Primary Source

Ariya Cam Bini


Ariya Cam Bini is one of the few ariya that has little to no historical references in the poem. It is possible to deduce from the language of the poem and from the study of extant versions of the manuscript that its origins likely lie in the 19th century. The story, however, is one of star-crossed lovers, one Cham, and one Bani. As it happens: tensions between Cham and Bani communities were not ultimately resolved by the Awal-Ahiér religious system that was introduced in the 17th century and these communities continue to live in mostly distinct settlements (palei) up through the present, in part to ease the conditions of dietary taboos. One might find swine raised in a settlement or town affiliated with Agama Cam/Ahiér, but one would be much less likely to even find pork products in communities associated with the Awal/Bani, even though these settlements are not purely defined by one religious community or another. Additionally, although it is somewhat common to find mixed marriages of Awal and Ahiér today, the popular historical memory records that this was uncommon, even forbidden in the past. 

The parents and neighbors referred to in Ariya Cam Bini vehemently oppose the marriage of the two lovers and the daughter is beaten viciously in the poem. The references to the funeral pyre and the Inâ Gârai, a “mother naga-dragon” of Cham culture indicate that the burial is one in accordance with the Agama Cam religion, since the Bani/Bini would bury their dead. I have only offered the first several couplets (1-29) in this translation, yet we get the gist of the social context straight from the outset. I left the term “Yang” in the Cham language, since it could be used to refer to Allah, if one was Bani, to Hindu gods, if one was Cham Ahiér, or to animistic gods of the elements as well. The poem gives us a glimpse into the cultures of Cham language literati in the 19th century. We see a remembrance of past inter-communal strife yet contained within the lines of the poem is also a lament, “One side is Cham, and the other, Bani…Yet, we are not usually wandering, separately, as boats on the water.” The lament reminds the listeners that despite coming from different religious backgrounds, they are unified in their understanding of Cham cultures, the Cham language, and Cham social memory, creating a common notion of the historical past informed by literature. 

This source is part of the Ariya Cam Bini teaching module


This epic poem, I will reveal
Bring out for all to hear

Asks, “Why must love be like this?”
And I may have composed it falsely

With so much affection, I cannot breathe
No regrets, not for bodily wealth or worldly gains

My concern is it is but lip service
To be ignored, left alone, with suffering inside my chest 

I will never abandon you
I fear rejection by your parents, I regret

I have saved a large place in my heart for you 
And a smaller one for my parents 

My love, let us reveal our plot 
Our lot is full of hardship, which cannot compare

Your parents will not understand
We must bear the same from others [let them laugh]

The neighbors will and we can ignore them
Stepping together into the
Bani path

The cremation house is painted with the Inâ Gârai
Flag poles prepared around the site 

When we die, we cannot escape 
We return to heaven, to meet again 

Lasting three days, or ten
Our passions are offered to the

Love with compassion is so great 
If we ask for the
Yang’s blessing we might find one place

For it is we who are faithful, with all our hearts
If we meet again, I will owe a debt to heaven 

Few words are spoken, but so much is understood
With full understanding, we remain sincere

When I speak, my mother believes me
Yet, when father hears, he beckons and asks “Why?” 

They speak this way
Saying “You love this man!” 

Beat and kick me, I will bear it
Break your rod on me – I will take the pain

Drifting off, my eyes droop 
Yet, I awaken, with tears 
It’s true! I cannot deny my sorrow
I have tried to forget it all 

I enter the house and prepare a sleeping mat
Loneliness returns and I bite my fingers to relieve the pain 

Squatting, thinking of my sorrows
Reliving stories, with a heavy heart

I miss you so much, I don’t know what to do
I cut a palm, sketch an image, and send it to you

I wait till mother is at rest 
Tiptoeing past the gate, to visit 

You sleep soundly, silent 
As water flows from my eyes

I enter the room and see you sleeping
I hold you, rest my head upon you 

I hold your neck and cry, 
Right along your face 

I am thirsty and starving
Yet have not been hungry for many days

I think too much, so
Think of your partner, who is so skinny



Poem translated by William Noseworthy.

Note: More examples of Cham manuscripts were quite narrowly held until very recently. They were mostly tucked away in libraries in Europe or private collections in Vietnam and Cambodia. The British Library, however, fortunately partnered with Northern Illinois University, Dr. Thành Phần and Hảo Phan to digitize many precious examples of such manuscripts previously only known in Cham communities in Vietnam. That said, students and teachers interested in researching these materials should probably do so in consultation with an expert.

How to Cite This Source

"Ariya Cam Bini," in World History Commons, [accessed February 6, 2023]