Yesterday there was a news on the discovery of a linga in Vietnam in the Cham community. The first religion of Cham was Shaivite Hinduism.
In the midst of modern day Vietnam, some distinct touches of India remain. These are artefacts of the Cham civilisation that flourished in central Vietnam from the 2nd to 15th century AD. Indian influence in Vietnam spread through its linkages with this dynasty.
The Chams became Indianised through commercial links with India – they adopted Hinduism, employed Sanskrit as a sacred language and borrowed heavily from Indian art. The effects of these are evident in the Cham monuments in the Quang Nam province, 700 km from capital Hanoi.
The Chams battled constantly with the Vietnamese in the north of their kingdom and the Khmers (in modern Cambodia) in the west. The Chams threw off Khmer rule in the 12th century but were entirely absorbed by Vietnam in the 17th century. One of the greatest Cham sites, My Son, is considered the equivalent of Angkor Vat, Cambodia, in terms of archaeological importance. It became a religious centre under King Bhadravarman in the late fourth century. Most of the temples were dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Vietnam war destroyed My Son – the temples and ruins bombed to bits. Today they require extensive restoration work. A proposal for cooperation between India and Vietnam for restoration and conservation of Cham monuments is being considered by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Cham monuments of My Son have been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The greatest collection of the Cham ruins is at the Cham Museum in Danang. [India lives on in ancient Vietnamese ruins]