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A Royal Cambodian Coronation

A Royal Cambodian Coronation

The Royal coronation of a Cambodian monarch can take place several days, months or

even years after the election of the sovereign. In effect, the King assumes functions

immediately after his election by the Crown Council and the coronation is essentially

a religious and symbolic ceremony designed to bring divine blessings upon the elected

monarch.

The coronation of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Baromneath Norodom Sihamoni

will be simple, very much like that of his august father, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech

Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman, held on September 23, 1993. However, the spirit and

unique character of the old sumptuous coronations of previous kings of Cambodia will

not be missing from the traditional ceremony to be held on October 29, 2004.

In the past, following the election of the new king, the court astrologers were requested

to determine the most appropriate date for the ceremony of the coronation. In accordance

with the Kram Preah Reachea Prapdaphisek (Law on the Coronation of Kings, promulgated

in the second half of the 18th century) the appropriate date was chosen and the preparations

for the event began.

The Appisek, or Ceremonial Bath

Following seven days of rites and ceremonies performed by the Bakus of the court,

during which the fire is blessed and water to be used for the ceremony purified,

the sovereign was solemnly presented to the people in the Throne Hall. A special,

white, bathing pavilion has been prepared in front of the Throne Hall; the sovereign

took off his ceremonial robes and exchanged them for a light, white, bathing robe.

The Chiefs of the Buddhist Orders then proceeded to drop on the sovereign's head

the water previously purified and consecrated. A light shower was then released from

a canopy above through the petals of a golden lotus, giving celestial significance

to the shower.

While the ceremonial bath was in progress the Bakus play their ceremonial music.

The sovereign then dressed in his ceremonial robes and addressed the Buddhist monks

present to whom he declared that he is the servant and protector of Buddhism and

that he will always be loyal to Buddhism.

The Buddhist ritual having come to an end, the Buddhist monks withdrew to allow a

Brahmanic ceremony to take place.

The Brahmanic Consecration

Three Bakus led the sovereign to the audience hall within the Throne Hall and asked

him to sit on the elevated throne, a symbolic representation of Mount Meru. The King

turned to each of the eight principal directions of the living space, represented

by a Brahman priest and then drank from a sea shell, washed his face with the remainder

of the water and trumpeted the shell.

The sovereign then welcomed in his arms a statue of Shiva and one of Vishnu and swore

in front of the Brahmanic idols kept in the palace to maintain the ancient national

traditions. The King then received his Kingdom: earth, waters, mountains and forests

which the Chief Baku presented to him on behalf of his people.

The Chief Baku then placed on the sovereign's head the crown, the Mokot, and the

King then adjusted a pair of golden slippers and took possession of the other items

of his regalia by touching them.

The last part of the Brahmanic ritual ended with the Sovereign coming down from the

elevated throne and sitting on the ordinary throne and receiving the unction with

sacred oil from the Chief Baku.

The Pradakshina, or Procession of the Nobles

The last part of the Coronation ceremony is the Pradakshina. The Ladies of the Court,

the princes and princesses, the mandarins and nobles with lit candles circulated

around the throne three times in such a way that their right shoulder was always

presented to the new sovereign.

Just before the end of the ceremony, the mandarins and other senior Court officials

laid down in front of the throne the insignia of their functions which the master

of the kingdom would return the following morning, thus giving them a new mandate

to continue in their functions.

The ceremony ended with the King travelling by a Royal Cortege along the principal

avenues of the capital, where the people have their first contact with their new

sovereign.

The consecration of the Queen used to be held in private. Normally it took place

in the presence only of the ladies of the Court and with their assistants. After

three days of prayers by Buddhist monks, the Queen received the lustral water and

sacred oil from the King.

In 1993, the ceremony was held in public and with minimum fanfare in accordance with

the wishes of the King and Queen.

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