The Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Cambodia is considered an ancient royal rite. It is celebrated by a number of countries in Asia as a way of marking the traditional commencement of the season for rice growing.
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The ceremony for rice ploughing is also called Lehtun Mingala, or Mingala Ledaw, and was practiced in Burma as well before the colonising monarchy abolished it in 1885.
The History Behind the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Cambodia
This ceremony has been celebrated for a number of centuries after it was initiated by a Khmer king who was greatly concerned with farming conditions and the people. Traditionally held in May (also known as Pisak), this ceremony marks the beginning of the rainy season. The rainy season was when the Khmer people began preparations for their farming activities according to the Satra, a book of governing traditional rules. Part of the purpose for the ceremony was also to hold prayer for a bountiful harvest. This ceremony is therefore held every year.
The ceremony traditionally begins with a feast. The first day of the waning moon, a feast is conducted by the Brahmans until five days have past. The King (or a person he has assigned in his place) then begins the ploughing with two bulls to symbolise the start of the season as well as a good harvest to his people. The ceremony utilises three rounds with the plow to sow rice seeds, then water, rice, soybeans, sesame, corn, grass, and wine are placed before the seat of the king for the bulls to symbolise different predictions of the future depending on what the bulls choose to eat.
For example, wine will result in an increase of crime, water means there will be flooding, and grass foretells disease striking the animals. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Cambodia is a national holiday with its first practices tracing back to the 5th or 6th century. It is also celebrated in Thailand.
How to Celebrate Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Cambodia
While this royal ploughing ceremony is celebrated in more than just Cambodia, it is certainly an important holiday to this Asian country. Remember that the ploughing ceremony is also a holiday, so many things will be closed during this time in May. The actual dates of the ceremony might vary slightly as the holiday is designed around the lunar calendar. The dates also vary by country. Regardless of the time or place, however, the ceremony follows the same traditions. Should you want to celebrate the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Cambodia, it would be best to research if the king plans to attend that year and where it would be. Likely, in Cambodia, the event will be held next to the Royal Palace in an open field near the National Museum. Often the ceremony is held in a public square. The ceremony is probably the best way to properly celebrate the holiday.
- If you plan to be in Cambodia during this time, be sure to visit the vicinity of the Royal Palace to locate the ploughing event.
- Stick around to watch the king (or his appointed guest) make the first plantings of the season.
- Observe as the farm animals return to eat from the long list of foods meant to predict the future.
It is interesting to consider how ancient this practice is in countries like Cambodia and Thailand. Not every community still has such a deep connection with the ritual of farming and growing food. While in Cambodia, be sure to enjoy and appreciate this unique and ancient festivity.