About life and customs of Jarai ethnic – Vietnamese people in Tay Nguyen mountain region

Living places and career

Jarai ethnic belongs to Austronesian cultural language group and is one of 54 Vietnamese ethnics. Jarai people are Vietnamese people who live mostly in Tay Nguyen mountain region, specifically, in some province such as Gia Lai (90%), Kon Tum (5%), the North of Dak Lak (4%) and a few of Jarai people reside in Binh Dinh, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan province. To the year, there are about 411,275 Jarai people in Vietnam.

Jarai women in their daily works
Jarai women in their daily works

Jarai live mainly on growing rice in upland. Jarai people use simple techniques in agriculture, for example burning, hoeing, digging. Besides, breeding is quite developed such as live-stocking of buffalo, pigs, chickens, dogs. Formerly, the Jarai had fairly large herd of horses, Jarai people even used to domesticate elephants. In addition, crafts with weaving, knitting as well as hunting, gathering, fishing are still maintained until now.


About Jarai’s costume, for men, they usually wear loincloths in which there are red and white stripes and sparkly pearls. For women, they wear long dress with red and white hems, dark indigo tightly shirt, and they like wearing silver jewelry. Because of hot weather during 12 months in a year, both Jarai men and women prefer to be barebacked.

Jarai people in their traditional costumes
Jarai people in their traditional costumes

Similar to other Vietnamese people, villages are residential places as well as social community of Jarai people. Different from Ede people that followed big matriarchal family, Jarai people followed small matriarchal family only. Customary law prohibits strictly the peers that are relatives to get married. Furthermore, the girls can choose their husbands proactively. If the husband dies, the wife can have the right to get marriage with the brother-in-law. On the other hands, if the wife dies, the husband probably might get marriage with the sister-in-law. Interestingly, the husband will live in wife’s house when they get married, there is no exception.

To Rung - A traditional musical instrument of Jarai people
To Rung – A traditional musical instrument of Jarai people

Jarai people follow a custom that all of relatives have to be buried in same place. They worship for many kinds of Gods (they call God as Yang), including Housing Yang – the most famous god, Yang of village as well as Yang of water. They believe that when people die, they turn into ghosts, and there are hybrids of human and ghosts. The biggest ceremony of Jarai ethnic is grave-leaving ceremony, they also have the ceremony of moving to new house. In those ceremonies, they held parties, sang and dance together. Jarai people have many famous folk songs such as Dam Di, Xinh Nha and some special musical instruments, for instance, To Rung, Krong put, Tung Nung guitars.


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