Solemn Tone Set on Day One of Coronation Had

Appearing pallid and somber compared to his smiling arrival at Phnom Penh International Air­port last week, King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday presided over the first official ceremony of his three-day coronation.

With a faint smile, King Siha­moni emerged from the Palace’s Tevea Venichhay temple Thurs­day afternoon to the sound of bells, xylophones and the scent of spices and jasmine flowers.

King Sihamoni bowed solemnly at his royal guests before bowing before a table adorned with golden bowls filled with bananas, grapes, pears and rice. He then placed two wreaths of jasmine flowers atop a golden pillow and lit bundles of incense sticks, which he placed around the table.

In silence, the new king took his place on the red-carpeted floor as a Brahmin priest chanted a prayer, ending with the sound of conch-shell horns.

After the ceremony, Royal Palace priest Nou Vann said this was the first of several traditional formalities to be made during the coronation ceremony. “This ceremony means we invited the blessing from all the Tevadas [angels] on our new king,” Nou Vann said.

He also said the ceremony represented the seeking of permission from the land to organize the coronation. King Sihamoni then lit a large candle in what the priest said represented victory throughout his reign.

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk and Queen Norodom Moni­neath were not at the king’s side. Nor were they among the guests, who were seated in front of the temple, and, like the King, were dressed in crisp white shirts and emerald green silk trousers.

Also absent from the audience, comprised mostly of members of the royal family, was his half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

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