One of Cambodia’s most important ceremonies is the Royal Plowing Ceremony, known as “Preah Reach Pithi Bonn Chrot Preah Neangkol.” The rite is a historic royal ceremonial that takes place in Pisak (May), the start of the rice-growing season. It’s the time of year when the dry season ends and the rainy season begins; as a result, Cambodians begin planning their farming activities for the coming months.
This royal ceremony was first initiated by a Khmer king who was greatly concerned with the farming conditions and has been an annual celebration for a number of centuries. The King or prominent officials traditionally lead the ritual. In recent years, the ceremony has been presided over by Cambodia’s King, His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni.
The ceremony is performed by “Sdach Meak,” a representative of Cambodia’s King, and “Preah Mehuo,” a representative of the Queen. The Royal oxen, also known as Usapheak Reach in Khmer, play an important role in this traditional rite. Sdach Meak starts plowing with the two royal oxen to represent the beginning of the season and a fruitful crop for his people. Preah Mehuo sows seeds from behind while Sdach Meak plows the field three times around. The royal oxen are then released from their harnesses and escorted to the seven golden trays at the completion of the three-round plowing ceremony. Rice, corn, sesame seeds, beans, grass, water, and wine are among the items on the plate, each of which represents a different future prediction. There is widespread belief that royal oxen play an important part in determining the fate of Cambodia’s agricultural production. Cambodians think that by watching what the royal oxen eat and drink, they may predict a variety of occurrences for the entire year, including good harvests, epidemics, excessive rainfall, and violent crimes.
The prediction can be interpreted as below:
If one of the oxen eats the rice, there will be a good rice harvest.
If one of the oxen eats the sesame, there will be a good sesame harvest.
If one of the oxen eats the corn, there will be a good corn harvest.
If one of the oxen eats the soybeans, there will be a good soybeans harvest.
The more the oxen eat the grain, the better the harvest of that grain will be.
If one of the oxen eats the grass, there will be widespread animal diseases.
If one of the oxen drinks the water, there will be heavy rainfall.
If one of the oxen drinks the wine, Cambodia will be populated with robbers and drunkards that may possibly lead to terrible crimes within the country.
The more the oxen eat or drink the things mentioned, the more severe the problem will be.
The Royal Plowing Ceremony has been observed for generations, thanks to the initiative of a previous Khmer king who was concerned about the people’s farming situation.
When asked, most Cambodians firmly believe in and attest to the accuracy of these ancient methods of foretelling the future. It’s reassuring to know that the angels are still keeping an eye on us.
By: Rathana Cham