Bands of revellers took to the streets of Boeung village in Sen Sok district in Phnom Penh yesterday as residents donned elaborate face paint, colourful clothing and large palm leaves in celebration of the annual Pring Ka-ek spirit festival.
According to local lore, the celebration is intended to bring good luck and drive off evil spirits for the upcoming rainy season, keeping cattle healthy and rice yields large.
Chhum Sien, aged 67 and a veteran member of the festival committee, claimed the holiday had always been celebrated on the fourth or fifth day of the seventh lunar month, heralding the beginning of the growing season.
Sien added that villagers believe strongly in the power of the Pring Ka-ek spirit to bring rain to facilitate the growing of rice and protect their oxen and buffalo from illness.
The celebration kicked off with a parade led by the Chhay Yam orchestra. Costumed celebrants wound in procession past the village towards the Pring Ka-ek shrine near the festival hall.
Grass skirts and curly wigs were in evidence, as were copious jugs of palm wine.
The ceremonial parade was to be followed by the start of three days of horse and bull racing.
Monks were invited to the festival as well, to preach, recite dharma and preside over food offerings for Pring Ka-ek.
Belief in spirits is widespread in Cambodia and is an integral part of traditional religious practices.