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Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal
(Ploughing Ceremony)

 

Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal (in May) is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony which inaugurates the planting season and involves symbolic ploughing and sowing of seed.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is traditionally held in Pisak (in May) at the start of the rainy season when Khmer people start preparing to do the farming.

Khmer practice is dictated by the Satra (a book of traditional rules).So, before they start to conduct business,to get in touch with someone, or to fulfill certain important duties, they must consult this book.

The ritual ceremony is also held to pray for a good harvest. Consequently, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is held every year.

On the 1st day of the waning moon, the Brahmans conduct feasting at the five decorated canopies.

The canopies are set up at five compass points: East, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast.

After the five days of the Brahmanic feast, the King initiates the ploughing to ensure success in farming for all his people.

If the King is absent in the ceremony, he will assign his representative to do the duty.

The representative is always called “Sdach Miech” although he is not a king and his wife is called “Preah Mehour.” Sdech Miech and Preah Mehour dress as Kings. Sdech Miech sits on Preah Salieng and Prah Mehour sits on a hammock like litter followed by about 40 dignitaries.

Pin Peat music plays Bot Klom (musical rhythm) in front of the procession. Before ploughing, Sdech Miech and Preah Mehour pay their respects at the decorated canopy located to the Southwest.

The ceremony is based around three ploughs: the leading plough is called Nangkoil Yong, the second one is ploughed by the king.

Prah Mehour walks following the third plough, sowing the rice seeds carried by one of her aids. Pin Peat continues playing Bot Klom until the procession has been around the Royal rice-fields three times.

The ploughing stops at the decorated canopy located in the East and the king pays his respects again and then returns to his seat.

This year the ceremony was held on 23 May 2008 at the square of Veal Preah Merhu in front of the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the ceremony, which marks the beginning of the crop planting season in Cambodia. National Assembly President Samdech Heng Samrin and other high-ranking officials as well as foreign ambassadors to Cambodia were also present.

After the plowing, two royal oxen were driven to the seven trays containing paddy, beans, corn, sesame, water, wine and grass.

The oxen only ate rice, corn, and beans, leaving behind sesame, water and wine. It is commonly believed that if the oxen drink the wine it may be a harbinger of conflict.

The Royal Oxen ate paddy, corn and beans during the Royal Ploughing ceremony. This is a good sign for corn, rice and beans growing in the country, said a Royal Brahmin.

At the same time, the group of Brahmans make predictions using the holy cows. These predictions are based on what the holy cows eat.

Seven kinds of food are placed before the king’s seat:

-Water: drink water, it means there will be rain

-Rice: eat rice, it means a good harvest for farmers in the year ahead

-Soybeans: eat soybeans, it means a bountiful harvest of soybeans.

-Sesame: eat sesame, it means a bountiful harvest of sesame.

-Corn: eat corn, it means a bountiful harvest of corn.

-Grass: eat grass, it means disease will prevail over the nation

-Wine: drink wine, it means the nation will suffer at the hands of gangsters, robbers, or drunkards.

 

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