Thanh Thuy district in Phu Tho province attracts tourists with its beautiful landscapes and unique wet rice civilization festivals. The Dao Xa elephant procession festival is one of the biggest there.
Taking place from the 27th to the 29th day of the first lunar month, the Dao Xa elephant procession festival draws a large number of visitors.
Worshiping feasts and fruits trays are carefully prepared. On a bronze tray, fruits are arranged in a 1-meter high 9-layer pyramid decorated with flowers. The feasts include sticky rice, boiled chicken, sweet bean cakes, and honey cakes.
Nguyen Van Tiet, a Dao Xa resident said, “It’s necessary to keep the low heat and a slower boil. It takes 6 to 7 hours to boil the chicken and you need to keep the boiling water not too hot. By so doing, the chicken will be well cooked and its skins will not be torn.”
The solemn ritual ceremony expresses people’s gratitude to the village genie, Hung Hai Cong, who, according to legend, was a younger brother of the 18th Hung King and the lord of Dao Xa, Hung Hoa, and Tho Xuyen districts. He helped the local people improve their crop irrigation to produce bumper crops. He married and had 3 children who later replaced him as governors of the three districts.
Tran Van Sang, the current head of the elephant procession ceremony said “After wiping out the enemy, Hung Hai Cong received 2 pairs of elephants as gifts from the Hung King. To express their gratitude to Hung Hai Cong, Dao Xa residents organized an elephant procession and began to worship Hung Hai Cong as the village genie.”
The worshiping ceremony is followed by the elephant procession involving more than 120 people led by a pair of big elephants to the accompaniment of by music. “Mr. Elephant”, made to look like a real elephant, is handled by 2 young men.
Nguyen Xuan Khoa, the mahout in the procession, said that while the two “Mr. Elephants” play with the crowd, others wave flags and run around to excite the crowd. The procession goes from the communal house to the temple and back.
"It’s important to make the elephants move in a lively fashion. After the worshiping ceremony, the elephants play with the crowd under the direction of the mahout”, Mr Khoa added.
The ceremony is followed by come several folk games and a rice cooking competition involving 4 teams from the 4 local villages. Some contestants grind and screen the rice, some go to fetch water, and others build the fire.
Nguyen Trung Khoa, a Dao Xa resident said. “My village sends a team to the rice cooking competition every year. Though the competition role never changes, everyone gets very excited.”
The festival reflects historical and cultural values of Vietnam’s wet rice civilization and the northern belief in water genies. It is an opportunity for the locals to show their gratitude to their ancestors.VOV