Every year from the end of September to the beginning of October, according to the Cambodian calendar, this special religious festival takes place. During that time, those who are still alive will show their gratitude and affection for the souls of their deceased loved ones. This festival always attracts a lot of Buddhist followers, especially at the temples during the festival season, which is always bustling with people coming to worship.
These days are also the last time of the three-month Buddhist monk’s retreat, the day of completion and offering of robes. The reason it is said that this is the biggest festival in Cambodia is also because it also lasts 15 consecutive days with traditional Buddhist rituals.
Derived from the Cambodian religious beliefs that when people die, they will go into another world that people call hell, and as such, there will be transcendence and the existence of ghosts. Some people die, because of the evil karma they caused when they were still alive, they are subject to punishment in hell and tortured there. Hell means a completely different world from the human world, where the souls of the dead cannot see the sun, have no clothes to wear, no food or drink to eat. Only on Pchum Ben holiday, the souls of 7 generations of ancestors will return to the world to visit their descendants and enjoy the privileges of their family members. Relatives will offer food and make offerings to them.
According to the tradition of the festival, the first 14 days are called Kan Ben. During Kan Ben’s 14 days, villagers take turns bringing food and candles to temples and pagodas to offer offerings to the monks. In addition, people also offer essential items in life to the Buddhist monks and nuns. This shows both respect and gratitude to the monks, and wishes for peace and prayers for the spirits of their ancestors who have unfortunately done something wrong, and that sin can soon be saved.
The 15th, also known as Ben Thom Day, is the most important day of the entire festival. Everyone in the area will dress nicely, eagerly come to the temple with dishes, fruits, glutinous rice cakes and gifts for the monks that are carefully prepared.
After the ceremony is over, the monks in the temple will give everyone their best wishes. The ceremony will be lowered and everyone will eat together, laugh together to show the spirit of solidarity and attachment in life.
This celebration is the time when Cambodian people pay their respects to their parents, grandparents and ancestors. On this day, the Buddhist monks will take turns chanting day and night in Pali.
The Pchum Ben Festival has many important meanings for the Cambodian people: one is asking for goodness for oneself, the second asking for peace for relatives and the third being to pay respect to ancestors, deceased grandparents.
According to Cambodian beliefs, if someone does not follow the practices of Pchum Ben, they will be cursed by their ancestors. Therefore, in order to have a peaceful life with less suffering, people will make rice trays to worship their ancestors; bring food, drink, clothing and necessary supplies to the monks. In addition, they also help the poor and the disabled … to accumulate merit, partly to compensate for the wrongs and crimes committed in the past and they also believe that this will help. for ancestral souls to be released.
Not only is the day of honoring ancestors, this festival is also an opportunity for children to return home, reunite with their families and celebrate with villagers. It can be said that this is a colorful festival, because everyone will often choose the most beautiful and splendid outfits to celebrate together.
This holiday’s signature dish is the “Bay Ben” cake, made from glutinous rice flour cooked with coconut milk. During the festival season there are also artists performing traditional music such as yike and lakhon basac.