, they became evil spirits.
He explained that later when a monk known as Kokak
Sonthor gained enlightenment and became a Buddha on
earth, all those evil spirits went to ask him "when
can we eat?"
The Buddha said "you have to wait for the next
Buddha in the Kathakot Buddhist realm. In this
realm, evil spirits cannot eat."
When the next monk, Kamanou, achieved enlightenment
and became a Buddha, all the evil spirits came again
to ask the same question, and he gave the same
answer as the previous Buddha.