House Starting Construction and House Warming Ceremonies
House Starting Construction Ceremony
The house is the most important place for every family and has a very special function for Khmer society. Therefore, when villagers start to build their house there is thorough attention paid to both technical and material aspects. Various ceremonies are conducted following rules and beliefs which prevail in the ancient ritual texts. Because the villagers believe that to follow those rules and beliefs, people would live in the house with happiness and become prosperous.
Preparation Before the Start of Construction
1. Selection of Achar: Achar is someone who plays an important role in all ceremonies including wedding, funeral, and other religious virtual. He is the one who lead the whole ceremony, because he has in-depth knowledge regarding arrangement and procession of ceremonies as ancestors suggested.
2. Choice of the land for construction: The selection of location for building the house can be made by Achar or the construction master. According to the rule the land should be dry land with equal surface and has no any indication happened in the past (mostly bad events) which can cause any doubt persisting in the mind of the house owners. The following plots are not accepted as a location of the new house: a dried up stream or brook, the former sugar palm furnace, the tree base, the burial, the land over the thrashing ground, the hill, and the land located at the center of the village.There are three rules to follow strictly regarding choosing the plot of the new house:
- Not to build the house precisely on the same location of the old house, if the land used to have a house before.
- Not to build the house in the center of the village, because that plot is treated as sacred place of the village.
- Not to build the house on or too close to the land boundaries.
3. Choice of the pillars by Achar: The wooden pillars of the house must be smooth, resistant to the water and to the termites. Koki and Kokos are the privileged choice in Cambodia. The pillars should be straight and smooth without any stains. Especially the main central pillar must be chosen carefully, as it’s believed that it would bring prosperity, and bring diseases if it was wrong choosing.
4. Determination of time for starting construction: The Achar choose the right time of starting construction of the house according to various ways which are communicated from ancient ritual texts. The Achar makes the calculation according to the birth year animals of the house owners, the build master and choose the best day accordingly. Typically, the villagers prefer to choose building the house in March, in the dry season to avoid difficulties cause by rain during construction. Moreover, in the dry season the villagers are free from their farming activities. But it’s absolutely forbidden to start building the house on the full moon days and the religious holy days.
The Starting Construction Day
In the morning of the day of starting construction or in the evening of the day before, the house owners make offering to the spirits protecting the location and request for their permission to build the house, as well as ask for their protection and blessing.
The offering are:
- Rice plate with the model of Neang Konghing, the Goddess who protect the land. Normally, the rice would make into balls and placing on the banana leaf with other foods and sweets prepared in the plate.
- Two trays of offering to ancestors, and two other trays to all the spirits protecting the village. Normally, the offerings included banana and other local fruits.
- One more trays of offering for the building master to pray his master for blessing of smooth work.
2. Krong Pealy Ceremony
The location of the ceremony is to the south of the house is to be built. The Achar dig into the ground about a finger span for the plate offerings to the land and water ancestor’s soul. At the same time, he makes a prayer to invite Neang Konghing and King Krong Pealy to have foods and sweets which the Achar pours into the pothole of the land. This ritual practice is to seek for permission to live on this land with peace and prosperity, and also to request from the Visnuka to help the builders successfully build the house without any incident.
How to Start the Construction
It’s important that the house structure has to be installed in a single day. When the main components such as pillars, main rafters, horizontal rafters, beams, girders, trellis are assembled, the house structure would be appeared. After that the main roof beam equipped with a magic scarf is installed.
House Warming Ceremony in Angkor Area
This ceremony is conducted after the main roof beam, and the floor has been completed. It’s in the evening of the house installation day, because it’s the day of prosperity for the house owners. The ritual practice at this time is that there are one or two elderly called Ta Prohm or House guard who watch the entry of the stairway. Family members, relatives, neighbors and the house owners walked around the house for three rounds. Then Ta Prohm would tell the house owners and Achar (a person who lead the ceremony) that the stairway is qualified and accepted by the House guard. Then he sprays water on the stairway and allows the house owners to get up to the house. When walking up the house, the family members each holding objects with are daily needed for living such as rice bags, plates and pots, mattresses, fishing tools called ‘Sap’ and one cat. After that they begin best wish ceremony lead by Achar.
The house owners would then request to Achar to select a good day, a day which is best fit with the house owners. The Achar would calculate the timing and the day according to the ages of the house owners and the year animals in which the house owners were born. Because they need to select the day of prosperity.
At the selected day, the house owners would invite three or five monks to recite prayers and spray holy water. By doing so, it’s believed that all the devil spirits and various bad lucks would be chased away and bring back good fortune to the house.
Finally, the house owners offer foods to the monks and prepare food reception for the guesses who participated.
The House Warming Ceremony in Other Area
From other area of Cambodia, the house warming ceremony only conducted with the monks, in which one, two, or four monks would be invited. In Phnom Penh, the ceremony usually prepared in the afternoon at around 2pm. So instead of foods, the house owners offer various daily using items such as cloths, shoes, soap, books, toothpaste, etc. in one package. After the reciting prayers finished at around 4pm, the following is the party among family members and friends to celebrate the new house.