For the Khmer ethnic people the ceremony of launching the boat called Ghe ngo is a special event. A Ghe ngo is launched only once a year to participate in the Ok Om Bok Festival. After the ceremony it is taken ashore and preserved. This practice has become a unique cultural feature with both traditional and spiritual characteristics.
The Ok Om Bok Festival
The time and date of launching the boat is decided by each hamlet and is suitable to the feng-shui and the worshipping object of the hamlet. At Sro Lon Pagoda in Dai Tam Commune, My Xuyen District, Soc Trang Province, the boat launching ceremony starts in the early morning. The main offering of the ceremony is Slath thor made of a coconut fruit (Slath thor Don) or a banana trunk (Slathor Chek) for planting the incense and candles. Before the ceremony is conducted, the sorcerer places the Slath thor at the positions of the rowers along the hulls of the boat.
Trays of cakes, fruit and a pig’s head or poultry are placed at the bow, middle and stern of the boat, depending on each pagoda. The competing participants stand around the boat. The chief monk of the pagoda or a member of the management board works as the master of the ceremony. He prays for the Ghe ngo-protecting genie to accompany the boat to help it win the race. After that, the chief monk brings a jar of water with the scent of flowers.