There are about 600 Khmer Theravada pagodas in the Mekong Delta. Doi, which means Bat in English, is one of the most beautiful pagodas with typical Khmer architecture.
Doi pagoda was built in the 16th century in Soc Trang province.
The pagoda’s name in the Khmer language is Seray Tocho Mahatup. Its popular name is Doi because it’s home to thousands of bats.
Doi pagoda is a museum of Khmer culture and art, reflected in the pagoda gate, main hall, and monks’ accommodations.
The pagoda features Khmer architecture with engraved patterns of lotus leaves. The pagoda is in the centers of a 3-ha orchard.
Hoang Van Viet, a tour guide from Ho Chi Minh city shared, “Looking out the main hall, the pagoda’s facilities appear harmonious with their surroundings, which creates a peaceful feeling. It’s tranquil and relaxed here.”
From the entrance, visitors can be overwhelmed by the bright, shiny yellow color that almost completely covers the entire pagoda. The four corners of the pagoda roof are engraved with Naga cobras and a tower rises high in the middle.
The walls are decorated with 28 paintings about Buddha’s life from his birth until he entered Nirvana. Inside the hall is a statue of Buddha sitting high on a lotus throne.
Viet said, “The hall is the most important place in a pagoda. Khmer Theravada worships only Buddha in the main hall. Kinh pagodas worship Buddha and other Bodhisattvas.”
Around the main hall are stupas containing relics of monks and houses for monks. Doi pagoda embodies Khmer architectural values and traditions. It’s a place for Khmer people to attend religious activities and festivals, enjoy cultural performances, and study.
Tran Van Nam lives near Doi pagoda. He noted, “I offer incense at the pagoda every morning. Khmer people gather here to make Chung cakes for Tet and worship their ancestors. People come here to pray on the first and 15th day of the month. In the Donta festival, people worship at home for three days and then attend a ceremony at the pagoda to pray to their ancestors.”
Doi pagoda’s garden filled with ancient trees and younger fruit trees is home to thousands of bats. Mysteriously, they live in the fruit trees but never eat fruit in the pagoda. When it begins to get dark, they leave the pagoda to find food elsewhere.