Rice blooming ceremony by K’Ho Sre people in Di Linh – Lam Dong
Feb 21st 2014.
K’Ho ethnic community is one of the three native peoples who inhabit in most of the cities and districts of Lam Dong province (including Dalat city). They can be classified into subgroups, such as K’Ho Sre, K’Ho Chil, K’Ho Lach and K’ho Nop, among which K’Ho Sre is the biggest group. K’Ho Sre means “K’Ho people who cultivate water rice”. K’Ho Sre people earn their living by growing water rice in deep valleys. Their religion is polytheism. The worshipped gods, including river god, mountain god, forest god, etc. They believe that gods are everywhere and always have an influence on people’s life.
The K’Ho Sre people has a rich and diversed spiritual culture that exists in every daily activity among which festivals are considered an important one. Their festivals are often closely connected to agriculture activities related to the growth of rice as a prayer for a year of pleasant weather and good crops The annual Rice Blooming ceremony usually takes place in July.
The ceremony can be carried put in either small or large scale, depending on the contribution and participation of the households. lt lasts within a day in land next to the village’s rice paddies with many different rituals. The preparation for the ceremony is done carefully for many previous days. Decorating and setting up the totem poles are the job of young men in the village.
In this ceremony, the leader of the village plays the main role. He invites other elderly members in the village to a meeting to discuss the preparation and assigns different tasks to the members to make sure the ceremony follows traditional rituals.The major offerings to the gods are agricultural produces that are prepared in different ways.
At the ceremonial site, there is a main altar and a smaller one at the foot of the two totem poles. The poles are decorated with geometric patterns and white bamboo tassels. According to K’Ho Sre culture, white color is the symbol of the spiritual world therefore, it is used to call the gods attention to the ceremony. At the top of the totem poles are two d cloths serving as an invitation to gods There is also a bir ade from bamboo on each pole. They believe that the bird can fly to heaven taking the offerings to the gods and their ancestors.
The ceremony is traditionally hosted by man. The rice blooming celebration is started by the buffalo killing ritual with a buffalo wearing a mask with yin and yang symbol. The villagers and visitors stand in a round to watch.
Before stabbing the buffalo, the leader and other members of stature in the village stand in a line in front of the totem poles. One of them will burn an incense made from aquilaria crassna (a forest tree with a special aroma). The people believe that the aroma can bring good luck and drive away the evil. While the leader is beginning the ceremony, young villagers will make loud whistles 3 times to invite the gods. They then read prayers together, the prayers mean “May God give us a good crop, a good year and more food left for the next year “.
The man who is in charge of killing the buffalo must be a strong and experienced villager. Before the buffalo is killed, it hind legs will be cut with a long knife used for the ritual and its chest is stabbed by a javelin. These steps must be done very fast to kill the buffalo as quickly as possible. The K’ho Sre believe that the faster the buffalo dies, the luckier it is for them because it means the gods have received the offering and their prayers and will give them good crops and enough food.
After the buffalo dies, the leader will rub some of its blood on the totem poles. The red color of the blood represents life and fertility and also a wish for good health. The villagers contain the blood in bamboo tubes or rub it on bamboo sticks with sharpened ends decorated with white tassels (Dung Cho – Ka) or on blady grass decorated with ribbons (the symbol of rice called Sontot) and stiok these on their rice paddy. These are to pray for a good crop without bad pests and enough food for the village.
The main altar,(called Hiu yang), is the place to worship and invite the gods. The first piece of buffalo meat, the freshest and tastiest will be cut into smaller pieces and put on a skewer to display on the altar by the village leader as a sign of respect to the gods. After that, he will use the blood of an offering chicken to rub on the altar and the foreheads of the participants as a wish for health, luck and good crops for the villagers.
Next to the totem poles there is a miniature of a bamboo and grass house called “Hiu Yang cat Ndu”. This is the place to display the offerings to the gods where they can come and feast with the villagers. The top of the house is also decorated with white bamboo tassels: the offerings such as bananas, rice, eggs, etc. are displayed inside the house.
After the ceremony, the leader will cut some meat to place in the house to offer to the gods.
After this ceremony at the field, everyone returns to their home. At home, each family has their own ceremony. They kill a chicken to offer their ancestors. Chicken blood is rubbed on the family members’ foreheads and the feathers are put at the corners of the house to pray for luck. People dance and play with other participants. At this time families can visit and give each other wishes. They all hope the gods will bless them with good health and a lot of food in the coming year.
The rice blooming ceremony is not only a worshipping ritual but also a means of communication between people and between human and nature. To K’Ho Sre people, this is a very important ceremony their spiritual life.
After the ceremony, the participants will be enjoying traditional drinks and gongs performances. Everyone is happy and positive about the coming fruitful harvest.
By Hong Truc