Bon Om Thook (Khmer) n), the Khmer Water Festival, is a Cambodian festival celebrated in November. Every town and province joins in with the festival but the biggest celebrations take place in Phnom Penh. For three days, workers from every province join with the city's residents to celebrate by night and day.
The festival lasts for three days, and commemorates the end of the country's rainy season, as well as the reversal of flow of the Tonle Sap River. It includes boat races and concerts, and attracts several million people each year.
The boat racing that takes place during the festival is a tradition over a thousand years old that commemorates the power of the ancient Khmer Empire.
Bon Om Thook is ancient; having its roots in a time when the Angkorian kings would test the fighting prowess of their warriors by holding competitions. The races were a form of training and a means by which the king could choose his champions. To this end they were used in a similar way to jousting tournaments in medieval Europe.
Cambodian temple carvings at Bayon and Banteay Chmar have numerous depictions of battles fought on water. Spiritually, the festival provides a chance to give thanks to Buddha for the year's rice crop and to ask for sufficient rain in the coming year. There are 3 other ceremonies during the festival.
The festival was the site of a major stampede at the 2010 event, as well as having five rowers drown in 2008 and a single rower drown in 2009 during the boat races.
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