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Religion

From the early time, Cambodian/Khmer people did not have the real religion, It meant that the people believed in Animism that they worshipped the forces of the natures like: water, earth, fire, wind as well as the soul of their Ancestors who had passed away and people believed that the souls would be reincarnated. Those practices were still going on even after the adoption of the various religions from India in the early century of the Christian era.

The religions of Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced from India and coexisted in Cambodia.
Hinduism has three main gods, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, of which Shiva and Vishnu are more prominent. These divinities also have feminine counterparts, Sarasvati, Uma or Pravati and Laksmi respectively.

From the Indian trimurti, Brahma is the creator of the worlds. He is depicted with four heads and four arms.

Shiva is the destroyer of the worlds. His forehead generally bears a third vertical eye and his hair is usually arranged in a high chignon and may have a crescent moon on the front. Shiva is often represented as a linga, or stylised phallus. Uma is his consort and Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant, his son. Shiva’s mount is Nandin, the sacred bull

Vishnu is the preserver of the worlds. He has several forms as the god Vishnu in additional to different incarnations when he descends to earth. As Vishnu he is generally shown with one head and four arms, holding the mace, the conch, the shakra (a wheel-shaped weapon), and a ball that represents Earth. Vishnu usually rides on the back of Garuda, a mythical bird with a human body. When he descends to earth he is frequently shown as Krishna, Rama or Kalkin.

Buddhism was present in Cambodia from at least the 3rd century A.D. Mahayana Buddhism began to spread during the 7th – 8th centuries reaching a peak under King Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century. By the end of the 13th century Theravada Buddhism had become prominent.

Mahayana Buddhism involves the historical Buddha in a complex relationship with different types of Buddha and future Buddha or Bodhisttvas. It also incorporates the Hindu gods.

Theravada Buddhism offers only the example and image of the Buddha for the individual to find self-redemption.

Until the end of the 13th century, Hinduism and Buddhism coexisted. Domination one religion over the other depended on the belief of the King.

In present day Cambodia about 90% of the population is Theravada Buddhist. Ancestor worship and the worship of animal totems continue to play a significant part in ritual life.

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