Life Life

16/01/2018 - 17:01

A Luoi: a new growing season

When spring is on the doorstep, the Aza festival takes place across the villages of the Pa Co people (an ethnic minority) in A Luoi. Aza is an important ritual, performed as a plea for abundant crops, prosperity and happiness for the villagers.

Traditional dances are indispensable in the Aza festival in A Luoi

The Aza festival marks the end of a farming year and the start of a new one. There is no fixed day to celebrate Aza as each village chooses their own day, but Aza is normally held in November of the lunar calendar.

"Aza is a long-standing traditional festival of the Pa Co people, passed down from generation to generation. Its original rituals have remained intact over the time. Even the most impoverished household would manage to have a rooster in their offerings to the gods. Aza also fosters the sense of solidarity among families in the village," shares Ku Xet, the village patriarch of Pi Reh 1 hamlet, Hong Thuy commune.

Among the festivals of the Pa Co people, Aza is the second most important; therefore, whenever it is celebrated, even villagers who work far from home would return to take part in. The Aza festival is celebrated in every household, every family.

In the preparation for Aza, the Pa Co villagers cook plain rice and glutinous rice, make aquat cakes from the finest rice and glutinous rice, set aside the most skillfully-made zèng (brocade cloth particular to the Pa Co people), the best seeds; and slaughter goats, pigs and roosters. Each household normally prepares three trays of offerings, one for the forest deity, one for rice god and corn deities, and one for the deceased. What to offer gods varies among households, dependent on how wealthy they are. Well-off families offer goats and pigs to the deities, poor families - roosters. Guests invited to the Aza festival are mostly villagers' offspring who are based far away. This custom is called Târ lêh - a ritual of reporting to the gods and the ancestors about the village's sons who can manage to come home for the festival.

Once the preparation is complete, under the order of the patriarch, young men in the village strike gongs to signal the beginning of Aza. Upon hearing the sound of the gongs, all the households in the village start burning incense, lighting oil lamps and worshiping. The ritual is performed against the background of zèng hung from the ceiling. There is no rigid way of hanging zèng, which varies among families. The offerings are arranged in a formal setting.

"Aza is a thanksgiving festival of our people, to express our gratitude to the deities who endow us with fertile crops, abundant harvests, peace in our homes and health for our people. I hope that the coming year will bring us prosperity and our offspring will be more academically successful," says Ku Xet, the patriarch.

When the worship is over, each family brings their offerings to the house of the village headman or the community center to worship together to the deities - guardians of the village and to the foundation fathers of the village. Similarly, the Kinh people have the Thu tế (Autumn ritual) to pay their respect to the village guardians.

According to Mr. Bui Viet Dzung, chairman of the People's Committee of Hong Thuy commune, before the community center was built, the villagers would carry their offerings to the village headman's house. But since its construction, the worship has been communally performed there, after which, the villagers hold a reception together.

After the communal ceremony has been performed, the village headman strikes the gong and beats the drum to announce the commencement of a new growing season, and of a new year. Against the sound of the instruments, young man and women of the village walk around the worship venue and perform the Pochiengcoon dance - a dance simulating farming activities with a view to remembering the past growing season and praying for a more abundant one.

A new growing season has come. It is also a new year for the Pa Co people. The Aza festival has most of its long-standing traditional rituals preserved, in the performance of which the Pa Co people express their hope for prosperity. Aza also sharpens the sense of belonging to a community among the villagers.

Story and photo: QUOC TUAN