What is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony ?
Yes, believe it or not, another festival is coming soon in Cambodia… It is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony!
✅ Where does it come from?
Mid to late May marks the beginning of the rainy season and the rice planting season. At that time of the year, an ancient tradition still persists in Cambodia as a very important festival, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony (also called Festival of the holy furrow) or Pithi “Chratt Preah Nongkâl” (textually “Pressing the Sacred Plough”). It comes from an old Hindu rite.
The date varies every year as the festival celebration follows the lunar calendar and depends on the phases of the moon of May. This year it will be celebrated on the upcoming Wednesday 22nd of May! The celebration is aimed at favouring rains and good crops in the whole Kingdom.
✅ What is going on during the celebration?
The ceremony usually takes place in the large empty “field” next to the Royal Palace aka “Veahl Preah Sraè” and in front of the National Museum in Phnom Penh, as well as in other provinces.
In Phnom Penh, it is the King (or His Representative) who inaugurates the season of ploughing by drawing the three first furrows around the Sacred Rice Field with His Royal Oxen.
At the end of the ploughing, the oxen are unloaded from their harnesses and directed towards seven trays containing various foods, prepared by the Brahmin priests.
Depending on what the sacred animal choose to eat or drink (soybeans, corn, rice, sesame, grass, water, grain or wine), predictions will vary from bountiful harvests to bad weather (drought, floods…) and even unrest (wine)… !
Don’t smile, locals take these predictions very seriously! No ploughing can take place and no tracing furrows can be done before the Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been performed by the King or His Representative.
At the end of the festival, Cambodian farmers will ceremoniously collect the seeds – spread out by Preah Neang Me Huor, the female representative of the Queen, after the very first furrows are traced – in order to mix them with their own seeds to get a bountiful harvest.
These deep superstitious beliefs related to supernatural are part of the unique Khmer culture. 🇰🇭
If you are interested in learning more about Khmer culture and in visiting Phnom Penh city in a different way, join our interactive walking adventure.
Photo Credit: various sources