The Jarai Ethnic Group
Area: Dac Lac, Gia Lai Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen
Economy: rice, corn
Belief system: animism
Cultural characteristics: The Jarai are the most
populous minority in the central highlands, many
living around Pleiku , as well as northeast
Cambodia and southern Laos. Villages are often named for a nearby river, stream or tribal chief,
and a nha-rong (communal house) is usually found in the centre. Jarai women typically propose
marriage to men through a matchmaker, who delivers the prospective groom a copper bracelet.
Animistic beliefs and rituals still abound, and the Jarai pay respect to their ancestors and nature
through a host or yang (genie). Popular spirits include the King of Fire (Po Teo Pui) and the
King of Water (Po TeoLa) who is summoned to bring forth the rain.
The Jarai construct elaborate cemeteries for their dead, who include carved effigies of the
deceased, these totems can be found in the forests around villages, but sadly many are being
snapped up by culturally insensitive collectors.
Perhaps more than any of Vietnam's other hill tribes, the Jarai are renowned for their indigenous
musical instruments, from bronze gongs to bamboo tubes, which act as wind flutes and
percussion. Jarai women typically wear sleeveless indigo blouses and long skirts.
Funeral traditions: Traditional Jarai tombs are little huts in which are placed the possessions of
the deceased and some offerings. Around the tomb are placed wooden pillars which are topped
by crude carvings, some of which represent spiritual guardians.
The burial ceremony is extremely expensive and usually entails the sacrifice of water buffalos
and cows. If the family of the deceased cannot afford the ceremony, it can be held up for several
After a number of years, the tombs are abandoned. This final ceremony of the abandonment of
the tomb marks the point where death becomes final and the deceased spirit is released, thus
releasing a widow for remarriage for instance.
This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Travel Agency in Vietnam
For original article, please visit:
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