The Kate Festival, one of the most important cultural events of the Cham ethnic people in Binh Thuan, which takes place from the end of the sixth month to the middle of the seventh month in Cham calendar, is a unique tourism product helping the south central province to draw visitors.
The Kate Festival is a unique traditional festival of Cham followers of Brahmanism in Binh Thuan, which is home to second largest Cham community in Vietnam after neighbouring Ninh Thuan province.
It aims to show respect to gods and pray for favourable weather, bumper harvests, marital harmony, and the health and protection of society.
A national intangible cultural heritage
The Kate Festival demonstrates traditional cultural values of the Cham Brahman community, showing their respect and gratitude towards gods and ancestors for giving and protecting people’s health, a peaceful life, wealth and happiness.
With a long history, the Kate Festival begins with rituals at Cham temples and towers, then moves to the villages, families of monks, dignitaries and Cham Brahman families.
On the occasion, all family members gather so that grandparents and parents can educate their descendants to be grateful, respect their ancestors, and pray to their ancestors for a prosperous year and good fortune.
This year, the festival took place from October 13-14 with major activities held at Po Sah Inu towers in Phan Thiet city.
The Po Sah Inu Goddess costume carrying ceremony is the most important ritual of the Kate Festival. Under the direction of religious dignitaries, the procession of the Goddess’s costumes takes place among the majestic and ancient beauty of Po Sah Inu towers. Cham men and women join traditional dances with the melodious sound of Para nung drums and Saranai trumpets.
Po Sah Inu towers, five to 16 meters tall, stand on an area of nine hectares on the Ba Nai Hill, seven kilometers northeast from downtown Phan Thiet city. The only Cham architectural vestige in Phan Thiet has just three towers remaining. The towers were built in what experts call the Hoa Lai architectural style, one of several styles used during the reign of the Champa Kingdom.
Together with the Goddess costume carrying ceremony, the festival also features other traditional rituals and performances, including the opening ceremony of the main tower, Linga-Yoni altar bathing rite, dressing up and making offerings on the occasion of Kate in front of the main tower.
This year, festive activities of the Kate Festival are diverse with competitions and games carrying the cultural identity of Cham people, including contests of preparing and decorating offerings, making ginger root-shaped crackers, pounding rice, and carrying water to overcome obstacles.
The event is a chance to foster the solidarity and mutual love in the local community, and raise awareness of the ethnic group’s origin, moral values, personality, and spirit of harmony to unite members of the community.
Compared to other festivals in the province such as Rijanugar, Suc dang, Ramuwan New Year, Kate Festival is on a larger scale. It gathers not only Cham people but also people from other ethnic groups in nearby localities, including King, Raglai, Co Ho, Hoa, Tay, and Nung. Visitors can take part in Brahman rituals and enjoy traditional music.
The Kate Festival is one of five unique festivals of Binh Thuan included in the list of typical local festivals that should be preserved and promoted for tourism development.
Particularly, on April 4, 2022, the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism signed Decision No. 776/QD-VHTTDL recognising the Kate Festival of Cham people in Binh Thuan as a national intangible cultural heritage.
Turning Kate Festival into attractive tourism product
Binh Thuan is home to more than 40,000 Cham people who live primarily in the districts of Tuy Phong, Bac Binh, Ham Thuan Bac and Tanh Linh. The local community wants to preserve the traditional cultural values of their Cham heritage.
Along with meeting the demand for spiritual practices of Cham people, the festival has become a chance for Binh Thuan to attract tourists, and an entertainment opportunity for local residents thanks to its festive activities.
Vo Thanh Huy, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism affirmed that the Kate Festival is not only a unique and typical folk festival with close attachment to the social and spiritual practices of Cham people, but also a tourism product that makes important contributions to promoting the image and special cultural identity and values of the Cham community to visitors, helping boost local tourism development.
Recently, the People’s Committee of Binh Thuan has approved a project to preserve and promote the values of the Kate Festival of Cham people in Binh Thuan to serve tourism development.
The project aims to conserve and develop the special cultural values of the Kate Festival in a sustainable manner, thus meeting the demand for religious and belief practices of the Cham community, while turning Kate into an attractive tourism product to lure more domestic and foreign visitors to the south central locality.
To this end, in the time to come, Binh Thuan will strengthen coordination among provincial departments, sectors and agencies in the management and organisation of the festival.
Along with increasing communications and popularisation of the meaning, values and uniqueness of the festival, the province will work to mobilise capital for the restoration of temples and towers related to the festival, while upgrading the environment and landscapes around temples, towers, and villages.
The Kate Festival organising board in Po Sah Inu tower of Phan Thiet city and other localities were requested to send a detailed plan of the festival to travel firms to introduce the festival to visitors and integrate the festival into their tours, while increasing tourism promotion activities to attract more tourists.
The locality has also encouraged religious dignitaries, artisans and the elderly of the Cham community to pay greater attention to teaching and transferring traditional rituals during the Kate Festival to the young generation, contributing to preserving and promoting the values of the festival.
Binh Thuan is also working to apply for UNESCO recognition of Cham people’s towers and the Kate festival as world heritage.
In the first six months of 2023, Binh Thuan welcomed 4.46 million tourist arrivals, up 86% year-on-year, according to Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Lan Ngoc.
Of the total, the number of foreign visitors was 133,000, a five-fold increase compared to that of the same period last year. Revenue from tourism activities reached 11.34 trillion VND (480.4 million USD), up 2.5 times.
The host of the Visit Vietnam Year 2023 is making efforts to fulfill its targets of serving 6.7 million tourists, including 220,000 foreigners, and earning 15.9 trillion VND from tourism services this year./.