The Royal Ploughing Ceremony (Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal) is an important celebration, especially for farmers in Cambodia. On that day the dry season is officially over and the rainy season begins. Now the planting can start and the farmers plow their fields. Usually there are no machines, as ever oxen or water buffalo are still harnessed to the plow. A strenuous work for humans and animals.

Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal – Three symbolic plow rounds

Guided by the royal family, the festival takes place near the royal palace in front of the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The date marks the beginning of sowing. Three plows with sacred oxen plow three times symbolically the ground in front of the museum.

  • The first plow is called Nangkoil Yong. (Actually I do not know what this means, but I will try to find out.)
  • The second plow is led by the King himself.
  • The third plow follows Prah Mehour (the King’s wife or the representative, if the King should be absent). She sows the rice into the furrow.

The ceremony ends on the east side of the square, the King pays his respects and returns to his seat to watch the ceremony.

Sacred oxen predict next year’s harvest

After plowing ceremony oxen are led to 6 vessels with different gifts to drink it or eat. Because they decide whether there will be a rich harvest in the coming year. The predictions are based on what the holy oxen eat. Generally, the belief is that if an ox drinks the wine, this is a sign for possible conflicts.

  • Rice: If one of the ox eats the rice, there will be a rich rice harvest.
  • Sesame: If one of the ox eats the sesame, there will be a rich sesame harvest.
  • Corn: If one of the ox eats the corn, there will be a rich corn harvest.
  • Soybeans: If one of the ox eats the soybeans, there will be a rich soybeans harvest.

The more an ox eats of these gifts, the better the harvest will be. Quite different it turns out the faith by these gifts:

  • Grass: If one of the ox eats the grass, there will be increasing diseases in Cambodia.
  • Water: If one of the ox drinks the water, there will be so much rain that can also cause flooding.
  • Wine: If one of the ox drinks the wine, so Cambodia is entirely populated by gangsters, robbers and drunkards and it perish in the very worst case.

A group of Brahmans (scholars) now predicts how next year’s harvest will be.  The prediction depends on how much, and from which vessels oxen each have eaten and drunk. Everyone is happy when the sacred oxen have once again spurned the wine. According to the Buddhist year the date of plowing ceremony from year to year changes in our Gregorian calendar.

  • 2016: Tuesday – May 24
  • 2017: Sunday – May 14
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