- According to National Today, Pchum Ben falls on the 15th day of the 10th Khmer month. This dates back to the 1st century B.C., when both Pchum Ben and the Taoist Ghost Festival came about during the Mahayana period.
- Cambodian Buddhists believe the souls of their ancestors are released for 15 days every year, and they wait at pagodas for their loved ones to return to them.
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- During the first 14 days, called Kan Ben, food, money, clothing and other items are offered to monks at nearby pagodas in order to save Buddhists from bad karma. These monks pass along those offerings to their deceased relatives.
- On the 15th day, Ben Thom stands as the main festival day for which Cambodian Buddhists dress up for the occasion. Families bring in baskets of flowers, and children offer sticky rice cakes called bay ben to the monks.
- By offering food and prayers, Cambodians are “helping their ancestors pass on to a better life” as well as ensuring their ancestors will bless them and their living relatives.
- Instead of the usual two-weeks of festival rituals, this year’s Pchum Ben will be cut short and conclude on the weekend. The early end is “necessary to control the spread of COVID-19… at the time that Cambodia is reopening schools and is planning to reopen the country,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a statement last Thursday.
- Buddhist temples have been locked down in Phnom Penh after 50 monks tested positive for coronavirus.