Ha Giang is a province with majestic and wild natural beauty. Besides that beauty, the festival is a unique cultural feature, making the identity of the upland area. Let’s explore the Pa Then fire dance festival, the private soul of the Pa Then ethnic group.
Pa Then is an ethnic minority, scattered in two districts of Bac Quang and Quang Binh in Ha Giang province and Chiem Hoa district in Tuyen Quang province with a population of just over 5.000 people. Although being an ethnic minority group, Pa Then is still an ethnic group with the diversity in cultural identity. Cultural characteristics are shown in costumes, musical instruments, songs, and especially the Fire Dancing Festival.
Fire dancing festival is usually held every year in new year’s eve, which lasts from the harvest of the season in October and November of the lunar calendar to the full moon day of January. The Fire Dance Festival is held to thank heaven and earth, the gods for giving a good harvest, and also pray for a bumper crop in the new year. The fire that is lit up will bring warmth and luck and dispel the harshness of the coming winter.
Fire Dancing Festival is held on a large yard. The shaman must prepare the offering and begin the ritual of worship, asking permission from the ancestors for the villagers to organize the game. The shaman sits on a bench, holds a stick and knocks repeatedly on the instrument which is a common sacrificial instrument of the Pa Then ethnic group. The shaman is not allowed to jump into the fire but is only allowed to transfer the secret to others and knock the instrument for them to dance. The shaman sings the songs with the content opening the way to the sky to find the “ghost” and call back to join the participants of the fire dance.
When the initial rituals end, the fire begins to weaken, leaving a glowing coal pile and the bodies of the dancing participants begin to shake. This is the time to signal that the power comes to them, the dancers will bravely jump into the hottest and the most glowing coal pile. The shaman ‘knocks become the source of the power of the boys’ steps to jump into the glowing coal pile. That scene creates a beautiful, fanciful and strange painting.
The bare feet of the Pa Then boys jump in the fire without burns or fear. They do not use any items to support their feet. The bare feet that jump into the fire symbolize the strength and courage of the boys. Fire Dancing Festival is a unique, wild and mysterious cultural activity of the Pa Then people. Why do the boys with bare feet dance in the fire without burns and aren’t their hair and clothes burnt? It is still a question which is difficult for scientists and cultural researchers to explain.
When the fire dies, the coal cools, the shaman will perform the ritual of withdrawing soldiers, see off the gods and ghosts to their place. The ceremony ends, the boys return to their normal state. The Fire Dance Festival ends in the echo of the laughter and excitement of the Pa Then people. The Fire Dance Festival has become a traditional cultural festival, an indispensable custom in the daily life of the ethnic people here.
Although there are also spiritual and mystical elements that cannot be explained, it cannot be denied for the cultural value brought by the Fire Dance festival. Let’s travel to Ha Giang to visit Bac Quang and Quang Binh districts to experience the unique features of the fire dance festival of Pa Then people.
|Read more: Ha Giang Travel Guide