Welcome Back Cambodia Water Festival in Phnom Penh
For the people of Cambodia, the Water Festival in Phnom Penh is the most magnificent traditional festival. It called in Khmer is Bon Om Touk (The Pirogue Racing Festival). This festival had been paused for 3 years becuase of natural disaster and the death event of King Norodom Sihanouk.
The water festival had a long time history. 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.
For three days Phnom Penh citizens, foreign tourists and peasants from various provinces gather in the capital to celebrate festival night day.
I and my family always take a visit to joining this festival. I, and my family go to watch this boat race in the afternoon time where there are not much people come yet. We park motor near Old Market and walk nearly ten minute to the revierside. We always go to riverside near Aounalom Pagoda where there are some trees that can protect us from sunlight with other people sit around. Most of them come from rural area.
A sound of “ Jeyou ! Jeyou !” from boat racer infront of us, and they also sing a song along that bring a joy of viewer and racer that increase the joyful environment time. It is really funny.
The sun light is really hot, so we find some snack and soft drink while children seller are selling it walk around that area.
After watching racing a few hours we move to some any new place to watch a exhibition of daily use product where it is display along road, we walk to the Royal palace, and there are little crowded people. Around 5 pm, the sun go down, and the heat decrease. It is time to enjoy for waiting for firework and Protit ( a boat with decorate with thousand of bulbs that show an image ).
Besides 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.