In a grand ceremony on Monday, the body of Princess Buppha Devi was cremated in front of the Wat Botum pagoda in Phnom Penh where her body was kept for seven days.
She passed away at a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, at the age of 77 after a long battle with illness.
The ceremony took place in the presence of King Norodom Sihamoni, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, royal family members, high-ranking officials, armed forces, monks and a large number of citizens, who wanted to be with the Princess on her final journey.
The ceremony was organised following Buddhist traditions. The King lighted the funeral pyre where the body of the Princess was laid to rest, while royal family members and participants looked on with sadness.
Following the ceremony, Princess Sisowath Monico Kossamak, the eldest daughter of Buppha Devi, thanked the people and all high-ranking officials for paying their respects and joining in the ceremony.
“The cremation ceremony of the body of Buppha Devi took place solemnly. [I] thank donors for donating money to treat her and for organising the ceremony solemnly,” she said.
Born on January 8, 1943, in Phnom Penh, Princess Buppha Devi was the eldest daughter of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Neak Moneang Phat Kanhol, herself a Royal Ballet dancer. She is a half-sister of King Sihamoni and Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The princess was a highly revered icon behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet. Princess Buppha Devi was bestowed the title “Number One Dancer” and “Living Human Heritage of Cambodia” in 2013, said Royal du Cambodge.
She was also a personal counsellor to the King and a member of the present Constitutional Council of Cambodia.
With an aggrieved tone, citizen Nget Rorn, 81, said while looking at the crematorium: “I feel like I’m caught in a trance because I have respected her since the late King Father. [Buppha Devi] respected Khmer culture and did not change it. That’s why I came to join the ceremony.”
Rorn said he had respected Buppha Devi since she was 20-years-old.
She said: “Princess Buppha Devi danced very well. [She was] beyond comparison. Her fingers matched well with the shape of her body.
“I saw her when she danced in Battambang province. Even at a young age, she danced very well. The loss of [Buppha Devi] is like the loss of great talent. She had built and cared for the Royal Ballet like no other.”
In tears, Cham Chamroeurn Tola, 31, a member of the Royal Ballet dance troupe and a long-time student of Princess Buppha Devi, said losing the Princess felt like losing her own mother. Buppha Devi had given a lot of advice related to cultural knowledge, especially to the Royal Ballet, she said.
The Princess, Chamroeurn Tola said, had advised her to help preserve Khmer cultural wealth for the sake of the younger generations.
“She had always given out messages saying that without a mother, the children would unite for the Kingdom’s long-lost culture. Children must jointly care for our culture. She insistently begged the students not to abandon it,” Chamroeurn Tola stressed.