Cautious Cambodia - 2007


The capital city takes its name from a Lady Penh who founded a large temple on the highest hill in the area in 1467. The hill is also named after her and the temple still stands and is considered quite sacred to the Buddhists believers. Many make pilgrimages to the temple, climbing up the steps to make offerings of fruit and flowers, but most interestingly, of birds. We were quite taken with the practice because it did not involve the killing of the birds. Rather it seems that the bird vendors were making the “killing.” They sell their birds from cages to the faithful who then release the birds to bring their prayers to heaven. We are just sure that these pigeons are the “homing” variety who no doubt return to their owner’s cages each night to be sold again to another worshipper. Not a bad deal for any of the parties to the sales: the faithful make their offering, the sellers don’t have to keep finding new birds, and the birds are fed and cared for tenderly. One of the gentlest customs we have seen in Southeast Asia, especially heartwarming that these people who have been treated so cruelly by their countrymen can conceive of such a kindly method of making their animal “sacrifices.” 44

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