Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cambodian New Year: History, Perspectives, Social Value and Glance of Pride

Bon Choul Chnam or Cambodian New Year is a solemn occasion for everybody. It is also celebrated in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Lao. It is held in Khae Chaet lunar month (April) each year. It normally falls on the first, second and third day of waning moon(dark night) or April 13, 14 and 15. This year is the anniversary of 2550 according to the Buddha's era that Cambodian people celebrate their new coming year.

Actually, Buddha era is counted while Lord Budda passed away(Parinibbana) in the full moon of Vesha(May) 543 B.C. In most Asian countries use lunar calendar which first month(Megase) starts around 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January in each year. According to some of Khmer records states that in the past Cambodian people and the kings celebrated new year in the first day of Migase month(January), but after that they have changed to celebrate in April. They change the date because of the rice harvesting season. During the month of Migase, Bos, Palaguna; Cambodian farmers are busy to cultivate their crops and store it the barn. So during Udong period, the king had changed the date to celebrate in Kae Chaet(April). This changing is appropriate to the time, condition and situation as this month the weather is dry-hot, people are free from all farming burdens and they like gathering in the shade to protect themselves against the bright, hot sunshine.

There are two aspects to do rightly in this auspecious New Year Arrival. Firstly, Cambodian people celebrate it according to the tradition and culture. Secondly, according to the doctrine of Buddhism. Traditionally, Cambodian people are regardingly looking forward the coming of new coming Angel each year. There are seven angels representing seven days. Those angels are the daughters of Kabila Prahma(god of protector, but it literally means the Four Sublime States of the Mind: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity). Those daughters take their turn to take care the Sacred Head of their father. Legendary story said that if this Sacred Head dropped in the earth, our earth will be exploided; if it dropped in the sea, the sea will be dried out; and if it floated in the air, the air will be devastated. This year is Chnam Chor or the year of dog; and the new year day falls in Friday, so that the Friday Angel's name is Kimira Tevi who will take turn to look after her father's Sacred Head. She will arrive at our earth at 6:48 AM of April 14th.

The cause leading to the beheading of Kabila Prahma came from his defeat in an intelligent competition with Dhammapala(a righteousness protector). This wise young man can answer his three questions about what are the three fortune periods of the day?. And he answered that "in the morning the good bless is at our face, in the noon the good bless is at our chest, and in the evening the good bless is at our toes". By telling this correct answer, Kabila Prahma god agreed to compensate his head for this correct answer; and also in order to save the world. We can notice that eventhough Brahma God has to respect the effort and wisdom of human being like Dhammapala.

On the other hand, according to Buddhist doctrine, there are many Angels(they were born according to their good deeds during spending their time as human beings) in this universe who always come to protect those good people. Importantly, all children have to pay respect to their house-angel(Tevada Pteah) whom are our parents. In this rarely opportunity, all children offer gifts, presents, food or others to their parents. They also apologize their intentional or unintentional mistakes which they have created.

Social Value
In this occasion, people always clean the Buddhist temple yards, accommodations, villages and public sites, and also decorate them with beautiful ornaments, flowers or glittering lights. They also clean the Buddha altars in each home, spraying perfume and purifying the mind to welcome new angel who brings along with happiness and grace for them all. There are three days which the first day of new year is called Sangran meaning moving, second day is called Vanabot meaning taking shelter in the shade or a break and the third day is called Lerng Sak meaning the coming new year. People practise accordingly to these important three days such as they prepare food and four necessities to offer to the Bhikkhu monks at the temples in the first day, they stay in home with all family's members and do something fun together in the second day; and they will build sand-mount, sprinkling water to cleanse Buddha's statues and sprinkling water on each others happily. During these three days, they are also playing many types of Cambodian traditional games like Choul Choung(throwing a type of long tail cushion), Boh Angkunh(bowling the fruit nuts), Teanh Proat(tug war competitive) etc.

The most important activities in this auspicious occasion are the preparation of food and the four necessities to offer to the Bhikkhu monks in order to dedicate merits and welfare to ancestors; to apologize parents and give special gifts to them. We also apologize to the elderly people and teachers. People virtually cultivate the good deeds such as offering(Dana), observing precepts(Sila) and meditating(Bhavana).

The activities mentioned above resulting the social value to Cambodian people. It can bond people in a larger unity, prosperity and enjoyment. Gradually, it has become the symbolic happiness time for the people and provide the unforgetable memory to all children.

Glance of Pride
Cambodian new year contribute the taste of harmony with a particular pride. As it is a three days holiday; it can offer enough time to all citizens to the reunion of their family. As it is a long historical, traditional holiday; it can identify the unique diversity of Khmer culture. As it is a Buddhist ritual day; it can enrich Cambodian people with strong spiritual adherent and peaceful contentment. As it is a summer new year; it can entertain people to relax their mind from a whole year of stressful tasks.

This occasion is memorable. It is appreciate to welcome all people not only Cambodians, but all those who like new tasting of adventuring and entertaining; they can come and join this wonderful nw year celebration. Cambodian people are hospital, friendly and smilingly. The Bayon smiles symbolizes the "Land of Smiles" in this kingdom. Many visitors who come to join this ceremony have never forgoten their day. They had seen people dressed themselves with colorful, delicate clothes(Khmer silk), friendly local people and kids; spraying cool water and playing games; and experiencing crowd of people who are commuting on the streets, markets, bus-stations, attractive sites etc.

This sample essay is writen by P.B.Vodano Sophan
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Anonymous said...

Respected PreahBhikkhuVodano, I am again impressed by your article on Khmer new year. If you do not mind, I am asking for your permission to repost this article with proper source reference in KhemaraCorner student blog which is a community of Khmer students.

regards and happy new year!

Leadership said...

Dear KhmerStudentBlog,

You are appreciate to repost and disseminate this article. Otherwise, just keep original version and referal source.

Happy New Year to you all,

With Best Wishes

Anonymous said...

Respected PreahBhikkhu Vodano, I would like to thank your kind permission. The article has been reposted in KhemeraCorner student blog. Pardon-me that I had not introduced myself. I am Vireak, the volunteer editor of KhemaraCorner.

with best regards,

Leadership said...


You are most welcomed and admirable in efforting to bring together the Khmer students in your tiny blog. It looks nice and productive...

Leadership said...

Thank you very much MZ for your kind feedback. It is my favor to share idea, knowledge and understanding with every body.

You too, have kept well commitment in searching wisdom and meaning of well-living.

Yours in Dhamma