Monday, February 16, 2009

Mummified monk

The Most Venerable Sam Bunthoeun in his mummified state at Oudong
I've introduced you to the life-like waxwork models of some of Cambodia's leading clergy in the past. A group of sixteen statues of the most eminent and revered Buddhist monks can be found at the hilltop temple and pagoda of Wat Han Chey, near Kompong Cham. To add to the collection, yesterday I visited more of the same as well as the mummified body of another leading Buddhist monk at Oudong. The Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Center is a large, sprawling complex at the foot of the Oudong mountain where the youthful advocate of human rights Sam Bunthoeun was appointed president and chief abbot in 1996. Seven years later in February 2003, aged just 47, he was gunned down by two unknown assailants at Wat Lanka in Phnom Penh, after he encouraged monks to register and vote in the National Assembly elections at that time. No-one has ever been arrested and the investigation remains open. Today his body lies in a large glass case and has become a popular pilgrimage for his followers, and anyone wishing to view a mummified body at close range. It's impossible to get so close to the body of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, so this will satisfy those with a similar curiosity. There was a group of small children with me when I visited and they didn't seem fazed at all by this rather gruesome looking body in front of us. In the corner a very life-like wax model is a bit surplus to requirements when you have the real thing next to it, and a group of real monks were stationed closeby to deliver good fortune on the steady stream of visitors. All a bit bizarre but that's Cambodia for you.
A very life-like waxwork model of a seated Sam Bunthoeun
In the background of their former abbot, these four monks enjoy a light-hearted moment
The glass-fronted casket containing the mummified body of the chief abbot
The monks bless the assembled throng with flower petals

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Blogger sayadian said...

When I visited the college 6 months ago the nuns who look after the casket swore that he had not been mummified and that the lack of bodily corruption was due to his holiness.I have heard similar claims in India.Do you know anymore about this? Did his body get treated in any way?

July 10, 2009 at 2:51 PM  

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