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The scent of rumduol is the scent of a woman. Phka rumduol, phka being the Khmer word for flower, is the national flower of Cambodia. Rumduol has been a beloved bloom of the Khmer people for thousands of years. It graced many of our temples and sculpted female figures are adorned with rumduol in their hair and bodies. They also graced the temples’ colonnades and door frames.
Rumduol is the single most recurring character in Khmer literature. Countless poets, playwrights and lyricists, in the past as in the present, have gone to great lengths to extol the beauty of rumduol the flower and rumduol the woman and sometimes both. In Khmer culture, rumduol is synonymous with women and represents feminine beauty. This doesn’t just apply to literature. Khmers use rumduol and women interchangeably in real life as well. In the past, young women would thread rumduol blooms into body chains to wear before entering temples to receive blessing. But the flower itself bears neither Hindu nor Buddhist connotation. Khmers just simply love rumduol.
Rumduol flower comes from the rumduol plant (sphaerocoryne affinis), which belongs to the annonaceae or soursop family. Rumduol is native to Cambodia, often seen growing wild in semi-dense and secondary vegetation in the plains of country. They are heavily concentrated particularly around Angkor Wat temple. The plant is also cultivated all over the country; they line the streets, in the parks, hotels, cafes and private residences.