Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Holy cow!

Holy cow!

Holy cow!

turtle2.jpg
turtle2.jpg

Believers take water the cow or the turtle have touched and wash in it to bring good

luck.

"I believe that whatever I said, the cow understood," said Mao Pheach,

47, who visited "Preah Kou" (His Divine Majesty the Cow).

"When you compare him with other cows, they do not understand. But when I asked

for water, the cow put his mouth on my head and then back towards the water as if

to show me what I needed." She proudly displayed a photo of herself with him.

Some more fanatical types are even taking away the divine bovine's urine and manure.

"I don't know [what they do with the excrement], it depends on their belief,"

said the pagoda's monk, Ta Kaing. He claimed people were coming from as far away

as Battambang and Siem Reap to see the cow.

Preah Kou gained fame as the determined bullock which escaped a slaughterhouse and

caused traffic jams all over Phnom Penh earlier this month as it wandered into homes

and even tried to enter the Royal Palace.

Ta Kaing happened to be in Phnom Penh and met the cow after it had installed itself

in someone's living room, while traffic police were threatening to kill it. An animal

lover, Ta Kaing said he felt Buddhist mercy for the cow and offered to take it home.

"I touched the cow's head and said, 'Let us tie you up, it doesn't mean we're

going to kill you. We are trying to rescue you. If you don't, I can't be responsible

for your life.'"

The monk told the cow of a few names of peaceful places that it could go to.

"I named a few pagodas for him to live in, but he shook his head all the time.

When I named my pagoda he bowed his head down," the monk recounted, taking that

as an assent.

MAGICAL MOMENT: offerings for Preah Kou

To the wonder of onlookers, the cow then knelt down and let itself be tied easily

and led into a truck.

"He's clever, the cow," said Ta Kaing. "He knows a good man from a

bad man. That's why when he saw a monk he wanted to be with me."

Rapturous believers mobbed the truck from the Independence Monument to the Inter-Continental

Hotel, and now go to visit the pagoda.

The legend of Preah Kou has grown quickly. Some believers - including Ta Kaing himself

- are convinced that the cow was killed by an electric shock at the slaughterhouse

and came back to life to escape. Others claim the cow leaped a two-meter fence to

reach freedom.

"I'm not superstitious, but I believe in this cow, I really believe," said

Sing Soy, 69, who traveled over two hours from Phnom Penh to meet Preah Kou.

"Hundreds of thousands of cows could never escape slaughter, but this one could

- it seems like there was something behind him, to take care of him," she said.

Ta Kaing held a huge ceremony to welcome Preah Kou to his remote, hillside temple.

"We had seven days and seven nights of celebration. The pagoda grounds were

full of cars," he said. People stayed for the whole week, doing work at the

pagoda for free just to be near the holy cow.

And then, just when Ta Kaing thought things couldn't get better, the turtle appeared.

MAGICAL MOMENT:

a curious onlooker inspects the turtle

"It was crawling along side the road to the hill, heading straight for this

temple," the monk said. "It stopped for a rest in someone's house and they

brought it here."

The large turtle has inscriptions all over its shell, including dates and names of

pagodas. The earliest date is 1936.

"This turtle is very old," said Sing Soy. "So many million people

were killed during the Khmer Rouge time, how did this turtle survive? People ate

everything then."

She believes the turtle, like the cow, is a mienbon (a Buddhist word also used for

the King: a divine, powerful savior who brings luck). The monk noted that both animals

brought rain the days they arrived - the King is also believed to bring rain when

he travels.

The turtle now spends its days sitting in front of the pagoda's altar, receiving

adulation and occasionally dunking its head in bowls of water to oblige the faithful.

MAGICAL MOMENT:

the turtle blesses some holy water.

"We tried to keep him in a pond, but the turtle kept coming up to stay under

the bed," said Ta Kaing. "I think it is a happy place for him."

The monk reported that he had received tons of cement and over 100,000 riels in donations.

He says he will use them to build a new "palace" for Preah Kou.

Now, the cow stays in a makeshift shelter, with a tarp for a ceiling, but he is provided

with a mosquito net. The cuts and scrapes he garnered during his daring escape have

been cleaned and treated, and he wears a collar of bells and also a lavish metal

necklace specially made for him.

The blessed beasts don't mingle much. When put in the same spot, the cow sniffed

the turtle curiously as it tried to waddle away, drawing peals of laughter from onlookers.

"I will keep them forever," said Ta Kaing fondly.

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