Since ancient times and according to Cambodian ancestral traditions, young Cambodian girl in age to get married - generally around 15 ~ 17 years (in those times, young girls are getting married at a tender young age and most marriages were often arranged between the two families) - would enter in a "retreat into the shade". While her husband-to-be is being retired into a monastery to learn all the necessary professional life skills taught by monks and to be able to enter into active life, as she, the bride-to-be, is meanwhile "withdrawn into the shade". However, this ancient tradition is fast disappearing and only two Cambodian provinces do still respect it nowadays!
“Pikthi Chhohl M’Lop”, literally “the ceremony (Pikthi) to retire into the shade (Chhohl M’Lop)” will allow the girl to grow into the "ideal woman" / Srey Krob Leakh (gifted with all the female virtues) in order to care for her husband and family. Let us not forget that Cambodia has long been a matriarchal society! Why is it "into the shade"? In the Cambodian countryside, the criterion of beauty is to get a white skin “as a Javanese" (Sambohl Doch Ch'vear” - hue of a Javanese/ch’vear girl) and the girl must be «hidden and protected» from the burning rays of the Sun in the tropics! Thus, she would withdraw herself during the day in a room all covered with pieces of white cloth where no rays of Sun will transpierce through, and "will come only out of her room" at night time to enjoy the fresh evening breeze under the House on stilts and enjoy meals with her family.
During all her retirement time that can last up to six months or even one year, female neighbors, relatives, aunties and mother will take turn teaching her the poems “Kamrang Ch'bab Srey" (A compendium poem of advice to young girls), on how to Cook, to become a good wife and a good mother for her future children, to weave her "silk sampot” for her coming wedding ceremony (thus the story of the “couple pulleys” we mentioned last week and which are finely carved and sent to her by her beloved husband-to-be, who in the meantime, is being retired into the Buddhist orders in a Pagoda of the village). When she will have sufficiently acquired all knowledge required to get ready for marriage, another ceremony of the “Exit from the Retreat into the Shade” will take place, as well as the preparations for her future marriage.
The "Toom Teav Story" - our Khmer (Neay Toom) Romeo and Juliet (Neang Teav) - takes place effectively when Toom enter into the Buddhist orders in the monastery and Teav getting retired “into the shade”. As in all love stories and Shakespearean dramas, the two lovers have also met with a tragic ending, and can only live happily in the hereafter world!
All Dreams Cambodia team