Explore The Ka Ot Temple of The Khmer People in Tay Ninh

Visitors to the province of Tay Ninh, Vietnam, can discover six of the country’s unique Khmer Theravada temples, including the famous Ka Ot Temple, also known as Kiri Sattray Menchey.

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Ka Ot Temple, located in Ka Ot hamlet, Tan Dong commune, Tan Chau district, Tay Ninh province, is a prominent tourist attraction known for its unique Khmer Theravada sect architecture.

Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN
Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN

The temple is approximately 23km from Tan Chau town and 59km from Tay Ninh center. To reach this spiritual site, visitors can take a bus or motorbike to Tay Ninh and then proceed to the temple. From the center of Tan Chau town, follow route 785, continue straight to Ka Tum Market, and then turn about 2km to reach the destination.

The unique name and architecture of the Theravada sect at Ka Ot Temple impress many tourists.

Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN
Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN

Ka Ot Temple was constructed in 1980 and officially inaugurated in 1996. Initially named Kiri Sattray Menchey Ka Op, meaning “a victorious woman in the mountains,” it was later renamed Ka Ot. Visitors can enjoy the serene and majestic beauty of the temple, especially during noon when the sunlight filters through the foliage.

The temple is situated on a spacious plot of land surrounded by bamboo and trees, creating breathtaking scenery. The main hall features dragon heads in all four directions and faces the East, symbolizing a direction towards the Buddha according to the religion.

Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN
Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN

The main hall is the first stop for visitors, where they can admire the depiction of the Buddha transmitting the Dharma to Buddhists. Further inside the temple is the altar and the location of the Shakyamuni statue.

The temple also features a specially designed area with numerous statues, including a giant Shakyamuni Buddha seated on a high pedestal. To the left of the shrine is a tower where the ashes of deceased monks and Buddhists are stored, as the Khmer people in Tay Ninh do not cremate but instead burn the ashes and send them to the temple for worship.

Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN
Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN

Additionally, Ka Ot Temple serves as a sacred place for the Khmer minority group to engage in religious activities.

Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN
Photo: Giang Phuong/ TTXVN

The southern part of present Vietnam was originally inhabited by the Champa (Cham) and Cambodian (Khmer) people, who followed a syncretic Saiva-Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. The Vietnamese gradually conquered and absorbed this land in the 15th and 18th centuries. While the dominant Vietnamese population embraced the Mahayana tradition, the ethnic Cambodians continued to practice the Theravada tradition, resulting in peaceful coexistence of both traditions.

In the 1920s and 1930s, there were movements in Vietnam focused on the revival and modernization of Buddhist activities. Alongside the reorganization of Mahayana establishments, there was a growing interest in Theravadin meditation and Buddhist materials based on the Pali Canon. These materials were available in French. One of the pioneers who introduced Theravada Buddhism to the ethnic Vietnamese was Le Van Giang, a young veterinary doctor. Driven by his interest in Buddhism, he studied and practiced various traditions before discovering Theravada. After learning meditation from a Cambodian monk in Phnom Penh, he achieved deep states of samadhi. Eventually, he ordained and took the Dhamma name of Ho-Tong (Vansarakkhita).

Charlotte Pho