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Mythical birds carry monks, leaders, royal family in Sihanouk's final procession

Publication Date : 01-02-2013


Golden goose floats used in the funeral procession are based on the hamsa


The golden goose floats used in the funeral procession for the late King Father Friday are based on the hamsa, the Sanskrit name for an aquatic bird in Hindu mythology.

At least three such floats were seen as the procession got underway. One carried Venerables Bou Kry and Tep Vong, the heads of the two main Buddhist sects in Cambodia.

A second carried National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Royal Palace Minister Kong Samol and Senate Vice President Say Chhum.

A third carried members of the royal family, who appeared to be grandchildren of the former king.

Brahma, the god of creation, is typically represented with four faces and four arms mounted on a hamsa.

Hamsas are still used as symbols and for decoration in India and Southeast Asia, especially in Myanmar, where they appear on some regional flags, and Thailand, where the mythical bird is featured on the royal barge.

In Cambodia, where the goose is known as a hang, the hamsa is found in the logo of the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as Acleda Bank.

The Chu Nath Dictionary defines the hang as a wild goose distinguished by a long neck and wings that are usually white but sometimes yellow. It says the geese are known for flying long distances at extremely high altitudes and swimming on water to find food.

Some believe the mythical creature to be based on the bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) which migrates south across the Himalayas to spend the winters in India.

A paper published by America's National Academy of Sciences in 2011 said this species makes one of the highest trans-mountain migrations in the world.

The birds typically cross the Himalayas in a single day, climbing between 4,000 and 6,000 metres in seven to eight hours. According to the paper, they can support minimum climb rates of 0.8 to 2.2 kilometres an hour.

According to Birdlife International, the bar-headed goose mainly breeds in China, Afghanistan and Mongolia. Non-breeding populations are found in Pakistan and India as well as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.


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