HA NOI — The Tran Thuong Temple Festival in the northern province of Ha Nam was launched on Sunday night with the participation of thousands of pilgrims.
|Food-distribution ceremony: Vice-president Nguyen Thi Doan (third right) distributes food parcels to pilgrims at Tran Thuong Temple. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
The temple was built in honour of famous Vietnamese general Tran Hung Dao (1228-1300) and soldiers who made great contributions in the fight against the invading Yuan-Mongol armies during the 13th century.
The general established a granary for the army during the conflict where the Tran Thuong Temple is now located.
Each year as part of the festival local residents organise food distribution ceremonies at the beginning of the lunar new year to commemorate the general's achievements and to educate younger generations about the importance of saving and stockpiling food for emergencies.
Locals and pilgrims from other regions flock to the festival to receive food parcels as a lucky charm for the new year. The small portions symbolise the wish for a peaceful and prosperous life.
Vice-President Nguyen Thi Doan joined other Government officials at the temple on Sunday. Although the food-distributing ceremony, the festival's main activity, took place on Sunday, many visitors from different localities came to the temple several days earlier to attend cultural activities and folk games.
This year, 80,000 parcels were distributed in 21 areas surrounding the temple by elders in traditional costumes.
The Tran Temple Festival, another festival commemorating Tran Hung Dao and the brilliant feat of arms of the Tran dynasty, was also opened on Sunday night in the neighbouring province of Nam Dinh.
This year organisers of the annual festival have strengthened efforts to ensure public order, as a scrabble for pieces of cloth stamped with a holy royal seal led to a stampede last year.
During the days of the Tran dynasty (1225-1400), the royal seals were used in a ceremony at the beginning of year to mark the start of administrative works and express a wish for a peaceful life.
Since then the ceremony has been held annually to preserve and bring into play the cultural and moral values and traditions of the Vietnamese people's ancestors, especially national heroes during the Tran dynasty.
These days replica seals are used to stamp pieces of cloth or paper that are considered as extremely lucky, with crowds sometimes creating chaos in the scrabble to get the stamps.
This year authorities ensured order by lengthening the time during which the stamps are distributed. Last Sunday a solemn ceremony was held to mark the beginning of the festival.
The stamps, which this year are printed on paper instead of cloth to cut costs and make the tradition more environmentally friendly, will be distributed at the temple until the end of the first lunar month (which falls on February 21).
Many traditional cultural activities are being held as part of the festival, which ends today. — VNS