Vil­lagers’ cer­e­mony asks aid of spir­its to re­trieve stat­ues

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL - By Sopheng Cheang and Heng Sinith

KEAN KHLANG, CAM­BO­DIA >> Peo­ple in a Cam­bo­dian vil­lage held a re­li­gious cer­e­mony Thurs­day to ask spir­its to help them re­cover Bud­dhist stat­ues that their an­ces­tors said were buried in a nearby riverbed.

Bud­dhist monks joined about 500 vil­lagers in the cer­e­mony by the Tonle Sap River, where divers have re­cov­ered eight small stat­ues of Bud­dha and say they spot­ted an­other that is about 6 feet tall. They asked the spir­its of wa­ter and earth to help them raise any stat­ues still buried as much as 66 feet un­der­wa­ter.

Cer­e­mony or­ga­niz­ers said sto­ries passed down by vil­lagers’ an­ces­tors tell of the stat­ues be­ing buried in the riverbed hun­dreds of years ago to hide them from ma­raud­ers from other ar­eas or neigh­bor­ing Siam, now called Thai­land.

“Not only me, but sev­eral vil­lagers were told by our an­ces­tors that those stat­ues were buried sev­eral hun­dred years ago un­der the river op­po­site the site where we held the cer­e­mony,” said Sieng Chan Heng, one of the or­ga­niz­ers.

She said that when divers last month col­lected two small stat­ues from the river, they also spot­ted the larger one but were un­able to bring it up. She ex­plained that some vil­lagers be­lieved they were un­able to re­cover it be­cause they had not held the proper re­li­gious cer­e­mony, which is Hindu in ori­gin, a re­flec­tion of the di­verse cul­tural in­flu­ences in Cam­bo­dia.

“That is why to­day we did this cer­e­mony and hope that the spir­its of the wa­ter and earth that con­trol the statue would pity us and grant us all those buried stat­ues,” she said.

Se­nior Bud­dhist monk Duong Phong, who led the cer­e­mony, said six more stat­ues were re­cov­ered Thurs­day and that divers also found clay ob­jects used in ev­ery­day life pre­sumed to be from the same era as the stat­ues.

All the ma­te­ri­als are be­ing kept at his tem­ple.

The vil­lage, 24 miles north of Ph­nom Penh, is in an area that his­to­ri­ans re­fer to as Longvek, the cap­i­tal of an­cient Cam­bo­dia af­ter the Si­amese sacked Angkor in the 15th cen­tury. The stat­ues are be­lieved to date from the Longvek king­dom.

It is not un­usual for valu­able or sa­cred ob­jects to be hid­den in times of cri­sis, a prac­tice that con­tin­ued even in the 1970s, when the com­mu­nist Kh­mer Rouge ruled Cam­bo­dia. ——— The vil­lage is in an area that his­to­ri­ans re­fer to as Longvek, the cap­i­tal of an­cient Cam­bo­dia af­ter the Si­amese sacked Angkor in the 15th cen­tury. ———

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