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One of the most spiritually enlightening experiences a tourist to Cambodia can see is the donation of alms to monks. Each morning saffron robed monks leave their pagodas either singly, or in a group, to walk through towns and villages to collect donations of food. Monks are expected to walk barefoot, though in the cities flip flops are often worn to protect their feet from the city dirt.

Alms giving, Battambang (1)

The food is donated by villagers and townspeople that see the gift as doing good in this life which will also help them in future lives too. Monks ‘accept’ food but do not ‘request’. Food is usually all mixed together and placed into their bowls. A monk must accept what he is given. Remember they do not earn salaries so have to rely upon donations. The most religious people will prepare a little extra food if the monks usually pass their homes on their morning walks. Should the monks arrive early before the food is prepared then a small cash donation may be given instead. This is also beneficial to the monks as it allows them to buy other additional goods they need for daily life such as soap to wash themselves. After the donation a short blessing is given by the monks as a return of spiritual merit.

Alms giving, Battambang (4)

The alms bowls are traditionally made from steel before being placed in a wood-fired oven. In the village of Koh Chen (35km from Phnom Penh) the bowls are made in the old style and a visit can be arranged as part of a daytrip to Udong.

Alms giving, Battambang (2)

The food collected is taken to the temple where it is shared amongst all monks. Some of the older monks may not leave the temple so rely on donations to be collected. Often the food is plentiful and after the monks finish eating the remainder is shared amongst laypeople who live or visit the temple.

Alms giving, Battambang (5)

The alms collections can be seen throughout Cambodia. The photos taken in this blog are from Battambang where a group of monks leave their temple, cross by boat across the river and then walk amongst the small streets as they collect donations. This can be seen most of the year though during festivals such as Pchum Ben the monks stay in the temples and the food is brought to them.  

Alms giving, Battambang (6)