In the mid-June, 2010, I had chance of accompanying with the Moroccan journalist making a documentary about Cham culture. We went to many provinces along Vietnam to meet, and talk with the Cham people, try to know more and more about them, and their culture. Beside many ritual of Cham’s religion, we had witnessed the Cham daily life, their lifestyle, their faith, and etc. However, the most impressive thing during the trip for me was the wedding of Cham people who live in An Giang province.
In Vietnam, the Cham community is so large, which is a combination of Muslim Cham community and Brahman Cham Community. In the Muslim Cham community, there are 2 smaller groups: Islam Cham and Brahman Muslim Cham.There are around 2.110 Cham families in An Giang, and around 14.700 people who live together and the whole community is Islam Cham. The Cham people always practice their customs, habits and rituals such as the rituals in praying, funeral, wedding, and etc. in Mosques and Suraus (small Mosqe)We had arrived Chau Phong District, An Giang Province in June 14th, and we decided to spend several days there. Fortunately, there was a wedding of Bride Saliah and Groom Muhamad-Aly, which was taken place in a Surau in Chau Phong District. That is the first time not only me but the whole crew had been taking part a traditional wedding of Cham people. There were many important solemn rituals conducted in the Cham wedding. Before the wedding, Cham people held Pakio-Po Nuôi ceremony. A few hours before the ceremony, there would be a meeting between Maha (the match-maker) and bride’s family, in which Maha offered marriage and discussed about time, place to hold a marriage ceremony and offers for the coming wedding. After that, representatives of 2 families (all were men, because women were not allowed to present at the Mosque) would meet at the Mosque or Surau. There, the Imam conducted Pakio-Po Nuôi ceremony, and 2 families exchanged the offers. After Pakio-Po Nuoi ceremony, the groom and his friends came to visit the bride’s home in daytime on Ro-Ja day. Bride Saliah was not allowed to see her fiancée, but Groom Muhamad-Aly with support from his friend casted a furtive glance at his Bride. In the evening, Saliah and her friend paid a visit to her Groom’s home.Three days before the wedding, the Imam and representatives of Groom’s family brought a bed to Bride’s home. Then, the Imam prayed while the others tided up the wedding room. That day was called “bed-arrangement” day (Thon-Kghe in Cham language). In the same day, some female relatives or friends of Bride made blanket, pillows for the married-couple. Cham wedding was really different from the wedding of Viet people because it was held in 3 days. In the first day called Am-Ha, people baked the cake. The second day called Pa Thưng-Pa Gú, people from 2 families met and in the third day, newly married-couple consummated their marriage. In the first day of the wedding, Cham people didn’t do “receiving the bride” as in Viet traditional wedding, but they did “bringing the groom to bride’s house”. The processions of Muhamad’s family walked him to his bride’s house but not go by any other transportation. On the way to Saliah, they sang: “Can I ask for the forgiveness from my parents for I have to say goodbye to you, I will come to live with my wife …” Arriving Saliah’s house, women in her house brought him water for cleaning his feet while they sang a happy song. After that, they received Groom Muhamad and welcomed him to his new home. After the engagement ceremony (called Ka Pol in Cham language), a prestige man read a paragraph of Qu’ran prayer with the content of advising the groom to respect his spouse. Then, they went into their nuptial chamber. Muhamad gave his spouse a hairpin, which meant Saliah was his legal wife. They both stayed in their bed, listening to the prayers. After the traditional ceremony, there was a small party. The main course always is curry beef with rice and legume. After all, Sen Thoa ceremony (bridal chamber ceremony) was conducted thoroughly; in which 4 successful women make the bed for the newly married couple. There were also “coin-pickup” rites. People put 10 coins in a bucket of water. The couple had to grope all the coins in one time. Who got more coins would take more power in their family.
Cham wedding for me is simple but lots of love and warm, because Cham people live close in their community. In Islam law, people are not encouraged to drink wine, so the wedding party ends soon but not lasts long as Viet one. Attending a traditional Cham wedding, I acknowledge that even in happy or sad events, Cham people always worship their God Allah and comply with all strict rules and taboo of Mohammedanism.
Nguyen Vu Thuy Duong