VietNamNet Bridge – The traditional “Le hoi dam trau” (buffalo slaughtering festival) of ethnic minority groups in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, took place at the Village for Culture of Ethnic Groups of Vietnam in Hanoi.
The event attracted the participation of hundreds of Vietnamese and foreign visitors.
For mountain minority ethnic dwellers in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the buffalo is the symbol of the power and the richness in the community. Thus, it is used to offer to gods or object of exchange against other goods, as gongs or cymbals, the earthenware jars, the drums and even the elephants.
The minority ethnos groups organize the festival of slaughtering buffalo to celebrate the worship of the gods. This festival is the largest and the most solemn one among the mountain dweller's festivals. It especially takes place at the time of a military victory, thanks the gods, inauguration of a common house (nhà rông), or even to drive out the bad spirits that come to disturb the community.
Certain rich families celebrate this festival to show their fortune and to increase their prestige in the community. However, at the family or community level, the festival of slaughtering buffalo is an original cultural activity and it expresses the community character, where the music of the gongs and cymbals plays an essential part.
Generally, the festival is organized on a flat and vast ground of the village in the months of ning nơng (month of rest), after the every year harvests. It is prepared several months in advance.
During the first feast day, the music of the gongs and cymbals, often of the arap units, resounds to invite the gods initially and then all the villagers to come to take part. The first day is thus devoted to the invitation, the reception of the participants and finally to the preparation of the festival. During all these activities, the music of the gongs and cymbals does not stop animating the atmosphere.
At dawn of the second day, the participants gather around the ritual mast and the patriarch of the village-host, after some prayers, makes bring a male buffalo and attaches it to the post with a solid cord of trees bark. At this time, the music of the gongs and cymbals stop to leave the word to the patriarch who chairs the ceremony. After his opening declaration, the gongs and cymbals resound again and young people dance to their rhythm, which becomes now more and more accelerated and pressing.
During all this day, all the participants dance to the rhythm of the gongs and cymbals. There are moreover competitions like fight body with body, or by whip to gain the amulet offered by the patriarch (Pô khua). Especially, the warriors dance by representing the battle and the victory to awake the courage of the participants. All these activities take place around the post to which the buffalo is attached.
The afternoon of the third day, a young man chosen, robust, acute javelin in the hand, approaches the animal while dancing at the rhythm of the music. When the good moment arrives, he kills the buffalo by striking it with a blow of javelin to the flank, by the heart.
The animal is then cut up to treat everyone. The head is cut out and placed on the ritual mast to offer to the gods. They kill also pigs and chickens to treat everyone. The music of the gongs and cymbals contributes always with the rượu cần (rice alcohol to sip with a bamboo blowtorch) to animate the environment until the festival ends the following day. Everyone eats and drinks.
The traditional dishes are also prepared and presented to all the participants. This festival, a cultural feature of the minority ethnos groups in Central Highland, thus expresses a bond of attachment and solidarity between the community members.
The buffalo slaughtering rite in pictures:
According to tradition, a healthy buffalo is chosen for the rituals. It is bathed and fed before
being bound to a 5m bamboo pole, which is decorated with patterns, flowers and flags.
However, the buffalo for the rite in Hanoi was a small one, so the rite was performed a little different from tradition.
After the officiating priest prayed and showed his gratitude towards the God, a gong troupe
performed. A group of Gie Trieng ethnic group from Kon Tum province were major characters of the rite.
Gie Trieng is the third largest ethnic group (nearly 30,000 individuals) in Kon Tum province in
the Central Highlands, after Xedang and Bana. Some Xedang people also joined the event.
The buffalo’s horns were decorated.
The officiating priest is A Van, 62.
The main rite was chasing and stabbing the buffalo.
After being stabbed to dead, the buffalo was carried to a lake for slaughtering.
Celebration activities took place in the newly-built nha rong.