Cambodian Water Festival / Bon Om Touk

Cambodian Water Festival (also known as Bon Om Touk, Bon Om Thook, or Bonn Om Teuk) is a festival celebrated annually around November in Cambodia. The festival marks the end of rainy season in Cambodia and the reversal of the flow between Tonle Sap River and Mekong River at Phnom Penh. Generally, people in Cambodia celebrate Bon Om Touk by night and day for three days.

When is Cambodian Water Festival 2013 / Bon Om Touk 2013?

Although Cambodian Water Festival is normally celebrated on November, the date of Cambodian Water Festival varies from year to year. Cambodian Water Festival 2012 or Bon Om Touk 2013 will be celebrated for three days on the dates below.
Saturday, 16 November 2013
Sunday, 17 November 2013
Monday, 18 November 2013

Background of Cambodian Water Festival / Bon Om Touk

Background of the festival dates back to the 12th century when the navy of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII celebrated a festival which marked the start of Cambodian fishing season. The purpose of the festival was to show gratitude to the river’s divinities and keep them happy in the hope that Cambodian people would also get a good harvest for the following year.

People in Cambodia has been celebrating Cambodian Water Festival for centuries. Up until now, Cambodian people celebrate the festival with the same purpose i.e. to thank the river for everything it has given to Cambodian people.

Cambodian Water Festival 2013 / Bon Om Touk 2013 Celebration

Celebration of Cambodian Water Festival is held throughout the nation, yet the main celebration takes part near the banks of Tonle Sap and Mekong River. During Cambodian Water Festival, the roads near the banks of the rivers are blocked for vehicle while more than a million visitors jostle in these places to celebrate the festival.

Three major ceremonies – Bandaet Pratip, Sampeah Preah Khae, Ak Ambok – are held during Cambodian Water Festival.
Bandaet Pratip is a fluvial festival in which many illuminated boats are floated to the water lighting the river. Each boat usually represents a government ministry or institution. Bandaet Pratip starts at about 7 in the evening.

Sampeah Preah Khae is a ceremony to salute the moon in the hope that Cambodian people will get a good harvest for the following year. For the Cambodians, full moon represents a good sign for their harvest throughout next year. After this ceremony, people flock to pagoda for Ak Ambok.

Ak Ambok is a tradition to eat ambok – rice fried in the husk, pounded with a giant hassle to remove the husks, and mixed with coconut and banana – at midnight in a pagoda. Ambok becomes one of some popular dishes sold during Cambodian Water Festival.

2010 Cambodian Water Festival Incident

In 2010, millions of people gathered near the bank of the rivers in Phnom Penh to watch traditional boat races held during 3 days celebration of Cambodia Water Festival. The festivity of the festival turned out to be horror when people scrambled across a newly-built bridge spanning over Bassac river. As a result, about 400 Cambodians died because of being trampled, falling into the river, or suffering electric shock from the cables of the lamps decorating the bridge. Prime Minister Hun Sen called the incident as the biggest tragedy since the Khmer rouge when more than 1.7 million Cambodians died. He then showed his condolence and sympathy to the families of those who died on the incident, and ordered government ministries to fly a flag at a half mast.

Happy Cambodian Water Festival 2013 !