Cambodia owns some of the world’s most beautiful, special, and interesting ceremonies to attract groups of travelers all over the world. Amongst the elites of events, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Phnom Penh is so fantastic that is worth your travel to Cambodia in May.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony

On the festive day of May, the Cambodians gather around their King and implore the Gods for blessings as well as the best harvest season. Together, the King and the residents wish to receive the good signs from the Gods to feel safe about the New Year, the new crop, and the destiny of the whole country. In the Khmer language, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is referred to as Preah Reach Pithi Chrot Preah Neangkol. Know that this event has another version in Thailand, named as Phuetchamongkhon.

Depend on the Khmer astrology or Hora, the day of the festival might change, but often fall in May. During the celebration, the Cambodians enjoy following the Royal Procession which is mainly expressed by the behavior of the Royal Cows. Due to what the Royal Cows choose to eat, the thing to plant can be decided. The ceremony also helps to decipher how good the country will be for the next year.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Highlights of Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Phnom Penh

The event gets started with a parade from the Royal Palace to Meru – a park before the National Museum. The leads in the parade are the appointed King, Queen, and the court’s members who all dress beautifully in their splendid costumes. While the King is presiding over the ceremony, the Brahmin priests will direct the activities during the event and also help to interpret the implications of the royal cows’ activities to the Cambodia’s future.

For the plowing ceremony, three pairs of the royal cows with golden saddles will roam around the Meru Park with the appointed King and do the activity of plowing. Behind the King and the Queen, the Brahmin priests are responsible for sowing the seeds. After the plowing motions, the royal cows/oxen are lead to 7 trays including rice, water, bean, corn, sesame, rice wine, and freshly cut grass. Depending on whatever item that the cows eat, the priests will decipher or predict about the next crop year.

For instance, if the cows eat rice, then the farmers should plant more rice because it’s predicted that rice will be bountiful for the crop year. And if the cows ignore the water, then no need to worry about the flood. As usual, everybody will be happy if the cows choose to eat rice because rice is the core element in the Cambodia’s daily meals as well as the main crop in most of the farms. One thing that the Cambodians do not want the cows or the oxen to choose is the rice wine since this can be predicted as there will be robbers and chaos in the country.

This is an interestingly interpreted scenario in the Cambodian Royal Ploughing Ceremony. The first ox decided the corn and almost ate the whole on the tray, then corn would be more productive for this crop year. The second ox went for the beans and the newly cut grass, then there would be the great harvest of bean, but because of the choice of grass, it’s believed in the fear of the sick animals. As most of the cattle in Cambodia have been vaccinated, the farmers might not worry much about that prediction. Only those how have not get the animal vaccinated need to take the vital precaution.

A scene at The Royal Ploughing Ceremony iN Cambodia (Bangkok Post)

A scene at The Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Cambodia (Bangkok Post)

Top Tips before you Travel to Cambodia for Ploughing Ceremony

  • In May, the country is very hot, and some visitors even say that the heat is unbearable. Therefore, do remember to use the sunscreen and the sunhat to protect your skin. You will not want to sit under the scorching sun amidst the crowds. Therefore, have yourself covered appropriately!
  • Arrive early so that you can preserve the good seat. This is extremely necessary when you want to take pictures of the procession and the splendid costumes. As “the early bird catches the worms,” get out of the bed soon enough to be in the right position before the crowds.
  • View the procession from the back porch of the nearby FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) if you cannot stand the sunlight. This establishment offers the spectacular view of the plowing motions. However, the view from a distance might not satisfy somebody that wants the authentic experience on the spot.
  • Have the handy towels to cool you down when you are sweating. And, pay attention to the signs of perspiration. Believe it, the towel is necessary.
  • Keep an eye on your camera and valuable belongings. In the crowd of the unknown participants, it’s critical to take good care of your camera as well as the valuable belongings to avoid the pickpockets amidst the gathering.
  • Respect the participants who are kneeling and praying. It’s likely that you can see some individuals kneeling for the King and praying. Of course, not all participants are forced to do that, but respect is a must to follow.
  • Expect to stay on the spot long if you want to see the whole procession. The ceremony will not complete in 10 or 20 minutes. The duration varies due to the speed of plowing, how the royal cows choose to eat the objects in the seven trays, and the interpretations from the Brahmin priests. So, come prepared to stay there long!

In May every year, the Cambodian farmers curiously and eagerly wait for the cows’ choices because their belief in this ceremony is still strong. Therefore, most of the farm strategies in the country are highly influenced by what the cows choose to eat on the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. In reality, the locals prefer consulting the traditional rituals to decide what to plant for the next crop year. Make it a point to attend this event if you travel to Phnom Penh!

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