Water and Moon Festival and Boat Racing

For the people of Cambodia, the water Festival (The pirogue Racing Festival) in Phnom Penh is the most magnificent traditional festival. For three days Phnom Penh citizens, foreign tourists and peasants from various provinces gather in the capital to celebrate festival night day.

The water festival had background for so long time. The water festival ceremony is the army training to do attest of the army for preparing to do a battle. In the history, Khmer King always does the battle with enemies by sailing. So he prepares this water festival ceremony every year to choose Champion of sailing battle, as in Bayon Temple, Batteay Chhmar in the Preah Bat Jayvarman VII. We had seen a lot of statues about sailing battle under leading of Jayvarman VII. The custom of this is to have from then up to the present.

On the other hand the water is celebrated every years in November to honor the victory of Cambodian Naval forces in the reign of King JayvarmanVII, during Angkor period of the 12th century.

And this ceremony is to history about military exercise of our navy force in the course of national defense and to express thanks to the 3 Buddhist symbols Gods and holy thing which helped us and agriculture field and serves as an opportunity to pray for our lord for the happiness and sufficient rain for rice cultivation.

Besides the regatta, the water festival also includes three other ceremonies: Illuminated float (Loy Pratip), Moon salutation (Sampeas Preah Khe) and the eating of pestle new special rice with banana or coconut juice (Ork Ambok). The ceremony last three days to provide opportunity for people to by part in competition that there were to types of boats from near and far of provinces, taking part in the races, the pirogue and the rowing boat. Each boat was manned by about thirty to forty men or women. The boat with a man or a woman dancing softly and gracefully to the rhythm of the drums on the bow as an encouragement to the rowers moved swiftly through the water.

There as the race winners will be rewarded a lot of good such as: drink, money, clothes, rice, cigarettes and the commission of the boat racing day must seek donations in order to provide this prize for participants.

During the nighttime at about seven o'clock the river was lit by jazzy illuminated boats, which floated slowly, and smoothly on the water's surface. Each of them was equipped with thousands of flashy neon lights arranged in different colorful, fancy patterns representing state institutions, ministries and services.

After a little time fireworks and multi color were lit to entertain people. Some of people made loud noises. They burst into different shapes and colors in the sky under the clapped and cheered with joy each time at the sight of the fireworks.

Finally the water festival is the festivity for the Cambodian people who celebrated every years and going for a walk during the ceremony days really refreshed our mood. The lively festive atmosphere helped relive our tension and trouble.

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.

Later another monk, Kasakbour, achieved enlightenment and became a Buddha, and the hungry evil spirits again asked him the same question. The Buddha told them the same thing - to wait for the next Buddha.

The final Buddha, Preah Samphot - also known also as Samanakkodom - said to the evil spirits, "Wait for your relative, King Bath Pempeksa, to offer merits and dedication. When the dedication is made, the food will be yours to eat."

King Pempeksa finally made an offering, but he did not dedicate the offering to the spirits of his relatives. All the spirits that were related to him cried that night. And when King Bath Pempeksa went to the Valovan pagoda to visit the Buddha, he was told by the Buddha that, "All the spirits of your relatives are crying, demanding food. The spirits should get food in the realm of Kathakot. Although you offered food and did good deeds, you did not dedicate the food and good deeds to them." So King Bath Pempeksa made another dedication and offering, and this time he dedicated the food and merits to his relatives. The evil spirits received the dedication and were finally reborn into paradise.

"It is believed that some of the dead receive punishment for their sins and burn in hell - they suffer a lot and are tortured there," he added. "Hell is far from people; those souls and spirits cannot see the sun; they have no clothes to wear, no food to eat," Om Sam Ol continued. "Phchum Ben is the period when those spirits receive offerings from their living relatives and perhaps gain some relief. Relatives consecrate and dedicate food and other offerings to them."

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