Every year, 29 days from the first waning moon night of Asoch, the non-stop, heart-stirring
sound of the drum-like Chaiyums is heard all over Cambodia.
The Asoch is the eleventh month of the lunar calendar and the music implies it is
now the period of the Kathin festival.
This year's Kathin began on October 31, the date of King Sihanouk's birthday.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Bon Kathin is its fruit which benefits
both religiously and humanly.
Religiously, Kathin is the only occasion when monks are allowed to change their old
saffron robes for new ones.
With the great power obtained from the ceremony, more than any other religious day,
monks again become innocent of minor offenses such as picking live tree leaves and
failure to ask permission from chief monks before leaving wats.
Having organized or assisted in the ceremony, a monk will possess a sacred power
which can be used to minimize the guilt his late kith and kin committed while they
Humanly, besides being used to repair wats, leftover cash can also be devoted to
building bridges, roads, schools or other public places.
The ceremony helps strengthen the friendship and solidarity between villagers, country
folks and town folks.
In terms of recreation, some people may find it even more enjoyable and relaxing
than Bon Pchum Ben or Bon Chol Chnam [ the New Year's Day].
Given this special feature of Bon Kathin, Khmers are very keen on observing the ceremony.
They regret it a lot if they do not attend.
Another characteristic of Bon Kathin is that a wat can host only one Kathin a year,
whereas people can celebrate as many Kathins in as many wats as they wish. Rarely
does a wat miss any ceremony.
Apart from the ceremony itself, Bon Kathin is always accompanied by an ancient music
band of five or six Chaiyums whose noise, never caring to ask for loud speakers'
help, could never be beaten by modern instruments.
As long as you are tall and strong enough to hold one you can, however, learn to
play in only five minutes