On the mountain with pilgrims

By Jayshri Patel
Kham Sina has visited the temples of Angkor countless times, that is his job as a guide.
As he led my travel partner and me down twisting path of Bakheng Mountain–upon which Phnom Bakheng sits as the oldest Hindu temple in Cambodia–Sina explained that he visits the temples for his own reasons only during the full moon or festival times.
Today, Cambodians celebrated the Water Festival outside Angkor Tohm. And many came. Riding in our tuk-tuk toward Bahkeng Mountain, we passed hundreds lounging by the roadside, enjoying clams, snails, bread. Tractors and vans, filled beyond the passenger capacity, whipped up clouds of dust as they chugged toward the temple. Walking toward the base of the mountain, I saw people dozing under the sun; they looked exhausted yet reposed, and I found out why after we trekked up the mountain.
These people had made a pilgrimage to Phnom Bakheng, they had climbed an exceedingly steep incline to pray around the footprint of Buddha imprinted atop the mountain. Sina nonchalantly explained that the pilgrims prayed for the future; they prayed for the monsoon to bring abundant rains to their fields–hence, Water Festival.
What Sina implied was that the people believed that the future was out of their hands. While celebrating the Water Festival, the people were thanking Buddha for today’s blessings and asking for tomorrow’s.

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