A monolithic sandstone Shivalinga from 9th century CE, recently excavated by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in central Vietnam, has reinforced ancient India’s cultural ties with South-east Asia.
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar lauded the ASI on the discovery and its ongoing conservation project at the Cham Temple complex.
Jaishankar said that the project was “reaffirming a civilisational connect”.
The Cham temple complex is a cluster of ancient Hindu temples in Quảng Nam province in central Vietnam.
The temples are in ruins and not in use anymore. The architecture is influenced by South Indian temple architecture, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Last year, Vietnam celebrated 20th anniversary of the declaration of ‘My Son’ as the World Heritage site.
The temple complex dates back to the Champa civilization or the Cham civilization that flourished in central Vietnam over 2,000 years ago.
The oldest Cham artifacts — brick flooring, sandstone pillars and pottery found at Tra Kieu in Quang Nam Province — date to the second century A.D, according to a National Geographic report.
Apart from red-brick temples known as Cham towers, the language and cities with names like Indrapura, Simhapura, Amaravati, Vijaya and Panduranga are a legacy of the Cham civilisation.
Several Cham citadels, around 25 temple sites with varying numbers of towers have been found by the archaeologists still standing along Vietnam’s coast.
Hundreds of such sites might have existed by banks of the rivers , a favourite site of choice for temple construction in Hinduism, leading into the Central Highlands and beyond to eastern Cambodia and Laos.
The people of Cham civilisation followed Shaivaite Hinduism and were skilled in seamanship and building.
They had a vast trade network, with routes extending to present day India, Africa, China, Taiwan, Japan and south to Malaysia and Indonesia, and were renowned for their wealth.
The civilisational connect between India and Vietnam is also significant as the mixing of cultures was not premised on political or military force, but extensive trade relations and people-to-people ties, especially Indian merchants.
India’s civilisational connect?
Experts from the ASI are currently working on conservation and restoration of groups of temples at the My Son temple complex.
Reportedly, the Management Board of My Son, Vietnam is pleased with ASI’s work and wants it to undertake the restoration of another group of temples.
Tourism-conscious Vietnam looks at India as a huge source of tourists and many in the country feel the temple discovery helps the cause of tourism.
ASI is carrying out similar conservation projects in other South Asian countries.
One is Vat Phou temple, dating back to 5th Century AD located in the Champasak Province of Lao PDR on the slopes of Phou Kao Mountain.
The mountain is named as Lingaparvatha in Sanskrit — known as the home of Shiva with its natural stone Linga at top and the Mekong River representing the River Ganga and the surrounding universal ocean.