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[PHOTO] Bird release: Hanoians’ good habit in Vu Lan Festival
Duy Khanh - Minh Vu 12:46, 2022/08/11
Ultimately, releasing birds to their habitat is a way for local people to engage in a spiritual extension of acts of charity to wandering and homeless souls.

Bird release has become an occasion for a large number of people in Hanoi to earn merits for the living during Vu Lan Festival (Ullambana), a chance for living descendants to show gratitude to their deceased progenitors.

Hoang Hoa Tham Street in Hanoi is one of the places in the capital city selling birds for that purpose during the festival, which falls midway through the seventh lunar month or Ghost Month, a Taoist and Buddhist festival observed by many across East and Southeast Asia.

Specifically, Vu Lan Festival or Mua Vu Lan in Vietnamese, Yulanpen Festival in Buddhism, Hungry Ghost, Trung Nguyen, Parents’ Day, or Vietnamese Mother’s Day, are also names for this festival that takes place on the 15th day of the seventh Lunar month, centering around the themes of compassion, gratitude, duty, kindness, and filial piety. It is the second-largest annual traditional festival celebrated in Vietnam after Tet (the Lunar New Year celebration).

‘Vu Lan’ is a Sanskrit-Han transliteration of the Ullambana Sutra, or the Sutra of Filial Piety. The Sanskrit phrase “Ullambana”, which originally meant “to hang upside down”, represents the intense anguish that souls must endure in hell in order to atone for their bad deeds committed during their previous existence on earth.

On this day, families in Vietnam pay homage to their progenitors and offer them food, incense, prayers, and other gifts. For the lost people who have no family left, food and thoughts are provided. Additionally asked for are the well-being and happiness of the living.

In the end, it’s all about family reunions to remember the deceased and to show love and thanks. Releasing birds or fish to their habitat is part of people’s engagement in compassionate activities. 

 Hoang Hoa Tham Street in Hanoi is one of the largest bird markets. Photos: Duy Khanh/The Hanoi Times  
 One of the favorite bird species for customers. 
 Customers come to choose birds that are priced at VND10,000 (US$0.5)-VND25,000 (US$1.2) each. 
 Sometimes, customers come to merely listen to the birds singing.  
 Le Manh Dung from Ba Dinh District comes to buy birds for the release. 
 Nguyen Thi Tuyet, a seller at Hoang Hoa Tham Street, said her shop sells around 1,000 birds/day on this occasion. 
 Two customers finish the purchase, getting dozens of birds for release. 
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