Worshippers queueing in front of Preah Ang Dong Kar to perform rituals and bring offerings.
Years ago, during the full moon Khmers claimed they could see a crocodile shaped
flag flowing from the Tonle Sap lake to the river where it finally reached the area
in front of the Royal Palace.
On Buddhist holidays people would see the flag and come to ask for happiness and
prosperity. The flag would appear on a flagpole and then sink back into the river.
According to tradition, people believed strongly in the flag's magic and wished for
it to remain on land so they could visit it more often than during the full moon.
Small temples were built to house its spirits, known as Preah Ang Dong Kar, Preah
Ang Tuos Sak Barmy, Preah Chakraval, and Yey Tep.
Today, Preah Ang Dong Kar in particular takes the form of a four-armed Buddha statue
housed in a small brick hut on the riverfront across from the Royal Palace, and on
Buddhist holidays crowds flock to the statue to light incense and candles, offer
flowers and ask for prosperity, health or happiness.
The other three spirits are in other temples in Phnom Penh.
But Preah Ang Dong Kar has created a boom in business along the riverfront for the
vendors who sell insects to eat and religious symbols such as lotus flowers, candles,
incense and Buddhist coconuts. Others sell sparrows to be bought and released as
a symbol of freedom.
Srey Da, a seller of religious flowers and candles, said business has been very good
this year. "By my investigation this year the number of people increased twice
compared to the previous year," she said.
She said that normally she and her sister make 20,000 to 30,000 riel in profit a
day, but during the Buddhist holidays they can double that.
Yon Yy, a 75-year-old grandmother from the Beung Tra Bek I area of Phnom Penh, is
a believer. She said she comes often to the site to light incense and ask for happiness
or for good health.
"The spirit of Preah Ang Dong Kar can help me to escape from diseases. Today,
I come here to light incense and a candle, and give lotus flowers and Sathor Doung
(the Buddhist coconut) in order to fulfill a pledge to Preah Ang."
The statue has adorned the waterfront since when former King Norodom left the old
capital in Udong to come to the new Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, according to Meach
Ponn, a counselor at the Buddhist Institute.
It is not only Khmers who believe. Many Chinese and Vietnamese also believe in the
spirit of Preah Ang Dong Kar and during Chinese holidays the number of people visiting
the statue also increases.