Volume 1 No.6

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Legend Of SANTUK Mountain
By: Moul Jetr, Source : The Culture and Fine Arts magazine, Issue No.5 December 2000 ( November, 2001 Volume 1 No.6 )

Once upon a time, a king, whose name has been lost to time, built his capital on the top of a mountain of the Dangrek range on what is now the border of Thailand. He had two wives, each with one son. His first wife, Queen Peov Devi had borne him a boy called Cham-pongs Kumar. His second wife, Montear Devi had a son named Chong-raks Kumar. But the greedy prince regent Moha Oup-raj lusted for power. Eventually, he began an affair with the king's second wife and together they plotted to overthrow the old king. They enlisted the help of an ambitious and corrupt court astrologer, and bided their time. One day, rainy season storms turned wild and whirlwinds and torrential rains lashed the kingdom for days, damaging temples and ruining crops. But when the king's most sacred devaroub (divine statue) was damaged, the king began to worry that this was supernatural. The prince and his mistress persuaded him to consult with their cohort, the royal astrologer.
"This is a sign of divine warning," the astrologer told the king. "It is a warning to you that Queen Peov Devi has become evil and unlucky, and prophesizes that her son will grow up to be your murderer. "However, if you banish them both, you can save the kingdom." Frightened, the king had the mother and son arrested and set adrift on a raft in open water. But the gods were kind to the pair because of merits they had achieved in previous lives. As they drifted, the churning waves calmed. Divine white crocodiles appeared and guided the raft until it ran ashore on a floating speck of land. The crocodiles found food for the couple, and they stayed safe on the little islet for seven days and nights. On the seventh night, the desperate deposed queen, now called Srei Peov Devi, prayed to the full moon. "I humbly request all deities and powerful spirits guarding the sea to protect and save my son and I. We are honest people," she cried. Immediately, the little speck of land transformed and the pumice, shells and flotsam and jetsam in the water all around joined to form a big, beautiful island paradise. Time passed, and the crocodiles eventually died. Their corpses became huge crocodile-shaped rocks that can still be seen today.
One day, a mandarin called Okha Kralahorm Pich stumbled on Srei Peov's island. He had once commanded a naval division for Srei Peov's former husband the king, but retired in dismay because he understood the evil intentions of the prince and his mistress. He met the former queen and the young prince and all three sobbed together as they related their sad experiences. Pich confirmed that after the queen and her son had been banished, the prince regent, Moha Ouparaj, had imprisoned the old ruler and proclaimed himself as the new king. Pich began to build an army to overthrow the usurper and reclaim Srei Peov's rightful place for her and her son. When the time was right, Pich and the young prince led 100 boats and 10,000 soldiers to the gates of the evil prince's capital. That night, Moha Ouparaj was carousing at a wild party. The young prince and his men waited, and in the morning, when their enemy was drunk and exhausted, launched their attack. It was a brilliant victory for the young prince. Moha Ouparaj and his evil accomplice Montea Devi were killed and the victorious young prince released his imprisoned father, who had been forced to live in a cave sealed from the light by rocks for many years. The young prince Cham-pongs Kumar became a new king, but he did not hold the sins of his young half-brother's mother against him and appointed him as the new Moha Ouparaj. The island that had been created by Srei Peov's prayers became known as Phnom Boss-Srei Peov, because it was created during Boss (the second month of the lunar calendar) at the request of Srei Peov (Srei is a word meaning young lady). Over time, the sea receded, leaving a mountain, which today is very close to Phnom Santuk, and still bears the name Phnom Boss-Srei Peov.
The capital took on the new king's name to become Phnom Cham-pongs Kiri (in Khmer kiri means mountain). Over time, the young king died, his half brother took the throne, and the name changed to Cham-chong Kiri to memorize a very dear brotherhood between the two princes. As time passes, things change, and the mountain was renamed for the fourth time as Phnom Thom (huge mountain) and then Phnom A'sann Tuk (Mountain of Emergency and Suffering). That name was shortened by the people and became Phnom Santuk, and it remains called that to this day. The young prince grew to be very tall, with an amazingly supple body. For this reason, another nearby mountain was named Phnom Preah Bat Penn Chum (a mountain where a king sits cross-legged) and this was shortened over time to Phnom Penn Chum (a mountain where a person sitting cross-leg), as it still known today. After his death, people started to come to the area to pay tribute to a neakta, or spirit, called Neakta Phnom Penn Chum the spirit of the young prince who became king. For this reason, visitors to Phnom Santuk in Kampong Thom province can see a hut with a huge stone statue of a man sitting cross-legged, and it is still worshipped to this day.