For the people of Cambodia, the Water Festival and Bon Om Touk (The Pirogue Racing Festival) in Phnom Penh is the most magnificent traditional festival. For three days Phnom Penh citizens, foreign tourists and peasants from various provinces gather in the capital to celebrate festival night day. But we missed this ceremony for many years ago because it had a lot of people died on KohPich Bridge by a big accident. When a crowd of people packed onto the narrow KohPich footbridge, which connects Phnom Penh to KohPich(“Diamond Island”). The large numbers of people became unable to move and were caught in a crush; this ultimately led to the deaths of over 350 people, with a similar number being injured. However this year, we celebrate this ceremony again.
The water festival had background for so long time. The water festival ceremony is the army training to do attest of the army for preparing to do a battle. In the history, Khmer King always does the battle with enemies by sailing. So he prepares this water festival ceremony every year to choose Champion of sailing battle, as in Bayon Temple, BatteayChhmar in the Preah Bat Jayvarman VII. We had seen a lot of statues about sailing battle under leading of Jayvarman VII. The custom of this is to have from then up to the present.
On the other hand the water is celebrated every year in November to honor the victory of Cambodian Naval forces in the reign of King JayvarmanVII, during Angkor period of the 12th century.
And this ceremony is to history about military exercise of our navy force in the course of national defense and to express thanks to the 3 Buddhist symbols Gods and holy thing which helped us and agriculture field and serves as an opportunity to pray for our lord for the happiness and sufficient rain for rice cultivation.
Besides the regatta, the water festival also includes three other ceremonies: Illuminated float (Loy Pratip), Moon salutation (Sampeas PreahKhe) and the eating of pestle new special rice with banana or coconut juice (Ork Ambok). The ceremony last three days to provide opportunity for people to part in competition that there were to types of boats from near and far of provinces, taking part in the races, the pirogue and the rowing boat. Each boat was manned by about thirty to forty men or women. The boat with a man or a woman dancing softly and gracefully to the rhythm of the drums on the bow as an encouragement to the rowers moved swiftly through the water.
There as the race winners will be rewarded a lot of good such as: drink, money, clothes, rice, cigarettes and the commission of the boat racing day must seek donations in order to provide this prize for participants.
During the nighttime at about seven o'clock the river was lit by jazzy illuminated boats, which floated slowly and smoothly on the water's surface. Each of them was equipped with thousands of flashy neon lights arranged in different colorful, fancy patterns representing state institutions, ministries and services.
After a little time fireworks and multi-color were lit to entertain people. Some of people made loud noises. They burst into different shapes and colors in the sky under the clapped and cheered with joy each time at the sight of the fireworks.
Finally the water festival is the festivity for the Cambodian people who celebrated every years and going for a walk during the ceremony days really refreshed our mood. The lively festive atmosphere helped relive our tension and trouble.