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- 10/11/2019 2:26 PM
KANDAL-- More than a thousand of local visitors flocked to the Vihear Sour pagoda here on Saturday to enjoy the water buffalo race, an annual event to mark the end of the Pchum Ben festival, or the Ancestors' Day.
With their heads adorned with colorful masks, water buffalos were raced along a 450-meter stretch of road leading to the pagoda, where crowds of audience were watching and using their smartphones to capture the moments of the race.
Mey Chheang Heng, head of the buffalo racing committee, said the tradition of buffalo race at the pagoda has existed since the 1920s, aiming at celebrating the Pchum Ben festival.
"At this year's event, more than 10 pairs of buffaloes, along with 15 pairs of horses, took part in the race. The number of buffaloes this year is higher than that of last year," he told Xinhua, adding that only eight pairs of buffaloes took part in the race at the last year's event.
"This is the custom and tradition at the Vihear Sour pagoda here. Every year, villagers always bring their buffaloes and horses to join the race in order to entertain the spirits who take care of the Vihear Sour pagoda," the 70-year-old man said.
Chheang Heng said he had watched buffalo racing at the pagoda since the 1960s.
Buffalo rider Chhoeun Chheang, 32, said he has joined the competition for many years in order to help preserve this age-old tradition from disappearance.
"This is our ancient Khmer tradition," he told Xinhua. "According to the belief in the ancient time, our ancestors prayed to the spirits of the Vihear Sour pagoda, asking them to protect the animals from illnesses."
He said the race was for fun only and after it, contestants rode on their oxen back home and used them for normal farm work.
One of the spectators Moul Sophy, 46, said he had never lost his excitement in seeing the race, though he had watched it every year since he was a child.
"I'm a resident in this province and has enjoyed the buffalo race every year," he said. "I feel very happy to watch the race with a lot of visitors from Kandal province, other far provinces, and the (Phnom Penh) city."
Vihear Sour pagoda is located in Vihear Sour village of Kandal province's Ksach Kandal district, about 40 km northeast of Phnom Penh.