VILLAGERS in Kandal province have been praying to a bodhi tree and drinking tea made from its roots and bark after it suddenly sprang upright, having been cut down and knocked over last year.
The 200-year-old tree in Sanlong commune, about 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh, attracted curiosity when its trunk, which was lying on the ground, began standing upright again two weeks ago. “My dog was barking, so my wife looked out from the house and saw the tree base was slowly standing upright again,” said villager Khai Lorn, 48.
Buddhist priest Sok Suon said a man who lived next to the tree dreamed that its spirit was helping to bring it back to life, so monks erected umbrellas and a tent nearby for people to gather and pray.
“The bodhi tree is supposed to be a magical tree because the Buddha gained enlightenment under one” said the priest.
The tree was felled to make way for a road-widening project on November 18. Over the past two weeks, said Sok Suon, hundreds of people have come to pray to the tree and cut bits of root or bark off it in the hope that it will help cure diseases.
Health officials in Kandal province stressed that drinking bark or roots from a bodhi tree was a folk remedy and not supported by medical evidence. Prak Phan, deputy director of the province’s department of health, said medical workers would educate people nearby so they could avoid any danger.
However, practicioner of traditional Khmer medicine Phka Chhouk, said that trees of the fig family were often used to cure ailments, and could help treat syphilis.
One keen to try the tree was Srey Sorn, 60, of Prey Chrouk village in Kandal’s Bak Dav commune. “I got some bark to boil after I prayed to the tree to cure my stomach disease. The traditional medicine man says that so far, roots or bark from the tree haven’t poisoned anyone.”
Village chief Ly Chamroeun, 45, said that the tree had now been moved to private land so people could keep praying to it.
Superstition runs rife in the countryside. Last week, people in Kandal province's Saang district organised a spirit wedding for two snakes.