Traditional Blessing Of Horses And Buffaloes

Kandal Province: According to the teachings of the Chief Abbot of Wat Preah Vihear Sour, every year on the day of Pchum Ben, the people of Vihear Sour always bring their buffaloes to worship at the pagoda. This tradition stretches back from ancient times to the present day.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the ceremony was only symbolic, with 19 buffaloes and 21 horses.

The monks of Wat Preah Vihear Sour, along with Buddhists from near and far, have faith and respect to come and perform the ceremony of placing the bowl to pray for happiness. NKD

*In previous years there have been annual races and sporting events including wrestling for Pchum Ben. The traditional sporting events were begun in 1928 as a way of honoring the pagoda spirits, but animal blessings are thought to have been going on for much longer.

According to an article published in 2005 by the Cambodia Daily:

Buffalo racing was a chance for local farmers to recognize the importance of the giant, docile beasts, and to show off the strength of specific animals prior to selling them to the highest bidder.

Almost everyone who lives here is a farmer. If not, people must go to Phnom Penh to work in a garment factory,” San Sem said. “Even though people now use machines and tractors, about half of us still use buffalo. If you don’t have a buffalo, you have to rent one.”

For the buffalo themselves, there could be no finer hour. The biggest males were groomed and adorned with gaudy, mirrored masks made of sequined red and green fabric. The 500-kg beasts were then brought to the pagoda and forced to kneel before the temple steps.

“Only during Pchum Ben do the buffalo get to dress like this,” said local farmer Chub Pheng.

“It is tradition to bring them to the pagoda before the race to pray to the spirit of the wat. I expect that after he prays at the wat, my buffalo will never be sick—he will be healthy and strong,” Chub Pheng said.”

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