Today the Cham are spread throughout East Asia. They are predominantly Sunni Muslim in Cambodia, Shia Islam in China, and Buddhist in Thailand. A small number of the Vietnamese Cham (also known as the Eastern Cham) follow Islam and a relative few follow Mahayana Buddhism, but the majority are Hindu.
Their festivals are still celebrated and the traditional Hindu ceremonies and worship continue. Life’s passages, such as graduations, weddings, births and deaths, are still observed in accordance with the Hindu traditions. Along with the Balinese Hindus, the Cham Balamon represent the only remaining non-Indic populations of indigenous Hindus surviving today.
Cham observe a fairly strict division of labour, with women caring for children and the household. Men are responsible for rice cultivation and the chores of construction, tool craft, and repair.
Women do most of the textile manufacture, such as carding, spinning, and weaving cotton. They are also responsible for the family vegetable and fruit gardens and for threshing, husking, and milling the grain. Women carry the family’s water from the nearest lake, river, or pond.
The birth of a Cham child is greeted by the family and community with great joy. Babies are nursed by their mothers until two to four years of age. At age four, children are expected to feed, bathe, and control themselves, and shortly thereafter, to care for their younger siblings.
Most parents exercise almost complete control over their children until they are married. Even after marriage, the influence of parents is strong. Children are expected to show respect to their parents and elders, and are severely punished for any lapse.
The vast majority of Cham marry within their group and religion. When a girl and her parents (or a boy and his parents) agree on a selection, the parents approach the other’s parents.
Cham marriages are simple, involving little expense or ceremony. In the presence of an imam (spiritual leader) who acts as the witness, the parents of the young woman ask the groom if he will accept their daughter as his bride. After he agrees, the marriage is concluded and is then celebrated with a feast.
Cham trace their descent and pass inheritance through the maternal line. Residence is also matriarchal, so that young couples go to live with the wife’s family.