Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Cambodian Pchum Ben Festival: Feeding the Ancestors (Khmer Pchum Ben Festival)

The fifteenth day, of the tenth month, of the Khmer calendar marks the Pchum Ben festival. This is a time when the spirits of the dead ancestors walk the Earth. And the living can ease their suffering by offering them food to eat.

At four in the morning, nearly all of the residents of Phnom Penh gather at the temple with offerings of rice, which they toss on the ground, feeding the dead ancestors.

“ Some of the ghosts have small mouths,” one man explains. “ So we have to use special rice.”

Many of the people throw sticky rice, which, apparently is easier for the spirits to consume.

According to Buddhist beliefs, the lives that we live, after death, are predicated by the actions that we took when we were living. Minor infractions would be punished with small punishments, such as being an unattractive ghost or having a small mouth. With a small mouth, it is hard to eat. Other, more severe, punishments could include being crippled or having no mouth at all.

At 8:00 AM, people return to the temple, with offerings for the monks. “ They don’t just give food,”

At 8:00 AM, people return to the temple, with offerings for the monks. “ They don’t just give food,” explains Mey Sameth, who was a monk for seven years. “ They bring money and other things as well. As a monk we looked forward to this period all year long, because we could get new clothing and good food.”

At 10:00 the people return with more food, which will be shared between monks and poor people. Os many of the Buddhist traditions seem to relate to feeding the poor. Disabled people also crowd around the temple tat is hour, begging alms. To give help to the less-fortunate, particularly during Pchum Ben, is to acquire merit. Many people explained that the offerings they made during the festival were to cancel out past sins.

Credited : http://khmerconcern.wordpress.com/2010/10/05

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