Huong Pagoda Festival

 The beautiful verse describes scenic spot of Huong Pagoda, designated by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site, which makes one can’t help having the feeling that is one were lost in a world offairies. Huong Son attracts visitors not only with its wonderful landscape, but also with its sense of philosophy embodied inside its splendid caves, of which Huong Tich and Tuyet Son are the most impressive.

 Objects of worship: Phat ba Quan Am -Avalokitesvara (Goddess of Mercy)

Time: The 6th day of the first lunar month
Destination: Huong Son Commune, My Duc District, Hanoi City (Ha Tay Province - older)
Characteristics: Buddhist services, sightseeing

 Visitors are bewitched by the beauty of thesecases which look half real and half unreal. That explains the reason why thecold weather cannot keep thousands of pilgrims and tourists away from the Huong Pagoda Festival, the nation’s longest and most elaborateannual festival.

Oficially occuring from the 15th day to the 20thday of the second lunar month, Huong Pagoda Festival mainly consists of sightseeing trips to pagodas, temples and caves as well as visiting ceremonies to ask favours from Lord Buddha. Situated approximately 60kilometers southwest from Ha Noi, Huong Son boasts quite a few pagodasbuilt in the Posterior Le Dynasty. Annually, a vast number of pilgrimshave been flocking to the northern province of Ha Noi’s My Duc Districtfor the three-month Huong Pagoda Festival, enjoying the beauty of theHuong Son limestone mountains at a time when apricot trees are in bloomand pay tribute to Buddha, specifically to Avalokitasvara, one ofBuddha's disciples.

Legendhas it that the festival is held to worship a princess named Dieu Thienwho incarnated Avalokitasvara and attained enlightenment there. As theprincess was born on the 19th day of the second lunar month, that dateis now observed by all Vietnamese Buddhists as a saint day. The shrine in which she practised her religion was discovered in the 15th century by three monks. The pilgrimage to Huong Son dwindled to a trickleduring the war years and the temples and shrines were left vacant..In 1770, Lord Trinh Sam wrote five Chinese characters to describe Huong Tich Cavern: Nam Thien De Nhat Dong (the most beautiful cave in Vietnam). The Huong Pagoda Festival started during the Le-Trinh Dynasty. In 1958, after the restoration of peace in North Vietnam, the Government and President Ho Chi Minh personally gave instructions for the repair of the pagodas and temples and there storation of the festival. Annually, visitors to the festivalto enjoy the beauty of the Huong Son limestone mountains at a time when apricot trees are in bloom and pay tribute to Buddha, specifically to Avalokitasvara, one of Buddha's disciples.

Accordingto the legend, a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda in the spring will brin ghealth, prosperity, good luck and happiness. And whether you believe inthe story or not, there's no disputing that a trip like this offers aperfect chance to get closer to both nature and Vietnamese tradition.

A meaningful pilgrimage

The festival is a traditional Vietnamese Buddhist celebration, held simultaneously in three locations: Huong Tich, Tuyet Son, and Long Van.The festival is most crowded from the 15th - 20th day of the 2nd month of the lunar calendar as this period marks the the main festival.However, since the first day of the lunar New Year, thousands of tourists and pilgrims have flocked to the sacred land to tour and pray for a prosperous and happy year. Spring is the idea time for both Vietnamese and foreigners come to Huong Son. Heading there, you have chances to live in a boisterous atmosphere of a spring festival amidst beautiful landscape. They seem to be free from all tiredness andsorrow and come to pay respect to the compassionate Buddha.

Unlikemany other festivals, the Huong Pagoda Festival does not centre around traditional games, but rather romantic trips to caves, pagodas and temples and participation in ceremonies to beseech favours from Lord Buddha. The Venerable Thich Minh Hien rang the bell to officially open the festival at the Huong Pagoda, on the sixth day of the first lunar month. The opening ceremony began at the Thien Tru Pagoda with pilgrimsand tourists invited to take part in the incense offering ceremony. In order to warning up the festival’s lively ambience in the chilly weather, the traditional raditional songs and dances took place beforeand after the ceremony. Visitors attending Huong pagoda festival usually make some wishes and when they are worshipping Buddha’s in the pagoda, they pray for their wishes to come true. The visitors bringofferings with them from home, including boiled chickens, boiled pigs'heads and steamed sticky rice. After prayers, each person will take asmall portion of the offering (called loc) which is then carried home for their family. Loc isa sacred and precious thing as it is believed to bring good luck to those who eat it. In addition, cultural activities and sporting contests are also held on the occasion of Huong Pagoda Festival: boatracing, climbing, folk song singing, etc. These festive activities takeplace throughout the festival.

Apilgrimage to the Huong Pagoda Festival cannot only be for religiousreasons, but to see the numerous natural shapes that are typical of thelandscape and the buildings that are valuable artifacts of the nation.When you make a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda you are in the middle ofnature at its best, with a gorgeous river, caves, andmountains.Therefore, people of different ages all so interested in theHuong Pagoda Festival...

“This immense area with wonderful features
Makes one wonder whether it is fairyland
Huong Son itself is fairyland
Which is seen in this earthly world"

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