Goddess of the Ground

In Cambodia, the goddess, Neang KongHing, is believed to own the ground - she lives underground and controls the ground and the water underground. Neang KongHing is referenced in the scriptures of two different religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, both of which originally came from India.

Hinduism and Buddhism were brought to Cambodia in the first century. Even though Hinduism is not practiced in Cambodia anymore, parts of this religion remain as everyday customs and folklore. One of the most popular legends in Hindu religion and one still frequently told in Cambodia, is Ramayana. Neang KongHing plays an important role in this story.

Have you heard the story of Ramayana? It is a very long and complex story so in order to introduce you to Neang KongHing, we’re going to focus on the part about her.

“.....after the war between Ram, who is one of the Vishnu’s representatives, and Tusakann, who was the king of the giants, Ram didn’t trust his wife, Seda, because she was kidnapped by Tusakann for long time. Ram feared Seda had been disloyal and ordered his wife to walk in fire to prove her loyalty to him. Since she survived the ordeal without harm, Ram  agreed to allow her to stay with him again but Seda refused to return because she was disappointed at her husband’s lack of trust.  Ram begged her to return many times but she always denied his request.  Ram had the idea to fake his own death so Seda would return. To his dismay, Seda found about about his plan, became angry, and ran away from Ram forever. Ram still had one trick up his sleeve and used his magic to stop her.

In order to escape, Seda called upon Neang Kong Hing for help. Neang Kong Hing, goddess of the earth, opened the ground, giving Seda an escape route and allowing her to run away from Ram forever.

 Neang konghing

Neang konghing

The name of Neang KongHing is also heard in Buddhism as well. Sothodha Kodoma was the name of Buddha before he reached enlightenment. Sothodha was searching for a way to stop suffering. He had learned from a lot of teachers but still had not found the means of accomplishing his goal of enlightenment. He spent a lot of time in the forest meditating on his problem by himself.  One day, he decided to meditate under a Buddhi tree and would not move until he found the way. That night, in the midst of meditation when Sothodha was about to reach enlightenment,Mera appeared to stop him. Mera, the king of giants, controlled the cycle of life -  Birth, Aging, and Death.  In the place where Sothodha was sitting, there appeared a throne to raise from the ground. Mera said to Sothodha that the throne is his but Sothodha denied the gift. Mera persisted that Sothodha should accept the gift but Sothodha replied that the earth is all he needed. Mera gave up pushing the earthly riches on Sothodha but continued searching for ways to stop Sothodha from reaching enlightenment.

 Neang KongHing killing mera's armies.

Neang KongHing killing mera's armies.

Later on, the three daughters of Mera appeared to distract Sothodha. They used their beauty to distract him from his purpose. Sothodha refused to acknowledge them and eventually, their youth and beauty disappeared and they turned into elderly women. With the realization that they had lost, the three girls ran away into the forest, leaving Sothodha to his meditation. Mera was not finished with his attempts at stopping Sothodha’s enlightenment and made one more attempt before morning.  He ordered all his armies and men with their weapons to kill Sothodha. Even though those men were trying to attack Sothoda while he was meditating, Sothadha was not  afraid. The men kept coming toward Sothodha but before they could reach him, a lady appeared from the ground under Sothodha’s throne. She stroked her hair and dropped few drops of water on the ground and  the area immediately flooded. Crocodiles and  sharks came to kill Mera’s soldiers. Mera gave up and disappeared. Sothodha reached enlightenment. He was named a Buddha. The goddess who protected Sothodha from Mera’s final attack was Neang KongHing.

Neang KongHing is often confused with Rom Say Sok, the woman from the Legend of Phnom Sampov. If you’re exploring the temples, both women have long hair that almost touches the ground, but Rom Say Sok is related to the crocodile rather than the ground. The most common image of Neang KongHing is beneath Sothodha's throne flooding Mera's armies.