Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People

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Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People
Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People

According to the custom of the Muslim Cham people in Binh Thuan Province, after finishing the burial ceremony, the family of the deceased holds the worshiping ritual (phathi in Cham language) at home for three days straight. The first day is called “Dau Van”, the second day is “Tak Ku Bau Yau” (buffalo-killing ritual) and the third day is “Po Non” (seeing-off ritual). The offerings for the weekly worshiping ritual include a couple of buffaloes, one tonne of rice, and fish, betel, areas, sugar, etc.  

The rituals are conducted by a Chief Priest who reads prayers together with the muftis (Islamic priest). The villagers who attend the rituals will help the family erect a “chank” (shack) for the worshiping. After the burial ceremony in the morning, at 4-5 pm, the family holds the “Dau Van” ritual with simple offerings including rice and chickens.

Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People
Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People

The next day, a buffalo-killing ritual is held. Two pits, 40-50 cm deep, are dug in front of the owner’s house, then two buffaloes are stricken down, their legs are tied and each of them is put into a pit. The offerings for the buffalo-killing ritual include two trays of food with a sword, a bundle of branches of tree and a pot of water. After the prayer-reading ritual, the muftis go to the pits, each holding a sword and a branch of tree. They read several prayers to begin the buffalo-killing. After the ritual, the villagers feast on the buffalo’s meat. For a family having financial difficulties, fish is used instead the buffalo.

The “Po Non” ritual is also called the ritual to see off the soul of the deceased. At 5 am., all muftis are invited to read prayers under the direction of the priest while all relatives of the deceased must go into the “chank” to pray for the deceased to rest in peace. They pile the deceased’s clothes and cloths 1 m high, along with baskets of fruit, cakes and candy in front of the “chank” to send to the soul of the deceased. In this seeing-off ritual, the children, brothers or uncles of the deceased who have passed the “akrak” ceremony (people who are recognized to know by heart the Koran) will read some passages of the bibles to Alla for the deceased’s salvation. After praying, the muftis lead the procession, saying prayers while walking, followed by the deceased’s next-of-kin and relatives. When the group carrying the offerings arrives at the crossroads, the muftis stop to hold the prayer-saying ritual to finish the ceremony.

Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People
Burial Ceremony of Cham Ethnic People

Two days after the worshiping ritual, the deceased’s next-of-kin go to the river to seek two round-shaped stones weighting about 20-50kg and invite the muftis to use magic to place the stones at the two ends of the grave. This custom has been practiced since long ago because they are afraid that wild animals can dig up the body of the deceased. The size of the stone depends on the age of the deceased. The older the deceased, the bigger the stone is. The grave of the Cham Ba Ni ethnic people, covered with earth, is not high and is not built with bricks, but it only has two stones at its two ends. The cemetery of the Muslim Cham Ba Ni people is mostly situated on a coastal sandy dune.

The worshiping ritual is one of the ceremonies of the community of the Cham Ba Ni ethnic people. It still retains the specific characteristics of the daily activities of the Muslims, which helps diversifying the cultural picture of the coastal area in southern central Vietnam.