CHAM RELIGION: CHAM KAPHIR (CHAM HINDUS) AND CHAM BAMI (CHAM MUSLIMS)

CHAM RELIGION

The Cham follow Islam and Hinduism. The Cham that practice Hinduism practice a form altered by local superstition. This group calls itself Cham Kaphir from the Arabic for infidel, or Cham Jat, meaning Cham by race. The Cham that practice Islam practice a form altered by local superstition. This group calls itself Cham Bani from the Arabic for Sons of the Prophet. Excellent relations exist between the Hindu and Muslim Cham, and the priests of one faith attend, on invitation, the ceremonies of the other. Several gods are mutually venerated by people of both faiths. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Many of the Chams in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan Provinces in Vietnam are Hindus. Many of those who live in Cambodia are Shiite Muslims. Some practice a hybrid religion that incorporates both Islam and Hinduism. Muslim leaders include the imam, one-grou (high priest of the mosque) and the mo’duo’n (censor). Hindu leaders include a high priest recruited from the basaih caste, the paja (celibate priestesses/prophets) and riju (Hindu censors). The camenei caste is responsible for taking care of temples and the kathar caste provide music for ceremonies. **

For centuries two religions, Hinduism and Islam, have dominated the Cham of the Republic of Vietnam. The influence of the former was evident in the country as early as the second century when the three Indian gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva (and the Sakti, or wives of the last two, Uma and Laksmi) were venerated. Although Islam was introduced at a later, undetermined date, inscriptions indicate the existence of a Muslim community in Champa in the 10th century. Reportedly, kings spent vast sums on temples, each one a domain in itself, containing large numbers of priests, slave dancers, servants, musicians, and quarters for the women and their slaves. Ruins of these vast temple complexes reveal the important position held by religion during the imperial phase of Champa history. **

Both Islamic and Hindu Chams participate in magic-religious festivals that feature ceremonies and dancing. The two major feasts—Bon Kate in September or October and Bon Chabur on January and February—blend elements of Islam, animism and Hindu and feature five days of celebrations and rites for ancestors. Po Klong Garai, a 13th century Cham temple, hosts a Cham festival with dancing and music and appearances by the last Cham queen. Hindu Cham cremate their dead and place their ashes in a family sepulcher. Muslim Cham bury their dead twice: once soon after death in a temporary grave and a second time a year or so later, after the last of several commemorative ceremonies are held, in a permanent community cemetery. **

Cham Folk Beliefs

The Cham belief in animistic spirits has traditionally affected virtually every aspect of their existence. These spirits, both good and evil, had to be treated with respect, and at specified times offerings were required to appease them. In addition, the Cham observed certain traditional prohibitions in the hope that the spirits would be prevented from causing misfortune.* These folk beliefs varied according to region and religion and some may have disappeared entirely in some Cham areas. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Trees, and the shadows cast by them, were traditionally thought to hide evil spirits and bear ill omens. Banana trees were especially feared. During pregnancy, Cham women had to avoid a certain Javanese banana which was thought to cause a monster to be born who would torment the family. A banana tree was planted above the grave of a woman who died during pregnancy in the belief that the soul of the deceased would stay among the branches and would not haunt the family. **

Cham houses are constructed according to an established ritual with specified materials. Even wealthy Cham avoid building stone or brick houses which might remotely resemble the sacred towers of the Cham deity Po Rome. All wood for construction of a house must be cut from trees in the same area. A tree which falls on branches already on the ground presages evil. A number of folk beliefs govern activities within the Cham household. In general, a guest must not enter the bedrooms in a Cham house; exceptions are made for intimate friends and people highly respected within the village. A guest, even an old friend, must never place a kettle on the kitchen tripod - a sacred object. Altars must not be erected to honor the ancestors or the gods that protect the household. Esteem must be shown inanimate as well as animate objects; for example, kitchen utensils broken through ordinary use must not be thrown away but must be kept in a pile near the house until a flood washes it away. Both Hindu and Muslim Cham abstain from sexual relations on Mondays, as Allah was born on that day. **

Since the Cham are primarily farmers, they arc extremely careful not to arouse the spirits connected with agriculture. Seed is not bought in another village for fear that the rice spirit will be offended and will seek revenge. Villagers do not speak on the first day of harvest in order to avoid frightening the spirits. During the flax harvest, the Cham pretend to be drunk to insure the preservation of the inebriating properties of the flax. The Cham, especially the Hindu s, fear oxen and do not use them to work the fields: from ancient Hindu ism they have retained the belief that a mythical ox (Kapila) transports the dead to the next world. Traditionally, a village had to move if one of the villagers died an accidental death. The night before the move, all domestic animals in the village were killed. **

Cham Calender and Festivals

The Cham calendar is partly lunar and partly solar: A new moon marks the beginning and end of each month. The lunar month has a light half, which terminates in the full moon, and a dark half, which is concluded by the new moon. Time is measured by the duodenary or 12-month cycle. Each of the 12 months is named for an animal; for example, Rat, Buffalo, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Cock, Dog, Boar. The year begins in the spring (April-May) and is composed of 12 lunar months of 30 and 29 days alternately. The months are numbered from 1 to 10, and the 11th and 12th have special names. Every 3 years an extra month is added. Time measurement among the Muslims differs from that of the Hindu s, and both vary from that of the Vietnamese, the official calculation.40 Most Cham are probably unaware of the calendar and determine the date by the lunar periods. The names of the days of the week are borrowed from the planets: Adit (sun), Thom (moon), Angar (Mars), But (Mercury), Jip (Jupiter), Shuk (Venus), Tchanchar (Saturn). The day is divided into 12 hours, beginning at the first cockcrow. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Some festivals provide entertainment in the form of feasting and music. The Tet festival, a new year celebration observed throughout the Republic of Vietnam, begins the 15th day of the 1st lunar month and continues for 1 month. Just before the Tet celebration, the head of the family wraps a gift and blesses it. The family is then permitted to follow his example. On the 1st day of the festival, everyone proceeds to the forest to make a small spoon of leaves, which are cut into pieces, mixed with alcohol, and poured on the heads of buffaloes, who are then caned several times. Pigs and poultry are slaughtered for the feast and all guests must eat until they drop from exhaustion. Singing and music begin and continue until noon. **

A special ceremony, called the Vo La, is performed if there have been no deaths during the year. A rich elder leads the ceremony, offering a leaf containing glutinous rice to the spirits. The gifts to the spirits are cooked over firewood collected during the 10th month from the paddy rays. Failure to gather the firewood at the prescribed time is punishable by fine and cancellation of the Tet festival. **

Cham Rituals

Cham rituals are extremely complex and are introduced into all phases of existence. Even the most trivial task requires specific rites. Offerings of food and prayers are made to the spirits and are followed by a feast for the participants. In addition to religious ceremonies and rituals for every phase of an individual's life, important agrarian, construction, and dedicatory rites exist. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Annual rituals attend the rebuilding of dams (banoek) and the cleaning and repairing of irrigation canals (rabong). Both Po-Klong-Garai, the deified king reputed to have invented irrigation, and Po-Nagar, the goddess of agriculture, are invoked during these rituals. During the first Cham month, when the canals are being cleared and repaired, the Ong-Banoek, "Chief of the Dams," presents offerings to these gods. **

Then for several days, the Ong-Banoek lives in a hut at the point where the water enters his own field. With offerings and prayers to the gods to render the dam unbreakable, the Ong-Banoek takes three stakes and plants them in the river bed. Against these he leans three pieces of wood, three stones, three bundles of liana, three mounds of sod, and some leaves. Once more he prays to the gods, informing them that construction and repair have begun. Armed with building equipment, the people continue to work while the Ong-Banoek remains in his hut. When the dam is completed, the Ong-Banoek returns home and prepares a feast to which he invites the priests. When the rice is in flower at harvesttime the Ong-Banoek makes further offering to the protective deities. **

If drought occurs after a planting, the Cham gather various offerings for a collective sacrifice to the gods. Led by an orchestra, the priests and all the villagers go to the dams to ask the gods for rain. Periodic sacrifices are also made to assure regular rainfall. Varying with the village, these sacrifices may include a white buffalo, black chickens, or black goats. Formerly, a child, preferably from a wealthy family, was kidnapped by the Ong-Banoek and drowned in the river as an offering to the rain gods. **

Construction of a house requires a multitude of rituals. First the designated spot is enclosed within a palisade of dead wood - any foliage creating shade would be an ill omen. Openings in this enclosure allow the gods to enter and assist the builders. Before the first (northeast) column can be erected, a hole must be dug for the foundation. Then an amulet - a sheet of lead engraved with mystical characters - is thrown into this hole by the owner. Each column is consecrated in this manner. Usually only one column per day is consecrated and fixed in position. When the framework of the roof is completed, an amulet must be introduced at every point where the roof touches. Special materials are used to thatch the roof; bulrushes are taboo, as they are endowed with evil powers. The completed house is taboo until the threshold has been crossed by a cat, followed by the owner. The latter prostrates himself on the ground where his bed will rest. Then, rising, he begins to recite all the locations to be avoided when choosing a spot for a new house. I will flee far from the haunts of the White Ant. I will turn aside from the dwelling-places of demons and evil spirits. Sloping places I will shun.... In short I will never be found where evil is to be expected. **

The building of Cham carts also requires rituals. Completion of a cart calls for a dedication ceremony. The wheelwright, often attended by one or two priests, lights candles, makes an offering to the gods, sprinkles the cart with holy water, and purifies it with a thorough scouring in the river. Then, while making a few light gashes here and there on the cart, he says, "Cart, woe betide you if ever the fancy take you not to roll your best." The ceremony terminates in a feast. **

Cham Agricultural Rituals

The Cham lead other groups in Southeast Asia in the variety and individuality of their agrarian rituals. Both Cham Kaphir and Cham Bani recognize three types of sacred ricefields: Hamu Tabung or Tabun, Hamu Klaik Lava, and Hamu Canrov. A ricefield is declared Hamu Tabung (taboo) when a man or animal working the field falls ill and first symptoms are experienced while in the field itself. Nothing can save a Hamu Tabung field - it must be sold, even at a great loss, to Vietnamese Christians in the area. (Vietnamese Buddhists also fear the cursed field and will have nothing to do with it. ) The concept for this practice is uncertain: Some say the field must be sold because the sickness indicates the field was an ancient burial ground; others, that Cham princes once cultivated the field according to rites which the present-day Cham do not know. Therefore, to avoid offending with the wrong ritual the Cham do not cultivate these fields at all. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Every wealthy landowner has a Hamu Klaik Lava, "Field of Furtive Labor," which is first cultivated under cover of darkness, for plowing and sowing are associated with the crime of sexual violation. In June, the 2d Cham month, early in the morning husband and wife proceed to their field where they silently plow three furrows and return home. At dawn, as though by accident, the man wanders past the field and expresses surprise at seeing the plowed furrows: "Who labored furtively in my field during the night?" He hurries home to prepare offerings and carries them to the field, for a field that cultivates itself must indeed be consecrated. After a few prayers, the sowing of the field may continue openly. **

At the flowering season and at harvesttime, sacrifices are offered when the stalks in the field are tall enough to "hide the doves." The deities are invited to taste the offerings, while the man cuts three stalks of rice and wraps them in cloth. The stalks are passed through a fire of burning eaglewood, offered to the goddess of agriculture (Po-Nagar), then hung in the house until the next year's planting, when they will be sown in the three furrows mysteriously plowed during the night. The remainder of the rice in the Hamu Klaik Lava is then harvested. **

The third type of sacred ricefield, the Hamu Canrov, is chosen by the villagers. Usually each village has no more than two or three Hamu Canrov. These fields apparently have no significance beyond the traditional habit of setting aside two or three Hamu Canrov to be sown before all the other fields can be worked. The sacred fields are cultivated either at midmorning or at dusk, after a priest has offered a sacrifice to the gods. The owner of a Hamu Canrov and the priest pray to Po-Olvah Ta-Ala, "God of the Underworld," to bless the buffaloes, permit cultivation of the fields, and grant a good harvest. The owner then plows three furrows around the field, anoints the ground with oil, sows a handful of rice, and drives his buffaloes home. The following day he returns to complete the cultivation and the sowing.28 No special ritual seems to attend the harvesting of this field. **

Another Cham agrarian rite consists of tossing a handful of paddy on a portion of the ricefield before sowing the whole field. A chicken is killed and its blood sprinkled on the plants as they begin to appear. These sacred stalks arc then transplanted to a corner of the field, and they must not be touched. A similar offering accompanies the harvest; in addition, a shrub, the dong-dinh, is symbolically planted to encourage the gathering of a healthy crop. **

Cham Funerals, Death and Ancestors

Cham beliefs concerning life after death are difficult to establish and are far from uniform. Their ceremonies would suggest the Cham believe the souls of the deceased join the ranks of the divine. Early reports claimed that some Cham believed that the souls enter certain animals, such as serpents and crocodiles. Many Cham believed the soul inhabits rodents, while others claimed rodents are the haven only for the souls of the stillborn and very young children. In any case, sacrifices were made to various animals reputedly harboring souls of the dead. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

The ancestors represented by the bones in the klong were traditionally venerated annually by the wealthy and every 5 or 10 years by the poor, who could not afford annual sacrifices. At the tabat kut or worship-of-the-tombs ceremonies, the ancestors received presents. The Cham Kaphir also prayed to their ancestors periodically for special favors or for cures for illness. The family invited priests and a priestess (called a Paja) to the cemetery to offer sacrifices, and they spoke to the ancestors while the family implored the ancestors to accept the priestess as an intermediary. At a given moment, the Paja began to sway and answered, "We accept the homage of our descendants." The ceremony terminated with a feast, and the family returned home. **

Funerals, Death and Burial for Muslim Cham

The Cham Bani (Muslim) have traditionally buried their dead with relatively little pomp. In the center of the family compound, a small hut was erected to accommodate the hammock in which the washed body, wrapped in a white cotton cloth, was placed. The priests recited prayers while friends and relatives paid their respects by offering gifts. It was considered an honor to keep the cadaver in the hut for a period of several weeks. Then a nocturnal procession of priests, family, friends, and villagers escorted the body to the grave site, where it was placed in a temporary grave, head turned toward the north. All participants promised to visit him regularly. They prayed that the deceased would not return to haunt them or to complain about his ungrateful relatives. If the deceased was very old, several boards were placed over the body, but to cover a young person's body with boards would have caused the family to suffer. The grave was half filled with soil. Then only the priests remained to recite more prayers and fill the grave. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

The Cham Bani mourned the deceased in seven services, called Padhi, which occurred on the 3rd, 7th, 10th, 30th, 40th, and 50th days after the burial and concluded with the anniversary date. During these services the family had a meal beside the grave, and the grave was sprinkled with holy water. Priests came to pray at the head and feet of the dead at the fifth Padhi; after the ceremony they were given betel, tobacco, cloth, and crockery. **

At the final Padhi, the Cham Bani of Binh Thuan often disinterred the bones and transferred them to a sacred place. The Large Dune or Gohoul-Prong, located between the valley of Parik (Phan Ri) and the edge of the sea, served as the final resting place for the bones of Parik Muslims. The people of Phan Rang buried their dead at the foot of a hill called Tchoek-Tadou or Kadou. The exhumation was accompanied by the same rites as those for the original burial. The bones were placed in a small coffin together with gold or silver rings belonging to the deceased. The disinterment usually occurred during the rainy season, but some variations in the timing have occurred. **

Funerals, Death and Burial for Hindu Cham

Among the Cham Bani of Quang Ngai, according to an early source, all lamenting ceased abruptly after the initial interment. Hindu Cham people conduct elaborate cremation ceremonies. Traditionally, Cham Kaphir (Hindu ) funeral observances rested on the notion that the soul must receive a new body after losing its earthly home. The formation of this new body, actually a spirit or soul, was believed to have been accomplished by a ceremony using rice. Rice alone was believed capable of effecting the transformation to a new body or soul. In anticipation of the funeral observance, the family preserved its best stalks of rice from the harvest for this ceremony. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

To destroy the flesh and physical and moral corruption, the Cham Kaphir have traditionally cremated all their dead except the very poor and young children. When a family was too poor to afford the expensive ceremonial rites, the deceased was buried without priests, his head turned southward. Children who had not been initiated into the full rights of adulthood were also buried in the ground and their souls were believed to have entered the bodies of palm rats. This practice stemmed from the belief that young children were still innocent and did not need the purification of fire. Memory of a child was perpetuated in ceremonies conducted by the head of the family, who made offerings of goods, such as rice, coconuts, and bananas; waved his arms to imitate the movements of a bird; and placed a red flower in a bronze vase. **

The body of the deceased was wrapped in a shroud of 8 or 10 white cotton garments, one over the other. The head was not included in the shroud; it was covered with a thin veil. The cadaver was placed in a special hut erected in the family compound. There, on a bed oriented towards the south and raised on a dais, the cadaver rested with candles placed at the head and feet. Suspended above the bed was a gold cloth canopy from which hung paper birds and animals; the birds were believed to have escorted the soul of the deceased to its future dwelling place. The priests placed clumps of mountain hemp around the dais. In addition, rice, cakes, water, and betel surrounded the bed, and martial trophies and flags decorated the hut. **

During the period between death and cremation, which varied from a few weeks to a month or more, the body remained in the hut attended at all times by priests and priestesses who recited prayers. Visitors, housed and fed at the family's expense, came to entertain the deceased with their witty conversation. An orchestra of flutes, violins, drums, and cymbals played continually day and night. Day and night, the priestesses prepared meals to offer to the cadaver; each time the veil was removed and afterwards replaced. Children and grandchildren of the deceased abstained from eating meat during this period. Adults and friends did not participate in any festivities unless these were associated with the deceased. In the presence of the deceased, however, they sang, danced, and consumed great quantities of food and drink. **

Finally, when the body reached an advanced state of decomposition, plans were made for the cremation. On the appointed day, the priests constructed a catafalque and adorned it with gilt paper animals and flowers. The body, resting on the catafalque, was carried by the priests to the fields near the exit of the village. The funeral procession included the orchestra, a group of villagers dressed in white, and mourning women in long hoods. As the body was carried from the village, the priests turned the catafalque round and round to confuse the soul of the departed and to prevent it from returning home. To this same end, the villagers ran back and forth and in all directions while continuing to advance slowly towards the site of the cremation. Meanwhile, a priest (Po Damoeum or "Lord of Sorrow" for the occasion) shut himself in the house of the deceased to implore every object, animate and inanimate, to prevent the soul from reentering the house to torment the living. **

At the spot chosen for the cremation, the priest examined the site and with a pickax marked out the four corners of the place destined for the funeral pyre. The assistants removed the sod and prepared the pyre, while the priests unrolled the shroud from the corpse and offered it a last meal - a few grains of rice placed under the tongue. The body was re-covered and placed on the pyre. The priests and relatives made three solemn turns around it; when the fire was lit, they deposited their candles on the pyre. Personal effects of the deceased were then thrown on the fire, and mourners sent gifts to their own dead relatives by placing the names of the deceased in baskets attached to the catafalque. During the cremation, the priests and people offered prayers interspersed with laughter and anecdotes. Serious mourning, weeping, and tearing of hair were performed by hired mourners. **

As soon as the flames reached the body, the priest detached the head from the torso, smashed the frontal bone with an ax, and removed nine little pieces, the noble bones, which he placed in a little hole in the ground filled with water. Then he threw the head back into the fire. The ceremony of the purification of the bones followed: The bones were removed from the hole and ceremoniously deposited in a small copper box called a klong; and the priests officiated at a solemn meal for the souls, as well as a feast for the forest.36 This ceremony terminated with the presentation of the klong to the family. The bones in the klong were then kept in the family temple for a year. At the final funeral ceremony, called Padhi by the Cham Kaphir, as well as by the Cham Bani, the klong was buried with other ancestors under the kout or family tombstones. When the cremation was completed, the priests, relatives, and friends returned to the home of the deceased. To confuse the soul of the deceased, the priests turned their clothes inside out, tied their hair into a knot on their necks, unrolled their turbans, and pretended to be ordinary travelers. A final meal was prepared for the funeral guests, and the host made an offering to the ancestors. **

Hindu Cham

The Cham cult is linked with orthodox Hinduism through certain sacred rites which include: The worship of the phallic symbol (linga) and the white bull of Siva (Nandi); the bath of purification; the rinsing of the mouth after the sacrifice; religious initiation or rebirth; the custom of placing a gold leaf on the mouth of the deceased to insure immortality; the ceremonial use of kuca grass, strings of beads, and the holy shell offerings to the fire; the fear of ritualistic mistakes; inviting the gods to participate in sacrificial ceremonies; considering the northeast direction as sacred; and reciting the prayers that accompany the rites. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

The religious practices of the Hindu Cham today are so mixed with native and Muslim elements that the people and priests have lost all memory of the civilization of India, the significance of the Hindu gods or the monuments representing them, and the meaning of the prayers which they recite. Originally, worship of the Indian god Siva formed the basis of the Hindu Cham religion. Over the centuries, however, reality and myth were blended - the historical works and deeds of some early kings and princes who encouraged the practice of the Sivaist cult fused with the legends developed around the primitive gods. Consequently, some of these monarchs became deified and replaced the orthodox Hindu gods in the cult's religious pantheon. Among the numerous deities, three are especially venerated: Po-Nagar, Po Rome, and Po-Klong-Garai. The last two are Cham royalty, deified through legend. **

Combined with these Indian practices and beliefs, the Hindu Cham have retained a number of pre-Hindu beliefs common to neighboring areas: agrarian rites, traces of which persist among the Malays; the sacrifice of buffaloes, practiced by the tribes of Indochina; and the employment of priestesses, found also among the Bahnar and Sedang tribes.13 These are examples of the more important religious customs which have survived from the ancient Cham civilization and are still practiced in conjunction with the Hindu beliefs. Muslim influence is evident in the traditions and worship of the Hindu cult. Allah, the Prophet, and the saints of Islam are included in the Hindu pantheon. The acceptance of Allah as a Hindu god is so complete that the Cham Kaphir believe the Muslims acquired Ovloh (or Allah, meaning god) from them. **

Principal Cham Hindu Deities

Po-Nagar, or more completely Po-Yang-Ineou-Nagar, "Goddess Mother of the Kingdom," is the wife of Siva and the most powerful of the deities. She is honored as the goddess of ricefields and abundance; she reputedly taught the Cham agricultural methods, with the exception of irrigation. She is also called Muk Juk, the "Black Lady" and Pata Kumei, the "Queen of Women." Many daughters were born of this goddess, some good and some evil. Several of the former are still revered: Po-Nagar-Dara, Po-Bja-Tikuh, and Tara-Nai-Anaih. The evil daughters, believed to have the power to afflict man with disease, are offered sacrifices of appeasement. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

The Vietnamese have adopted the goddess Po-Nagar under the name of Ba-Chua-Ngoc, honoring her with feasts, music, and dancing twice a year, in the 2d and 8th months of the Vietnamese lunar year. Her statue is located in a temple at Nhatrang, where the Vietnamese present their offerings to her. Po Rome, a princeling who governed the Cham between 1627 and 1651, revolted against the Vietnamese, who captured and kept him in prison where he died. Legend may have confused this minor prince with the great warrior King Binasuor, who ruled between 1328 and 1373 and was the last defender of Cham freedom. **

In any case, legend concerning Po Rome as a deity states that he was born of a virgin mother and was appointed guardian of the king's buffaloes. One day a dragon appeared to prophesy Po Rome's promising future. When the royal astrologer warned the king of the young man's future strength, the king abdicated his throne to Po Rome and gave him his daughter in marriage, as well as two other wives. No sooner had Po Rome ascended to the throne than he lost his crown through the connivances of his second wife. At that time, the guardian deity of the Cham was shut up in a tree, which they called the Kraik; as long as the tree lived no evil could befall their group. The second wife, incited by her father, the King of Annam (Vietnam), who coveted the Cham land, pretended to be afflicted with a grave disease curable only by the destruction of the Kraik. So great was Po Rome's love for this wife, he felled the tree on which hung the destiny of his people. The Vietnamese invaded the kingdom, captured Po Rome, and killed him. **

Po-Klong-Garai, also conceived by a virgin mother, was a leper at birth. He worked as a buffalo keeper until he, too, was visited by a dragon, who cured his disease. From that moment the boy's supernatural powers began to manifest themselves: He caused the neck of the squash to be crooked and the vein of the banana leaf to be prominent. Aware of the boy's powers, the royal astrologer gave Po-Klong-Garai his daughter in marriage. After ruling for 6 years at Shri-Banoeuy, Po-Klong-Garai founded Bal-Hangov where he ruled for 10 years, building palaces, digging canals, erecting dams, and teaching the Cham the technique of irrigation. After a 54-year reign (1151-1205), he ascended to heaven at the request of the gods. **

In addition to these three principal deities, there is a series of minor or secondary deities. Two of the most important are Paja Yan, Goddess of Heaven, and Po-Yan-Dari, Goddess of Illness. The Goddess of Heaven, Paja Yan or "Heavenly Paja," although not represented by any specific image, is invited to all sacrificial ceremonies. She distributes happiness, cures diseases, and encourages the afflicted. Offerings of fruit or vegetables are usually made to her on the first day of the waning moon. Paja Yan inhabited the earth at one time and resuscitated the dead until Po Jata, God of the Heaven, wearied of her violation of heavenly laws and had her placed on the moon. Divested of her power to bring the dead back to life, she nevertheless gives them happiness and good health. Her face appears in the moon when it is full. Whenever she prostrates herself before her superior Po Aditjak, the Sun God, an eclipse of the moon occurs and the Cham celebrate by offering sacrifices to her. The souls of the righteous join Paja Yan after death. This legend is accepted by some Cham and strongly contested by others. **

Po-Yan-Dari, Goddess of Illness, lives in caves, thickets, and especially in artificial cairns. The symbol of this goddess is an upright stone upon which is drawn a white horizontal line representing her mouth. In a dream the goddess reveals herself to an individual - usually an old man - indicating the stone to represent her, and where it must be placed for offering of sacrifices. Under the direction of the dreamer, a tanoh yan or sacred enclosure is made. The stone is placed under a tree, a circular area around it is cleared, and stones are placed around the edge of the clearing with an opening on one side. Thereafter, a sacrifice of rice, chickens, betel, and alcohol must be made to Po-Yan-Dari upon entering the forest. Subsequently, for someone leaving the forest, a sufficient offering consists of placing a stone on the enclosure, but always to the outer side. **

Cham Hindu Priests

Cham Kaphir priests form the Basaih or Basheh caste, the last remnants of the Hindu kingdom of Champa. They elect three high priests who serve for life under the title of Po Adhia and become the priests of the three great deities: Po-Nagar, Po Rome, and Po-Klong-Garai. The Basaih priests do not devote their entire attention toward the priesthood. In addition to their priestly functions, they are allowed to cultivate the fields or to engage in any other occupation of their choosing. The ability to become a Basaih priest is inherited and transmitted through the male lineage. Those not wishing to become priests choose other professions and are released from practicing any of the religious abstinences of the caste. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

From the age 10, the sons of Basaih priests learn to read the rituals which they, as priests, will be required to know from memory. As soon as they begin their studies, the Basaih wear a white gown: a piece of cotton rolled around the waist and reaching the feet, held up by a belt with brown and red trimmings, a long white tunic fastened by strings, and a white turban made from a band of linen with red fringe tied in a knot on the head. During ceremonies, this costume is supplemented by a white miter with red and blue embroidery and a copper or gold ring inset with a large stone. As soon as facial hair begins to appear, the growth of a mustache and goatee is usually encouraged. Consecration into the priesthood is effected during their 25th year, obligating the young men to marry. In their role as priests, the Basaih are responsible for various functions and observances. Invited to many Hindu ceremonies, the Basaih perform numerous rituals, especially during cremations (which require the permission of the priests). They also teach the children to read and write, and are responsible for the observance of certain caste-associated food taboos.* The Basaih maintain good relations with the Muslim imams (priests), sometimes offering them gifts during Ramadan, the month of fasting; however, the Basaih will not enter mosques. **

The Tchamenei (Camenei or Samenei) form a priestly class below the Basaih. Acting as deacons to the Basaih, they serve as guardians of the cult utensils and keepers of the temple. Before making offerings to the deities, they adorn the temple statues and arrange the utensils in the traditional manner. Like the Basaih, the Tchamenei dress in all-white garments and observe the same abstinences; they have merged with the Kathar or Kadhar, singers and musicians who perform during many rituals, also dress in white, and observe the same abstinences. **

The Paja or "Princesses," apparently at the same level as the Tchamenei and Kathar, are priestesses or prophetesses who foretell the future and serve as intermediaries at many religious ceremonies.17 Their religion combines animism, Hinduism, and Islam. They invoke the deities by dancing and chanting in a state of ecstasy until they believe the gods possess them; then they transmit messages from the divinities to the people. The Paja are subject to the same abstinences as the Basaih, as well as food restrictions which apply only to them.* Sworn to celibacy, the Paja must abstain from sexual relations with men; punishment for breach of this rule is immediate death of the couple. If a married woman declares herself Paja, her husband divorces her. **

Selection of a Paja involves several ceremonies. A girl is designated by a Paja to serve as her assistant, Monvis-Asit-Anok-Soh, or "Child Who is the Joy of Humankind." At a feast, the Yan-Trun-Pvoc or "Praying the Deity to Reveal Itself," offered by the retiring Paja, the priestess and her assistant perform a ritualistic dance, the Tamja. The investiture is completed at a temple ceremony dedicated to Paja Yan, "the Goddess of Heaven," one year after the feast. All the guests who participated in the feast are expected to come after taking a purifying bath. Sacrifices are offered and candles lit to invoke the goddess. **

The Paja, Paja-Designate, and all the guests prostrate themselves. While burning candles flicker, the assistant goes into a trance - a sign that the goddess is present and approves of the choice. If the candlelight goes out, this signifies the Paja Yan is not in accord, and a new assistant must be selected. The Paja-Designate then returns to her home and former way of life. The Modvon belongs to no caste but serves as an officiating minister who accompanies the Paja in the performance of household and family ceremonial rituals. He offers sacrifices to the gods to cure the sick or foretell the future. He chants while playing his one-headed drum, the baranon, observes the same abstinences as the Basaih, and dresses in an all-white tunic. After he has learned to play the drum and memorized the ritual chants, the Modvon is admitted to priesthood in an elaborate ceremony. **

Although the Paja is the most powerful of the priestesses, the Kain-Yan, "She Who is Near the Gods," often substitutes for her superior. Aided by a Modvon, she dances and offers presents to the gods. Family priestesses common to the Muslims as well as Hindu s, the Crvak Rija, are chosen at the age of 20 by consensus of the family whose members all bear the same name. On days of sacrifice they must dress in white. These women belonging to no caste are permitted to marry but are expected to abstain from eating pork and sand lizard. The lowest caste of priests, the Ong-Banoek, serve as masters of the dams and irrigation canals, officiating at the annual ceremonies for the repair of the waterways.22 They dress in white, abstain from eating the hakan fish, and abstain from sexual relations during the period of these ceremonies.

Hindu Religious Ceremonies

The goddess Po-San-Anaih (believed to be Po-Nagar's daughter or Po-Nagar herself) is honored at the first feast of the Cham year, beginning on the 10th day of the 2d month and lasting for 5 days. To prepare for this fete, the Cham of the plain of Phan Rang erect four rectangular huts of bamboo and palm leaves at the edge of the sea. The Hindu Cham perform their ceremonial rituals in three of the leaf huts; the Muslim Cham conduct their ceremonies in the fourth hut. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Four Brahmin priests gather in the first hut; one officiates, the rest assist. Before the celebrant is placed the sacrificial tray containing the cult accoutrements: a banana leaf on which rest figures of rice paste and a layer of sand on a wattle tray. Using rice flour, the Basaih priest forms the shape of a tortoise in the sand. From time to time, he places a piece of eaglewood on the brazier, sprinkles holy water, snaps his fingers, waves his arms like a bird, and clasps his hands. Throughout the ceremony he reads and chants the ritual accompanied by an assistant who plays on the san or seashell. **

In the second hut, the offerings consist of fabric to be fashioned into garments for the Brahmin priests and containers of food. Participants in this hut include: a Modvon playing his baranon (drum), a Kathar strumming the kanik (violin), a Kain Yan dancing to the music, and various other priests playing instruments or preparing offerings. The Kain Yan, the celebrant, in a white costume and red turban, dances holding a handkerchief in one hand, waving a fan with the other. Near the east entry the flesh of a sacrificed goat is prepared for the offering. The music stops, the Kain Yan places offerings of rice paste on trays and turns to face the sea. The music begins anew and the Kain Yan presents a tray to each of the gods, who are believed to be near the rolls of fabric. A Modvon and Paja occupy the third hut. Here the offerings are the traditional food and betel quids, and beside the doorway is placed a tray filled with paste replicas of men and sacrificial buffaloes offered during the year. Nearby, women prepare goat hash. Lum gat, or rolls of linen, are placed around the west wall. **

In the fourth hut, the Cham Bani, who practice the Muslim faith, celebrate. Three imams in white garments and turbans squat on a platform at the rear of the hut; behind them stretches a cotton banner decorated with soldiers, people bearing offerings, buffaloes hitched to a plow, and other sketches depicting Cham way of life. The imams rinse their mouths with water and purify themselves by touching their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and navel with water; next they recite prayers from the Koran while the women prepare food for them. After prayers by both Kaphirs and Banis have been completed, the priests partake of a feast inside their respective huts, while the people consume their feast outside. The ceremony terminates with the paste replicas of the buffaloes and the men being cast into the sea. **

Bon Kate (or Kate) and Bon Cabur (pronounced Tiabour), the most solemn of the Cham feasts, are celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th Cham month (September-October)24 and the 1st of the 9th Cham month (January-February) respectively.25 These fetes honor ancestors and the three principal deities. For 5 days, everyone - priests, old and young people - gathers to pray and offer sacrifices to the gods. The Bon Kate feasts are offered in the kalan (Cham towers) and the bumon (leaf huts); Bon Cabur sacrifices are made in the towers and in private homes. **

Masculine deities dominate the Bon Kate feasts and feminine deities the Bon Cabur. The noon sacrifices are preceded by a purifying bath; then prayers are offered to the spirits of the deceased. For both feasts the main celebrants include: A Po Adhia (high priest), a Kathar (musician), a Ba Bon (master of ceremonies), and a Tchamenei (deacon). The offerings, the same for both feasts, consist of a goat, cooked rice, a large tray of rice cakes, rice alcohol, lemon water, areca, and betel. The statue of the god or goddess to be honored is washed in lemon water before the sacrifice. Eaglewood is kindled and a largo candle lit in front of the statue, while small burning candles may flank the sides. When sacrifices are offered in private homes, a Tchamenei, a Kathar, and a Paja priestess and her assistant, a Modvon, officiate. **

Muslim Cham

The Islamism professed by the Cham Bani of the coastal provinces of the Republic of Vietnam, corrupted by pre-Muslim pagan practices and local superstitions, bears little resemblance to the religion of Mecca. Few imams read Arabic in this region - they merely memorize and recite the suras (sections of the Koran), only vaguely recalling the meaning of the passages. Ramadan, the month of fasting, is observed in its entirety by the priests, but observance for laymen is only 3 days. The five daily prayers are rarely recited, except on Fridays and during Ramadan. The study of the Koran has fallen into disuse; in fact, few copies of the text can be found in this region. Even the book's proper name, "Koran," is scarcely known; instead it is called the Tapuk Acalam, "Book of the Prophet Mohammed," or Kitah Elhamdu, "Book of Praise." In place of the Koran, these Cham possess a much respected sacred book called Nourshavan, which may be copied only during Ramadan for the price of a buffalo paid to the transcriber. The prescribed Muslim ablutions are often neglected, but when performed, consist of digging a hole in the sand and pantomiming the act of extracting water. Circumcision, no longer customary, is only simulated by an imam who performs the ritual using a wooden knife. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Under the influence of the Malays, the Muslim Cham inhabiting the Tay Ninh and Chau Doc areas have remained more orthodox in their beliefs and practices than have the Cham of the coastal provinces. Many of the Tay Ninh and Chau Doc Cham have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Fervently attached to their religion, these Cham center their lives around the mosque and village Koranic school, where the children learn the Koran in Arabic aided by Malayan commentaries. A few Cham continue their education in Kelantan or Mecca. **

The Cham Bani or Tay Ninh and Chau Doc, appalled by the religious liberties taken by the Cham Bani of the coastal provinces, have occasionally tried to urge their brethren to return to the orthodox beliefs and practices. For the most part, however, such efforts have had little effect. The coastal people, influenced by ancient animistic beliefs and by the penetration of religious elements from neighboring areas, have persisted in strict adherence to only a few of the Islamic practices; for example, some food taboos - especially prohibitions on pork - and the orientation of buildings toward Mecca. **

Although the significance ascribed to the Islamic orthodox religion and the degree to which the religion is practiced differ widely between the Cham Bani in the coastal provinces and the Cham Bani in the Tay Ninh and Chau Doc Provinces, the principal deities, priestly hierarchy, mosque characteristics, and religious ceremonies are basically the same. **

The Muslim deity Allah, also recognized by the Hindu Cham, is venerated by the Cham Bani as Ovloh, the indeterminate, bodiless god. Mohammed, the Prophet of God, is revered by the Cham Bani as Mahamat and personified as Po Rathulak - a derivation of the Arabic name Rasul Allah, meaning Prophet. Other deities in the Muslim Cham pantheon include: Djiburaellak or Gabriel, created by Mahamat; Po Hoava or Eve, equated with the Hindu Cham deity Po-Nagar, "Goddess Mother of the Kingdom"; and Po-Yan-Amo or Adam, "Father of Men," the latter two created by Ovloh. **

Cham Muslim Mosques and Imam

The head of the Muslim Cham priestly hierarchy, the Po Gru or Ong Gru, "Leader of the Faithful," is chosen from among the imams or officiating ministers who are scattered throughout most of the Muslim Cham villages. The Po Gru is invested with the authority to appoint additional imams, to preside at many religious ceremonies, and to head the mosques. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

Ranking below the imams and named by the Po Gru to act as deacons are the Katips who read and recite in the mosques. In a still lower rank are the Modins or Moduons, corresponding to the Brahmin Modvon. Men entering the priesthood shave their heads and faces. In addition to the priests, Raja priestesses, like those of the Brahmins, play prominent roles in certain Muslim ceremonies. Raja are permitted to marry, but are expected to abstain from eating sand lizard. **

The rank of the priest is signified by the length of the scarlet and gold tassels on his turban. Aside from this distinction, an all-white costume - sarong, tunic, scarf draped over the shoulders, and a large turban with a red border - is common to priests of all ranks. For ceremonies, the turban is more elaborately arranged; first the priest places a conical cap on his head, then a cardboard disc which allows the tip of the cone to pass through; finally, the turban is wrapped around the disc. A staff made from a long rattan stalk is carried by the priest. The Po Gru's staff has a basket attached to the base, formed by braiding together the roots of the rattan stalk. **

The mosques of the Cham Bani consist of long, narrow huts built to face west toward Mecca and enclosed by high palisades. At the threshold are seven flat rocks where the officiating priests wash their feet before entering. Inside the mosque two rows of posts support the thatch roof. The interior is furnished with mats spread on the floor, a drum to summon the faithful to worship, a pulpit (mimbar), and a sack suspended from the roof to hold the prayer books.33 Ordinarily, in central Vietnam, one mosque serves several villages; however, in Tay Ninh and Chau Doc Provinces, each Muslim village has its own mosque. **

Cham Muslim Religious Ceremonies

On Fridays, the Muslim Cham gather in the mosque to venerate Ovloh and Po-Debata-Thor, "Father of Heavens" - who perhaps may have been confused with Ovloh. The general prayer services, continuing for an hour or more, require the participation of one Po Gru, two imams, two Katips, and a Modin. Although the Koran requires a quorum of 40, few laymen attend these services, except in Tay Ninh and Chau Doc. At the beginning of the service, the priests spread a white cloth over the pulpit: then, facing the pulpit, they worship Ovloh, prostrating themselves one after the other. The Modin prays and beats the drum three times while two imams pray face to face, holding each other's ears; then the imams move beside the Po Gru, who is kneeling before the pulpit. The Po Gru and the imams, joined by the two Katips, prostrate themselves eight times before the pulpit. Mounting the pulpit, the Po Gru reads Koranic verses written on a cloth scroll. The worshipers respond by invoking Ovloh, asking for riches and happiness. The service ends with a feast including wine which is consumed by the priests and the laymen. [Source: "Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam: The Cham", Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, 1960s **]

The Muslim Cham perform a ceremony called the Tubah to cleanse the aged of their sins. The family invites the Po Gru, imams, and Katips to preside at the ritual which takes place in a hut erected for the occasion. Inside the hut the ritual articles are arranged: a length of white fabric, two candles, a tray with bowls of areca, betel, and water. The Po Gru leads the assembly in prayer, then the elder person who is to be cleansed recites alone. The Tubah concludes with a least and general prayer session. **

The observance of Ramadan, the month of fasting, is celebrated by the Muslim priests. During this solemn month they are expected to remain in the mosque and abstain from eating certain foods. On the eve of the fast, each priest takes to the mosque the few necessities he will need: a mat for his bed, a lacquered wooden cube for a pillow, cigarettes, and facilities for preparing tea and betel. He unrolls the palm leaves engraved with sacred verses and suspends his string of amber beads on the wall. Throughout the fast he performs the necessary daily rites: nine ablutions, five prayers, and a nightly salaam, which will absolve him of all past, present, and future sins. **

An elaborate 3-day festival called the Raja, celebrated in the 9th month of the Cham year (December-January), is primarily a Muslim fete, but some Hindu Cham observe it as well.36 This festival may be compared to the Bon Kate and Bon Cabur feasts of the Hindu Cham. For the occasion a special hut is erected in the family compound; additional huts accommodate the guests invited to the festival. Inside the principal hut, sheets of white cotton have been spread. On the altar, shaped like a rude trough, trays of betel and flowers are arranged to represent the gods; before the altar, trays of food are arranged as offerings. Paper figures of animals, junks, and cartwheels hang from the ceiling. In the center of the room is a brightly colored swing to accommodate the officiating Raja priestess for whom the festival is named. At least three imams also participate in this ceremony. An orchestra comprising a flute, violin, gongs, cymbals, tambourines, and several drums is conducted by the Modin, the principal male participant. Under his direction the orchestra plays during intervals when the Raja rests in her swing. **

Throughout the first 1 1/2 days, the Raja dances, sings, gnashes her teeth, invokes the spirits and gods, and eventually reaches a state of ecstasy in an effort to appease the souls of the ancestors. Meanwhile the imams recite prayers, and the people respond by crying "Hurrah!" At the appropriate moment the Raja lights a torch of mountain hemp and waves it before the people; feigning great fear, they run screaming from the hut. In the middle of the 2d night, the Raja throws a veil over her face, and everyone prostrates himself. Lying on the ground wrapped in a shroud, she trembles and moves about while the Modin appeals to the souls of the departed. Eventually, the Raja rises and dances with great frenzy. Intermittently, feasts are served and the deities invited to partake. **

At dawn of the 2d day, a toy boat, roughly carved from a block of wood, is moved through the air by one of the participants to simulate a ship crossing the ocean. This represents the vessel once regularly sent from China to collect the tribute exacted from the vassal state, Champa. A rag monkey, representing the tax collector, is presented offerings of cakes, eggs, and fruit. The people dance and argue over the food, finally consuming it. They all fall on the hut, tearing it to pieces, while the Raja rests in her swing. At noon of the 3d day, the priests and orchestra conduct the Raja to the river, where she entrusts the symbolical boat to the water, concluding the ceremony. Other ceremonies are performed by the Raja during the year in case of illness or to fulfill a wish. **

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993); New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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