Proper Name: Giarai.
Other Names: Gia Ray, Cha Ray.
Local Groups: Chor, Hdrung (including Hbau, Chor), Arap, Mthur, Tobuan.
Population:242, 291 people.(1999 census).

A fest of the Jarai

Language: Giarai language is part of the family of Malayo- Polynesian languages.
History: The Giarai are one of the earliest residents of the mountainous area of Tay
Nguyen (Central Highlands), and extending into parts of Cambodia. Early Giarai history refers to Potao ia (King of Water) and Potao pui (King of Fire), which have become cults to the Sky, the Earth, to pray for favorable rain and wind… Before the 11th century, both Ede and Giarai people were called Rang Dey. Between the 15th and 16th century, the Vietnamese feudal books of history and legends acknowledged terms of address of Thuy Xa (King of Water) and Hoa Xa (King of Fire). Only men of lineage Siu were allowed to carry these royal titles, and the women of the Ro Cham lineage were selected to be their spouses. It is likely that the word Pa tao is synonymous with Mtao of Cham people, Tao of Thai people and Thao of Lao people, all referring to a leader.
 
Production activities: The Giarai are primarily agriculturists. Land is the essential factor in production activities, being divided into two types: uncultivated owned lands namely De, tra, or Ion which are not yet cultivated and do not yet belong to anyone; and cultivated lands called Hma, owned by each household. Hma is part-garden, part swidden field, with land prepared by the slash-and-burn method, hoeing and ploughing the land, and using a digging stick to create holes into which seeds are inserted. In wet-rice fields, the Giarai use the hoe to turn up and plough into land (today the tendency is to use the plough drawn by two oxen).
Animal husbandry includes: buffaloes, oxen, horses, elephants, pigs, chickens and dogs, etc. In the exchange of precious objects, the buffalo has a value equivalent to gongs and jars. They also serve as offerings for sacrificial rituals. Family handicrafts include carpentry, forging and weaving. Artisans create back- baskets which are used for transporting goods and produce and for holding family possessions. The Giarai weave cloth using a style of broad-loom also found in Indonesia, producing wide, beautifully designed cloth.
Diet: The major foods are rice and its substitute, corn. Dishes are prepared using vegetables, salt and chili, vegetable soups, sometimes meat and fish. At meal times, the whole family sits around the dishes with each member having his/her own portion. At festivals, can (pipe) wine is consumed. The jar of wine is placed in the middle of the room, sur¬rounded by foods served in bowls, on plates and on banana leaves. Eating and drinking be¬gin, and a festive atmosphere encourages singing, dancing and gong playing. Many adults smoke.
Clothing: Daily wear for men includes a white and colorful striped loin-cloth (toai). In festivals, men wear a 4 m-long and 0.30m-wide indigo loincloth with designs on the hem and colorful loose fringes at both ends. A small black jacket, hemmed with linear designs of colorful threads down the sides is in the style of a poncho. The patao, or the village leader, is identified by his long, pullover indigo vest, which covers the buttocks. It has long sleeves and a red band from the collar to the chest. Under these range the buttons and a red cloth is patched to distinguish the shirt from others.
Women wear long indigo wrapper or sarong (1.40 m-long and 1 m-wide), hemmed with designs. The upper hem is designed with white or colorful strands. The wrapper is not sewn into a tube, but is simply a rectangle of cloth that is wrapped around the body. A short pullover vest or blouse is molded to the body; it has long sleeves and is black indigo in color. The sleeves are embroidered with colorful circle designs. Often men and women leave the upper torso unclothed, due to the hot weather much of the year.
Housing: The Giarai house is usually built on stilts and houses a matriarchal family that includes the husband, wife and children. The architecture is divided into two styles. The long house on stilts is called la-yun-pa which is 13.5 m-long and 3.5 m-wide at the average size. The house is split into two sections, mang and oc. The oc door opens to the north and is reserved for women, who are in charge in the matriarchal system. This large-style of house usually has two kitchens. A second style of house, called hdrung, is smaller (9 m-long and 3 m-wide). The height from the ground to the roof-top is not over 4.5 m. The main door, which opens to the north, runs straight to the floor for drying harvested crops. There are two windows at the sides of the door. This type of house has only one kitchen.
Transportation: The most popular means of transporting goods and produce is using the back-basket. In addition, the Giarai use horses and elephants for transporting goods and riding. Elephants are also used for pulling.
Social organization: The village (ploi or bon) is considered a residential place, as well as a community with a council led by elderly men (Phun po but). The council is charged with selecting the village leader (called oi po thun, Thap ploi, Khoa ploi) according to the Kdi or customary rights. Giarai tradi¬tional society is orga- nised into a territorial alliance (To ring). The chief of the To ring is a Khoa To ring, assisted by a Po phat kdi and a Thao kdi in his judgments. To ring is a community territory which becomes a military alliance in case of war.
Because of the matriarchal social structure, Giarai genealogy is based on the maternal line. People of the same bloodline make up families. Each family is divided into branches or splitted into two, alternate families. Each family and branch has a distinct totem. The Giarai are characterized by small matriarchal families, distinguishing them from the large matrilineal families of the Ede.
Marriage: Laws strictly ban the marriage between people of the same matriarchy branch and family. Girls and boys are free to choose their lovers at the age of 18-19, and girls take the initiative to choose their husband. Wedding customs are simple, and are not overly commercialized. The bride’s family plays a positive role. The custom of remarriage with husband’s brother or wife’s Sister “when the husband or the wife is dead (levirate) is conserved. After the marriage, the husband must live in the wife’s house, but the contrary is not acceptable.
Birth: The mother is greatly respected. When pregnant, a woman is not allowed to do hard work. She has a great fear of difficulties or death at delivery. When the child is born, the mother must follow strict dietary rules, like not eating rice cooked with water, but only eating com lam’ (rice cooked in bamboo-tubes), vegetables replace meat…
Funerals: The Giarai people obey a custom that all people of the same matriarchy family must be buried in a common tomb when they die. A dead man must be buried at his mother’s grave. In the common tomb, coffins are arranged one on the top of the other across, and then down alternatively. When the tomb is full, boards are set up for the next coffins before the ceremony is held to abandon the tomb. This ceremony is called Hoa lui, Thi nga or Bo thi, a great ritual in the mortuary process.
New house building: The new house building starts up with the formality of looking for land through the process of divination. The landlord puts 7 grains of rice on the ground and covers them with a bowl to learn the supernatural power of the Land God. After 3 days and 3 nights, the bowl is turned up, if the number of grains of rice remain the same, it is good. In contrast, if any grains of rice are missing, then the family must look for another place to build their home. After the divination process, the family celebrates for three days with singing and dancing. Another three-day festival is organized after the completion of the house.
Belies: The Giarai are animists, meaning everything is believed to have supernatural power. The Giarai worship different kinds of spirits (yang); among those are three the most often remembered in annual festivals or festivals held every few years: – Spirit Protector of the House (Yang Sang) is honored in the interior of the family house. The construction of a new house must be accompanied by the sacrifice of a buffalo and the planting of a kapok or silk-cotton tree. – Spirit of the Village (Yang ala bon) and the Spirit of Water (Yang iaJ, who protect the village and the life of its inhabitants. They are wor- shiped at the water’s edge or the foot of a mountain. – Spirit of Kings (Yang po tao): The force that helps bring about favorable rain and wind and productive crops. The spirit is worshiped in an annual ceremony by the Spirit of Fire, the Spirit of Water and the Spirit of Wind (Ptao agin). In Giarai beliefs, the soul of the deceased is transformed into a spirit. Those who possess “magic powers” are called ma lai.
Festivals: In the past, men and women filed their upper teeth in order to give them an even appearance. The work was done by an old man called Po khoa tkoi, who used a blade file or pumice stone to even out the upper incisors. To prevent loss of blood, a plant called Tkoi am is used. Small girls, usually at the age of” 1-2 years, have their lobes pierced. Gradually, their lobes are gradually enlarged by seed piths so that when they grow up, they can wear ivory earrings as large as 6 cm in diameter. Men also have pierced ear lobes. The most important festivals are the abandonment of the tomb, the sculpting of statues for the funerary house, and the construction of a house. All are celebrated by eating, drinking, dancing and gong playing.
Calendar: The first month of the new year is counted beginning with the first rains, which general correspond to the month of April in the solar calendar. The twelfth Giarai month (held in March) is called Manning, a time when agricultural work is at a standstill and cultural rites and festivals are celebrated.
Education: Giarai people now use an alphabet based on the Latin script. Like all other ethnic groups in Vietnam, students study the national language of Vietnamese.
Artistic activities: The Giarai, people have a rich tradition of oral literature particularly epic poems like Dam San, Xinh Nha, Dam Di… These♦ are performed in the form of songs accompanied by the Tung nung stringed instrument. Certain characters of traditional Giarai popular dances recall inter- ethnic wars of the past. The most widely used musical instruments among the Giarai are the To rung, Krong put, and Tung nung.
Games: Young people enjoy playing tug-of-war during festivals

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