The Huong Pagoda Festival

Nowadays, Huong Son village belongs to My Duc district, Ha Tay province. In order to visit this village, from Ha Noi, follow Highway N°. 6 to Ha Dong town, take Ba La Crossroad (at km 14), then take road N°. 12 to Ben Duc (at km 65), and from there proceed by row boats to the Huong pagoda.
Games are not involved in the HuOng Pagoda Festival. It mainly consists of pleasant sightseeing trips to pagodas, temples and caves and ceremonies to beseech favours from Lord Buddha.
The Festival officially starts on the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month, but the Pagoda is already lively with large number of visitors from the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month until the mid – 3rd lunar month. Ben Duc, the river gate to the Pagoda, becomes crowded with boats and people. Pilgrims and visitors from all parts of the country, whether acquainted or not, greet everyone by saying “A Di Da Phat”. These words mean, “We beg Lord Buddha to give us health and luck”.
The boats take the visitors to the Elephant Mountain, the Dragon Mountain, and to the Trinh Temple, dedicated to a former general of a Hung King. It is a very big temple which still has two kneeling elephants at the gate and a large ceremony room. After visiting the temple to introduce oneself to Lord Buddha, the visitors continue the boat trip to see the Glutinous Rice Plate Mountain, the Chicken Mountain and more. Then the boat stops at Ben Tro where the brook seems to expand, as if embracing an earth-cum-limestone mountain topped by the Outer Pagoda, also called Thien Tru Pagoda. This pagoda was destroyed during the war and has just been rebuilt. One can see here two stupas: Thien Thuy Stupa is a mountain which has been eroded into the form of a stupa; Vien Cong Bao Stupa was built, about 200 years ago, with ancient bricks and contains elaborate sculptures. The Outer Pagoda also has a number of steal and poems inscribed on the mountain cliffs.
The visitors proceed by foot to the Inner Pagoda. On the way, they can see the Tien Pagoda which lies adjacent to a mountain cliff, with stalactites which produce bell-like sounds. There are five statues made of white and transparent stone (if a burning torch is lit behind the statue, one can see the flame from the front).
Then visitors can take the main road, and arrive at the “Clearing Unjust Charges” Pagoda where there is a well with limpid waters. In front of the Pagoda is a brook with 9 sources, called the “Clearing Unjust Charges” brook. Legend has it that Buddha stopped here for a while to rid himself of all the dust of the world. And in washing one’s hands and face in the cool water of the brook, the visitor can feel that he or she is now free from all past “karmas”.
Near to the “Clearing Unjust Charges” Pagoda are the Tuyet Quynh Cave and the Phat Tich Shrine which is known for preserving the “footprint” of Lord Buddha (in fact, this is merely a stone with a mark similar to a footprint).
Not far away is the Cua Vong Pagoda, and then the Inner Pagoda. The latter is, in fact, a big cave, the “Huong Tich” cave, which penetrates deeply and downward into the mountain. One passes through a big gate at the entrance and then down big steps to enter the cave. The gate looks like the mouth of a dragon and its upper part bears 5 Chinese characters inscribed in stone “Nam Thien De Nhat Dong” (the most beautiful cave in the South) reportedly written by Lord Trinh Sam (1767-82).
Inside the cave, are statues of Lord Buddha, of Bodhisatva (the Goddess of Mercy), of Arhats and of others. The statues of Lord Buddha and Bodhisatva are made of green stone, but according to stelae found inside they were made of bronze in 1767 (The Le Bynasty). This means that the old statues were lost and replaced by green stone ones in 1793. A big bell, still in existence, was also cast during this period. The cave also contains many stalactites and stalagmites of various forms, called: the heap of rice, the heap of coins, the Gold Tree, the Silver Tree, the Basket of Silkworms, the Cocoon, the Girl, the Boy and so on.
Childless persons who visited the Pagoda in order to beg for fertility used to caress the latter two stalagmites, to the point that they have become very smooth and polished.
The legend says that Bodhisatva went South and stayed at Huong Tich Pagoda in order to help save human souls. The legend and the history book of the Huong Pagoda also say that the Huong Tich cave became a well-known place of worship over one thousand years ago. During the reign of King Le Thanh Tong (1460-97) a Buddhist shrine already existed in the area where, later, the Thien Tru pagoda was built. A monk from the Pagoda comes into the cave every day to bum incense sticks.
In addition to Huong Tich cave, the visitors can also see the Tuyet Son mountain where a Pagoda is also located in a cave and has a statue of Bodhisatva. They can also visit the Hinh Bong Pagoda located on the top of a mountain, and from there have a full panorama of the HifOng Son area with rivers and brooks criss-crossing the landscape. Stone walls connect to one another like a long rampart. Valleys have apricot-trees that blossom in spring time and decorate mountains with their white flowers.
Many visitors go home with an exotic present from the HifOng Pagoda: an adornment in the form of a crescent with fringes, bearing the name “Huong Tich”; the old root of the Prune trees and a small bundle of fragrant vegetables (“Sang”) gathered in the HifOng mountain.

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