Lok Yeay Mao Pich Nil
Beside the national religion, Buddhism, in the real society of Cambodia, people also worship their indigenous deities, the masters of the land, human heroes who become sacred spirits after they passed away. Throughout the country, there are many big and small shrines were built for those deities. Because people still believe that there are evil spirits which could cause problems in their life. And to worship their deities is for helping them get rid off those evil spirits.
Lok Yeay Mao (Grandma Mao) is on of the great well known deities by Her sacred power of protecting and granting the wishes of her worshipers. It’s believed that Lok Yeay Mao is the deity who control over the area of forest and the seaside. So people who live nearby to forest and seaside is specially worship her. Moreover, many shrines in different places through out Cambodia are built for Lok Yeay Mao, so that people in their area can pay their worship. Despite the sacredness of Lok Yeay Mao, people also want to find out about her history. There are many different sources telling different story about her.
History of Lok Yeay Mao
Mr. Mix Saphon, the deputy of Culture and Fine Art office of Kampong Speu province, has made a research about the history of Lok Yeay Mao and he has filed a conclusion as below.
During the 16th to 17th century, there was always fighting between Khmer and Siamese. According to his research, Lok Yeay Mao was a girl in the military troop, she was an assistant to her leader, Ta Kry (តាគ្រី). Their military troop was well known in the seaside areas, because they were always success over the battles with enemy. Later they control the western of Cambodia and expanded to the east of the sea which is now Kampong Speu province. There were two large military bases of Ta Kry troop in their controlled area. One was in Koh Kong looked over by Ta Kry and another one was in Pich Nil, Kampong Speu, looked over by Lok Yeay Mao.
After Ta Kry passed away, the troop was leaded by Lok Yeay Mao. During that time, Siam knew that Ta Kry had passed away, they had always tried to fight, but almost all the battles were defeated by Khmer troop leaded by Lok Yeay Mao. The research result also shows that, Lok Yeay Mao has never married to anyone.
The Sacredness of Lok Yeay Mao
Over hundreds of year ago, Cambodia people worship Lok Yeay Mao as their master of land, who can protect them from harms, especially people who live near seaside area. However, until today the sacredness of Lok Yeay Mao is still very powerful which we can see people build more shrines for her through out the country. This is to clarify that, the belief of people over her protection is still very strong.
One of the main shrine of Lok Yeay Mao (built in 1990) is located at Pich Nil peak, along the nation road No.4, the Phnom Penh – Sihanouk Ville high way, about 120 Km from Phnom Penh. Eveyone who passing this way are stop by and pay their worship to Lok Yeay Mao for safe trip. People also pray to her for their successful in their job and business.
How to Greet in Khmer
Cambodia people greeting each other by placing both hands together palm to palm in front of the chest with fingers pointing upward, and saying that “chum reap sour”, means “hello”. However, there are five principles of greeting in Khmer, according to whom we are greeting to.
Praying to God we must place both hands together, fingers pointing must be over your forehead.
To salute the King and Bhikhus (monk), place both hands together, fingers pointing up to your eyebrow.
To salute your parents, your fingers pointing must be at the end of your nose.
To salute your elders or someone who older than you, your fingers pointing are at your lip.
To greet people who are the same age to you, your fingers pointing should be below your chin. For greeting back to someone younger than you, when they salute to you, your hands raise on your chest.
Lord Vishnu helps Gajendra Moksha – the elephant king
Kajendra Moksha is also one of Hindu mythology story which related to Lord Vishnu helps the elephant king, Gajendra Moksha. This story also has been depicted as decoration carvings of Khmer ancient temples in Siem Reap. The story goes that…
Trikuta was a beautiful mountain with thick forest, which was home of a group of elephants led by elephant king named Gajendra Moksha. One day in the hot season, a group of elephants with Gajendra Moksha to bath in a lake in order to release hot. Suddenly, a crocodile who lived in the lake bit Gajendra’s leg, caused him get stuck in the lake. He tried hard to rescue himself until he became weak, even with help from other’s elephant, he still couldn’t detach from the crocodile. Gajendra was hopeless and thought that he would die soon. Suddenly, he remembered Lord Vishnu and called out to him for help.
Immediately, Lord Vishnu appeared on his mount Garuda and sent his Chakra to kill the crocodile for releasing Gajendra Moksha. As Chakra was touching the crocodile, it transformed into a Gandharva. Gajendra Moksha was saved. He sent a lotus flower to Lord Vishnu as paying gratitude to him. Then Gajendra Moksha became a human.
In fact, the elephant king Gajendra Moksha was a great king named Indradyumna. He was cursed by hermit Agastya to born as an elephant because the king did not respect him while he was visiting the king. And the curse will be ended only when he meet Lord Vishnu.
In the previous life, the crocrodile was a Gandharva named Huhu. One day, while he was taking shower in a lake, a hermit came to the lake for taking water. And Huhu was kidding with him by pulling his leg. However, the hermit was not ready to be joking with him, so he cursed Huhu to become a crocodile to live in that lake. Huhu asked him for forgiveness, but the hermit refused and told him that the curse will be released as long as the Chakra of Lord Vishnu touches his body.
So in the same time of saving the elephant king Gajendra, Lord Vishnu also helped end the curse of Huhu to finish his life as a crocodile.
Cambodian New Year
Khmer New Year or Cambodian New Year is the most colorful holiday of the year for Cambodia people. Everyone is graceful and prepare grant celebration for it.
Khmer New Year 2012
For 2012 the Khmer New Year Days fall on the 13, 14, and 15 of April. It marks the end of Buddhist year 2555 and the start of new year 2556, the year of Dragon.
The first new year day is on Friday April, 13, 2012. The new year angel of this year is Kemira Tevy (កិមិរាទេវី), the sixth daughter of Kabil Moha Prum. She wears a hairpin of violet flower, carries a sword on right hand and a zither (ពិណ) on left hand. She rides water buffalo as vehicle. The special offering for Kemira Tevy is banana (chek namva). So this year the banana price on the market is going to rise in a few days before new year arrived. Because every house will need banana for offering to new year angel.
Kemira Tevy arriving on April 13, time 07:11 pm. So every house must be ready with the offering table and be gathered burning the incense sticks to welcome and make praying to new year angel for a happiness and successful coming year.
History of Khmer New Year
All nations in the world celebrate new year every year with different date and preparation according to their traditional cultures. Cambodia people also celebrated new year every year since ancient time. It’s among biggest and colorful celebrations of the year. Khmer new year or in Khmer ‘Chol Chnam Thmey’ means ‘entering new year’. And ‘Suo Sdey Chnam Thmey’ for ‘Happy New Year’.
During Angkor era, Khmer celebrated new year based on the lunisolar calendar. According to Chinese diplomat, Zhou Da Guan who visited Khmer empire in 13th century recorded that Khmer celebrated new year in the tenth month of Chinese calendar in the year of his visit, which fell on December or January of Gregorian calendar. And the first month of lunisolar calendar is Mekasay (មិគសិរ) which also falls on end of December or January.
After Angkor period, the new year celebration date has been changed, because Cambodians use both lunisolar and solar calendar. The current new year celebration date was determined based on solar calendar, which typically falls on April 13th or 14th of the Gregorian calendar. And this date is set as official new year days for Cambodians today.
Khmer New Year Legend
Cambodian practice the tradition and reinforce their beliefs about heaven, earth, and hell, good and bad karma, in which the result people got is from their deeds in their previod life. And so this life of living they shall do many good deeds for the next better life. There is a legend related to Khmer new year, that people believe that every new year there is one new angle come to take care the earth and its people. The legend goes that…
Once upon a time there is a young man named Dhammabal Koma (ធ្មបាលកុមារ) who is a son of a rich man. Dhammabal Koma has finished his study of the three Vedas and also can speak the language of all birds. His talent and knowledge made him to be famous through out the area.
One day, Kabil Moha Prum (កបិលមហាព្រហ្ម), who is the king of heaven heard about the cleverness of Dhammabal Koma and wanted to challenge him a test of intellectual ability by asking him to solve three riddles within seven days time. The reward of his winning is the king of heaven will cut off his own head and if Dhammabal Koma could not solve the riddles, he must also cut off his head too.
After six days of considering and finding the answers to the King of Heaven’s riddles, Dhammabal Koma has no any sign about it. He was hopeless and thought that he would have to suffer his life for the King of Heaven tomorrow. So he decided to walk into deep forest and kill himself for his ashamedness. After a long distance of struggling in the forest, Dhammabal Koma arrived a big palm tree. Too tired, he fall asleep under the tree. While he was not deeply in sleep, he accidentally listened to the conversation of a vulture couple. The female vulture was enquired her husband about their food for tomorrow, and the male vulture replied that they will have Dhammabal Koma’s flesh for many days. Because he will not be able to solve the riddles. Curiously, the female vulture asked what the riddles were and her husband replied:
1. Where is the charm in the morning?
2. Where is the charm in the afternoon?
3. Where is the charm in the evening?
The male vulture then continues to tell his wife the answers:
1. In the morning, charm lies on people’s face as they wash their face before starting a new day.
2. In the afternoon, charm is on people’s chests as they bathe to cool their body from the afternoon heat.
3. In the evening, charm is at people’s feet as they clean their feet after a full day of work and get ready for bed.
After listened to the conversation of the vulture couple, Dhammabal Koma quickly recovered from tiredness and rush back to his palace waiting for the King of Heaven to answer his riddles.
As promised, Kabil Moha Prum cut off his own head for he have been defeated. But before doing so, the King of Heaven call his seven daughters to him and advised that his head cannot be dropped down on earth or ocean, if not the earth would be destroyed in fire. His head must be putting on a platter and his daughters must take turn to carry his head for ceremonial circle around mount Someru every year during the Sangkran date, to bring happiness and good weather to the earth, before bringing to keep in Kuntheakmali (គន្ធមាលី) temple in heaven.
Angel of New Year
From this legend, Cambodian believe that every year on the first day of the new year or Sangkran day, there is a new angel comes down to earth (for ceremonial circle around mount Someru of Kabil Moha Prum’s heat). Each angel carries different items, has different vehicle and favor on different foods. The uniqueness of each angel are recorded in Moha Sangkran written by Hora (astrologer). So there will be different new year offerings every year.
Depend on which day of the week that the new year falls, determine which angel being the angel of the new year. Below are the list of seven angels and their characteristics.
Sunday angel is Tungsa Tevy (ទុង្សាទេវី) as the oldest daughter of Kabil Moha Prum, wears a ruby necklace, a pomegranate flower hairpin. She carries a disc (ច័ក្រ) on the right hand and on her left hand holding a shell (ស័ង្ខ). Fig fruit (ផ្លែល្វា) is her favorite food. Her vehicle is garuda (គ្រុឌ).
Monday angel is Koreak Tevy (គោរាគទេវី) wears Angkeabos flower hairpin. She carries a sword (ខ័ន្ធ) with her right hand and a cane (ឈើច្រត់) at the left. She rides a tiger and oil is her favorite food.
Tuesday angel is Reaksa Tevy (រាក្យសាទេវី) wears lotus flower hairpin. She drinks blood. In her hands are a trident (ត្រីសូល៍) at right, and a bow (ធ្នូ) at left. Her animal is a horse.
Wednesday angel is Mondar Tevy (មណ្ឌាទេវី) wears a Champa flower hairpin. Her weapons are a needle on right hand, and a cane on left. She drinks milk and rides a donkey.
Thursday angel is Keriny Tevy (កិរិណីទេវី) wears a hairpin of Mondar flower. Beans and sesame are her favorite foods. On her right hand carries a harpoon (កងេ្វ) and on left hand a gun. Her vehicle is elephant.
Friday angel is Kemira Tevy (កិមិរាទេវី) wears a hairpin of violet flower. She prefer banana as offering. She carries a sword on right hand and a zither (ពិណ) on left hand. She rides water buffalo as vehicle.
Saturday angel is Mohurea Tevy (មហោទរាទេវី) wears a hairpin of Trokeat flower. She favors on deer meat. Her weapons are a disc (ច័ក្រ) and a trident (ត្រីសូត៍). She rides a peacock.
Khmer New Year Celebration
In the ancient time, the new year was celebrated for one month, 15 days before the new year day and 15 days after. During this time people relax and enjoying time together with relatives and villages. Nowadays, in some provinces of Cambodia, people still celebrate new year in such a long time. In the city, the new year is celebrated within three days only. And it’s the national holiday, all public and private sector are closed.
Usually a week before the new year days, Monks are invited to perform a Buddhist ceremony at home, in which people believe that it’s to chase away the misfortunes and miserableness of the old year and asking for blessing of the coming new year with happiness and prosperity.
People prepare their house by cleaning or new painting the wall, changing new curtain, replacing new furniture, kitchen wear which are broken. People make themselves new clothes. All these are activities to refresh the bad feeling in the old year and hoping for a good coming year.
During the three days of new year, offerings for welcoming new year angel are prepared on a table placed in front of the house door. The offering included a pair of slathor (made of young banana stem, decorate with flower, betel leaves, areca nuts), cakes, fruits, water and drinks, flowers. Especially the food which is the favorite of the new year angel is a must have. If the angel drink blood, people would offer red syrup instead of blood. If in any year that the new year falls on Friday, Kemira Tevy, she prefer banana. Then in that year, the price of banana would go up twice, as everyone need banana as angel offering.
The time of the new year angel coming is always different from each year. People based on the time written in Moha Sangkran which is calculated by Hora (astrologer). When it’s the time, at the offering table, people started to light candle and burn incence sticks, praying to the new year angel for health, happiness and wealth. And they will pray like this in the 2nd and 3rd days too, but in the morning or at night.
Traditionally, Khmer new year is celebrated within three days. Day one is called Moha Sangkran (មហាសង្រ្កាន្ត), day two is called Vonnabot (វណបត), and day three is Lerng Sak (ឡើងស័ក). On these three days, pagodas are decorated with colorful religious plags. The pagoda management team prepare some spaces for traditionals games and dancing for villagers enjoy such as Teanh Prort, Vai Ka om, Chol Chhuong, Bos Ang Kunh, Leak Kansaeng, Sdach Jorng, Klaeng Jab Kon Morn, etc.
On these three days, in the morning people prepare food offering for the monks in the local pagoda. They wearing beautiful traditional dress and gathering at the pagoda. This is to let their ancestors to celebrate the new year with them and also for getting the blessing from ancestors. After that people building sand hill with in the pagoda complex. People believe that building sand hill can help them release from sin which they had accidentally did in this life. In the evening, monk is invited for preaching in the Preah Vihea, and mostly only old people would join this ritual. At night, after finished preaching ceremony, there are various activities for young people such as play traditional games, traditional dancing, or watch Khmer drama (ល្ខោន).
According to the tradition of a good Khmer child being, son and daughter must prepare foods and other offering included money for their grandparents and parents and go with them to pagoda. As this is a very good deed, that children should do, so that they will get a lot of merits from the blessing of their elderly. They also have new clothes as gift for their elderly. They also doing charity to the poor. Khmer new year is also a good occasion to visit relatives. In the countryside, people make num ansom, Cambodia sticky rice cake as a ceremony cake and giving away as gift for visitors, whom visited them.
On day three, there is bathing the Buddha statues ceremony. They can join the ceremony at the pagoda or bath for their Buddha statue at home. This is to clean away all the dusts which are believed as bad things and asking for good things indeed when the Buddha statue are cleaned with perfume water. At home young people also bath for their grandparents, parents. This is for the deeds of parents which deserve the children gratitude.
Ganesha Statue at Sen Monorom Park, Phnom Penh
Another new park in Phnom Penh, Sen Monorom Park, has been inaugurated on Feb 02, 2012 by Phnom Penh’s governor H.E Kep Chuk Tema.
The park location is at the intersection of Russian Blvd and Monivong Blvd where formerly a gas station was. It took more than four months to complete the project with the spending of about 111,793 USD. There are four sugar palm trees and four snay trees were planted in the park with many other flowering plants. Six light poles were installed to provide nice view for the park at night. The area of which the park has been constructed is within the administration area of the government. The Russian Blvd is the main road that all the delegations to Cambodia have to pass by. So the purpose of setting up Sen Monorom Park is to enhance the good look of Phnom Penh city, especially when Cambodia becomes the host country for the soon coming ASEAN Submit 2012.
The special and uniqueness of Sen Monorom Park is containing a statue of Ganesha, a Hindu God symbolizes intellect, wisdom, and good fortune. The statue is 7.2 m high (including the pedestal), facing west, and was erected in the middle of Sen Monorom Park. The statue is made of pure grey-stone delivered from Preah Vihear province. Ganesha is sculpted in standing with four hands, in the style of Angkorian architecture. Two hands raise up to his ears hold a conch shell and a discus, the other two front hands hold a lotus bud and a bowl of sweet meat, his favorite food. It’s a surprise to the citizen of Phnom Penh to see the statue of Ganesha. There has no any release of the reason why Ganesha was choosen to be in the park. However, it’s believed that God Ganesha will bring good fortune, happiness, and prosperity to Cambodians, especially bring peace for the country.
At the day of inauguration, senior monks are invited to perform ceremony as the Buddhist tradition, but there are other process may also follow the Hindu tradition. People may find it strange to have a statue of Hindu God in a country of Buddhist. However, Cambodia was a country has had its development at peak under Hinduism until the 14th century. Even though the state religion of Cambodia is Buddhism, the culture and tradition in various ceremonies are still the practice of Hinduism. Especially Khmer art and architecture are effected from Angkor period when Cambodia fully worship Hindu Trinity.
If you ever been to Cambodia, you might have noticed that most Cambodians both man and woman, young and old are wearing color thread at their wrists as bracelets. Have you ever want to know the reason?
Well, wearing thread bracelets have been a tradition or custom of Cambodians since long time ago. In the past, the thread bracelets people wore were made of white raw thread that obtained from the Seima ceremony.
In Cambodia, about 95% of populations are Buddhists and there are more than 5000 Buddhist monasteries or pagodas or Wats all over the country. This is means each village built their own Wat as their religious center. The structure of a proper Wat must have a building of main sanctuary or we call it as Preah Vihear (Viheara). And there are certain ceremonies before and after the Viheara is built. The Seima ceremony is performed after the construction is completed. It’s usually takes 3 days, villagers and monks gather together to prepare the ceremony. This ceremony is made to grant divine spirit and made Viheara home of God which will become a sacred place for villagers to make their praying to God. On the day of the ceremony, white raw threads are use to tie around the Viheara and the monks will keep inciting Dharma every night. Until the third day, the white raw threads (in Khmer we call it seima string) are cut off and share to all as protection object. It’s believed that the threads have power to chase out all evils. People wear it as bracelets, children wear it as necklaces.
Until now seima string is still considered as sacred item and people still wanting it. However, seima string is obtained whenever there is a new Viheara is built only.
Nowadays, the thread bracelets people wear are not only the white raw thread but mostly are colorful. Some are purely red, green, and some are mixed of five or seven colors in a bracelet. These colorful thread bracelets are now received from senior monks of particular who people believe they can grant the divine power into the bracelets to protect them from evil spirits which possibly bring them misfortunes. After a period, the old bracelet must be replaced with a new one as the protection power has its limited life span.
The string is also attached to the steering-wheel of cars or motobikes for the same belief is for safety while travelling.
When you visit some religious tourist sites in Cambodia where there are Buddhist shrines, you might have seen a tray full of the readymade string bracelets which mostly are pure red. The nuns or old lady who are at the shrine may invite you to have some of these strings, in return they expect from you some money. If you take the bracelets and give them some small money, then this is just a kind of donation or charity only, but the bracelets have no protection power as the one offered by senior monks.
The practice of wearing thread bracelets in Cambodia might be judged as a superstitious practice, however, it’s really protect one who believe in it.
Krom Ngoy or Phirum Ngoy or Ouk Ou was a famous Khmer poet in the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century. His poems were sung with his ‘Kse Diev’, a Khmer traditional one string music instrument, which was rhymed so well together.
Biography of Krom Ngoy
Krom Ngoy was born in 1865 in Andong Svay village, Kambol commune, Phnom Penh district (currently Ang Snoul district), Kandal province. Ngoy was his nick name that his parents and villagers always call him when he was young. His real name was Ouk Ou.
In his childhood, his father, who was the chief of Kambol commune, brought him to Boeng Chork pagoda in Baek Skor village, Baek Chan commune to study. In his time, there was no school beside pagodas and monks are teachers. Krom Ngoy was a child who studied hard, so he became beloved student in the pagoda. After gain more knowledge about Khmer words, his teacher asked him to learn Dharma in Pali language in order to become a monk. Then after he became a novice, he learned more about the grammar of Pali and tried to translate Pali language into Khmer. A few years later, he left his monkhood in order to help his parents in farming.
When he was 21 years old, he came back to the monastic life again as a Bhikkhu or senior monk. During this time, Krom Ngoy travelled from place to place to learn how to translate Buddhist scripture, the Tripitaka. Five years later, Krom Ngoy left the pagoda and become a layperson. He spent a life as an ordinary farmer and married his wife named In, who lived in the same village, and they had six sons.
By his knowledge and he used to be a monk, villagers regarded him as a scholar. Beside his work in the farm, Krom Ngoy liked to sing a poem of whatever issue he met. Since he was skillful in the structure of Khmer words, he could immediately compose any poem related to the situation where he was being with well rhyming words.
After a while, his unique skill was famous within his village, he was invited to perform in various Buddhist ceremonies, his voice was loud and clear which always attracted villagers from near and afar to enjoy his poem singing.
The official Title of Krom Ngoy
The great poet talent of Krom Ngoy had spread to the king. Samdach Chakrey Pon, a court official of His Majesty King Sisovath invited Krom Ngoy to perform his skill in the royal palace in Phnom Penh. He had gained impression and reputation from the king. By so he had got an official title as ‘Preah Pirum Pheasa Ou’ means one who is talented in language using.
Krom Ngoy’s poem singing skill was also impressed a prince of Thailand during his visit to Phnom Penh royal palace and had a chance to watch Krom Ngoy’s performance. After the prince went back to his country, there was a royal letter from Thai king to king Sisovath asking for permission to invite Krom Ngoy to perform in Bangkok. Krom Ngoy spent three months in Bangkok and the Thai king presented him a title as the master of melodious voice (“phai roh leou kern).
However, villagers sometimes call him as ‘Phirum Ou’ or ‘Phirum Ngoy’ but ‘Krom Ngoy’ was the most well known name of him. Because this name was related to his position in his village in which ‘Krom’ was a position of small official in village.
Krom Ngoy’s Appearance
Krom Ngoy had a big and firm-build body but with bulging belly. His hair was always short but kept his moustache growing. He always appeared wearing Sampot chorng kben (a kind of Khmer traditional Skirt) and white round-necked shirt. Whenever he travelling out, he wore a bird-nest-like hat,his bag handing on his shoulder and carried his walking stick. His ‘Ske Diev’ was able to assemble immediately whenever he needs to perform his poem. It’s made of coconut shell and his walking stick, they were attached together with one single string. Then he started to play it and compose his new poem in the real time of his singing.
Krom Ngoy’s Publication
Krom Ngoy’s poems were contained educational meanings related to the ways of real life of Cambodians in his time. His topic included: the life of farmer, the ethics and morals of life, consequence of ignorance, the cause of poverty, dominance of foreigner on Khmer, the crisis of Khmer culture and literature.
However, most of his poems were delivered to the audiences verbally and has never been written down. Until 1930, Georges Cedes, a French researcher, accompanied him to the Royal Library in Phnom Penh to show his skill to other Khmer professors and the manager of the Library, Suzanne Karpeles. There Krom Ngoy sang slowly and clearly in order to let the writers write down his words and published in books. There were four poems written down that day:
1. Chbab Laberk Thmey (The Law of New Prose), four rhyming words poem.
2. Chbab Kekal Thmey (The Law of New Inheritance), four, five, and six rhyming words.
3. Chbab Bros Chbab Srey (The Law for Men and Women), seven rhyming words.
4. Bandam Krom Ngoy (Krom Ngoy’s Will), seven rhyming words.
These particular recorded works has been used as guidelines for parents to bring up their children and also used by teachers in schools for generations. Krom Ngoy’s great talent had gained him a title in Khmer literature’s history as ‘the father of Khmer poetry’. The ethics and morals of living instructed through his poems always appropriate to apply until today as well as in the future.
Krom Ngoy passed away in 1936 when he was 71 years old.