New home is being constructed for a holy relic of the Buddha. Formerly housed in
a chedi (stupa) in front of the Phnom Penh railway station, a bone of the Buddha
will be reinstated in a new monument-to be named Sakayamoni Chedi-on the north slope
of Wat Phnom.
The holy remains were originally a gift to Cambodia from Sri Lanka in 1957, which
according to the Buddhist calendar was the 2,500th anniversary of Buddha's death.
The expression of Buddhist kinship was made by an official delegation of Sri Lankan
monks who brought the remains to Cambodia for presentation to Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
The sacred relic was originally kept in Preah Keomarekot (Temple of Holy Remains)
in the Royal Palace before being established in front of the train station.
Two days after Prince Sihanouk returned to Cambodia last November, he announced that
a more appropriate location should be found for the remains, away from the daily
traffic along Achar Mean Boulevard. Wat Phnom, a place of worship for Khmer Buddhists
for centuries, was selected as an suitable venue.
A committee of distinguished religious and lay leaders was formed to head a fundraising
campaign to pay for the construction of a new chedi.
The campaign was initiated by a U.S. $12,600 donation from Prince Sihanouk, followed
by additional contributions of 3.6 million riels, U.S.$29,000, 500 French francs,
and 1 million Thai baht.
Approximately U.S. $670,000 is needed to complete the construction project, which
officially began at a foundation stone-laying ceremony on July 26.
The Phnom Penh Zoo has been closed for the nine-month construction process, with
all the animals relocated to a more spacious site in Kompong Speu.