Volume 1 No.7

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The Legend Of Wat Norkor
By: Moul Jetr. Pictures by : H.P. Rajana ( December, 2001 Volume 1 No.7 )

A short drive outside of Kampong Cham Town, on the road to Phnom Penh, stands an ancient temple which has now been incorporated into a modern one. This is Wat Nokor, which was built in the 11th century. The reason behind the building of this temple has become a well known legend among local people. Once upon a time, a very young farming couple living in Toul Sbov, now known as Kampong Cham, had a baby son. When the boy was just three months old, the couple took him with them to work as they tilled the soil in their small orchard to plant more crops. Because they had to work so hard, they left the boy under the shade of a pnov (Malabar orange) tree. As the hours passed, birds came to eat the ripe fruit, and the boy became covered in droppings. One of the birds dropped a large piece of fruit on his head, and the cut it made started to bleed. The boy's parents returned and immediately took him to the river to wash him clean, but the mother was young and tired, and while she was washing him she dropped him. A huge fish rose out of the water and swallowed the child whole. There was nothing his horrified parents could do but watch and eventually they were forced to return home. The fish swam swiftly down the Mekong to the sea, eventually reaching the waters off China, where he was caught in the nets of Chinese fishermen. Ministry of Religions and Cults. When the fishermen cut open the fish's belly, they found the child still alive and took him immediately to their king. The king adopted the boy and called him Chao Prom. He educated him and trained him in the arts a young prince should know, but he never kept his origins a secret.

When Chao Prom was a young man, he came to his adopted father to beg a favor. "I would like to take a ship and try to find my native village," he told the king. "If that is your wish, I will give you men and one of my best boats, along with my blessing," the good king said. After a long journey, Chao Prom eventually moored his ship at the port of Kampong Cham. There he fell in love with a beautiful widow. Eventually, he could resist her no longer and they were married. One day as he lay his head on his wife's thigh, she parted his hair and saw a small scar. "What happened to you?" she asked. Chao Prom related the story of how he was found, and the widow began to weep. "What makes you so sad?" he asked. "Please do not feel pity for me!" "I, too, have a story," she sobbed, and when she had finished, the couple knew that they were in fact mother and son and had committed a great sin in marrying each other. To atone, the mother ordered Chao Prom to build a stupa for her ashes in preparation for the day she died. She also ordered that, after his death, a statue should be built of him sitting in prayer facing the direction of her stupa to stand throughout Buddha's era of 5000 years. The widow eventually died and the stupa was built. Prom became a teacher and when he died, his students honored the promise and built the statue of Ta Prom, exactly as the widow had ordered. And so he was frozen in stone for the centuries, praying to his mother in atonement for their sins. And that, according to the people, is the story of Wat Nokor.