Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Cambodia: Pchum Ben Festival

Image Copyright © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

One of the most important religious observances in Cambodia will start on October 11th. Prachum Benda, known colloquially as Pchum Ben, is the period during which the Cambodians gather to make offerings to their ancestors. The observance usually lasts an entire lunar cycle, constituting the fifteen days that ancestral spirits are given to visit their living relatives.

Although Cambodians believe that most living creatures are reincarnated at death, some souls remain trapped in the spirit world. So each year, for these fifteen days, these trapped souls are released from the spirit world to search for their living relatives, meditate and repent. Pchum Ben is for the living relatives to remember their ancestors and offer food to those unfortunate enough to have become trapped in the spirit world.

I also learnt today that the upper level of the Angkor Wat temple has been closed by the authorities because of the volume of tourists. The stairs are too narrow to accomodate the traffic of visitors, so it'll be no longer possible to get to the top of the temple.