Angkor Wat

angkor_wat
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Roeung Slar Malou

Story of
The Areca Nut Tree and the Betel Vine

   Areca_Tree_and_Nuts_-_thumbnails        Piper_Betel_Vine_-_Thumbnail 

KS_wedding_-_thong_rorng_-_Copy

Areca nut, Betel leaves and lime in two 'Thuong Rorng' (containers) which are the main focus at a weddng ceremony

Once upon a time, there were two brothers - Somm and Rith, whose parents passed away when they were very young. Without any relatives around and with very little help from the villagers, the brothers relied on each other to survive. Life was difficult but thanks to their genuine love and great care for one another, they managed to live together in perfect harmony.

One day, having realised that they did not have any skills to earn a living in the future, they decided to set out and walk from one village to another in search for a wise man or a skilful man who would kindly give them some training. After many days, they met a kind man who told them of a wiseman who could be the person they were looking for.

On their arrival to the wise man’s house, the two brothers introduced themselves and told him about their intentions. In exchange for lessons, the brothers offered to work for the wise man as his house-boys. The wise man felt sorry for them and agreed to let them stay and be his students.

Many years had passed. The two brothers proved themselves to be perfectly decent young men. They were polite, hard-working, honest, kind and intelligent. These qualities were what the wise man had been searching for in a prospective husband for his beautiful daughter. He liked them both, but according to tradition, he had to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to the older brother. The younger brother, being a kind and understanding man, accepted this whole-heartedly and was very happy for his older brother.

Somm was very happy with his new wife and new life. Being a married man, he now had to work harder to support his wife and prospective family. He naturally spent more time with his wife, and thus, unintentionally neglected his younger brother. Therefore, his attitude towards his younger brother seemed to have drastically changed. He became very distant, indifferent, and understandably had no time for Rith, his younger brother, any more. To begin with, Rith ttried to understand the situation and was very hopeful that Somm would become normal again after a while.

However, to his despair, his elder brother’s behaviour towards him went from bad to worse. Rith could no longer find an excuse for that hostile behaviour. He had no-one to turn to and desperately felt very disappointed, sad and lonely.

Rith was very distressed and could no longer bear this painful situation. He packed up a few belongings and some dried food and left the house. As he had no-where to go, he was just wandering aimlessly in the forest. After an exhausting walk, he reached a large river and had no means to cross it. With his helpless state of mind, not being able to think straight on how to resolve the problem, it seemed to him that he had reached the end of the world. He just sat there crying and lamenting non-stop.

 It so happened that his cries and lamentations had disturbed a powerful, cruel spirit nearby. The spirit who was very angry at the noise, used his magical power to turn Rith into a block of limestone right where he was sitting by the river.

Having found out about his younger brother running away from home, Somm was very sad. He remembered the old happy time he had with his brother and missed him very much. The realisation of neglecting his brother filled him with such guilt that he no longer could sit still. He then asked his wife and father-in-law to let him go to try to find Rith.

After a few days of searching, Somm also arrived at the same river. It was a hot day and he was exhausted. Somm sat down on the limestone (his brother’s new form) to rest. He too started crying and lamenting which disturbed the spirit again. The spirit told Somm that the limestone was his brother Rith. Somm then begged the spirit to return his brother to him. But, the spirit refused. Being very angry still, he magically turned Somm into an Areca nut tree next to the limestone.

Somm’s wife was waiting for her husband to return home. One day … two days … many days passed, she feared for his safety. She then spoke to her father about her decision to go and look for her husband. Her father tried his best to stop her in the fear that, she being a young woman walking alone in the forest with all the wild animals lurking around, would not be safe. The young woman was so upset and missed her husband so much that she was no longer afraid of wild animals. So, she went. With the little information she gathered from villagers on her way, she too reached the river. There she saw the limestone and the Areca nut tree. For a strange reason, she was attracted to them. She sat down on the lime-stone and leaned against the Areca nut tree. A feeling of deep sadness suddenly surrounded her and she could not help crying and lamenting. The spirit heard it. This unforgiving and bad-tempered spirit got so fed up with hearing all about this family’s saga, turned up in front of the young woman and told her that the limestone was her brother-in-law and the Areca nut tree was her husband. So, he said that she would be better off joining them. He then proceeded to turn her into a betel vine which wrapped itself around the Areca nut tree.

A local man happened to be nearby and heard what the spirit told the young woman. He then told all the villagers about this tragic love story.

Sometime later, the King and his entourage went for a horse ride in the forest. He then noticed the smooth limestone located under a shady Areca nut tree which was laden with beautiful betel leaves from the vine on its trunk. These looked strangely out of place. The King sent for the villagers nearby who told him about the origin of the three elements.  

Intrigued by the story, the King ordered that the Areca nut, the betel leaf and a piece of the limestone be mixed together by gentle pounding to see what would happen. To everyone’s amazement, a juice as red as human blood was oozing from the mixture. Then, as requested by the King, one of his subjects who ate the mixture, found it very tasty.

Truly fascinated by this love story, the King ordered that these three - Areca nut, betel leaf and limestone be part of wedding rituals from then onwards.