My Son Sanctuary – A UNESCO World Heritage Sites
My Son Sanctuary is regarded as one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and is the foremost heritage site of this nature in Vietnam
The ancient kingdom of Champa, which dates back to the 2nd century AD and flourished from the 5th to 15th centuries, once occupied the central Vietnamese coast all the way to Nha Trang in the south. The Chams soon became Hinduised through commercial contacts with India, and their kingdom functioned as a loose confederation of five states named after regions of India – Indrapura (Quang Tri), Amaravati (Quang Nam), Vijaya (Binh Dinh), Kauthara (Nha Trang)and Panduranga (Phan Rang).
At the beginning of the 10th century, Champa came under severe pressure from the successive Viet rulers, Who were beginning their long push to the south. In 1069 Indrapura (Quang Tri) was lost and by 1306 Champa’s northern frontier had been pushed back as far as the Hai Van Pass with the subsequent loss of Amaravati (Quang Nam). The process of Vietnamese expansion proved inexorable, with Vijaya (Binh Dinh) falling in 1471 and Champa now reduced to the rump kingdoms of Kauthara (Nha Trang) and Panduranga (Phan Rang) – effectively a broken power. The final absorption by Vietnam was delayed until the reign of Minh Mang in 1832 by which time the Vietnamese were already engaged in the occupation of the lower Cambodian region of Prey Nokor (later renamed Saigon) and the Mekong Delta
Thus Champa disappeared – But not the Cham people. As their kingdom was swallowed piecemeal by the invading Viet, Increasing numbers of Cham Fled to neighboring Cambodia, though others chose to remain under Viet tutelage in their former homelands. Today there are approximately 100,000 Cham people left in Southern Viet Nam.
My Son Sanctuary was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999. It is one of the most atmospheric locations anywhere in the country, with the crumbling ruins set in a verdant jungle. Chosen as a religious sanctuary by King Bhadravarman I in the 4th century, many temples, and towers (kalan) were built in this area. Most were dedicated to kings and Brahman divinities, especially the god Shiva, Who was considered the creator and defender of the ancient Champa Kingdom.
According to legend, the Cham towers were ingeniously constructed from raw bricks and fired in a giant “bonfire Recent research has shown that the bricks were actually bonded using a vegetable resin, allowing them to withstand the onslaught of time and the elements, but not, however, the Vietnam War. In 1969, American B-52s bombed the temples, where the Viet Cong had established a base and mined the valley. Many of the ancient buildings were badly damaged or completely destroyed. In 2015, the Indian government said it would provide US$2.5m for a five-year renovation project at My Son.
There are 11 designated temple groups in My Son, and there are likely to be other groups of ruins that are either unpublicised or undiscovered. Of the listed groups, H, G and L are off-limits. The first cluster of temples at B, C and D are the most intact. Two mandapa (meditation halls) in D have been turned into small galleries with modest sculpture displays, Although the best pieces have bên crated off to other museums. Stone symbols abound throughout the temples, in the form ò the male phallic linga and the females spout like yoni. As you walk among these ancient structures, imagine them humming with monks’incantations. At the height of the Champa kingdom, only a handful ò attendants would have resided here, leaving the area a place of quite a mysticism for the gods to live in.