The Khmer people in Ninh Thuan still preserve several unique folk festivals as Kate, Ramawan, Rija Nagar and have two traditional villages – the My Nghiep weaving village and the Bau Truc pottery village.
The Khmer people in Ninh Thuan have three religious communities, including the two main religions of Khmer Ahier (Brahmanism) and Khmer Awal (Ba Ni religion) and Khmer Islam (Orthodox Islam). In 22 Khmer villages, there are 15 Brahmanism villages and Ba Ni villages.
Although the two religious communities are separate, they still have relationships with each other during festivals and rites. The Kate is the festival dedicated to the Khmer Ahier community and the Ramawan is dedicated to the Khmer Awal community.
In the 7th month of the lunar calendar (around October), the Brahmin Khmer prepare for the Kate festival. The festival takes place with a lively atmosphere in the whole month at Khmer temples, villages and finally households. The festival is held in turn, forming a flow of Khmer festival.
This year the Kate festival will be held at the three major towers and temples of the Khmer in Ninh Thuan Province: the Po Ina Nagar temple in Huu Duc-Ninh Phuoc; Po Klaong Garay Tower in Do Vinh of Phan Rang city; Cham Tower and Po Rome Tower in Hau Sanh-Ninh Phuoc on October 3-5.
Kate is not only connected with ancient tower temples where the highest technical and aesthetic values of Khmer culture are stored, also other cultural aspects such as votive things, costumes, music instruments, and songs praising kings who made great service to the country and people. The festival is also an occasion where the participants can enjoy unique folk singing, dancing and music. They can dance with Khmer girls and relax with Gi nang drumming and Saranai trumpeting. The festival serves as evidence for the cultural richness of the Vietnamese.
The Kate Festival takes place in three tower temples at the same time and on the same day. The rituals are similar in content and the way of conducting.
The festival consists of two parts, rituals and festivities, as follows:
The ceremony takes place from 1.30 p.m of the first day to 9 p.m of the same day in the hamlet’s temple. It is for receiving the costumes of Po Nagar, who the Khmer people consider the mother of their land. She is the ancestress of the Khmer community. She taught local people to grow rice, plant cotton, weave clothing and carry out the festival. At the temple, people hold ceremonies to receive and give the goddess’ precious things and cultural exchanges between the Khmer and Raglai people.
The second day is for Kate Festival at Cham Towers.
The costume receiving ritual (often starting at 7 a.m): All the royal costumes at Cham tower temples are kept by the Raglai people. Therefore, at the Kate Festival, the Khmer people have to do a ceremony to welcome the Ragrai people who bring the costumes to the Cham Tower Temples. The ceremony is held solemnly because it initiates the whole festival.
The ceremony to receive costumes at Po Nagar Temple takes place in the afternoon, one day before the official festival day at the tower temples. It starts at 1.30 p.m and finishes at 9 p.m the same day. Similar ceremonies at Po Rome and Po Klong Garai Towers take place in the next morning. Although they take place at different times, the rituals are almost the same.
On the day of the ceremony to receive King Po Klong Garai’s costumes at Po Klong Grai Temple in Phuoc Dong, the Raglai people arrive there in the early morning. The man who takes care of the temple offers liquor and eggs to ask for gods’ permission to take the costumes to Po Klong Garai Tower for a ritual. When he finishes his job, King Po Klong Garai’s costumes are put on a palanquin and taken to Po Klong Garai Tower. The way from Phuoc Dong Hamlet to the tower is about four kilometers. As soon as the procession arrives at the tower, a group of dancers will perform a dance in front of the tower. This dance will also be performed at the end of any stage of the Khmer people’s rituals.
The similar ceremony at Po Rome Tower takes place on the same day.
Besides the Kate Festival, one of the 15 biggest folk festivals in Vietnam, Ninh Thuan is also the land of grapes and Ba Moi grape wine, which is processed by traditional technology.
Compiled by Hoa Tuyet