Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — As the Lunar New Year begins, spring festivals countrywide are in full swing.
Around 50,000 people made the pilgrimage to Hương Pagoda Complex for the Hương Pagoda Festival, which started on Sunday in Mỹ Đức District, Hà Nội.
The three-month festival kicked-off with an artistic performance and a ceremony conducted by monks to pray for a year of peace and prosperity for the country and its people.
Also in this festival, a photo exhibition and book featuring Hương Pagoda then and now were held. This book contains 155 black-and-white and coloured photos showcasing the beauty of the relic site over the last 90 years (from 1927 to 2018).
This is one of the most celebrated festivals in Việt Nam with a huge number of pilgrims who visit the pagoda at the beginning of the year, wishing for a happy 12 months.
The festival is an opportunity for the locals to commemorate the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin who, according to legend, reached enlightenment at Hương Pagoda. It attracts not only pilgrims but local and international visitors who seek a place of celestial beauty.
The complex, recognised as the special national relic site, comprises of not only tranquil pagodas and shrines but also picturesque grotto. To reach the area, visitors take a boat ride on the scenic Yến Stream surrounded by rice paddies and a jagged limestone mountain range.
Prior to the festival, Hương Pagoda Complex welcomed about 124,000 visitors from February 7 to 9, according to organisers.
Deputy Chairman of Mỹ Đức District’s People’s Committee, also head of the organising team, Nguyễn Văn Hậu said the local authority has mobilised staff to ensure the security and safety for the festival goers.
About 190 security officers worked around the clock to handle the scammers, thieves and pickpockets.
Also on Sunday, the Saint Gióng Festival began in Sóc Sơn District, Hà Nội, which aims to honour the legendary hero Gióng, who is known as one of the Four Immortals of Việt Nam (along with Tản Viên - the God of the Mountain, Chử Đồng Tử and the Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh).
Legend has it Saint Gióng was born after his mother walked in the footsteps of a giant. At the age of three, Gióng suddenly transformed into a giant and fought against the foreign invaders. The king then presented Gióng with an iron horse, which promptly chased the invaders out of the country.
After triumphing, he and his horse went to Sóc Mountain in Sóc Sơn District. It is said that from the top of the mountain, he removed his armour and flew into the sky on his horse. Gióng is also widely worshipped as ‘the patron god of the harvest, national peace and family prosperity’.
This festival is considered a testament to the indomitable spirit of the nation when pitted against foreign invaders.
Saint Gióng Festival was recognised as a world intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2010.
About 80 km from Sóc Sơn District is Hà Nam Province where the buffalo painting contest was held on Sunday.
The contest is part of the Tịch Điền (Ploughing) Festival which starts on Monday aiming to commemorate the God of Agriculture and to pray for a year of high yield season and prosperity.
Twenty four painters from Hà Nội City and Hà Nam, Hưng Yên, Ninh Bình and Thái Bình provinces and a Russian painter are taking part.
Lê Minh Sơn, chairman of the Hà Nam Art and Literature Association, said the traditional buffalo painting contest was revived in 2009.
In the morning, buffaloes were brought to the stage area. The painters then gathered and used their creativity to paint on the body of the buffaloes.
The winning buffaloes with the best patterns will be used to plough rice paddy fields at the Ploughing Festival.
The Festival dates back to the 10th century when King Lê Đại Hành decided to plough in Đọi Sơn Commune in Duy Tiên District to encourage rice cultivation. The practice has been observed annually through many dynasties before being faded during the Nguyễn Dynasty and was restored ten years ago. — VNS