After the annual “doubt” moment, searching for a hiding moon, the word spread out on September 11: Ramadan would start on 13.09.07 this year, as it could be heard on TV and radio all through Cambodia in the Mufti Sos Kamry message.The occasion on this first eve for families in Chrok Romirt (Kompong Chhnang province) to light homes with candles. The opportunity for kids to run around, deliberating on the most beautiful illuminations. A few hours later, in the middle of the night, families would wake up for a last meal with the call from the mosque. A habit for a number of villagers whom, as blacksmiths, are used to nocturnal activities.
In the neighboring village of O’Russei, similar traditions are in place: candles burn within the house, nearby offerings to the memory of the ancestors, and young boys join their first prayer in the mosque, before sharing the common meal with all the villagers. One difference though: as for most main events of the year according to the Muslim calendar, O’Russei – as well as a few others “traditionalist” villages – inaugurated the Ramadan on the 15 September, as the moon, still hiding, would not allow an earlier start.
After one month of fast, more or less followed, people are urging to religious acknowledged elders, yet poor, to buy the P’Ga Fitra, rice of the fitra. The visitor trades for each member of the family, a fixed amount – the price of the rice – for a prayer, seen as a protective benediction as well, upon 3 kilos of rice per person. The rice is re-given to the under-privileged owner, and therefore seen as a rewarding donation.
Part of the Chrok Romirt community broke the fast a day earlier, on the 12.09.07, as most of Wahhabis around the world did. Finally, sun raises and it’s now time to share blessings. In the mosque, but moreover all through the village, families go from one home to another to share ‘Ma’Ah Ma’Ah’ with relatives and neighbours: a salutation to forgive, be forgiven and an occasion to share festive meals and news.
The day is still high when about twenty young women are regrouping through a procession going to the mosque: today has been chosen for the Tamath. For those who accomplished the study of the coran it’s the time for a public reading of the holy book, under the guidance of the Imam chief of the mosque.
On the opposite side of the village young boys went under the guidance of an elder to clean up family tombs and pay respect to their ancestors. A very common act to take place during festive days, to show new generations the localisation of the tombs, so that elders shall not be forgotten.
It is not until the next day that the fast will be broken in O’Russei. But this year, besides the ritual inside the walls of the mosque, the event is also happening outside, with a quite unusual photographic exhibition, right there on the mosque walls (To be continued…)
Phnom Penh, February 11, 2013, Emiko Stock.
* Originally published in Du Fin Fond Du Grenier Newsletter IV, October 2007.
Those little field-notes are reminiscences of the past blogs and shares. While they are not proud of their flaws, I thought they shouldn’t be punished for it. Hopefully you will forgive them to be just as they come, just as they will remain.
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