Prayers and buffalo races at Cambodia's Festival of the Dead

Prayers and buffalo races at Cambodia's Festival of the Dead

Buffalos are seen decorated during during the last day of Pchum Ben festival, or the festival of the dead, at Virhear Sour village in Kandal province, Cambodia, on Wednesday. (Reuters photo)
Buffalos are seen decorated during during the last day of Pchum Ben festival, or the festival of the dead, at Virhear Sour village in Kandal province, Cambodia, on Wednesday. (Reuters photo)

KANDAL, Cambodia, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Hundreds gathered on Wednesday to watch horse and buffalo races at Vihear Sour Pagoda, northeast of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, on the last day of the annual Festival of the Dead.

"It is fun to watch the horse and buffalo races here," said Morn Ray, a 28-year-old villager living nearby, who comes each year to enjoy the spectacle of colourfully decorated animals being raced down a dirt track.

The two-week festival is traditionally a time when Cambodians pay respects to their deceased relatives and offer alms to monks.

At the pagoda, people place various food dishes on the floor, an action believed to generate good merit for the souls of their deceased loved ones.

"I prayed for those who have died to come and collect our food and drink offerings, and then asked them to grant all of my family members good luck," said Khat Rim, 65, who had travelled to the pagoda from Phnom Penh. The Festival of the Dead took on added significance after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, a regime that killed about a third of the country's population.

As many as 2.2 million people were executed or died of torture, starvation or exhaustion during the Khmer Rouge's murderous bid to create a peasant utopia from 1975-1979.

A boy rides on his horse for racing as part of the festival of Pchum Ben, or Ancestors' Day at Vihear Sour pagoda in Kandal province, northeast of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Wednesday. (AP Photo)


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