Participants release doves at the ceremony. (Source: VNA)

Ninh Binh (VNA) - The Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival kicked off in Gia Vien district, the northern province of Ninh Binh, on February 2 (the sixth day of the first lunar month).

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh and Secretary of the provincial Party’s Committee Nguyen Thi Thanh beat the drum to open the festival, which saw the participation of dignitaries from the Vietnam Buddhism Sangha and its provincial chapter, and thousands of pilgrims.

Participants released doves and offered incense to pray for happiness and national development. The event also featured folk games and artistic programmes. 

Addressing the event, Venerable Thich Thanh Nhieu, head of the Bai Dinh Pagoda, highlighted the cultural and historical value of the pagoda, saying that the original pagoda, built thousands of years ago, has become one of the standout landscapes of the old capital.

The pagoda has been upgraded and expanded, which represents the Party’s and State’s attention to the freedom of belief and religion, he added.

Meanwhile, Thanh said Ninh Binh is home to numerous relic sites marking the development of Buddhism, including the Bai Dinh pagoda.    

The pagoda is part of the Trang An Landscape Complex which was recognised as a world Cultural and Natural Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Thanh said.

She expressed her belief that the pagoda will continue welcoming more tourists and local residents to the site, while contributing to the local socio-economic development, poverty reduction, security maintenance for the prosperity and peace of the nation.

The festival will run until the end of the third lunar month.  

The original 1,000 year-old Bai Dinh Pagoda (Bai Dinh Co Tu) is composed of temples worshipping Buddha, the Mountain God, and the Mother Goddess of the Forest. It lies about 800 metres from the Tam The Temple of the new Bai Dinh Pagoda area. 

The recent additions are considered the largest Buddhist temples complex in Vietnam and currently hold several national record-setting relics, including the largest bronze Buddha statue (150 tonnes), the largest bronze bell (30 tonnes), and the largest number of Arhat statues (500).-VNA