Mysterious Kate festival of Cham ethnic

Cham ladies with their special dance with flower vases on their heads

Kate Festival is one of the biggest festivals of Cham ethnic people in Vietnam. This is an occasion for all villagers to gather around their holy place to worship for good luck and health, as well as dance and sing for their Gods an ancient King.

Champa’s Kate Festival. Film by Wanderlust Dreamers

Kate Festival, or also called Mbang Kate, is organized by the Cham people in southern Vietnam for 3 days at the beginning of October in the three Champa Towers (Po Nagar, Po Klong Garai, and Po Rome). This is one of the biggest and most important events of the Cham people in Vietnam and the main purpose is to commemorate their heroes and ancestors. Moreover, the festival is a chance for the Cham people to relax, to gather around wishing one another fortune in the future. The rituals of the Cham are not supposed to be spreader out. Therefore although celebrating activities are very well-known, taking photos or videos are banned during the traditional ceremonies and can only be discovered through villagers’ narration.

The monk says his prayer in front of the offerings
The monk says his prayer in front of the offerings

From 5am the villagers begin the procession to ask for taking the clothes of Gods from the village to Cham temple. While Po Dhia, the highest monk in the village, was carrying out the ceremony, a parade of monks, Raglai and Cham orchestras, young men carrying palanquin and a dance group wait in the temple courtyard. At 7 am, after the performance of fan dance has just started, the parade started to climb up to the tower followed by hundreds of villagers. Red national flag, Raglai people in their blue coats, Cham men in white shirt and women in purple traditional customs create a lively colorful picture.

As soon as they reach the tower, Cham lady and Raglai musicians start to perform their exotic folk songs and dances. Then people carry out a ritual asking for the open of the Cham tower door, which often go with liquor, eggs, betel and areca and the holy water. After entering the tower, the Cham begin their biggest rituals that are the statue bathing ceremony. Holy water is sprayed on the statue while people dance and sing out loud around. The ceremony continues with several rituals like statue dressing ceremony and a feast. Amid all of the rituals, the monk says his prayer, the sorceress pour the liquor and the musicians play 30 songs for the 30 Cham Gods. Outside the tower, villagers prepare the offerings on the lawn praying for fine weather in the next year, as well as good luck and health for their family.

Cham women prepare the offerings around the tower
Cham women prepare the offerings around the tower

Kate festival attracts lots of tourists who are curious about the local culture. The festival is indeed a good chance for the visitors to explore the beauty in the Cham culture, from architecture to costumes, traditional games and folk songs. Charming Cham girls balance jars on their heads and race to the finish line, while Cham men compete in ball games. The most interesting event is a show in which Cham girls and boys vie with each other in folk songs. All female villagers buy new clothes for their special dancing performances at the festival.

In the past, a Kate festival lasted a month but today it’s usually about a week. On this occasion, family members get together to make offerings so this is also a chance for elders to teach the younger generation to show gratitude and respect to the ancestors.

Author: Ha My

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