The Raja Praong Ritual: A Memory of the Sea in Cham- Malay Relations


(Extracted from Truong Van Mon, “The Raja Praong Ritual: a Memory of the sea in Cham- Malay Relations”, in Memory And Knowledge Of The Sea In South Asia, Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya, Monograph Sries 3, pp, 97-111. International Seminar on Martime Culture and Geopolitics & Workshop on Bajau Laut Music and Dance”, Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, 23-24/2008)


Raja Praong ritual of the Chams in Vietnam contains memory of ships and seas which have historically related between the Chams and Malays. Besides hymns describe on Champa wooden ships crossing sea to Malay, two wooden ships of Malay are also reproduced to perform in the Raja Praong ritual today. By Cham manuscripts with an historical point of view, the main content of the study focuses theme by many aspects such as legend, hymn, master, sea route, origin, shape and structure of wooden ships, specially the two Malay ships in order to find out memory and knowledge of the ships and seas as well as historical relations between Champa and Malay during 17th –19th centuries.

Key Words: Champa-Malay, sea, ship, relation, history


The Chams’ population is 132.873 persons living for a long time along the coastline region of Central Vietnam[1] and the Malays is approximately 12 million persons living scattered in Malay Peninsula. [2] Both the Chams and Malays have commonly shared a Malay- Polynesian language family and among them also have related for along time on history, culture, and religion. [3] Particularly, both are expert in navigaion.[4] Yet, only the Malays have still lived in nagivation right now, the Chams no longer to do that since 1832 when their country, Champa was disappeared by attack of Dai Viet. However, civilization of sea have still left many vestiges in their cultural heritage.[5] Specially, the Raja Praong ritual of the Chams in Vietnam contains many memory of ships and seas which have historically related between the Chams and Malays. Evidently, besides hymns describe on the wooden ships of Champa crossing sea to Malay, the two Malay wooden ships are also reproduced to perform in the Raja Praong ritual today. [6] Yet it can be observed there has not been any substantial study on these themes. Therefore, by Cham manuscripts with a historical point of view, the main content of the study focuses theme by many aspects such as legend, hymn, master, sea route, origin, shape and structure of the wooden ships, specially the two Malay ships in the Raja Praong ritual in order to find out memory and knowledge of the sea as well as historical relations between Champa and Malay during 17th –19thcenturies.

 The Memory of the Ships

Po Tang Ahaok and Po Rayak’s Ships sailling from Champa to Malay Peninsula

After the 15th century, both Champa and the Malay World declined in the influence of India culture and they began to develop new relations in modern history. Both received Islam culture. Meanwhile Thailand, Laos and Cambodia followed Buddhism.[7] So Champa still had strong relations with Malay states such as Kelantan, Johor, Brunei, and Java until 1832. By 15th century, the king of Champa, Po Kabrah (1448-1482) visited the Malay Peninsula.[8] In 16th century, 1594 the king of Champa sent assistance to the Sultan of Johor to fight against the Portuguese.[9] In the 17th century, Dutch documents mentioned the continuous relations existed between the Sultanate of Johor and Champa. The relations between Champa and the Malay World continued into the 17th century, during the reign of the Cham king Po Rome (1623-1651). Po Rome came to Kelantan with his army and married there. It is believed his descendants had inherited the Kelantan throne.[10] During this time, the Cham generals Po Tang Ahaok and Po Rayak also crossed sea to Malay by wooden ships for studying religion, culture and military to attack by the Vietnamese upon Champa. These questions are recorded into two Cham manuscripts titled Damnay Po Tang Ahaok and Damnay Po Rayak. [11]

The Boats and the Sea of Champa Through “Damnay Po Tang Ahaok”

Damnay Po Tang Ahaok, a work of Cham manuscripts used to sing or tell historical legend of god of the Chams named Po Tang Ahaok who is used to study in Makah (Malay) by Maduen priest when Raja ritual is performed. Its text in Cham script written by drawing ink on papers are kept at EFEO with class- marks CAM 247 and CAM 248c. Its content contains 49 lines of poetry which basically describe historical legend of Po Tang Ahaok as well as ships and seas of Champa. Several cantos of its text presenting these matters are transliterated in Latin as follows:

Gilai praong bingu nyom lak/ nduec nao tablak saong gilac baraw/ dom gilai baraw nao drah/ cieng pak cah saong gilai baraw/ dom gilai baraw nao truh / dom gilac haluk dang di tapien/ gilai cieng nam mbaik (…) urang hu sang si ndik/ po ngap anih dalam tathik/ urang hu sang si daok/ po ngap danaok daok dalam tasik/ riyak paok bilik (…) Di dalam tasik po tang ahaok/ riyak paok athak patih bhaong/ buel po tang ahaok/ ahaok praong klau plu tajuh/ tagaok mak njuk mbaok bun palau/ ahaok praong klau pluh tajuh tapa/ tagaok mak aia mbaok buen chuai palau/ ndik rayak khing nduec/ yawa sep ra puec dalam ahaok/tuer gan di krak iku/ rayak paok ralo bang kar manyi/ ikan karwah mbeng ralo/ ikan mbang di tang brau brau…[12]

Contents of above Cham cantos are summarized as follows: Po Tang Ahaok has a 20 metre length old indigo-blue wooden ship with 6 masts.The sea of Champa have many gulfs and fishes with many waves which always crashed innumerable and hubbub into the shore. The sea has many ports, so both old and new ships are crowds to go and back in a rush. The text deals with Po Tang Ahaok that he lived mainly on navigation. Because he has only house on desk of his ship or on ocean, not house in earth. His funtion ship catchs fishes in one hand and carries persons or goods (chief rices) in the other. Sea route of his ship is limited only from Donng Nai located at border of the South Champa to Nha Trang located at border of North Champa. On the way, his ship went via many islands to take wood for cooking and water for drinking.

Like that, through Cham manuscripts mentioned above basically shows a part on characters of ship and sea of Champa, particularly thought sea route of Po Tang Ahaok’s ship defined that from 17th -19th centuries before attack of Dai Viet from North, the border of the North Champa given way to Nha Trang and the South to Dong Nai (Bien Hoa). [13]

Po Rayak Crosses Sea to Malay Peninsula

Like Damnay Po Tang Ahaok, Damnay Po Rayak with text written in Cham script by drawing ink on papers are kept at EFEO with class- marks CAM 244 and CAM 246a. [14] Its content containing 44 lines of poety deals with a hictoric story of Po Rayak crossing sea to Malay to study but on his back way to Champa he was dead on sea. The following cantos are cited and transliterated in Latin as present examples for content of this text.

Po Rayak bhum pacem aia radak/Supit Sumat threh tabiak brah hatai mang ribho/ seh di hatai nao tal nagar makah/ sang megik aluah hu Nabi daok pak nan/ po gru anit pataow abih kadha/ blaoh likau adat di gru merai/ kasaih wek marai liweng aiek palei nagar/ biruw po gru si akhan/ saih juai wek tathan meyah daong jang o jai/ Po Rayak mboh gru ndom yau nan/ o brei wek daong nagar pa-ndiak tian o bik bican/ krak malam mak kapal ba trun/ tathik klep daok blung, di akaok kapal blaoh kakuh/ blaok trun kapal wah si take wek nagar/ gru amieng thuw ka saih dep je/ gru hatem nao di aia ikan ca-baoh/ Po Raya tok duis di gru urang/ patel ka njep ina patrang, ca-mbaoh binas di jellidi/ gram katal hajan lin maklem/ aia katrang cakak paer, habah klaih jieng dua/ suen tama ikan daok di ia/ threh bi-ndang sa mbeng tra di Gram Pari duel Parik / jang janang aper abih grep gruk/ dalem tathik nan subik, jeng patao jelilidi/ ikan iman suen thep daok di aia/ dalam tathik din di kasa [< rasa], abih merai tapong hlong…[15]

The content of above cantos are summarized as follows: Po Rayak crossed sea at midnight to came back Champa from Malay by a wooden ship with a simple oar. On the back way on sea his wooden ship broken by attack of dorad (ina trang) because of heavy rain and windstorm. Then he embodied himself to become whale living deeply under sea. After time coming to grips with waves, he embodied himself again to become whale (ikan liman) and appeared on the shore of Phan Ri- Panduranga. Finally, he became a power king of ocean (patao jillidi) with a whale shape to control whole seas. For this reason he is worshiped yearly with Christian name Po Rayak meaning “sea wave god” in the Raja Praong ritual as well as several shrines of the Chams in Vietnam.

All of all, if Damnay Po Tang Ahaok (god of ships) shows his sea route is limited by sea –territories of Champa, Damnay Po Tang Ahaok (sea waves god) shows the Chams is used to cross sea to oversea, Malay. The Chams is really an expert of navigation. Two Cham manuscripts mentioned above expressed themselves memory of ships and seas. The seas of Champa and Malay have many islands and sometime rain and windstorm; sea also has dorados and whales. The whales became king of ocean and always help the ships and sailors being accident by waves and storm. Hence, the whale is worshiped namely Po Tang Ahaok by the Chams (sea wave god). In short, Damnay Po Tang Ahaok and Po Rayak presented not only in memory and knowledge of sea also in shape, style and size of Champa ships which used to use in past of history and now disappeared in their life. Specially, although Damany Po Rayak is only a legend, its content contains still some historical essences tell on the historical relationships between Champa and the Malay Peninsula during the 17th -19 centuries.

Two Malay Boats In Raja Praong Ritual

Besides the ships of Champa came to Malay, several journeys of the Malays also come to Champa.Nonetheless, most of their yourney are made by land via Camodia. Examples, the missionary Ungku Omar came to Champa via Cambodia. He died there and was buried in the village of Ken near Chau Doc in southern Vietnam. [16] Abdul Hamid, who was the former admiral of kingdom of Jembal in Kelantan, came to Cambodia around 1687 with the king of Champa, Po Ibrahim.While he was there, he taught Islam.[17]Meanwhile, lack document to record the yourneys of Malay came to Champa by sea. Execpt, the yourney of Tuen Phaow from Kelantan come to Champa by sea to lead a Jihad movement to expel theVietnamese army from the land of Champa,[18] there are the two Malay wooden ships crossing sea to Champa still left trace in Raja Praong ritual. Yet it has not mentioned yet by any scholar. This is a theme we would like to disscuss here as follows.

Historical Legent of The Two Malay Boats

A legend of the history of the Raja Praong is still being handed down from generation to generation among the Cham community. This legend says that during some diplomatic occasions, king Po Rome visited the Malay Peninsula and invited some Malay high officials to visit Champa. The Malay high officials went to Champa on seven boats. When the ships arrived at Mui Ne in Phan Thiet, a coast area of the Binh Thuan province in Vietnam, one of Po Rome’s general named Po Sah Ina[19], thought that they were pirate’s shipss and attacked them. Five of the ships sank and only two remained.

From the survivors, Po Sah Ina learned that those were Malay boats invited to visit Champa by King Po Rome. When he heard of the incident, Po Rome was distressed. He ordered his soldiers and civilians to fish out the dead bodies of the Malays from the sea and bring the survivors of the two boats to the court of Champa. Po Rome then ordered to perform the Raja Praong ritual in order to commemorate the dead, and see off the soul of the dead persons and to send off the survivors to their country. From then the Raja Praong has been widely spread and became a popular belief of the Chams. Therefore, nowadays, in the Raja Praong ritual there are always two wooden ships and four small wooden statues symbolizing the Malay flotilla and their Malay passengers.[20]

Another Cham manuscript introduced by Po Dharma[21] also mentions the historical origin the two Malay wooden ship in the Raja Praong ritual. However, the content of this record varies from the first one given above. According to this manuscript, two Malays from Kelantan came to Champa at the orders of their families. However, some people said they went to Champa to spread Islam and others said that they went to Champa to assist the Chams to fight against the Vietnamese. The first Malay prince, whose name is not mentioned in the manuscript, went to Panduranga (Champa) through Cambodia, while the second Malay prince, whose identity is given as Putra Jawa or Lasama (Laksamana in Malay),[22] went to Champa through the sea. Unfortunately, on the way to Champa, the Laksamana’s flotilla met with gigantic waves. Several boats of Laksamana’s flotilla went missing. Laksamana’s boat was also damaged and drifted to the seashore of Panduranga. When Laksamana’s boat arrived on shore, it was attacked by the Chams who took the Laksamana for a pirate. The prince tried to explain he was not a pirate but a messenger who had come to assist Champa. This was instantly reported to a Cham princess who was visiting the area. Upon meeting the Laksamana, the Cham princess could recognize he was indeed a prince of Kelantan.Therefore, she asked her father, the king of Champa, to give the prince a warm welcome. After a short time, she fell in love with the prince. The Malay prince agreed to marry the Champa princess and promised he would love her and stay with her forever for that there was no need for him to return to his homeland.

The Prince Laksamana had an elder brother, whose name was given in Cham sources as Po Ataw Cek. He went to Champa by land via Cambodia. The king of Champa arranged his marriage with another of Champa princess. After getting married, the two Malay princes converted their wives to Islam.[23] In addition, both couples lived in the court of Champa. The Laksamana prince was also given a high position. Even though the Malay prince had pledged that he would live with his wife forever, a few years later, he decided to return to his country. The king of Champa accepted the Malay prince’s decision. A great ceremony was organized to see him off in the presence of his wife and children. A Champa flotilla under the command of general Po Rayak escorted the Malay prince to return to his homeland by sea.

After the prince’s departure, his wife could not stand being left behind and decided to kill herself and all her children. After their death, an epidemic spread in all the Champa kingdom. To cure the kingdom, the King of Champa called for a meeting of the Cham dignitaries. The meeting agreed if the souls of the Champa princess and her children were not worshipped in the temples, the epidemic would continue. The King of Champa decided to elevate the Champa princess and her children to be deities, the princess was given the name of Putri Putra Raja Jawa (Java) and her children were given Islamic names with the posthumous title of Pan, meaning someone who had an abnormal death. Apart from that, the king also ordered the Chams living in the areas previously ruled by the Malay prince, to put into their homes a totem called Ciet Praok (or Ciet Atau). Ciet Praok totem became a symbol for the commemoration of the souls of the Champa princess, the Malay princes, and their children. Simultaneously, the Champa king also decided the Raja Praong ritual should be celebrated by the Chams one time in a seven years cycle. The ritual should last for seven days and seven nights as a mean to remind the Chams of this historical event.[24]

Although there seems to be many questions pertaining the to legends of the origins of the Raja Praong ritual, they still contain still some historical essences. Through the content of the two legends mentioned above, even though the names of the characters in those legends are not clear, it must be recognized Raja Praong ritual and the two Malay wooden ships appeared in Champa during King Po Rome’s reign, in the 17th century. The aim of the two Malay wooden ships in the Raja Praong ritual was to commemorate the souls of the Champa princess, the Malay princes and their children.

Ritual to Welcome the Two Malay Wooden Boats in the Raja Praong Ritual

There are two different kinds of Raja Praong ritual depending on the lineage, either Ataw Cek worshiped general of Malay to Champa via Cambodia or Ataw Tathik worshiped princes of Malay to Champa via sea. Only the Raja Praong Ataw Tasik conducts a ritual for welcoming the two wood boats of Malay’s princes. [25]

The two Malay wooden ships are constructed a day before by Cham artisans when Raja Praong ritual performs. Dimension of each ship is about 0,8m length x 0,3m wide x 0,15m height. The ships with 4 masts made of rough timber are pained yelow and indigo-blue. In each ship, the Chams put two small wooden person   statues, male and female, symbolizing the Malays (Jawa). These statues do not wear any clothes. When contruction of these ships are finisned, Maduen, a Cham priest incluenced Muslim made a small ceremony to pray Alla for two ships.

Then the two of wooden ships are welcomed into the Kajang of Raja Praong by the Maduen and two other men: the Maduen, who represents the Chams and the two other men representing the Malays. They recite a dialogue in Malay language on the history of the two ships. This dialogue is called Jawa Ahaok (the text of Rites for welcoming the two wooden ships of the Malays into Malay language) recorded into Cham manuscripts with their content presented by Po Dharma. [26] Now these are sumarized as follows: The content of this dialogue mentions the two boats of Putra Jinyang came from the Malay Peninsula (Makah) to Champa and were conveying people a prince, a princess, generals, and servants. The content of this also described carefully on the two ships made of well wood taken from different Islands and masts of ships made of brasses.The ships were decorated luxurious things such as figues of lions, gasmines, and wild flowers and these ships contain many other things such as guns, silks, and metalwares. All of them whom are into the ships know to use betel and alcohol. Sea-route of the ships is a considerable distance from Malay Peninsula to Champa. However, as the two ships met a disaster, some people went missing and other people fell ill as symbolized by a torn piece of cloths.[27]

When the dialogue is over, the Maduen enters the Kajang to pray to god Mal Tituk (Po Rayak),[28] a Champa general under the king Po Rome’s reign, to introduce the two Malay wooden ships. Finally,the two Malay wooden ships are welcomed into the Kajang. The Maduen performs several offerings such as foods, fruits, and drinkables.The Muk Raja dances and Malay musical tunes, associated with the names of the Malay and Champa deities such as Cahya, Permata, Man Sri, and other gods belonging to Ataw Tasik, are performed.

The Ritual Songs and Dances to Welcom the Two Malay Wooden Boats

At the conclusion of the welcoming ritual for the two Malay wooden ships, the Puec Jal ritual (opera) is performed at night by two comedians: the Maduen and Ja Ploy. Ja Ploy is the principal character wearing a long hand-woven white cotton sarong falling to his ankles, yet he wears nothing above the waist. The comedians sing, recounting the historical legend of the two Malay boats disappeared in the sea. In addition, sometimes the comedians tell funny stories for the audience.Together with the Puec Jal, the Raja Praong ritual belonging to the Ataw Tasik which also contains an offering dance called Tamia Paik Baoh Tapei.[29] Two groups of persons perform this ritual into the Kajang. The first group, two men representing the owners of the Raja Praong, stays in the Kajang with two children (one boy and one girl); the second group, three men called Halaubalang, stands outside the Kajang. When the music of the Raja Praong starts, the second group staying outside the Kajang attack the first group staying in the Kajang in order to steal the two children and the cakes left on the roof (lam lin) of the Kajang. The second group successfully steals the two children and the cakes. As a reward, the Maduen then offers a lot of food and fruits to the Halaubalang, the second group. At the same time, the Maduen dances to congratulate the Halaubalang and the Po Acar prays Mohamat (3 times). Then the Po Acar ties the two children to the two Malay wooden ships and sees them off to the Malay world. This offering dance ritual (tamia paik baoh tapei), a part of ritual to welcome two Malay wooden ships in the Raja Praong, commemorates the Halaubalang, the Muslim sailors, whose boats had sunk in the ocean.

To See off the Two Malay Wooden Baots (Palao Ahaok Ritual) 

On the fourth day morning of the Raja Praong ritual, after singing and dancing ritual to welcom the two wooden ships of Malay ended, a group of people including the Po Acar, the Maduen, the Muk Raja, two men carrying the two Malay wooden ships and two children wearing robes, the musical band, the ritual servers, and the villagers stop by a river symbolizing the sea, to witness the departure of the ships to the Malay Peninsula. Before the two Malay wooden ships are sent off, the Po Acar, the Maduen and the Muk Raja conduct a ritual to offer rice, food and chicken to the divinities such as Po Awluah, Mohamat, Cahya (Po Rome), Po Man Tituk (Po Rayak), and Po Tang Ahaok, and so on. During this part of the ritual, the Maduen sings a single hymn on Po Rayak (sea wave god). The Maduen prays Po Rayak to escort the two Malay wooden ships to return safely to the Malay Peninsula. When the hymn is finished, the two Malay wooden ships and the two children are lowered down to the river. After that, the two children are removed[30] only the two wooden ships would drift downstream to return to the sea. At that time the music of the Raja Praong performs continuously until this part of the ritual is completed. Then, the entire ritual for Seeing off the two Malay wooden ships as well as Raja Praong ends. [31]

Historical, Cultural, Language, And Religious Essences Through Memony On Sea And The Ships Of Champa And Malay In The Raja Praong Ritual

Malay And Islam Elements in the Raja Praong Ritual

The study of the two Malay wooden ships in Raja Praong ritual provides much information regarding the linkages that have been established with the Malays of the Malay Peninsula. First, the legend of the Malay wooden ships and the book of rites (Jawa Ahaok) are written in Malay language. Secondly, the owners of the Malay wooden ships named Putra Jinyang, Putra Jawa orignated from the Malays, not the Chams.Thirdly, the Muk Raja who serve the two wooden ships is also named, Tuen Janyang, which originates from the Malays. The Maduen as guru who conduct ceremony for the two wooden ships too has another name, Biduan, Biduanda which originates from Sanskrit, whereas the Mindok originates from Mindok in the Malay Mak Yong. All the priests conducting the Raja Praong are the representatives of Allah. Each of them has a specific role. The priest Po Acar is responsible of the reading of the book of Rites Salawat to pray to Allah at the beginning of ritual of the two Malay wooden ships. The Maduen sings or reads the book of Rites and prays Po Bar Gana, Cahya, and Permata in Malay language (Jawa Ahaok). In addition, the musical instrument used in this ritual such as ganang, baranang, saranai also originate from the Malay World. The offerings such as kadhaong, baoh ut, and baoh tabei are similar to the Malay cakes such as nasi himpit, kuaci, kastad, cuar badak, and baoh melaka. They are always offered to the divinities after being cleansed following the Muslim rite of making the food halal sacrifices. The legend of the two Malay wooden ships which came to Champa during Po Rome’s reign is the major subject of ritual. The end, the ritual of the two Malay wooden ships is incluenced deeply Malay and Muslim which don’t used to occur in culture and religion of Champa before 15th century.

Malay Language (Jawa Ahaok)

Malay language (Jawa Ahaok) is mainly used in ritual of the two Malay’s wooden ships. In addition, several Cham manuscripts inform that after 15thcentury many kings and generals of Champa went to Makah (Malay) to study culture, religion, and military.[32] So they could use Malay language when came back their country. Moreover, at this time, besides Jawa Ahaok, two famous literary work namely Akayet Dewa Mano and Inra Patra originated from Malay have also appeared and became popular in Champa.[33] It is shows that the Malay language plays an important role in religion, culture, society, economy, and maritime not only in Champa also in countries of Southeast Asian areas when civilization of Indian declined after 15th century. Concequenly, this time the tendency of Indian Sanskrit used in Champak from 2nd -15th centuries was replaced by Malay language of court. The latest Sanskrit inscription of Champa, the Bien Hoa inscription, dates from 1460.[34] If so, the appear of the two Malay wooden ships accompanied the Malay language (Jawa Ahaok) became a great important history event to initiated for spreading culture and religion of Malay in Champa. As a result, after 15thcentury Panduranga – Champa was Malaynized in aspect, not Indianization or Islamization.[35]

 Historic Event and Personages Relating to the Two Malay Wooden Boats

Arab Muslim Divinities

 The divinities of Muslim originated from Arab such as Alua Huk (Allahu Akabar), Po Uwluah (Alla), Mohamat (Muhammad), Ali, and Phua Timah (Fatimah) always prayed by the Chams in ritual of the two Malay wooden ships as well as in Raja Praong ritual. These divinities are recorded in Koran book and Cham manuscripts. [36]

 Champa Personages Influenced by the Malays

Related to the two Malay wooden ships, there are several Champa personages such as Po Rome, Po Rayak, and Po Tang Ahaok.

 King Po Rome (1627-1651)

Information regarding King Po Rome was first given at the beginning of the 20th century through brief notes by E. Aymonier and Thai Van Kiem.[37] However their studies are incomplete and contain many mistakes. According to several Cham manuscripts which have records on Po Rome such as Dalukal Po Rome (Tales of Po Rome),[38] Ariya Po Rome (Poem of Po Rome),[39] and Damnay Po Rome (The History of Po Rome)[40] King Po Rome’s real name was Ja Kathaot. When he ascended the throne his reign title was Po Rome, and after his death, he was remembered with the posthumous name of Cei Sit, Po Gahlaw, or Cahya.[41] He was born on April 4th in the year of the Rabbit of the Cham calendar in a small village named, Kabaih[42] in present day Binh Thuan province in Vietnam. He originated from the Cru people, a highland ethnic group of ancient Champa. Po Rome had two brothers, Po Tang Ahaok and Po Rayak.[43] He was known to have many wives: Bia Than Cih who was of Cham Awal origin, Bia Than Can who was a Ra-Nde, Ngoc Khoa who was a Vietnamese and daughter of Nguyen Phuc Nguyen (1613 – 1635), the Vietnamese ruler of Southern Vietnam,[44] and a Malay princess from Kelantan.[45] The legend tells Po Rome was engaged in sexual passion with the Vietnamese Princess Ngoc Khoa. In order to cure her sickness, he cut down the Kraik tree, symbol of the vital spirit of Champa. After cutting down the Kraik tree, Champa lost its power to fight against the Vietnamese army. As a result, Champa fell to the Vietnamese and King Po Rome was captured and put into a metal cage by the Vietnamese. He was reported to have committed suicide[46].

By taking into account the information given by the Cham manuscripts, we can assert that during his reign, Po Rome visited the Malay Peninsula many times and was reported to have lived in Kelantan for along time.[47] This historical event was recorded in the annals of Kelantan. Addullah b. Mohamed mentions while he was in Kelantan, Po Rome married one of Kelantan princess who gave birth to many children whose descendants later became the rulers of Kelantan. They included Nik Mustafa (Ong Tpouo) (Agong Ronan) (Tuk agong) (Po Rome)- Pemangku Raja Patani-who also became the ruler of Champa with the reign title of Sultan Abdul Hamid Syah (Raja Sri Sarwasadesa) (c.1578-c.1637) – Nik Ibrahim (Po Ibrahim) (Ong Cai Nyek) (Po Nrop)–Datu Kelantan (c.1634-c.1637) (Ruler of Champa) (c.1637- c.1684) and Tengku Ismail Petra (Sulatan Ismail Petra) (since 1979).[48]

[54] Besides he directed the Cham to build the Madren dam,[55] an irrigation works which is now beneficial to both the Vietnamese and the Chams living in Ninh Thuan area, and to develop agriculture in the Panduranga area. Furthermore, he was seen as a king whose had diplomatic talent and was closely related to the Malays. All these information are found in Cham sources, particularly, in the welcoming ceremony of the two Malay boats which visited Champa for the Raja Praong ritual in 17th century.

History of Po Tang Ahaok

Po Tang Ahaok was an admiral of Champa during the reign of Po Rome (1627-1651). He was born in the fourth month of in the year of the Dragon in the Radak hamlet in Phan Ri, Binh Thuan province.He studied amulet in the Holy Land of the Muslims (bataw khak bah) in Makah, which usually refers to the Malay Peninsula. Thus he had great knowledge in amulets and martial arts. After his death he was deified as an Islamic-influenced god under proper name On War Palei Padhak Nagar and worshipped in Raja rituals.

History of Po Rayak

Po Rayak belonged to the dynasty of Po Rome (1627-1651). The history of this personage is noted in Cham manuscripts like damnay, danak (story), and ariya (poetry).[56] Po Rayak means the sea wave god. He had also another name Ja Eih Wa. He was born in Pacam hamlet in Binh Thuan Province. He was very famous and known to be a very clever person since young age. When he grew up, he went to the mosque of the Malays in the Malay Peninsula to study religion, amulets, and philosophy. During his stay in the Malay Peninsula, Champa was invaded by the Vietnamese.Therefore he immediately returned to his country to help to drive away the Vietnamese.Yet on the way back to Champa, he was bitten by a whale and was drifted to the seaside in Binh Thuan province and was saved by fishermen. Later, as he was helpless in front of the Vietnamese invasion, he left his village to marry with a Kahaow girl and had two daughters with her. Finally he died and was deified as a Islamic-influenced god to be worshipped in the Raja rituals namely Po Rayak or Mal Tituk.[57] Because his biography related to Malay and Muslim, his hynm named himself Po Rayak is chosen to sing to see off the two Malay wooden ships to return to the Malay in the Raja Praong ritual.

Malay Personalities

Putra Jinyang, Putra Jawa, and Lasama (Laksamana) are two main personages appearing in the legend of the Raja Praong ritual related to the two Malay wooden ships metioned above. If so, among of them who are owners of the two Malay wooden ships? The history of these personages is not particularly clear. Through the legend and some other data, we know Putra Jawa or Laksamana was originated from the Malay Peninsula and came to Champa as ordered by the god, Datuk Rangga Keramat.[58] Moreover, Putra Jinyang, Putra Jawa and Laksamana are the Malays’ names, not the Chams. Putra [< Putera] or Jinyang means prince in the Malay language and term Java the Chams use to refer to the Malays while Putra/putri Java or Putra/Putri means a Malay prince/princess.[59] Laksamana is a title, not a personal name. Laksamana seems to show the holder of the title held the function of an admiral.[60] In addition, when worshipping these personages in Raja Praong ritual, the Maduen always read the text of the rites in the Malay language and starts the text of Rites in a friendly greeting of the Muslim “asalam malaikum”.[61] These documents show the Putra Jawa, Putra Jinyang or Laksamana are a Malay prince or a Malay general, yet unfortunately these documents do not record their names.

There is another data source, the Khmer Royal Chronicles of the 16th century, which also mentions a Malay personage. The texts of the Khmer Royal Chronicles record the members of the Champa community who were settled in the province of the Thbaung Khmum took arms against the Khmer authorities under the leadership of their two leaders, known under the name or title Po Rat and Laksamana. They were reported to have set up a domain in the eastern part of Cambodia, the Chams and Malays proclaimed Po Rat, who was generally thought of as a the Chams, as king, and Laksamana Uparaj as the second in-command. The Laksamana was generally thought of as the Malays. They also appointed some of the province chiefs and district chiefs. Some times later Khmer authorities defeated Po Rat and Laksamana who disappeared after that. From these scanty data, European sources tell about the existence of two Malay chiefs. The most important and the most well-known of them would be Laksamana, who, for having offered presents to the Khmer King Ram De Joen Brai (considered as an usurper, although he succeeded in getting rid of the Siamese invaders from Cambodia). He also brought several pieces of artillery from Champa, and was granted high positions and land by the King. The two chiefs also succeeded in convincing the Khmer king to invade Champa. The king sent the two Malay chiefs and their soldiers, placed under the command of a high dignitary from the court of Srei Santhor. While the troops went to war against Champa, King Ram De Joen Brai was murdered in his palace by the Portuguese and Spaniards in May 1596. A struggle for power started between the son of the murdered king and the heir of the former royal family, the future Paramaraja V. The latter was helped by two Europeans, Diego Veloso and Blas Ruiz. The two Muslim chiefs first chose to side with king Ram De Joen Brai’s son, but later supported his rival, who succeeded to come to the throne at Srei Santhor. Nevertheless, rivalry occurred soon after between the Europeans who attempted to place Cambodia under Spanish protectorate and certain Khmer dignitaries, including the Malay chief Laksamana (this title Laksamana seems to show he was the admiral). After a dispute between some Europeans and members of the Muslim community, the Malay Laksamana put many Portuguese and Spaniards to death, and then finally killed the king Paramaraja V himself (at end of 1599). However, those acts unlatched the retaliation of the Khmer authorities to push the Laksamana back to Champa where he passed away.[62]

Despite all these information, it is still unclear why the Laksamana was included in the legend of the two Malay wooden ships in the Raja Praong ritual. It is unfortunate these data do not provide clear information, and so it may not be possible to give an exact answer on the name of this personage. Despite this short coming, the date is still important for the understanding of the Malay personage called Laksamana in the history of Cambodia as well as in the history of Champa.

Likewise, it is important to determine if the Laksamana mentioned in the Royal Khmer Chronicles was the same Laksamana who was mentioned in the above legend. The Laksamana mentioned in the Royal Khmer Chronicles also came to Champa around the 16th -17th centuries which coincides with the mentioning of Laksamana in the above legend. There are however, some differences. The Laksamana mentioned in the above legend came to Champa by the sea, while the Laksamana mentioned in the Royal Khmer Chronicles come to Champa via Cambodia, by land. Thus, it is difficult to determine if they were the same Laksamana.

Even if the Laksamana was merely a title and not a real name, their place in the Raja Praong as well as in the ritual of the two Malay wooden ships is important. This is a common occurrence in the history, culture, and religion of Champa. For Champa, whenever a god or a king had brought some credit to the history of Champa, this god or the king would become a legend and his/her real name would be omitted except his/her title that is common called “Po”. Po means great gods and is used to refer to historical personages whose are worshipped by the Chams. Perhaps it is why in this regard, the name of Putra Jawa, Putra Jinyang or Laksamana were never given. The titles Putra, Putri or Laksamana became the symbol for the ancestors’ spirit of the Chams and Malays. The proof is that the titles Putra, Putri and Laksamana worshipped in Raja Praong ritual, particularly Putra (prince) and Putri (princess) became two deities representing the ancestors’ soul of the Chams. For the Malays, the Mak Yong also had as the Puteri ritual, Putera was worshipped as a prince and Puteri as a princess.[63] The Puteri and Putera also became a symbol for ancestors’ spirit.[64]

In other words, through the legend of the two Malay wooden ships in the Raja Praong ritual and the data of Khmer chronicles presented above, the Putra Jawa, Putra Jinyang or Laksamana personages are not proper names but are only titles. For this reason, it is impossible to determine the details on biographies of these personages as well as their role in the Champa and Malay history. However, until now, the Chams felt no need to determine clearly who was Putra Jawa, Putra Jinyang or Laksamana. All of them are still being worshipped in the Raja Praong ritual along with other divinities such as Patri Bang So, Bana Jali, and Bana Jaliwet, and so on. Possibly, those are the names of the Malay warriors, especially the Putra Jawa, Putra Jinyang or Laksamana’s sailors who died in the storm during their voyage to Champa in the 17th century. This may be considered as historical event in the relationships between Champa and Malay recorded in the Raja Praong ritual as well as in the history of Champa.


Memory of the ships of Champa and the Malay in the Raja Praong show both the Chams and Malays are strong hearted sailors; extra abilities to build large ships; proficient expert in navigation; long-standing experience on weather, astronomy, tide, and living thing of sea. Their experiences also show that sea areas of the Champa and Malay sometimes have rains and storms; seas have whales and dorabs. Particularly the whales become a king of ocean and always help sailors or ships when they have accidences caused by heavy rain and strong storm. Hence the Chams and Malays have common a whale worshipped belief. These problems really make one’s minor contribution for study on sea civilization of Champa and Malay. More importance, together with memory and knowledge of sea just mentioned, the legends, divinities, history personages, languages, and ceremonies of the wooden ships of Champa and Malay in the Raja Praong ritual drawn an overall picture of the historical relations the Chams and the Malays during 17th -19th centuries./.

Appendix 1

 Cham Manuscripts – Jawa Ahaok (Malay Language)

Dialogues written in Malay language between Maduen and Malay persons recorded into Cham manuscripts which marked CAM 195 (1), CAM 195 (2) and presented by Po Dharma.[65] The following dialogues are cited from a part of content of CAM 195 (1) and CAM 195 (2).

Ni jawa ahaok

This is a (Malay dictionnary) dialogue of the Malays and Chams.[66]

Maduen tanyi

Maduen asks the Malays

     Ganti tuan kurumut dituk rangar pasuruh kumi bu-nda mari pati binu ngulu langcang pudak tidak rika masuk di dalam bulei ngini ma ndagri ma-nda pulao= ganti tuan keramat datuk rangga menyuruh kami berbenar mari petik bunga melur lancang[67] pudar tidak suka masuk di dalam balai ini mana negeri mana pulau.

For the sake and according to obey an order of the Datuk Rangga Keramat[68], we only arrive to pick Jamin flower. We however see his boat damaged heavy, but you don’t like to come our residence building. Where (which country or island) did you come from ?

 Ni ganuer ahaok lang wek

This is answer sentences of the captain.[69]

saya kabu-nda tuan dua buah langcang itu ini, uken langcang makah uken langcang di-ndah uken langcang kiri ka-ndan dua buah langcang itu ini [page 12] di kal duwlo budan putra jinyang sakit riyo lataih li-aiet idap di tingaoh suen-dei,, alang ayah ilang bu-nda ilang ayer minum ilang gunaom muken duduk tidak bulaih tidur tidak iman,, milot jinyang tuan milot kaknda putra suami jinyang tuan bicara bicari ha-ndak sura gantung kapakdam tuan,, buat dua silam bulei yang iman suen[70] yang iman gu-ndang suranai yang iman,, tuan bargi-nda [page 13] rija suleiman,, kumin hitam takam di lawang bulei arwah kawem tuan,, a-ndap tuan caik putri kuphan hitam lunem [gunaom?] bartubur mu-ndep dertatah lunyer tuan caik putri,, pasilam a-ndap tuan kuramat datuk rangaor pupan duw rang du-ndang ndap srisrah sadah pat modaham langcang kiri ka-ndan,, kapadam tuan[71] dua[72] buah[73] langcang itu ini mari masuk di[74] dalam balei ngilini amaik niet amaik kawol bawak niet bawak sakawol [page 14] sakawol la tuan[75],, bawak pugo[76] di nagri jawoh la tuan[77] = saya berbenar tuan dua buah lancang itu ini bukan lancang Mekah bukan lancang Medinah bukan lancang kiri kanan dua buah lancang itu ini. Di kala dahulu badan putera Jinyang sakit riuh letih lihat hidap di tengah sendi. Hilang ayah hilang bunda hilang air minum hilang gulai makan duduk tidak boleh tidur tidak amal [78].Mulut Jinyang tuan mulut kakanda putera suami Jinyang tuan bicara hendak suara gantung kepada tuan. Buat dua salam balai aman suar yang aman gendang serunai yang aman tuan baginda raja Sulaiman. Lembing hitam tekan di ruang balai awak kewes tuan. Hendak tuan cik puteri kafan hitam lena bertabur mundap (?) bertatah sinar tuan cik puteri. Tersila hendak Tuan Keramat Datuk Rangga papan dahulu orang sedang hendak serah dapat kemudahan lancang kiri kanan. Kepada Tuan dua buah lancang itu ini marai masuk di dalam balai ini ambil niat ambil kabul bawa niat bawa sekabul sekabul lah Tuan. Bawa pergi di negeri jauh lah Tuan.

I say that two boats don’t come from Makah (Malay) or Medidah (Arab) and these don’t drift the current from the right or the left. These are the boats of the Jinyang prince. This prince was serious illness and too exhausted due to piercing pain in the bones. After taking leave of his parents to depart, Jinyang has not found yet any drop of the water to drink and Gulai food to eat. He is such hungry and thirsty that he hasn’t enough health to sleep. God! If this story is true, there is only god who has power to judge the words and souls of this prince. Formerly, for the Jinyang prince was extremely respect for the king Suluman, build two solid residence buildings with many flags, Clarinet, drum, and a black sword which put in these residence buildings. Jinyang prince orders for people make a black shawl with gold threads to offer his wife. I notice to Datuk Rannga Keramat that the boards, which collected to repair our boats, are the boards of the boats, which drifted the current from the right or the left. I present to Datuk Rannga Keramat that those boats would like to landfall to this residence building. As Jinyang prince wants his promises and prayerful words to become true before he leaves this country to come to another[79].

 Ni maduen tinyi

Maduen asks.

I say that these two persons are not peresons who drifted with the curent from the right or the left.[81] It was a man and his lady. They were born at island but chose boat as a place to live.

 Maduen tanyi wek

Maduen asks again.

     Kumi tinya sungulu langcang pula langcang di ma-nda itu pupan langcang di ma-nda itu kurung langcang di manda itu,, kamadi langcang di ma-nda itu tali langcang di ma-nda itu,, layer langcang di ma-nda itu = kami tanya dahulu lancang kepala lancang di mana itu papan lancang di mana itu, kurung lancang di mana itu, kemudi lancang di mana itu, tali lancang di mana itu, layar lancang di mana itu.

Kumi tinya dangulu langcang urang dua urang duduk di dala langcang ma-nda di urang = kami tanya dahulu lancang orang dua orang duduk di dalam lancang mana dia orang.

We would like to ask you who are two persons in this boats?

Ni ganuer ahaok lang wandler: ‘iframe’, 

3 thoughts on “The Raja Praong Ritual: A Memory of the Sea in Cham- Malay Relations

  1. Isvan,

    This paper is of particular interest to me because of its focus on martime technology, although my interest also focuses on fishing technology. It is obvious that people who acted as sailors also acted as fishermen when they were not trading or going to war. Before I proceed further, I must note as a professional writer, this author’s command of the English language is not very good both in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary.

    Your summary of the article does not provide a publication date. I will check the other listed articles to see if they also are missing publication dates. These dates are really needed so scholars can see where the particular article fits into a temporal stream of that particular topic and other similar articles on the same topic. I am sure that my friend Pierre-Yves Manguin will be interested in this article as he has written extensively about maritime subjects.

    Is your blog site set up to provide for discussion and comments about the articles that are presented?

    Is there a section of the blog that provides for new discussion about topics not necessarily address in the listed articles?

    We may want to establish topics for miscellaneous discussion such as archaeology, history, textiles, temple, etc. I have set up my own email and document files so that they are catalogued under these and many other various topics. I will send you a proposed list of topics.

    I am way behind in what I have promised before. This article provides a good stimulus to me.

    Please do not consider this email to be a formal review of this article. I will do that later, but not too later.

    Bac Che

  2. Isvan,

    The English in this article is really bad. Are we reading an unedited machine (e.g. Google) translation? I cannot believe such a poorly written article could be published. It is not poorly written from the standpoint of its basic content and use of sources, but it very awkward use of English language.

    I would be tempted to rewrite it in better English if that was possible.


  3. 1.. I should write just one email but have one more comment. The first half of the article is written in very poor English grammar but the second have is written in very good English grammar and vocabulary. Why is that? Perhaps the part in good English is directly quoted without quotation marks but with citations? Very curious. I will need to contact the author directly.


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