Culture highlights

Health praying ceremony for elephants

Annually, the Mnong and Ede groups in Dak Lak hold a ceremony to pray for the health of elephants. It is not only an activity, reflecting the spiritual and cultural customs of each group, but also reminds people to protect the elephants. 
The ethnic people consider the elephants as treasures. According to Dam Nang Long from Lak district, the Mnong people treat elephants as friends so they hold the ceremony annually at the end or the beginning of every lunar year. In recent years, the herd of elephants in the Central Highlands has been reduced so the locals focus on taking care of them.

Depending on the economic condition and customs of each ethnic group, the elephant owner has different ceremonies and offerings. However, everything is aimed toward praying for the elephant’s health and to raise the local’s awareness of protecting the animals. The ceremonies have familiar offerings such as can wine (a fermented rice wine indigenous to several ethnic groups in Vietnam, in areas such as the Central Highlands), pig heads, pig entrails, fresh corn, flowers, bananas, rice, dried fish, the trunk of a banana tree and sugar canes. 

The shaman leads a delegation to implement the ceremony to pray for elephants’ health. Photo: Trinh Bo 

The shaman conducts rituals for mahouts. Photo: Trinh Bo 

 The shaman conducts rituals to pray for elephants’ health. Photo: Trinh Bo

Elephants are ready for the ceremony. Photo: Trinh Bo 

Elephants after a ceremony praying for their health. Photo: Cong Dat 

Mahouts perform the ritual to pray for elephants’ health. Photo: Tat Son 

Buon Don district has the largest herd of elephants so locals often hold a large ceremony to pray for the health of the elephants. They invite a prestigious shaman who is conversant with the customs of the group. The shaman and elephant tamers go to the owner to prepare offerings and have a meal with the owner’s family. Some prosperous villages also hold big party to celebrate the ceremony.
By Tat Son, Trinh Bo, Cong Dat, Nguyen Tuoi

By Tat Son, Trinh Bo, Cong Dat, Nguyen Tuoi