According to Kim Ngoc Thai, Vice Chairman of the Tra Vinh provincial People’s Committee and head of the organising board, Ok Om Bok is one of the main traditional festivals of the Khmer ethnic people in southern provinces in general and Tra Vinh province in particular, besides Sene Dolta and Chol Chnam Thmay festivals.
Via its variety of activities, the event aims to introduce and promote the tourism potential of the province to tourists, as well as reinforce the tourism cooperation among cities and provinces.
|Ghe Ngo (Khmer boat) race
It is also expected to create a joyful festive atmosphere, and contribute to the preservation and promotion of Ok Om Bok Festival that has been recognised as part of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The one-week festival comprised of a variety of cultural and sports events, including trade fairs of local specialties, traditional competitions like tug-of-war, crossing a bamboo bridge and a contest of designing typical souvenirs from Tra Vinh province.
The highlight of this year’s festival was the Ghe Ngo (Khmer boat) race that took place on November 13. The race attracted the participation of six rowing teams with nearly 400 athletes from different districts and cities within the province.
Khmer people view the Ghe Ngo race as both a game and a way to express solidarity, as well as a traditional ritual to see off the God of Water to the ocean after the growing season. It is also a religious ritual of the Khmer to commemorate the Snake God Nagar, who once turned into a lump of wood to help the Buddha cross the river according to legend.
Ok Om Bok festival takes place under the full moon in the 10th lunar month annually, when it changes from the rainy season to the dry season, the growing season to the harvest season.
The Khmer believe the moon is a God who controls the weather and crops throughout the year. The Ok Om Bok Festival of each village takes place in the garden of a local pagoda, while the whole province’s Ok Om Bok Festival takes place at Ba Om Pond. On this occasion, Khmer people provide offerings of farm products to thank the God’s blessing for favourable weather and their bountiful harvest.