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Buffalo racing ends Festival of Death

AAP logoAAP 1/10/2016

Thousands have thronged to the southeastern Cambodian town of Vihear Suor to cheer on traditional Khmer wrestlers and revel in races between horses and buffaloes ornately decorated with red embroidery and bells to mark the end of the 15-day Festival of Death.

The Festival of Death, known locally as Pchum Ben, has seen millions of Phnom Penh residents flood to their hometowns in the countryside in recent days to pray at local pagodas for the souls of their ancestors by offering up food for the hungry ghosts, according to Khmer Buddhist beliefs.

"When the living relatives offer the food to the spirit, the spirit will bless them with happiness," said Om Sam Ol, a monk at Steung Meanchey pagoda in southeastern Phnom Penh, as cited by the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.

During the first two weeks of Pchum Ben in Cambodia, social rituals revolved around the pagodas, where monks chanted incantations in Pali and were presented with sticky rice balls on behalf of relatives seeking to appease the appetites of their deceased ancestors released from the underworld.

Pchum Ben Day on Saturday concluded the commemorative fortnight with joyous competitions to the beat of drums and other musical performances staged to entertain spirits who have descended to earth during this time.

The major religious festival has its roots in the Angkor era and intertwines both animist and Buddhist beliefs about rebirth and existence to honour the deceased, especially those whose lives were cut short unnecessarily and are unable to find peace in the afterlife.

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