The “Ca-te” Festival

Nowadays, the Cham ethnic group dwells in areas stretching from the southern part of Central Viet Nam to the northern and southwestern parts of South Viet Nam, with dense settlement in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces where its natural culture is still well preserved.
The bulk of the Cham ethnic follows Brahmanism, although some embraces Islam. As religion pervades the cultural life of the Cham people, the “Ca-te” festival is also initially a religious event. The Cham devouts of Brahmanism celebrate the “Ca-te” festival in July (Cham calendar) which is roughly equivalent to the 10th lunar month (Vietnamese lunar calendar).
The festival originates from the legend of Po Yanainu. This legend has it that Po Cu, the God of all Gods, entrusted Po Yanainu with the mission of creating the world of human beings and various kinds of living creatures. Goddess Ponagar provides him with the Sangcala Horn, made from a shell fish and a bunch of rice plants. Thereafter, Po Yanainu sowed rice everywhere and blew his Sangcala horn to provide light to the world. Thus trees could blossom and bear fruit. He also created human beings and animals.
According to old religious belief, in July (Cham calendar), Po Yanianu allowed all the souls lying in hell to come back to the world of human beings and enjoy the feasts with their kith-and-kin. That is why the Cham ethnic group holds a one-month festival on this occasion. As a rule all the children and relatives working in distant places always come home to enjoy the new year with their families.
The first item of the festival is to repair and look after the tombs of the deceased parents and relatives. Thereafter, a ceremony is held in the house of the head of the clan and then in that of each family. Prior to presenting offerings to each family’s ancestors, the villagers used to visit the pagoda or the old stupas in order to perform a thanks¬giving ceremony to the gods and ancient heroes and organize a procession of the fetishes and idols supposedly left over by them. Members of the procession carry numerous flags, while dancers perform rituals connected with the presentation of offerings.
In addition to religious ceremonies and rituals, there are games and artistic performances involving such dances as the “Ca Choong” (dragon dance), the “Doa-pu” (throwing water dance), the “Pi Dien” (peacock dance), the fan dance, the “trampling down the fire” dance, all of which are characterized by supple and rhythmic movements. They are accompanied by a music band comprising the Sanarai flute, the Baranung drum and Camocara traditional violin.
Offering a feast to the ancestors is a duty of great significance to the Cham ethnic group. The meal usually includes rice, soup, fish, goat meat, chicken and duck meat. Ducks and chicken with white feathers and particularly beef and pork are excluded. Other offerings consist of tea, areca nuts and betel leaves which are items similar to those offered by the Kinh (Vietnamese) to their ancestors.
The Cham ethnic group also celebrate the “Ca-bua” festival in September (Cham calendar), that is in the 12th lunar month. This festival is dedicated to Goddess Ponagar. For a few decades now, this festival has been observed only in a few areas as the bulk of the Cham people focus mainly on the “Ca-te” festival.

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