Sene Don Ta ceremony of the Khmer people is a big ceremony in the year, clearly showing folk beliefs, mixed with religion. The ritual shows the moral tradition of "the tree has its roots, the water has its source" of the Vietnamese ethnic community, with humanity and profound moral education.
Khmer people listening to worship at the temple (photo taken before the outbreak of Covid-19 epidemic). Photo: CHANH THAI
Venerable Lam Suong - Vice President of Soc Trang Province's Solidarity of Patriotic Monks Association, Abbot of Om Pu Year Pagoda said: "The Sene Don Ta festival is also known as the Phchum banh (Ph-chum banh) festival - the festival of blessings because the Khmer consider this ceremony as the biggest of the merit-creating ceremonies, as the Khmer do almost all ceremonies to create merit. For ancestors, grandparents, and parents who have passed away, it is best that the bones and ashes are kept in the pagoda's stupa to stay cool under the shade of the Bodhi tree.
Sene Don Ta ceremony usually takes place in three days:
Day 1: Each family cleans the house and the ancestral altar. After that, prepare a tray of rice, fruits, cakes, wine, tea... and invite family members to burn incense, light, and pray to invite the souls of grandparents and the deceased to return to their children and grandchildren. In the afternoon, everyone dressed neatly, continue to prepare a new tray of rice to offer to grandparents, then invite the spirits of grandparents to come to the temple to listen to the monks chanting sutras and preaching until the evening. In addition, the achars take the squeezed rice balls from the three-treasure tray of worship, invite the monks to chant sutras to pray for the souls of the deceased, and then bring them out and put around the main hall to worship the lonely souls without descendants.
The second day: Khmer people prepare a tray of rice, cakes, fruits, etc, and bring it to the temple to organize the main worship, then being chanted sutras by the monks to pray for all the spirits of grandparents of all families in the village.
The third day: Each family prepares a tray of rice, they invite a few monks and relatives to come to their house to chant sutras to see off the soul of the deceased. Particularly for grandparents, deceased relatives, they prepare a boat made of banana branches, with flag banners attached, 2 effigies (representing ancestors) and offerings each type a little, including rice bag, salt, clothes, money, votive papers... and then light incense, candles and drop the boats in rivers and canals near the house to bring grandparents and deceased relatives back to the afterlife.
After the ceremony was completed, the Khmer descendants brought a boat to drop their ancestors back to their origin (photo taken before the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic). Photo: CHANH THAI
Sene Don Ta ceremony of Khmer people in the South is one of the rituals with great meaning of filial piety, remembrance of the birth and upbringing of grandparents, parents, and the deceased to their children and grandchildren. Besides, this ceremony also shows the traditional beauty of the spirit in religious activities, beliefs, cultural life associated with religious activities in the Khmer pagodas.