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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Small statue creates big business by the river

Small statue creates big business by the river

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Tracey Shelton

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.

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