Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan, Vietnam

About the Cham people community in Ninh Thuan

Ninh Thuan is the province having the most Cham people living in Vietnam with about 73,000 people (2017). They live in 22 villages (palei) in the districts of Ninh Hai, Ninh Phuoc, Thuan Bac and Bac Ai of Ninh Thuan province.

Experiencing many ups and downs of national history, the community of the Cham people in Ninh Thuan still retains many unique traits in culture, customs and practices. Especially, there are festivals associated with the nation which have been preserved and promoted over hundreds of years of history such as the Kate festival of the Cham people following the Brahman religion, Ramawan festival of the Cham people follow Bani religion. (Bani is Islam localized in Champa)

How does the Kate Festival have meaning?

Kate is a ceremony to commemorate the ancestors, a number of gods, a number of kings and characters who have contributed to the nation. This meaning is clearly shown through  Kate’s prayer (danak ngap yang Kate), hymn of the gods (damnay dom po yang) ) and the prayers of the attendees (panuec alankar po yang).

How did the Kate festival originate?

Many researchers said that the Kate Festival was founded on the rites of Hinduism from the second to the twelfth centuries. From the 15th century, it was influenced by Islam. In addition, the local worship rites also contribute to the Kate festival.

who organize the Kate Festival?

Brahmanical Cham people and Raglai people play the most important role to determine the success of the festival. Cham people follow the Bani religion as well as some other religious followers only bring offerings to pray. According to legend, the ancestor of Cham people was the eldest sister, the ancestor of Raglai people was the youngest sister. After the death of the parents, the youngest sister had a duty to store the clothes and worship things of ancestors. That tradition still has been kept by Raglai people until now.

When and where does the Kate festival take place?

Kate festival of Cham people in Ninh Thuan takes place within 3 days. It usually starts on July 1 of the Cham calendar (September 25 – October 5). The main site of the ceremony is Po Nagar Tower (Huu Duc Village, Phuoc Huu Commune, Ninh Phuoc District), Po Klong Garai Tower (Do Vinh Ward, Phan Rang – Thap Cham) and Po Rome Tower (Hau Sanh Village, Phuoc Huu Commune, Ninh Phuoc District), Ninh Thuan Province.

How is the sequence of the Kate Festival?

Festival at the towers

Costume processioning ceremony

The first ritual of the Kate festival is the ceremony bringing the Holy Mom Po Nagar’s costume from the mountain to the Po Nagar Tower. The ceremony usually starts at 7 am. The costume is placed in a palanquin. The procession consists of a girl dance team, a music band, Brahma dignitaries, village old men, and people in villages. The procession takes place vibrantly across a region.

Tower’s door opening ceremony

Tower’s door opening ceremony is carried at Po Nagar Tower and by the Brahman dignitaries and the village elders. Very simple offerings such as betel, areca, banana, egg, wine are laid on a mat. A dignitary prays to ask Holy Mom for opening the tower’s door. Then that dignitary waters over the tower’s door. After that, the dignitaries and the elderly and some people with duty enter the tower. The people without duty must not enter the tower.

God statue bathing ceremony

After the tower’s door opening ceremony is the god statue bathing ceremony (Cham language: Manei yang) consisting of bathing statue, wearing clothes for the god (Anguei khan aw kapo) and finally the great ritual (adaoh tama). The great ritual usually starts from 9 am and lasts until 11:00 pm. The great ritual happens at the same time at 3 towers (Po Nagar, Po Klong Garai, Po Rome).

Festival in the village

After the ceremony at the towers, there is a ceremony in the villages. Besides the ceremony, there are activities of sports, arts … To prepare for the festival in the village, the villagers assign to clean the temple, the common house of the village, prepare the stage, the yard … At the same time, other villagers prepare the offerings to offer gods.

The ceremony in the villages is held as solemnly as those on the towers. Because each village worships its own god, the celebrant is not a religious dignity. It is a person who has knowledge of customs and is respected by the villagers. He is on behalf of the villagers to offer offerings to the gods and pray them to bless the village.

Festival at home

After the Kate festival in the villages is the Kate festival in the families. The celebrant is a family member or a patriarch. Like Kinh (Viet) people, on this day, all members of the family are present enough to pray their ancestors and spirits to bless them. Not only that, but it is also an occasion so that grandparents and parents educate children to respect their ancestors.

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