|Jrai people in their traditional costumes take part in the Yang Pơtao Apui rain praying ceremony in Ayun Hạ Commune, Gia Lai Province's Phú Thiện District. — VNA/VNS Photos Hồng Điệp|
Every year, when crop growing season starts around the end of April, the ethnic people of Jrai in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai's Phú Thiện District organise their special Yang Pơtao Apui rain praying festival.
The highlight of the festival is a unique praying ceremony, including a series of ritual performances by a Jrai senior villager and other locals in their traditional costumes.
With a strong belief in the power of the Fire King and the magic sword, the ceremony has become a long-standing religious culture of the Jrai people in Phú Thiên District.
|The ritual of praying for rain is performed by Siu Phơ, a senior villager and follower of Rah Lan Hieo - the assistant of the 14th Fire King.|
It has coexisted with the upland rice farming economy and so fully reflects the aspirations of the farmers in the Central Highlands region.
Jrain people conduct Yang Pơtao Apui rain praying rituals to expect the "heaven and earth" to offer them favourable weather, bumper crops, good health, peace and wealth. The ceremony also aims to pray for rain at the peak period of the dry season when there are often severe droughts.
|Jrai people walk through the forest to climb up the Chu Tao Yang - a sacred mountain where the rain praying ritual is conducted.|
The rain praying rituals are conducted on the sacred mountain of Chu Tao Yang. As there was no successor to the throne after the 14th Fire King passed away in 1999, villagers of Plei Oi of Ayun Hạ Commune considered Ro Lan Hieo, an assistant to the 14th King, the substitute for the Fire King.
The event is often held along with other cultural activities, including many popular folk games and sports contests, to preserve the local cultural and traditional identity and to promote tourism in the area.
|The Yang Pơtao Apui rain praying festival takes place along with other cultural activities, including folk games and sports contests to promote local tourism.|
Currently, an irrigation project has been operated in the Ayun Hạ Commune to supply adequate water for four seasons of farming. Locals are no longer worried about droughts, but the ceremony is still preserved as a spiritual value.
This year, the festival falls on the national celebrations of the reunification (April 30) and May Day (May 1) at the Plei Ơi National Historical-Cultural Relic Site in Ayun Hạ Commune, which preserves the festival-related things, including swords, gongs, and Chu Tao Yang Mountain.
Siu Phơ, a senior villager and follower of Rah Lan Hieo, the assistant of the 14th Fire King, conducted the ceremony.
|The rituals of the Yang Pơtao Apui rain praying ceremony are held at the Plei Ơi National Historical-Cultural Relic Site in Ayun Hạ Commune, Phú Thiện District, Gia Lai Province.|
Speaking at the ceremony, Nguyễn Ngọc Ngô, permanent deputy chairman of the Phú Thiện District People's Committee and head of the festival organising board, said this year, the festival took place in two days of the national holiday with many attractive cultural and sports activities.
It was also held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Plei Ơi Relic Site being recognised as a national historical relic.
The festival was an opportunity for the locality to promote ethnic traditional cultural beauty while introducing scenic spots and local products to visitors, thereby attracting investment to develop tourism – the smokeless economy. — VNS