Festival commemorates events that took place over 2,500 years ago. On that day Buddha gathered over thousand of monks to hear his preaching. Then he ordained them as ‘enlighten ones’ who will spread the principles of Buddhism. This event took place on a full moon night of a third lunar month and it’s marked a key event in the development of this religion.
Meak Bochea is celebrated in Cambodia also on a third full moon night of a third Khmer lunar month, called ‘Meak’. ‘Bochea’ means ‘to honor’. It is also marked as a day of forgiveness for those who disobeyed Buddha’s commands.
So, why this event should be interesting for non-Buddhist tourists?
Celebration of Meak Bochea is a fascinating occurrence for each traveler and cultural enthusiast. First thing is a Buddhist temple ceremony. You can watch processions in which people are carrying candles, incense sticks, and lotus flowers around the temple. Procession is circling the building around three times. Each encirclement has it’s own meaning. First one is to honor Buddha himself. Second one, his teachings – Dharma, and a third one is dedicated to his monastic life – Sangha.
Beautifully decorated temples and crowds of worshippers may be a view that will be remembered for years.
Official celebration of Meak Bochea with participation of monks and government officials is taking place in Oudong Mountain, located 45 kilometers north of Phnom Penh. This event includes breathtaking rituals like freeing birds in the morning. At evening people are gathering at holy site of the Mountain, that is believed to house Buddha’s remains, and releasing lanterns. Official celebrations have even bigger scale and signification.
There are also other activities that should interest a non-Buddhist tourist who will decide to visit this part of Cambodia during Meak Bochea Day.
For example, Cambodian Cultural Village in Siem Reap. This Theme park includes 11 cultural villages, where visitors can learn about 19 ethnical groups in the Kingdom. The other attraction are miniatures of the most important buildings in Cambodia.
Another place that each Phnom Penh visitor should see is Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Meak Bochea is considered a repentance day, so visiting this monument of crimes may be really sobering experience. The building is based in former high school that became an execution center during the tragic time of the Khmer Rouge. Not to be entertained, but to find a value lesson of history.
As you can see, Meak Bochea Day is a great idea for an unforgettable journey. No matter what religion or belief you represent. It’s an opportunity to watch unique example of cultural rituals and witness an important day in one of the world’s biggest religion’s calendar. We highly recommend including this idea in your travelling plans.