Unique traditional culture of Cham people in An Giang

WVR - The Cham community in An Giang province lives mainly in An Phu, Chau Thanh districts, and Tan Chau town, most of whom follow Islam originating from Saudi Arabia.
Thánh đường Azhar, ấp Châu Giang, xã Châu Phong (TX. Tân Châu, tỉnh An Giang) là nơi sinh hoạt tín ngưỡng của cộng đồng dân tộc Chăm An Giang. (Ảnh: Phương Nghi)

Azhar Mosque, Chau Giang hamlet, Chau Phong commune (Tan Chau town, An Giang province), a place of religious activities of the Cham ethnic community in An Giang. (Photo: Phuong Nghi)

Coming to Cham villages, visitors will feel like being lost in the land of “One Thousand and One Nights” because of the majestic cathedrals, with unique tower architecture in two main colors of white and green. Not only outstanding with the cathedral, the village also preserves hundred-year-old wooden stilt houses, which have beautiful architecture built from highly durable wood. The front of stilt houses always has a wooden ladder, and the entrance door is lower than a person’s head, meaning that when guests must bow while entering the house.

Cham village is even more beautiful with the image of gentle and shy Cham girls sitting next to brocade weaving. Brocade weaving is a traditional profession that has existed for many generations of the Cham people. Visiting Chau Giang brocade weaving village (Phum Soai brocade village), tourists will be lost in the world of traditional brocade colors woven by lovely Cham women. There are scarves, coats, handbags, and especially beautiful and sophisticated hair scarves. Cham textile products widely meet the costume and jewelry needs of the Cham people and are unique tourist products for both domestic and foreign tourists

Ms. Zay Mah, Phum Soai hamlet (Chau Phong district, Tan Chau town), a weaver in Cham village of Chau Phong, shared that from a young age, Cham girls were taught how to make traditional dishes and cakes by their grandmothers and mothers, and brocade weaving, a traditional profession of the ethnic group, was passed down.

Mừng đón Tết Roya Haji các cô gái Chăm với chiếc khăn chùm đầu sặc sỡ và duyên dáng lạ lùng, cùng trang phục truyền thống, tạo thêm nét huyền bí trong từng cử chỉ của họ. (Ảnh: Phương Nghi)

Celebrating Roya Haji Tet Festival, Cham girls wear colorful scarves, along with traditional costumes, making them elegant and mysterious in each of their gestures. (Photo: Phuong Nghi)

The Cham’s unique features are also expressed through its own language and writing. To preserve culture, language, and writing, most mosques now have classes. After children spend days at schools, they gather at mosques to learn speaking and writing in their traditional language. In particular, at Azhar Mosque in Chau Giang hamlet, Chau Phong commune, there is also a class specializing in teaching reading and writing in ethnic languages for children of the Cham community in An Giang.

Mr. Haji Abdolhamid, Deputy Chief of the Cham Azhar Mosque said: “First we want to help children learn the Koran and learn how to practice religious rituals. Through such activities, they can understand the need to preserve traditional culture and know their mother tongue.”

During the year, the Cham also celebrates various festivals, such as Roya Haji festival (traditional New Year) and Ramadan (the month of fasting). Apart from traditional festivals expressing religion and beliefs, they also participate in other festivals, including Bung Binh Thien Ethnic Cultural Festival in An Phu district (on the occasion of National Day, September 2) and Cham Culture, Sports, and Tourism Festival held biannually in districts where Cham people live.

During festivals, folk games and art festivals often take place (singing, dancing, and musical instruments express Cham ethnic identity). Besides, there are also costume performances and reconstructions of traditional wedding ceremonies to vividly and clearly introduce Cham cultural characteristics.

Traditional cuisine is also the unique cultural beauty of the Cham people, notably familiar dishes such as Ni rice (Vietnamese rice dish that brings together rice, milk, and raisins), curry, and ca pua (made from beef, curry, onion, coconut milk in Cham’s style). The Ni rice dish has the yellow color of turmeric powder, the aroma of curry, the typical taste of perilla leaves and the sweet taste of shrimp squid. All the above brings an attractive flavor that anyone who has enjoyed even once can not forget.

Among the curry dishes of the Cham people, goat curry is probably the most attractive and delicious one. They use a lot of spices and flavorings in cooking, especially curry powder, fresh curry leaves, purple onions, chillies, and coconut milk to prepare delicate dishes with characteristic flavors: sweet, fragrant, greasy, and extremely spicy.

Nghi thức “đưa rể” qua nhà gái trong đám cưới của đồng bào dân tộc thiểu số Chăm An Giang. (Ảnh: Phương Nghi)

The wedding ritual of escorting the groom to the bridal family” of the Cham ethnic minority in An Giang. (Photo: Phuong Nghi)

Haji Jacky, Head of the Islamic community representative committee in An Giang said that in recent years, the Cham community in An Giang has received attention from the Party, State, Executive Committee, and local authorities, so their material life is increasingly developing and spiritual life is increasingly rich.

With the motto "Good life, beautiful religion", dignitaries always propagate to believers the spirit of patriotism, solidarity, attachment, and companionship with the nation. Cham people always live in harmony and solidarity with other ethnic groups, fulfill their obligations between religion and life, and actively participate in movements to build an increasingly developed homeland together.

When sunset falls, the sound of prayers begins to resound from the cathedrals beside the romantic Hau River, and peaceful Cham villages lean over and reflect on the water of the Mekong River. The image of Cham girls with traditional costumes next to the weaving loom not only expresses the cultural identity of the ethnic group but also is a unique, charming, and characteristic highlight of Cham women in An Giang.

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Translated by Phuong Linh