The new angel of the Khmer New Year, a devada called Raksatevi, was honored upon her arrival at 1:36 am with offerings of blood, her favorite food.
Actually, the offerings are not as ghoulish, consisting mostly of red juice or even red cans of Coca-Cola, said one man helping his mother-in-law run her small grocery shop in Phnom Penh.
“The new god coming will also be offered 11 kinds of fruit, and red ones are the best,” Sato Kang, a teacher’s assistant at Loggers International School, said Monday.
Many people portend that the Year of the Ox will be an ugly one because of Raksatevi’s preferred form of sustenance.
“The new god is strange a little bit, because it eats blood,” Mr Sato Kang said, adding that many are predicting a horrible year.
Raksatevi is the third daughter of Kabil Moha Promh, one of the two wisest gods in Khmer ancient astrology, who was decapitated after losing a riddle competition. She favors all black clothing, is escorted by a horse and holds a trident in her right hand and a bow in her left.
“The devada angel has existed since [before] the Buddhist era. It is not from any religion; it is animism,” Miech Ponn, adviser to the Cambodian Customs Committee of the Buddhist Institute, said by phone Monday.
“It is the belief, traditions and habits from our ancestors,” Dork Narin, undersecretary of state of the Cults and Religion Ministry, said of the devada Monday, adding that it is a mix of Brahmanism and Buddhism.
There are seven devadas, and the one that arrives is determined by the day of the week the New Year falls on. The angel was also determined by the Moha Sangkran almanac, the annual publication that predicts Cambodia’s future for the coming year. The almanac forecasts that half the crops will be lost in the coming year and that “people will meet turmoil or obstacles provoked by [civil] unrest.”
But predictions of disaster aside, Khmer New Year is still a lot of fun.
“It is a happy time when workers and employees can relax for three days and enjoy traditions and culture,” Ho Vandy, Cambodian Association of Travel Agents secretary general, said Monday.
It is also a great time for the tourism industry, he added, because everyone heads home to the provinces. Hotels are overbooked nationwide, Mr Ho Vandy said.