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My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam is mostly dedicated to Lord Shiva

In the coast of Vietnam, spiritual origins that rooted in Hindu dharma took a hold in between the 4th and 13th centuries. The evidence can be seen in the impressive tower-temples in the religious and political capital of Champa Kingdom for most of its existence. Among such is My Son Hindu sanctuary of the Kingdom of Champa.

This sanctuary is located on the mountainous border of Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province, in central Vietnam, situated in the elevated geological basin surrounded by mountains that provide the watershed for the sacred river Thu Bon. Not just religiously, the location has great political significance as well, as the area has a great strategic defensive system.

Photo by Michael S on 500px.com

During the 4th to 14th century AD, the sanctuary was used as a place for royal ceremonies in the rule of the Champa dynasty, and as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. After taking the throne, each king celebrated the holy ceremonies and donated gifts at this place, while building more temples, which in turn, accelerated the growth of art in the area over a period of ten centuries.

Photo by cristal tran on 500px.com

The whole complex now features 70 structures, but only 25 have survived. The Cham script present in the location is a derivation of the South Indian Brahmic Grantha script. Other Chamic stone carvings and Sanskrit carvings are inscribed at the stone temples.

Most of the models in the My Son have a same basic structure: each comprised of the main sanctuary (kalan), surrounded by towers and auxiliary monuments. Kalan is the symbol of Meru Mountain, the sacred mountain of Hindu gods at the center of the universe, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

They are made of fired brick with stone pillars and then decorated with sandstone bas-reliefs, a style that is similar to the ancient Hindu stories. There are no windows at the place though and is thus dark inside the temples. The predominant style derives its grounds from Indian architecture too.

The style is, however, highly sophisticated, and shows the skills that Cham engineers possessed during the days, and the development of iconography and symbolism in the tower-temples give insight into content and evolution of Cham thoughts and religious beliefs.

The Kingdom of Champa had started in 192 AD where people of Tuong Lam rose against the Chinese overlords, overthrowing them and founding an independent at the central coast of Vietnam. At such time, they were under the influence of Hindu dharma of the Indian sub-continent. Many temples devoted to Krishna, Vishnu and especially to Shiva were built to commemorate their positive attitude towards Hindu dharma.

The noted first constructions date back to 4th century under the rule of Bhadravarman. He worshiped the God Shiva-Bhadresvara. But the temple got destroyed by fire after 2 centuries. But then again, King Sambhuvarman rebuilt it.

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When the Cau clan came in power, the capital was moved to Vivapura, towards the south. But, My Son still held its religious and royal importance. The importance got bolstered when Naravarman I won wars against the Chinese and Khmer armies in the early 9th century.

Most of the finest surviving architectural monuments were built later in the 10th century.

During the 11th century, there was continuous warfare at the area, which changed a lot of things at My Son and other sacred sites. Harivarman IV brought the area at peace and then moved the capital to Do Ban, while still restoring My Son.

My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a center of the Cham civilization that occupied central and southern Vietnam from roughly 300 to 1700 CE.

The Champa Kingdom slowly declined in the 13th century, especially when it was under growing power of Vietnam state. It was nearly forgotten during the 15th century. Only when Frenchman M.C. Paris rediscovered in 1898 did the area started to recover. During the Vietnam war, the world war II, the Indo-China War, the Second Indochina War, many temples got damaged.

However, the temple still stands tall and is still under maintenance today.

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