Whales Festival in Nha Trang

Nga Do
Khanh Hoa, like other coastal province, the respect for the sea is an indispensable part, not only in the thought of fishermen, but also of local people. That is why the Whale Festival is always regarded as an important festival. The Festival takes place at Ông Temple – Nha Trang City.

This festival is tied to a legend in which Emperor Gia Long was saved by a whale while he was at sea. After being crowned, Emperor Gia Long had given Mr. Whale a title “Nam Hải Cự Tộc Ngọc Lân Thượng Đẳng Thần”. The next Nguyen Emperors had given him the tile: “Đại Càng Quốc Gia Nam Hải”. Annually, people celebrate the festival on the day when the whale died and carry out the ceremony to ask for good fishing crop. Worshipping Cau Ngu Festival organizes on the fishing season every year. The ritual is finished by Ba Trao dancing and started to Chau song performance (it may last 5-7 days).

The festival takes place within two days in the middle of the third lunar month in spring (Xuan te) and August (Thu te) with the presence of all villagers and fishing boats. Historically, local people had considered whale a rare and precious species, causing no harm to human beings and often help fishermen in storms. With such spirit, fishermen express much admiration towards whales as they avoid calling whales directly and instead use the title Ca Ong or Ong Nam Hai (Whale God). They built temples (Lang Ong) to store whales’ bones, with altars of two guardians – Ly Ngu’s on the left, and Ly Luc’s on the right. In the tomb, there is the bone of the whale called Ngọc Cốt. In addition, they celebrate Whales Festival with the belief that showing respect to Whale God is the assurance of not only safety but also prosperity of the village they live.

The whale temple, together with of every house and boat in each village, are gorgeously decorated. On the first day of the festival, all the villagers place significant objects on a table to begin the Peace Ceremony, which is organized on the first night. Offerings do not contain sea foods and are given while the oration is read out. The ceremony is held to respect the Whale God and to pray for the safety and propriety of the village. At dawn the following day, there will be a procession of boats on the sea in a set formation. This procession displays the fishermen’s sincerity to their Whale God. By midnight, the official ceremony is conducted as school children offer incense and the orchestra plays a classical opera. During the two days of the festival, all ships and boats no matter where they are, are anchored at the wharf to take part in Whale Festival.

Whale Festival is celebrated as an act of respect for the spirits and is also linked to the prosperity of the fishing villages. Coming to Vietnam and enjoy it – one of the most interesting festivals in Nha Trang.

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