An air of grandeur filled with incense and tears seeking responses weaves magical weather of its own in the toes of Sam Mountain. Fortune and a good life speak of a lot more than perseverance and endeavors in the vicinity of Southern Vietnam, and it is unattainable unless they are answered in the prayers. Vĩnh Tế, a village in the Mekong Delta, unfolds an inexplicable range of unparalleled beliefs and values which are the breath of its inhabitants.
Bà Chúa Xứ (Lady Xu) has invariably been looked upon as their trustee and guardian since time immemorial in their voyage of lives. As a symbol of last resort, Lady Xu reigns their minds and showers the downpour of blessings. One felt no instances of silence in the hearts of the people who owe their trust in her, and those who lack her confidence were never spared either.
Clouds of uncertainty still hover around the genesis of the temple devoted to Lady Xu in the Sam Mountain. The temple, which is believed to be built in 1820, was originally a composite of bamboo and leaves. They also made her abode to witness a wave of subsequent renovations that reached its climax in 1972 as per the available records.
The 3-day festival, which marks its inception on the 23rd day of the fourth lunar month, is a cynosure of the valley and embraces pilgrims blanketing the national boundaries and religious gates. The fete, which traces its origin from a gesture of gratitude by Chau Thi Tea, a resident of the valley for her husband’s return during a phase of political turmoil, has been accorded with a status of the national festival since 2001 by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
In her totemic manifestation in the sanctum-sanctorum, Lady Xu is acknowledged to be a feminine replica of Lord Shiva, a Hindu deity designed by the Khmer sculptors hailing from Cambodia. Legends reveal the rolls of vengeance she had imposed on those who attempted to bring change in the exact position of the statue.
Punishments that assumed the shape of repressive ones, such as deaths, also reserve a place in the mythical anecdotes. Segments of myths draw parallel with the perpetual conquests of foreigners, particularly the tribes of Siam as responsible for a missing arm in the idol, who was retaliated with heinous death by the Goddess as the price for their action. Consequently, none ever dared to challenge her to wish out of sheer reverence for their Mother. People from all walks of life lining up to seek refuge at their feet from their unrelieved miseries and adversities are routine scenes within the sacred premises.
Life tantamounts to a vacuum in her absence for the adherents, and the element of sacred frenzy with collective trance is never kept at bay. The Lady of the Realm is known for the personification of marital fidelity and reflection of a long nursed convention of matriarchy. An elegant aroma of divinity is further re-emphasized as she is christened as the source of moral sanctity and salvation. Moreover, the temple also holds a slot in the bucket list of tourist destinations, which brings monetary prosperity to the residents’ doorsteps.
Lady Xu continues her expedition as the defender of the Southern Vietnamese border and the existential edifice for her subjects. Spirituality has no confines, and neither does the Lady of the Realm.