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Yeh Mau shrines ensure safe journey

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090123_22.jpg

Have your car blessed at the shrine of a Cambodian princess en route to Sihanoukville.

Photo by:
Kevin Britten

One of the Yeh Mau shrines.

Back in the swirling mists of time, a princess went in search of her long-lost husband who had been gone for some years to fight the invaders of his land.

The princess and her band of followers travelled through the wooded hills until they reached a place where they faced a great ravine. On one side the jungle was impenetrable, and on the other was a great lake surrounded by hills.

Unable to pass any deeper  into the hills, the princess built a camp and waited for her prince. She waited as the seasons changed and the years passed. She grew old - a sad figure who had reached a place where she could go no further. Sadly, the prince never returned and eventually the princess died, still waiting for him.

That princess is today known as Yeh Mau and is worshipped and revered throughout Cambodia, but there is one place where her shrines are of particular importance, and that place is on National Route 4, about 125 kilometres before you reach Sihanoukville.

You may have noticed, just before you go down a long, fairly steep hill, a group of shrines on your right and a long row of spirit houses. This is the site of Yeh Mau's legendary camp - the ravine is out of sight below the road, and the lake is now gone.

The shrines themselves all hold the figure of Yeh Mau. There are no Buddha statues here, as this legend is rooted in the Hindu tradition.

There are lingams and a few animal figures inside, but mostly the shrines are packed full of offerings of artificial flowers and fruit.

Roadside prayer

This is not a place of meditation. Instead, it is straightforward and functional with everything in place for a swift roadside prayer.

Many Cambodian drivers pull over here to pray for a safe journey on what can be a dangerous road, for the spirit of Yeh Mau covers the whole length of what is today known as National Route 4.

The correct offering to the spirit of Yeh Mau is a small doll, but as dolls are expensive and hard to find, a substitute offering of a bunch of bananas is considered suitable.

Roadside vendors sell bananas and incense and can provide an oil lamp to light the incense sticks. There is also a fortune teller on hand for those who need a little guidance on the way.

On the opposite side of the highway is a spring with water carrying the power of the blessing of Yeh Mau.

The shrine-keepers fill jars with water from the spring and add jasmine flowers.

there are no buddha statues ... as this legend is rooted in the hindu tradition.

After making your offerings, it is considered a good idea to bless your car by throwing a pan of holy water over the windshield and roof.

The simple rituals take only a few minutes, and many Cambodian drivers stop here to ensure a safe onward journey. Why not give it a try next time you're on National Route 4? 

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