Whale Worship Temple in Vietnam Attracts Religious Followers and Tourists
Published: 03/11/2010 by pat
“Your Excellency”, a 15-ton whale discovered dead along the shores of Bac Lieu province nearly a month ago and buried in the mouth of Cai Cung river, was now moved to a glass tomb measuring 17.2 meters long, 7.2 meters wide and one meter in height. Valued at around VND300 million (US$15,723), over VND100 million of the tomb’s cost came from contributions from the locals. The quite exceptional display of honor towards the large sea mammal reflects a part of the Vietnamese tradition involving whale worship. The religion, called La Cung Ca Ong, is a strong belief practiced for centuries in the country’s coastal regions.
With the quite complex and eclectic nature of the religious customs in Vietnam, the Whale Worship practiced by a large population of those dwelling in the country’s coastal communities often get a mixed reaction locally and even internationally. Perhaps no matter how bizarre, not many people around the world are fully aware of the existence of the so-called ‘whale cult’ even though the worship had long been observed in the country earlier than any of Vietnam’s established religions. Its history roots back to the Cham culture, one of the oldest ethnicities in Southeast Asia. Whale-worship temples have long existed even from Nguyen dynasty and continues to be worshipped upon by the religion’s followers. These sacred temples, and there are quite a number of them existing throughout the country, holds relics of whales and other large sea creatures recovered throughout time, which, believers come to pray for and bring offerings to. It is also where festivals related to their worship, Cau Ngu, are annually held. During these times, such temples are dressed with garlands, adorned with gifts and lanterns, and then presented with intricate performances as a symbol of their adoration for the king of the sea. With such beliefs centering on the whale as their God, thought to hold great power and influence over their fate both in land and on shore, at the same time determining their fortunes, dead whales recovered on seashores are provided with the most lavish funerals similar to those given to royalties. Live whales are given equally high regard and are never hunted on shore.
A related story had been written weeks earlier in Vietnam.com (see story here) shortly after the whale’s corpse was found and how it was honoured with a royal funeral, of which, around 10,000 locals from the village and distant communities came to attend. And since the whale is said to be the largest-ever discovered, people endlessly arrive in huge numbers to catch a glimpse of the believed holy creature, others, out of pure curiosity. With a large mix of religious followers, food and drink vendors and curious crowds, the temple, where “Your Excellency” now lies in his valued glass tomb, is now a place of worship for La Cung Ca Ong believers and a tourist destination for those who finds fascination over the peculiar belief.
Humpback Whale (Source: Wikipedia)
Ludmita Jasińska from Creston, BC V0B 1G0 - 04/10/2010 10:01:45
It’s quite surprising to learn of the things some people are so willing to go to follow their custom or religion. This is one of the many stories many may find odd, yet if you are one of those who deeply believe in the power of the mighty whale, it’s the only instance where you would fully understand. Strange how only few knows about this…