Cambodia's Festival of the Dead: rice offerings and Buddhist chants

Published: September 25, 2018
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The first day of Pchum Ben festival, or the festival of the dead in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. PHOTO: REUTERS

The first day of Pchum Ben festival, or the festival of the dead in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH: Cambodians threw rice on the ground on Tuesday to mark the ‘Festival of the Dead’ or Pchum Ben and feed the spirits of the dead.

Cambodians visit pagodas across the country during the 15-day festival that takes place annually to offer prayers and food to the spirits of their deceased relatives, who they believe only emerge to eat the food during this period.

At Tuol Tumpoung pagoda in the capital Phnom Penh, hundreds of people crowded the temple complex to offer food and money to Buddhist monks to the backdrop of chanting.

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“During the first day of Pchum Ben, our dead relatives came to find us for food,” Mang Noy, 74, told Reuters at Tuol Tumpoung pagoda. For many, it is a time to remember the victims of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime.

At least 1.8 million Cambodians–about a quarter of the population–were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Most of the victims died of starvation, torture, exhaustion or disease in labour camps or were bludgeoned to death during mass executions.

Mang Noy said her family’s food offerings were for more than
20 relatives killed by the regime.

“We came here today to offer food to all our relatives who passed away so that they can have enough to eat and so that they can also wish us well,” she said.

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