About 10,000 people, including roughly 2,600 monks, gathered to celebrate the annual Visak Bochea festival on Diamond Island in Phnom Penh yesterday, commemorating the Buddha’s enlightenment after 49 days of meditation under a Bodhi tree in northern India.
Holding incense sticks and lotus flowers, a procession of laymen and clergy alike marched onto the island to offer their blessings to the Buddha.
Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An said the festival was a time to pay gratitude to Buddha, who had enlightened followers around the world though his wisdom and teachings of Dharma.
“To develop and promote Buddhism in Cambodia, the Royal Government of Cambodia is strongly committed to supporting and building more temples to reach villagers’ homes,” she said.
“I would like to appeal to all people to do only good things and follow our Buddha’s Dharma and his teachings in order that they may make peace in their minds and their communities, which can contribute to the government’s development in the future.”
Min Khin, Minister of Cults and Religions, reminded attendees of the Khmer Rouge regime’s near-total decimation of religious organisations, which he said had now returned to strength in Cambodia through some 4,649 present-day temples and 56,304 practicing monks.
Laywoman Keo Vanak said she celebrated the holiday every year as a chance to meet people from around the country and connect with fellow Buddhists.
“It is a day to remind people about my practice of the Lord Buddha’s Dharma and his teachings,” she said.