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Cambodia Water & Moon Festival

Bun Oum Touk Cambodia

The Cambodian Water and Moon Festival is one of the most significant festivals and public holidays held every year in Cambodia. The event comprised of Dragon Boat Racing (Boun Oum Touk), Floating Illuminations and Moon Worshiping (Sampeah Preah Khe) and Special Offering to the Moon (Ok Ambok). The festival is always celebrated for 3 days, from the 14th day and the 15th to the 1st day of the lunar month, specifically this year 2023 held from 26th – 28th November 2023. The main event normally celebrated on the junctions of the four-face-rivers of the Rivers in Phnom Penh. However, all most every province down to communities celebrated its own in their own shape and size.

This Water and Moon Festival has a long history dated back to the reign of Jayavarman VII. During the year 1177 Chams raised troops to invade and ruled Cambodia for about four years. At that time, King Jayavarman VII National Unification _ And spend time preparing military strategies to fight the Cham until victory. And he ascended the throne to lead the nation. In the year 1181 and made the nation prosperous Glory to the highest level in the Khmer history.

Water and Moon Festival in Siem Reap
Photo: Million Amazing

This historical success, brought to the people of Cambodia celebrate this festival to commemorate the heroic example of the Khmer Navy, liberating the territory and freed from Cham oppression which was the enemy of the Khmer at that time.

The event was supported by people everywhere and always celebrate every year including a boat race of men’s and women’s rowing boats. This Water Festival also linked to other ceremonies such as floating lanterns, special flat rice offering and worshiping the moon which is a strong reflection of religious beliefs. On the occasion of Water Festival people in the provinces and some cities take a boat race on the Tonle Sap in front of the Royal Palace to win for their provinces as well. 

In this ceremony there are also floating lanterns / illuminations. The meaning of floating lanterns is to express remembrance of the merits of the Ganges and the earth that gives happiness and fields in agriculture. In addition to floating lanterns, there are also more fireworks. With a large crowd and make the ceremony even busier and solemnity.

Reached the second day it is the 15th day of the Lunar day which is a full moon day.  There will be another ceremony called the Ork Ambok ceremony, meaning offering special flat rice to the moon. Ork Ambok Ceremony and worship made by Khmer people to commemorate the Bodhisattva which refers to the birth of a Rabbit by that time he sacrificed his life to Indra to fulfill alms.

According to the beliefs of Khmer ancestors, people understand that Preah Samma Samput (Buddha) who is our greatest teacher, used to be a rabbit before he became enlightened (becoming a Buddha). One time Indra came down and pretend to be a starving man in front of the rabbit. He also said, “My life will be ruined. Without food to eat now.” At that time the rabbit is the character of our Bodhisattva “I only have meat and blood only” he said. If you want, find firewood and set a fire. I will jump into the fire for food.”

Just heard so Indra immediately went to set a fire. Whereas rabbits jumped into the fire immediately without delay. But By the Power of Transparency and the great donation of rabbits. Indra flew to prevent the fire from burning a hair. That order Indra flew to heaven. To remove the marble to draw a rabbit in the moon circle. Which is why the rabbit in the moon now. From then until now, everyone can see the rabbit clearly especially on the 15th Full moon day.

The story of this Bodhisattva which leads the locals to celebrate this year every year. At the Pagoda, District, Village and towns with bananas, flat rice (Ambok), Coconut water, Fruits etc. to commemorate the bodhisattva because of such beliefs.

For this year 2022, in Siem Reap, there is no dragon boat racing but there are padding boats serving the visitors to have road ride on the river. The other city decoration, floating illuminations and fireworks are still existing as usual.

Taking this opportunity, Sam Inspire family wishes all the most prosperous and cheerful throughout the event.

Looking to have any local culture theme event to incorporate with your event in Cambodia, give Sam a try, something amazing will happen. Get in touch with the destination experts in Cambodia now:

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