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Cambodian tradition of wearing amulets to ward off evil and bad luck: A travel note
During my recent visit to Cambodia, I invariably found that the hotel employees were wearing amulets and charms round their necks.

When having meal in the dining hall of the hotel I stayed at, I found a Cambodian waiter not wearing an amulet; I asked him that did he not believe in the powers of an amulet. He said, "Yes I do. But, I do not wear it round my neck; rather I carry it in my pocket."  Then he took out his amulet and showed it to me saying that it was sanctified by a Buddhist monk and given to him for a price in form of donation.

He informed that most Cambodians hold a strong belief in protective charms to keep off evil spirits and bring good luck. He said that amulets were even worn by security personnel to ward off bullets, and so by the criminals. Many businessmen and shopkeepers have sanctified key-chain amulets to bunch their keys and opening their premises' locks with such key chains is considered auspicious.

The krus and monks are believed to have the power to prepare or sanctify an amulet by establishing a supernatural link between it and the owner, he held. A kru is a local magical or miracle master who generally holds high prestige and power and many of them had been Buddhist monks earlier.

I was reminded of our own culture back in India of wearing black threads, amulets of god figures, talismans, religious symbol charms and precious stone rings after consulting the specialists or astrologers. However, in Cambodia, the amulets are known as 'guiding spirit amulets' since people here have a strong belief in the existence of spirits, both good and bad. Often, amulets include engraved gems, small statues, coins, rings, plant parts or written words in the form of a magical spell to ward off evil or bad luck.

Among the intellectuals, Buddha amulets are popular as votive tablet or blessed items from the temples producing and sanctifying them. These amulets are received from the monk at the temple after making donation.

Later, when I visited the Buddhist temples in Thailand, amulets received from temples are held sacred by the followers. However, here the variety is more and local market gift and souvenir shops sell amulets with deities and gods from both the Buddhist and Hindu pantheons. Many tourists buy them for displaying at home while most locals either get them sanctified by monks or themselves by observing a ritual.

However, young Cambodians who are getting inclined to the Western culture and English learning consider wearing of an amulet or charm a superstition and religious distortion.

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