Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Funeral of Sihanouk: Day 5, ashes

Sunset on the Palace
The 'Four Faces' crowning the spire of the Throne Hall 
at the Royal Palace. Sunset, February 5, 2013

The late King Father Norodom Sihanouk was cremated yesterday evening at the Veal Preah Man (Meru) next to the Royal Palace. This morning the ashes of the pyre were collected from the crematorium and transported by procession to the the royal funerary barge docked near the Preah Ong Dong Ar Temple in front of the Royal Palace area on the Tonle Sap River. The barge, pulled by a tug boat, ferried the ashes and attendees a short distance to the confluence of the Mekong River, the 'Chaktomuk,' literally translated, the 'Four Faces' of the Mekong, where most of the ashes were lowered to the river in sacks, scattered to the waters.

With the ashes gone, the tiered Royal parasol that crowned Veal Preah Man (Meru) was removed, and stood conspicuous in its absence today. The remaining ashes will be returned to the Palace and ultimately the 'Silver Pagoda' where, according to AFP, they will be placed in the "Kantha Bopha stupa," King Sihanouk's beloved daughter, Kantha Bopha, who died as a child.

The Chaktomuk, literally translated the 'Four Faces,' is the riverine crossroads in the heart of Cambodia where the Mekong River and its tributary the Tonle Sap meet and connect Phnom Penh to the 'four corners' of Cambodia - the old Angkorian capital to the west, Laos to the north and the South China Sea to the south and east, loosely quartering into the four cardinal point. When the Khmer capital moved from Angkor to the banks of the confluence of the Mekong in the 15th century, the area was known as 'Chaktomuk,' only later becoming 'Phnom Penh.' This move also reflected a fundamental shift in the nature of the Khmer empire, from an agrarian society to a trade based society, harkening back to the old empire of Funan.

The Four Faces is also a theme echoed throughout Khmer art and architecture. The spire of Throne Hall of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is crowned by Four Faces, the design of which is said to have received inspiration from the Four Face monuments of Bayon temple at Angkor. Today, Sihanouk was laid to final rest at the Chaktomuk, the Four Faces, at the geographic and spiritual heart of post-Angkorian Cambodia.  

Spires of the Throne Hall of the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh (2011). The Palace sits on Sothearos Blvd. about 100 meters off river, overlooking the Chaktomuk.

'Four faces' at Angkor, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Siem Reap province, circa 13th century AD.

Map of the area around the confluence of the Mekong River, Chaktomuk, Cambodia

Map of the area around the confluence of the Mekong River, Chaktomuk, Cambodia

Veal Preah Man with tiered-parasol removed. Feruary 5, 2013, 5:00PM.

Royal funerary barge, its duty discharged, being tugged into port. The Chaktomuk ('Four Faces' of the Mekong River) in the background.)

Empty, barricaded street in front of the Royal Palace. Most of the area remained closed to the public today, though the police seemed a bit looser in enforcement. People (Cambodians) that I spoke to on the street continued to complain about being kept away from the funeral and the security measures in general. Everybody seems to have a story of some country person that had gone to extraordinary lengths to travel to Phnom Penh for the funeral, only to be denied access. Other Cambodians say that despite the heavy police presence, crime has in fact been rife, recounting tales of pickpockets, robberies and assaults in the riverfront area, adding that while the police have been effective at protecting the elite and keeping the public away from the funeral, they have done little else. I don't have any confirmation of these claims of increased crime, but true or not, it likely reflects an increasing frustration with how security and crowd control have been handled. 

1 comment:

  1. The time during his death and his burn was very long, first time It's happen like this.. more than 3 months!