Bells of “closed” - kandang កណ្ដឹង

Last update: December 5, 2023

There are many variations on the use of bells: cattle and horse bell necklaces, children's and women's anklets, belts and crocodile banners.

Crocodile banners

The colorful tong krapeu ទង់ក្រពើ "crocodile banners", also called tong rolok ទង់រលក "flood banners", flourish in Buddhist monasteries, hanging from the tall masts marking the entrance to the vihear or in other places. There are also white banners reserved for funeral rites. These are called tong krapeu, but the more appropriate term is tong pralung ទង់ព្រលឹង, since they represent the soul (pralung ព្រលឹង), or rather souls, since according to most Khmer traditions, there are 19 pralung.

These banners are both human-shaped, with two legs, and crocodile-shaped. Éveline Porée-Maspero reports, in her Étude des rites agraires des Cambodgiens, that the Khmers themselves are symbolic crocodiles.

Sometimes, but not systematically, bells and mirrors are attached to the feet of tong krapeu.



Origin of the crocodile banners

Several Buddhist legends speak of the origin of crocodile banners.


  1. In the Battambang region, tradition has it that the "banner of the soul", tong pralung, used for funeral rites, bears the image of a crocodile, as it is the "master of the earth" and a little soil is needed, whether for a cremation or a burial*.
  2. Krong Pali, master of the earth orb, was a lost man whom the Buddha decided to save. The Sage began by asking how much earth was covered by a pair of pants, then Krong Pali, having asked him what he could do with such a small space, asked him how much was covered by three steps. In two and a half steps he had covered the entire orb of the earth. Krong Pali left the land he had ceded; transformed into a crocodile, he went to the edge of the terrestrial sphere. The Buddha followed him and asked him to cross the water. The crocodile replied that he would do so on condition that he was fed. When the deal was done, the crocodile had to agree to let the Buddha ride on his head; the weight became so great that the crocodile sank into the water and had to admit defeat. Then, to save him, the Buddha spoke the four kinds of pain and converted him. For sacrifices to the dead, because this act requires a place on the earth's surface, one must make "crocodile banners"; for acts of all kinds, principally the building of a house, one must perform a ceremony to Krong Pali, who is the master of the soil, in order to obtain happiness and health.*
  3. One evening, while bathing, Sethei's daughter picked up a floating egg. She put it in a vase full of water, and out came a little crocodile which she raised, decanting it as it grew. The crocodile, in love with the princess, became so cuddly that she noticed and told her father. Her father was furious and ordered the crocodile to be killed. When he heard this, the crocodile said, "If I'm killed, my skin must be removed, stretched with chopsticks in a cross, and hung from the architrave of the gate, so that the locals will know what an ungrateful man I was." So it was done, and when the skin was rotten, it was imitated with cloth.*

Other legends are available in the reference work.


* According to Éveline Porée-Maspero, Étude des rites agraires des Cambodgiens, Tome I p.103.



Banner bells and mirrors

Bells and mirrors attached to the feet of the banners ward off evil spirits. The wind makes the banners dance and the bells shake. The term tong rolok ទង់រលក, literally "banner-waves", translates the movement of the wave propagating on the surface of the ocean.