The Phchum Ben festival is the big one among other Khmer’s festivals, which held every year.
Khmer people always participate every year from the first day to the fourteenth day of the waning moon of the tenth month of the lunar calendar (correspondents to August-September), the period is 14 days (which called Ben Muoy, Ben Pir,…and the last day is the fifteenth day, called ” the Phchum Ben day”). This year it held from 11th to 25th of September of solar calendar.

For a long time ago, this festival was held for 3 months, to comfort the monks’ difficulty in going to beg for food in the rainy season, which full of mud and wet to the monks’ clothes. In the contrast, depending on the changing the society condition, the people living from one generation to one generation, the period of holding festival was shorter and shorter until for 15 days.

For 15 days of this festival, Khmer people (the Buddha’s disciples) always get up in early morning or sleep in the pagodas in order to throw Bay Ben (balls of rice with coconuts, beans, and sesame seed) by walking around Buddhist temple to throw from the North to the South, because they believe that the soul of the death became ghost, who once a year, they were let to come to get food from relatives at pagoda in dark time. Beside delivery food to monks, we can give money…etc. to beggar, invalid people as well.

There’s a background of Phchum Ben, which extracted from the Vicheathor scripture among three scripture: ” In the time of the Buddha living, there is a Preah Mahathe (senior monk with at least 10 years of seniority), named Upakuttatthe flew to the hell. When he arrived there, all the ghosts, evils saw him, because of his supreme power. At the mean time, they send a message with him to their relatives ” please tell my parents, brothers, sisters and other relatives (with their names and their home), please feel sorry for us by giving food to us without fail. If in the time of Ronoch (15 days period of the waning moon) of Phaktrobot, the relatives give something to us, we will give the wishes to them to get happiness all the time of living…etc.”

When Upakuttatthe cameback from hell, he gave the wishes to the king, and the king asked him ” if my parents or relatives died and went to live in hell, I want to give food to them. How can I do?”. The Upakuttatthe said ” you can make the Bay Ben(balls of rice) everyday from the first day to the fifteenth day of the waning moon of the tenth month of the lunar calendar, have to practice the 5 precepts of Buddha (not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to speak falsely, not to slander), invite monks to pray and eat food every morning and dedicate to their relatives in hell, in purpose to rebirth in paradise as their wishes”.

In 15 days of this festival, Khmer people always seize the busy time to go to pagoda, at least go to pagoda once, by the way, the death will be angry and insult.
Because of these beliefs, in the time of 15 days, in the pagodas are full of crowded people noisy with the voice of monk to pray.

Every year, Khmer people go to pagoda with food in hands and smiled face by hoping that their food will deliver to their dead relatives and they will get lucky back in their living everyday.