Chol Mlobb - Daughter Educating
By: Ly Vanna.Illustration: Sao Pagnarith ( August, 2002 Volume 2 No.8 )

Chol Mlobb is a rite of passage and means to enter the shadow (Chol means enter and Mlobb refers to the shadow). This ceremony is only celebrated for the daughter of the family. There are two main aims of this celebration: to educate morality, virtue, and right behavior and to make the daughter become a beautiful girl. Through this event, the girl will become a perfect, beautiful woman that young men will pay attention to. She will also bring honor to her family. During this period, she learns many things, such as rules of conduct for women, housewifery, taking care of children, weaving, recipes and how to behave with other people. She has to wear a long sleeved shirt and a long skirt. At nighttime, she has to wear powder and saffron on her body. The duration of Chol Mlobb is dependent on how wealthy the family is and the number of members in the family. It usually takes from between three to six months. In the past, girls were not allowed to go to school because all schools were located in pagodas and most of the teachers were monks, thus the girls were not able to attend. On the other hand, some families did not want their daughters go to school so that they could keep an eye on their daughters. Many people believed that the home was the best place to educate girls at that time.

It was believed that Chol Mlobb had been extinct since the 1930s. However Chol Mlobb is highlighted in Tomm Teav (a famous Khmer story). Essentially this means that the celebration has continued within Cambodia for many years. "Nowadays, there are a few places; for example, in Sre Ambel district in Koh Kong province and also Pea Romng district in Prey Veng province, that are still keeping this meaningful event alive, but they shorten the duration to between one week and three months," said Mr. Pi Bunnin from The Buddhist Institute. Any girl can undertake Chol Mlobb, even if she is the first daughter in the family and old enough to get married, even if she lives in a middle class family with enough people to do all housework. Until now there was the question of when and why the Khmer people started this ceremony. It is probably a Khmer legend that tells the reason why the Khmer people adopted Choul Mlobb for their daughters. The legend describes a thief who had no wife and no children but he had a very nice house in the jungle, far away from the others, which he used to put away the things that he stole. When he got older he realized that: "I have a lot of property but I have nobody to inherit them. When I die all my property will be wasted. If I had a wife or children to inherit them, I would not be so worried".

So the thief walked around the village and found a group of children playing under a big mango tree. He then saw a pretty young girl amongst them. He separated her from the other children and brought her to his house. He was afraid that she would run back to her parents, so he locked her in a room and gave her food through a very small window. When she was old enough to get married she became sickly and the father invited an old lady from the village to attend to her. One day, there came a man who had just finished his magic lessons; he met the old lady and asked for her help in finding the perfect girl to marry. Then the lady told of the beauty of the thief's daughter and advised the young man to walk along the path with watermelons growing alongside. This was the result of the old woman throwing watermelon seeds to mark her path while she was walking with the thief in order to avoid losing the way. In the morning, the man went to meet the girl as the lady had told him and the two met and fell in love with each other. She tried to hide her emotions for the young man because she was afraid of her father. However, the father observed his daughter's behavior and recognized that his daughter had fallen in love. He was very angry with his daughter and so he went away.

The young couple stayed in the house together for a while and did not see the thief come back. Then they left the house and came to thank the old lady who had told the man about the beautiful girl. The old lady told the villagers that this girl was so pretty because she had stayed in the shade and when she left the shade she attracted a husband.