Cambodia Royal Ploughing

In Khmer so-called Preah Reach Pithi Chrot Preah Neangkoal, the Royal Plowing Day is traditionally held in May on the 4th day of the 6th Lunar month's waning moon. To celebrate the arrival of the rainy season, people gather to eat and pray for a plentiful crop. The centerpiece of this festival day is a ritual in which representatives of our King plow and plant rice at the ceremonial when the rice growth period is upcoming.
Cambodia Royal Ploughing © unknown
Cambodia Royal Ploughing © unknown

The Royal Ploughing Festival (In the Khmer language: Preah Reach Pithi Chroat Preah Nongkoal) is traditionally performed in early May every year to honor and celebrate the start of the rainy season. The rainy season indicates the fruitful season for planting and sowing, which usually kicks off in May. 

Several Asian countries, especially the ancestors who were a royal rite, always celebrated this ceremony for a hundred years. In addition, what is significant about ploughing is that it is well-recognized as Seeds of Hope or Royal Ploughing and is done to signify that the planting season is coming.

This ritual is done annually in several Asian nations, including Thai (Thailand) and Khmer (Cambodia). As opposed to the Khmer translation, the festival is called 'Raek Na Khwan’ in the Thai language.

Remember that Thailand and Cambodia share the same Khmer-Mon culture (the oldest culture in Southeast Asia). As of today, Myanmar still has the Mon ethnic group. 

History of the Royal Plowing Ceremony

This is a great ceremony in Cambodia, which signifies the beginning of the monsoon season. People gather to celebrate and wish for a plentiful crop. 

In Cambodia, most people look forward to the traditional celebration, which is held on the Veal Preahmein field next to the Royal Palace in front of the National Museum

In the ritual, singing Buddhist monks seek approval to plow from the ground spirits. After that, people make gifts to the gods by planting ceremonial furrows, rice, and so forth. 

It is not uncommon for King Norodom Sihamoni to get his hands dirty. However, we can see the King does the planting and plowing during the festival.

The royal oxen are used in representation to forecast the upcoming monsoon season in order to get a plentiful harvest. Thus, the King and other people have to offer grass, wine, water, grain, and riches to the oxen. 

The oxen will then pick their offerings. If it eats rice or grain indicates a successful harvest; water indicates rain; grass indicates agricultural devastation; wine indicates drought. 

As far back as the 16th century, the Thai royal family also celebrated this festival. In 1957, it was declared a national holiday in Thailand. Hence, all employees and officers of both public and private sectors will take a day off for this public holiday to enjoy the ceremony. 

Moreover, given that agriculture employs a substantial proportion of Thailand's labor population, the ritual is intimately associated with the agricultural business and is vital for farmers nowadays. 

Besides a ritual belief, the ceremony is used to anticipate the crop yield during the following year. On top of that, it inspires them to work even more because of this.

So Here Are Five Awesome Things You Can Learn From Royal Ploughing

1. Weather Forecast Methods

Despite the fact that there are a variety of different scientific techniques for weather forecasting and determining crops, Cambodians have developed their own systems for predicting the harvests and climate well. Therefore, Cambodians are forewarned of disasters, promised a bountiful crop, etc. through traditional rites, especially this Royal Ploughing Festival.

2. Rituals of the Royal Ploughing Festival

Typically, two oxen that are hitched with a plough of timber, are used to plough a furrow. Brahmins usually sow the rich seed. After ploughing tirelessly, the sacred oxen are offered many kinds of food. Grass, grain, rich, wine, water, beans, corn, and many others are ready for the oxen to consume. 

Then, the Brahmins anticipate whether the following agricultural season will be abundant or not based on what the oxen consume. The ritual has its origins in the Brahman religion and is performed to guarantee a successful harvest. 

On the other hand, the royal plowing ceremony in Burma might have Buddhist roots as well. When Prince Siddhartha was an infant, he showed his miracle in the ceremony by sitting calmly under a tree. This shows how gifted he was for his age.

3. Royal Ploughing In Cambodia

Royal ploughing in Cambodia has a long history since the Funan period, which was between the first and the sixth century. The ceremony was brought by the old India during the Funan era. Furthermore, those who want to retract the moment can read a Reamker story, Buddhist literature, and Ramayana of the Indian epic.

The Balamara sculpture was seen to carry the plough in the Funan’s previous capital, Angkor Borei back in the sixth century. With this evidence, it is considered that the statue represented the Royal Ploughing Ceremony on the easiest day.

Other than that, the ploughing ritual is among the most significant Khmer monarch ceremonial, and it takes place every year in the country. Unfortunately, this ritual event was held on for 2 consecutive years during the global pandemic, Covid-19.

4. Two Separate Rituals in The Thailand Ceremony

Cultivating: At the beginning stage, the seeds, rice paddy, and ceremonial objects utilized in the ceremony the following morning are blessed by the Harvest Lord. Then, the 4 Maidens and the Lord of Harvest also bless the King while he commands the ceremony. On top of that, the King will hand on the sword and ring for the Lord of Harvest to handle for tomorrow’s tasks. The Grand Palace is a complex with the Emerald Buddha Temple, in which the Royal Ploughing festival is performed.

Ploughing: The ploughing day takes place on the second day of the ceremony. It is generally seen at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace.

5. Burma’s Royal Ploughing

Burmese chronicles believe that the ploughing rite began in Myanmar in the late 500s CE. At that time, it was the Pagan dynasty that ran the country. 

On the other hand, the ritual was not celebrated on an annual basis nor by every Royal family. In Myanmar, the King, accompanied by ministers and princes, ploughed with one white ox. The Brahmins offered and prayed to the 15 Hindu deities during the plowing process. At the same time, nat votaries and votaresses summoned 37 ancient spirits (nats). 

Similar to Thailand and Cambodia, the Royal Ploughing festival in Myanmar (Burma) is performed to pray for the same purpose, which is to request a plentiful harvest for the country.