Theravada Buddhism is the leading religion in Cambodia and defines the lives of many Khmers. Buddhism and other religions suffered greatly during the Khmer Rouge period, but in the past decade there has been a dramatic resurgence in religious worship with Buddhism once again leading the way.

Reclining Buddha statue Cambodia

Reclining Buddha statue

Hinduism flourished alongside Buddhism from the 1st century AD until the 14th century and some cultural elements of this ancient Indian religion are still incorporated into important ceremonies involving birth, marriage and death. There is also a significant minority of Cham (Khmer Muslim) people who practise Islam, as well as a very small number of Christians.

The indigenous or “highlander” people of north-east Cambodia have traditionally been animistic cultures worshipping the spirits of natural objects such as forests, lakes and rivers. Most Cambodians practised animism long before Buddhism and Hinduism arrived in the country, and these religions were fused with traditional animist beliefs. As a result, Cambodian Buddhists also follow some animist practices, such as ancestor worship.