THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Vol. 13, No. 23
November 5-18, 2004
NEWLY CROWNED King Norodom Sihamoni has received a warm reception during his first Royal visit to the countryside, with farmers flocking to see and touch the little-known monarch just days after he ascended the throne in a spectacular and historic three-day coronation ceremony.
King Sihamoni travelled to Kampong Speu province on November 3, wasting no time in fulfilling promises to serve the nation faithfully and spend a few days of each week outside the capital.
His symbolic rite of passage into the Kingdom’s highest office began on October 28, coinciding with the full moon. Brahmanic prayers were uttered to ask the tevadas, or angels, to bless the new King and the ascension process.
Early the following morning, Sihamoni’s parents, retired King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Monineath, bathed their son with water taken from Phnom Kulen in Siem Reap province.
Queen Monineath kissed the new King on his shaved head, and Sihanouk was visibly delighted during the bathing ritual, which onlookers described as “touching” and “very spiritual”. In the afternoon of October 29, Sihamoni was carried through the grounds of the Royal Palace atop a golden palanquin in a colourful procession of silk-clad guards with spears, nine Brahman Bakus, 52 Buddhist monks and women carrying miniature trees painted silver to offer to the King.
With the lawns and sculptured hedges carefully trimmed and yellow flowers abundant, the grounds of the palace provided a picturesque backdrop for the regal parade.
As a brass band played, the King passed by a military honour guard to reach the Tevea Venichhay temple, where he walked up the red-carpeted steps followed by his entourage, who carried in religious statues, scrolls, animal horns and a cat.
Inside, top government officials, including King Sihamoni’s half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen, respectfully greeted Sihamoni.