Peace, Justice and Human Rights.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Cambodia's Waters

The Bon Om Tuk Water Festival is one of Cambodia's most important celebrations. It’s a time of thanksgiving to the waters that fertilize the land and bring abundant fish. Bon Om Tuk marks the end of the rainy season. And it honors an amazing phenomenon. The Tonle Sap River is the only river to reverse its direction twice a year. The Tonle Sap River joins the Tonle Sap Lake with the Mekong River. Lake Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. The Mekong River enters Cambodia from Laos in the north, runs south across the Kingdom, into Vietnam and to the sea.

                                     wikipedia photos. author: Matti Kumu

The level of the Mekong rises during the rainy season, through October. This causes the Tonle Sap River to back up, and flow to the northwest and into Lake Tonle Sap. The lake quadruples in size. When the dry season comes, the water backs up into the Mekong once again.

                                         photo: Jennifer Phoon

During Bon Om Tuk, boat races are usually held on The Tonle Sap River and around Cambodia. The boat race water festival dates back to the 12th century, as decreed by King Jayavarman and depicted in bas reliefs at Angkor Wat. Crews of 40 or more oarsmen man hundreds of longboats. At night, illuminated dragon boats cruise the waterways under brilliant fireworks displays.

                                                                    photo: Werner Pauwels

At the climax of the festival, the King commands the Tonle Sap to reverse direction and flow to the sea. The river obeys. This coincides with the full moon in November. Sampeah Preah Khae is a ceremony where people gather at midnight to salute the moon.

                                                                                   photo: Frederick Noronha

"Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it." ~Lao Tzu

"Water is the driving force of all nature." ~Leonardo da Vinci

"Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."
~W.H. Auden 

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