Deity of Wave

(No.3, Vol.8,Jun-Jul Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Worshipping Po Riyak on a beach, Ninh Thuan Proince

Worshipping Po Riyak at the Chakleng Village, Ninh Thuan Province
Photos: Kieu Maily

Every year after the Rija Nugar celebration at Cham New Year’s (April in the solar calendar), Cham people in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces conduct Po Riyak (Deity of Wave) consecration. This is a typical feature of ocean-fishing culture of Cham people in the region, similar to the Viet people’s customs of consecration to the Fish Lord or to the God of Southern Seas.
Legends have it that bright and handsome Po Riyak was born in the Cham village of Binh Thuan during the reign of King Po Rome (1627-1651). He went to Mecca to learn magic, intending to help the country and the people. In Mecca, he confided to his teacher his aspirations, and the teacher appreciated it and taught him all the magic he needed. After that, although his teacher insisted that he stay, he sneaked on a boat and sailed home.
As he neared the native shores, the sea got rough and his boat capsized. Sea eagles swooped down and tore his body into halves. One half was tossed by the waves to Phan Ri shores, and the other to the Son Hai area of Ninh Thuan.
In the dunes of Phan Ri, Tuy Phong District of Binh Thuan Province, both Cham and Viet people worship Po Riyak. But for 20 years, the Cham people have abandoned the customs and only Viet people go on worshipping him.
In Ninh Thuan Province, every Cham New Year, Cham people gather at the Po Riyak temple in Vinh Tuong Village to worship him. It’s been passed down that on an inspection tour, King Gia Long of the Nguyen Dynasty saw crowds gathering to worship in the dunes, and the King had a temple built for them.
During the resistance war, Viet Minh used the temple hidden behind sand dunes and bushes as a hiding place. The French demolished the temple, leaving only the base, but Cham people continued coming to the sacred spot to conduct their rituals.
Po Riyak celebration is always preceded by Rija Nugar everywhere, except for My Nghiep Village in Ninh Phuoc District. In the early 50s, the villagers invited and received Po Riyak home to My Nghiep to worship as their God of Wisdom and stopped coming to the old worship place.
The area where the Po Riyak stood, which used to be an acre wide, has now been invaded by locals for shrimp farming and only a few laterite blocks remain here and there to show the old location. Because of the insecurity of the war, Po Riyak was divided in two: Po Ong, which remains on the old grounds, and Po Muk (aka Po Ba) which was moved 3km to the north of Po Ong. Therefore, besides the rituals conducted by the clerics at Po Ong, in 2017, the pilgrims also proceeded to Po Muk to worship. The whole Po Riyak celebration lasts one day. The Cham cleric ranks include Acar, Mudwon, Kadhar and Pajuw. The tray of offerings contains chicken, glutinous rice, wines, eggs, coconuts, many kinds of fruits and flowers, and a compulsory red sugar cane which signifies an oar.
The customs of worshipping the God of Southern Sea exists only in the Middle and a part of Southern Vietnam. Experts think this custom took origin from the Po Riyak customs of the Cham. Fish Lord Reception, Pray for Fish and Lord of Southern Sea festivals are a part of life and culture along these shores. A boat launching ritual is also a must for each boat, and it is believed that the ritual would be much more effective if conducted by a Cham shaman. In Ninh Thuan there are still many Cham shamans that practice this custom.
The Po Riyak worship is truly a beautiful and unique proof of the blending of Cham and Viet cultures in this region.

By Inrasara
Following the tunes (“Spring comes to Muong Hum hamlet high up the mountains with heart-rocking distant singing…” ) of talented composer Nguyen Tai ...
In the heart of the darkness of Saigon's backpacker land,ambling along down raucous Bui Vien Street and wishing I had not come out without my ear ...
How do you like our website?
Khách sạn giá tốt