The Bahnar (or Ba-Na) People
people trace their ancestry back many centuries to communities
co-existing on the coastal plains with the Cham and Jarai. Now
the Bahnar minority, numbering some 140,000, mostly live in the
highlands east of Plei Ku and Kon Tum.
The most distinctive aspect of a Bahnar village
is its rong or communal house, the roof of which may be up to
30m high and slightly curved. The rong is the centre of village
cultural and ceremonial life, and also the home of adolescent
boys, who are taught Bahnar history, the skills of hunting and
other manly matters. The village houses grouped around the rong
are typically stilthouses with a thatched or tiled roof, and are
often decorated with geometric motifs.
For centuries Bahnar people have traded with
the Cham and later the Viet people of the low lands, and as a
result have little tradition of handicrafts. However they are
well-known for their animal husbandry and horticulture, growing
maize, sweet potato or millet, together with indigo, hemp or tobacco
as cash crops. Bahnar groups also erect funeral houses and decorate
them with elaborate carvings, though they are not as imposing
as those of the Jarai. Some time after the burial, wooden statues,
gongs, wine jars and other items of family property will be placed
in the funeral house.
They are animists and worship trees such as the
banyan and ficus. The Bahnar keep their own traditional calendar,
which calls for 10 months of cultivation, the remaining two months
set aside for social and personal duties such as marriage, weaving,
buying and selling of food and wares, ceremonies and festivals.
Traditionally, when babies reached one month of age, a ceremony
was held in which, after their ears were blown into, the ear lobes
were pierced, thus making the child officially a member of the
village. Those who died without such holes were believed to be
taken to a land of monkeys by a black-eared goddess called Duydai.
With extracts from the Rough Guide to Vietnam by C Jan Dodd