When you’re told about the years of oppressive regime that the Cambodians endured under the Khmer Rouge, you can't help but wonder how this South-east Asian country managed to preserve its fascinating culture. It is, perhaps, the traditional values carried by its people that helped rebuild the nation wounded by decades-long war, genocide, and repression. Today, Cambodia is rapidly progressing with an economic growth averaging nearly 6 percent. The country has also witnessed the development of various sectors, such as construction, textiles, and tourism. Every year, curious tourists from different corners of the world arrive in this country to explore its fabulous cultural delights:
There was a time when Cambodia flourished under the rule of king Jayavarman II, who was considered by his followers and subjects as the 'Devaraja' or 'God-king'. He established the Khmer Empire, which ruled the country between the 9th and the 15th centuries. Angkor, the centre of power of this empire was the largest pre-industrial city in the world according to an international team of researchers. The empire built many of the majestic temples that you come across during your sightseeing trips today. Among them is the globally renowned Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu, and spans a vast area of 203 acres.
The Buddhist way of life
The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism, which is based on the teachings of Buddha preserved in the Pali Canon. The Pali language originated in India, but survived in countries that embraced Buddhism; Cambodia being one of them. It is still used for studying Buddhist texts in Cambodia. The important elements of Cambodian Buddhism are the 'wat' or temple and the 'bhikkhu' or monk. Almost all the males in Cambodia serve terms as bhikkhus during their lifetime. It is considered an honour for parents if their son undergoes even a temporary ordination as a bhikkhu. The young men can either choose to remain as monks for less than a year or become fully ordained bhikkhus for the rest of their lives.
There are three major categories of dances in Cambodia. The classical dance of the royal court, the folk dance, and social dances. Robam Preah Reach Trop or the Khmer classical dance is the country's leading form of performing art. It is performed by dancers in elaborate costumes, while the music is played by an ensemble. It originated in the royal courts of kings and was introduced to the general public in the mid-20th century. The two variations of this dance form are 'Robam Chuon Por' or the 'wishing dance' and 'Robam Tep Apsara' or the 'Apsara dance'. As opposed to the classical dances, folk dances are more fast-paced and are performed with music played by the 'Mahori' orchestra. Social dances are performed generally at banquet parties.
If you venture out on the streets of Cambodia, you'd surely find the 'Bai Sach Chrouk' or 'pork and rice' served on the street corners. It is one of the most delicious dishes of Cambodia and consists of rice and grilled pork. Another popular dish is 'Fish Amok', which is a fish mousse prepared using fresh coconut milk and various spices, such as garlic, Chinese ginger, and galangal. Khmer red curry, Khmer noodles, and fried crab are other mouth-watering varieties of the Cambodian cuisine, which you can savour during your time spent in the country.