Many ancient cities have settled along rivers and the Imperial Capital of Hué in Vietnam is no different with its Perfume River, steeped in history and myths.
Considered the fulcrum of Vietnam’s two rice baskets – the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta – the city of Hué is bisected by the 30 km Perfume River (translated from the Vietnamese Song Huong), named after a scented tropical shrub that grows there.
Twice yearly, during the months of March and August, Hué comes alive with the Hon Chen Temple Festival. A procession in honor of the old celestial Goddess Thien Mu commences the celebrations.
The Vietnamese adopted this diety from the Indian Hindu Goddess Bhagavati that was renamed Pô Nagar by the ancient Cham minority.
The original myth says that Pô Nagar was born from the clouds of the sky and the foam of the sea and then went onto create the earth, trees and rice – hence her importance and the reason for celebrations.
This powerful Goddess then further adapted to the Vietnamese culture and became known as Thien Mu or Thien Yana.
The procession occurs by the moonlit sky where many boats are tied together into large floating rafts that shine with their many lights as they sail along the Perfume River.
Honchen Temple Festival is also celebrated on the slope of the Ngoc Tran Mountain about 10kms from the city. Performers dress up in the grand royal garb and turbans of the Nguyen Empire and you can enjoy this cultural scene amidst many flags, fans and umbrellas.
Today the Goddess Thien Mu is still worshipped by members of the Thiên Y A Na’s where many rituals are performed in her honor all year-long. She is often channeled by a spirit medium too.
Whilst in Hué explore the Thien Mu Pagoda situated on the north bank of the Perfume River.
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