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You are here:      Home News Latest News Vietnam Travel News 2011 Cham set for year’s biggest festival
Cham set for year’s biggest festival

Travelling by air from place to place can be a convenient way to explore the country on a tight schedule, but it removes travellers away from one of the more interesting parts of the country.

Hemmed in between the East Sea and Truong Son mountain range, the country stretches itself along the rim of the Indochinese peninsula, affording some of the most spectacular convergences of mountain and sea.

Travelling on the main road of the country will help guests discover missing links between the destinations and the distance between PhanThiet and Phan Rang, providing a perfect sample of the marvelous road.

The towns, which are capitals of Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan provinces, respectively, are 100km away from each other, or only two hours’ drive from the kingdom of resorts, Phan Thiet’s Mui Ne Beach.

Phan Rang is an easy destination within a half-day or full-day outing for any resort residents, or an interesting middle stop between Phan Thiet and the scenic Highlands town of Da Lat.

The road linking Phan Thiet and Phan Rang runs along Ninh Chu and Ca Na Beaches, two of the most beautiful beaches of the country blessed with serene azure water and fine white sands.

At some points, the road runs next to waves white with foam that come thrashing into the road’s wall. So be sure to look out of the buses’ windows, or you will miss some spectacular sights.

Phan Rang is the home of the country’s biggest Cham population, a people that once ruled over the central stretch of Viet Nam between the seventh and 19th centuries and built a great civilisation whose relics still mystify scientists.

When the Cham community wraps up preparations for the Kate festival, the most important Cham festival of the year which falls on the weekend, a trip to Phan Rang to witness exotic colours of Cham culture at its fullest explosion can be worthwhile.

The three-day folk festival involves every Cham in grandiose religious proceedings in which they pay tribute to genies and great historic figures who have had contributed great merit to the ancient kingdom.

The rituals at the temples are followed by festivities at villages and homes to mark the happiest and most joyful occasions of the year when families and relatives get together to enjoy themselves.

The festival is a demonstration of Cham cultural values to the outside world, featuring unique costumes, music, instruments, dances, games, food, customs, traditional handicrafts and performing arts, among others.

The prime venue for the festival is Poklong Garai Temple. Situated within Phan Rang Town, it is among the most beautiful and best preserved Cham temple complexes in the country.

According to historians, the temple was built between the 13th and 14th centuries and dedicated to Poklong Garai, the Cham king that built up a prosperous and powerful kingdom in the second half of the 12th century.

In the Cham people’s memory, the story of the Poklong Garai has become a legend,with the king described as a genie born mysteriously into a Cham village with a mission to restore the glory of the Cham people.

Like other Cham towers scattered across the central provinces, the complex stands on a small hill overlooking the plain around, blazing with red bricks squarely and tightly placed one on another without any kinds of adhesive.

The complex consists of a central tower, a fire tower and a gate tower which are 20, 10 and nine metres tall, respectively, standing splendid and imposing against the blue sky.

The central tower looks like a pointed cylinder placed upside down, which is utterly dark inside, with just a long, narrow gate opening to the outside.

Sweltering

Surprisingly, the sweltering heat outside seems to fail to penetrate the red brick, leaving the inside pleasantly cool.

The centerpiece is a gilded bust of the king carved into a cylindrical linga, which in turn stands on a square yoni. Linga and yoni represent male and female genitals, respectively, which are Cham people’s main object of worship and symbols that represent the combination of the universe.

Today Cham people are mostly Muslims, but it is Brahmanism that has left its profound imprint on the Cham culture and civilisation for more than a 1,000 years. Linga is said to be a representation of Shiva, the most important Brahmanist genie to the Cham.Just several kilometres from Poklong Garai Temple is a village that has preserved Cham traditional pottery for thousands of years.

Bau Truc Village, whose population is purely Cham, is said to be one of the two most ancient craft villages in Southeast Asia.

Low houses line criss-crossing lanes where women wearing foot-long skirts and scarves around their heads are sifting rice, and cow-pulled carts are slowly roaming. Life is peacefully rustic here.

"The craft has been passed down through many generations, and we just follow our ancestors’ footsteps," said Lu Thi Bung, 48, who was busy modeling stoneware alongside her two sisters at her home.

Bung was performing the pottery dance around a tall jar. She was spinning herself clockwise in a full circle to model the circular jar instead of using turning tables, a unique technique that is rarely found in any pottery of the world.

"The earth is taken from the Quao River’s paddy fields, which is so elastic they stick to the turning tables," she said, adding that few machines can be used with this kind of stoneware.

The products are quite simple without glazes or complex patterns, just as they were thousands of years ago. However, they have been exported to countries like the US, Japan, Germany and Thailand.

"So only women who are patient enough can bend their backs and spin around for hours," she said, adding that the craft was handed down from her grandmother.

Unlike other stoneware, Bau Truc potteries must be baked outdoors on top of firewood, straw and rice husks as fuels burned into a huge blaze.

 

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