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Tet 2017

Praying for rain – special ritual of Cham ethnic minority

The Cham ethnic minority group one of the ethnic minorities in Vietnam has preserved many traditional cultural rituals, one of them being the praying-for-rain festival which prays for favourable weather and bumper crops. The Cham group has a population of about 130,000, who mainly live in the southern central provinces of Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, and southern provinces of An Giang, Dong Nai, Tay Ninh and Ho Chi Minh City. 

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Relying on wet-rice farming, the Cham group conduct the ritual annually in the second lunar month to thank the gods for giving water for cultivation. Recently, the praying for rain festival has been re-enacted at the Vietnam National Village for Ethnic Culture and Tourism. Offerings for the ceremony are arranged on a colourful estrade made from four stumps of Bombax ceiba trees. The offerings include a pig head, two cocks, two wine jars, wax and a cup of rice. The estrade is attached to a Neu pole, which is designed in the form of wings of the Ktang bird – a symbol of peace in Cham people’s beliefs. 

The village’s patriarch goes first, followed by two village shamans, called ‘oi quai’ and village’s youths. All of them go around the estrade before the ceremony taking place. The village’s patriarch represents the villagers to express their wishes to the gods and toss two coins to predict whether the gods accept their request or not. If the two coins fall down with different faces up, it means the gods accept their request. 

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After that, a shaman throw the rice and alcohol to all the west, north, east and south directions to invite the gods to join the celebration with the villagers. Local women hold bunches of bamboo strings and stroke them in the air in order to make the sound of wind. Meanwhile, the men beat K’toang drums and gongs to create the sound of thunder. 

At the end of the ritual, everyone sips alcohol from a shared cup, celebrating a year of good weather and bumper crops. The Praying for rain festival is an inseparable part of the Cham people’s daily life. It not only conveys a message for a year of favourable natural conditions and good harvests but through which the community’s unity is vibrantly expressed. 
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