The 15th annual Southeast Asian Water Festival got under way in Lowell, Mass., last weekend, with a monks’ blessing, prayers and a race of eight boat teams.
As it has in the past, the festival opened with blessings to chase away evil spirits, bad karma and ill luck, followed by traditional and rap music performances.
Some prayed for their health, safety and long life, while others wished for peace and the safety of Cambodian and US soldiers.
“Life is vulnerable and uncertain,” prayed venerable monk Ajahn Mang Kone, of Wat Buddhabhavana in Westford. “So while we are still on our life path, we need to do good things, good deeds. I would now invite all of us to pray together for safety, peace and happiness.”
After the prayer, celebrants followed the monk to a nearby canal, to release floating bowls called “kantoung” meant to ward away evil spirits and bad luck. The bank of the canal was slippery, however, so those who wished to send off their kantoung passed them to monks and park rangers for their release.
“I prayed for good health and happiness for myself and my relatives near and far,” said Amrong Chey, a resident of Virginia who came with her aunt to visit relatives here. “And I also prayed for Cambodian soldiers stationed near and around Preah Vihear temple, as well as soldiers fighting in Iraq. I prayed for their safety and hope they can come back and be reunited with their families.”
After the ceremonies, a boat race was set for Saturday. Some competitors gave money to monks as they hoped for a victory, with eight teams competing.
“I hope to win,” said one man from the Mekong Rower team. “We have a pretty good shot. But this year, several strong teams have come to compete.”
In the end, it was not the Mekong Rower team but the Khmer Krom team that won, earning $800 cash.
Rady Mom, a host of this year’s festival, which was sponsored in part by the Lowell Cultural Council, said it has gotten better each year.
“I’ve seen the festivities continue to develop,” Rady Mom said.