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.