Reverential Procession Takes Relics to Odong

The sharp note of a trumpet sounded as the sun rose on Thursday, as King Norodom Sihanouk took a glass case containing what are thought to be Buddha’s relics from a stupa in front of the railway station.

After seven days of religious ceremonies, the King transported the relics—said to be hair, teeth and bones of the Buddha—to the former Khmer capital of Odong. Po­lice officials estimate that be­tween 1 million and 2 million people from all over the country joined the various stages of the transfer.

In Phnom Penh, monks, nuns and tens of thousands of Cam­bo­dian Buddhists gathered at 6 am to see the relics leave their dec­ades-old resting place for a new home in a newly constructed stupa atop the Odong temple mountain in Ponhea Leu district, Kandal province.

King Sihanouk, Queen Noro­dom Monineath and other followers walked the relics up Moni­vong Boulevard to the French Embassy. The royal couple then took a car up National Route 5.

The road was clogged with accompanying traffic; the drive of 45 km took about three hours. Cambodian flags lined both sides of the route as sweat-drenched traffic police tried to control the snarled mass of vehicles.

“I am so busy,” said traffic policeman Mong Roth. “Look at all these people, motorbikes and vehicles on the road. After contacting other police in different places I believe at least 2 million people joined this ceremony.”

Those who made the trip out of religious and patriotic devotion were aglow with pride and happiness.

“I have never hoped I would have the chance to accompany Buddhist relics,” said Phoung Noun, 57, from Kompong Cham province.

Phuong Noun said she and several other villagers spent 20,000 riel (about $5) each to hire a taxi for two days, arriving in Phnom Penh Wednesday evening in anticipation of the early morning start.

Path Porn, 30, from Kompong Speu province, said the ceremony reflected well on her country’s respect for the state religion. “I am so lucky to be alive to see the Buddhist relic ceremony and the superior new place where we will save it,” she said.

Cambodians living along National Route 5 prepared incense sticks, candles, lotus flowers and water all along the way as they prayed for good luck and gave offerings to monks.

“I will get blessings for what I have given to monks and poor Cambodian Buddhists from the provinces who are short of food and are accompanying the relics,” said Moth Roun, 45, of Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, his head wet from being blessed with water by monks.

The King and the relics reached the base of Odong mountain around 9 am. King Sihanouk, 80, then proceeded to climb the 509 steps of the 42-meter-tall hill carrying the small, cubical glass box containing the relics.

At the end of the trail lay a gleaming new stupa, its bell-shaped bottom painted shiny white, its top spire golden.

King Sihanouk said the relics had found an appropriate home. “This new stupa is located in a holy place, a former Khmer capital,” the King said. “It has natural resources of forests, fresh air and a good environment,” he said.

The transfer of the relics was an achievement that would bring greater peace, happiness and success to Cambodia, the monarch said.

Construction of the new $4.5 million stupa finished in August. The money came from the King and Queen, as well as Japanese, Thai and other donors, both public and private, according to Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol.


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