Khmer pagodas host both religious ceremonies and non-religious cultural activities. Today we’ll visit some pagodas in Soc Trang province, which is home to a large population of Khmer people.
Kh’leang, Mahatup (Bat), Dat Set (Clay), and Salon (Designed bowl) are the most typical of the 99 Khmer pagodas in Soc Trang province.
Salon pagoda is in Dai Tam commune, 12 km from Soc Trang city. Built in 1815, the one-of-a-kind pagoda has ceramic walls made of broken pieces of bowls and plates.
Chim Chot, Head of the Management Board of Salon pagoda said "The pagoda was bombed during the war. The monks and nuns collected broken ceramic pieces to rebuild the main hall. That's why, the pagoda is named "Designed Bowl" meaning ‘Salon’ in the Khmer language.
Like most Khmer pagodas, Salon has three roofs intricately decorated to reflect an aspiration for peace and freedom of the soul. The two ends of the roof ridge are in a curved shape. On the pagoda walls are paintings depicting the life of Shakyamuni Buddha from his birth to his enlightenment. The main worshiping hall has 20 well-arranged Buddha statues.
Kh’leang is the oldest pagoda in Soc Trang province. Built on high ground, the pagoda is surrounded by palmyra trees, a typical tree of the Khmer people. The pagoda gate is designed with colorful patterns reflecting Khmer culture. The pagoda roof is embossed with images of birds and animals indicating the Khmer philosophy of harmony.
The main worshipping hall has 16 gold-plated wood pillars carved with images depicting the life of Buddha and Buddhist activities. A 6.8-meter Buddha statue cast in 1916 stands in the center of the main hall surrounded by items representing the cultural life of the Khmer people.
Mahatup pagoda is the only Khmer pagoda in Soc Trang province that worships the Lord Buddha. The pagoda is also called Doi (Bat) because thousands of bats live in the pagoda yard.
Trinh Tien, a member of the band that plays traditional music there said “On important occasions like the Chol Chnam Thmay and Dolta festivals, our band performs in the pagoda to express the Khmer people’s gratitude.”
Mahatup pagoda was built in the 16th century in the Khmer architectural style. In the main hall is a stone Buddha sitting on a 2-meter-wide lotus flower and a statue of Buddha riding on the snake genie Muchalinda. The pagoda preserves sutras written on palmyra leaves, rare and precious treasures of Khmer religious belief.
Dat Set (Clay) pagoda, founded by Mr. Ngo Kim Tay in 1906, is the only Khmer pagoda built in a Vietnamese architectural style. The pagoda roof is supported by 24 pillars, each decorated with clay dragons curling from the ground to the roof. The pagoda contains 1,991 clay statues, 3 large urns, 7 small urns, a 1,000-petal lotus, and 2 towers.
Mr. Tram Sanh, a Soc Trang resident, told VOV how much the means to the Khmer people.
“The pagoda is the venue for cultural, spiritual, and religious activities of the Khmer. Everyone wants to visit the pagoda on important occasions and at festivals to worship the Buddha”, said Mr Sanh.