From almost the beginning of the common era, Bharat has played a unique role in the socio-religious and cultural life of the entirety of Asia. Bharat has been responsible for weaving a variegated fabric to dress the Asian countries in garments that are distinctive to each region, yet bearing an indelible imprint of Bharatiya culture. This process was essentially a spontaneous and peaceful sharing of Bharat’s spiritual and material achievements with her nearby and distant neighbors. Thus, it can be seen that there was no design at any stage to overrun South-East Asia with the intention of establishing political hegemony or to disturb the established social order of any region.
Bernard Groslier, the learned author of Bharat-Chinî in the Art of World Series, has made a very significant observation about Bharatiya expansion in the Bharat-Chin region. To quote: “It was one of the most important civilizing movements of ancient times, worthy to compare with the Hellenisation of the Mediterranean world. And Bharat can be justly proud to have spread the light of her understanding over such distant lands, lands which without her might have remained in darkness.”
Among the many countries that fell under the spell of Bharatiya influence was Campa, part of present-day Vietnam, known as Annam. The ancient name of this region, Campa, appears in many Sanskrit inscriptions of that country as Campadesa, while the kings are mentioned as Campesvara, Campakasomisvara, or Campapuraparamesvara.
There is no doubt that Campa first felt the impact of Bharatiya culture as early as the second century CE. It is commonly known that the prosperous trade with the Far East, which began around this time, attracted a large number of enterprising Bharatiya merchants and princes to migrate to these regions and establish themselves as pioneers in the field. Before long, they identified themselves with these developing countries and soon came to the forefront as political and economic stabilizers of the region. Periplus mentions trade routes from three harbors on the eastern coast near Masulipatam across the Bay of Bengal to the Eastern Peninsula.
Resume of Previous Work
The continuous cultural contact between Bharat and Campa was not easy to illustrate until the discovery of various Sanskrit inscriptions and extensive research in the art and archaeology of that region. These inscriptions were initially published in French in the last decade of the previous century. This work was further supplemented by Parmentier, who conducted large-scale excavations at the sites of the Buddhist monastery at Dong-doung (Indrapura) and the Hindu Dharma temple establishments at Mi-son and Ponagar. His first volume dealing with Cham monuments, Inventaire Descriptif des Monuments Cams de I Annam, was published in 1909.
- Maspero published a monograph titled The Kingdom of Champaí (Le Royaume du Champaí) in 1928, tracing the history of the kingdom from its earliest times until its conquest by the Annamites in 1471 CE. The art of Campa was further studied by Parmentier, and the results of his research are contained in ëInventaire Archeologique de Indo-Chine II, Monuments Chams de Annam (Texte: tomes I-II, Planches: 2 albums, 1918-19).
- Stern, in his book The Art of Champa and its Evolution (Líart du Champa Ancient Annam et son Evolutioní, Toulouse, 1942), reclassified the monuments of Campa and its sculptures, presenting a new chronology based on the study of decorative motifs. The most recent work on this subject is by J. Boisselier, La Statuaire du Champa, is published in Paris in 1963.
Principal Centers of Bharatiya Influence
The ancient Bharat-Cham kingdom of Campa, whose inhabitants spoke a language from the Indonesian group, came into existence towards the close of the second century CE near the Vietnamese city of Hue. This city is situated almost in the center of the eastern coastline. The kingdom extended over the entire length of the Bharat-Chin peninsula, from the mountainous area known as the Annam-portal in the north to the Mekong delta in the south. Its centers included: (1) Amaravati, corresponding to the Vietnamese province of Quang-nam; (2) Vijaya, corresponding to Binhdinh province; (3) Kauthara, corresponding to the province of Nhatrang; and (4) Panduranga, corresponding to Phanrang. These places were successive centers of political authority. It is interesting to refer to the monumental remains and other antiquities found at these centers and in their vicinity, especially with a view to briefly studying the archaeological wealth of Campa so as to trace their cultural inspiration from Bharat.
The oldest Sanskrit inscription of Campa is attributed to a king who referred to himself as the delight of the family of Sri-Mara. The record, partly written in a developed kavya style and in the ornate Sanskrit meter vasantatilaka, is estimated to date back to the third or fourth century CE.
Found at Vo-Canh, its contents are not very clear, but it appears to be a donation to a Buddhist establishment.
Belonging to roughly the same period as the previously mentioned inscription is a striking bronze statue of Buddha discovered at Dong-Duong (ancient Indrapura), standing 1.08 meters tall. This remarkable image shares undeniable similarities with Amaravati sculpture, which has also influenced the plastic art of Ceylon. The symmetrical arrangement of the uttariya folds reflects an art tradition practiced at the Buddhist School of Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh. Features such as the presence of urna, the curly hair, and the general stance of the image suggest a Bharatiya origin. Indeed, the image symbolizes the cultural exchange between Bharat and Campa, as the first center of political authority was named Amaravati, after the Buddhist center of that name in Andhra Pradesh.
In the region of Amaravati (Quang-nam), we see the rise of the first historical monarch of Campa, Bhadravarman, around the beginning of the fifth century CE. In one of his inscriptions (Mi-son Number 2), he is referred to as DharmaMaharaja-Sri-Bhadravarman. Another inscription describes him as having dedicated a temple to Siva under the name Bhadresvarasvami, located in an area surrounded by mountains on three sides and a river on the fourth. The temple site is identified with Mi-son, but sadly, nothing of this earliest temple remains today as it was destroyed by fire more than once. Inscriptional references mention successive reconstructions of the temple, and the extant remains of a later temple suggest that the temple of Bhadresvara was the national sanctuary of the Chams.
The early sixth century saw the rise of a new dynasty. A king named Rudravarman (530-572 CE), said to belong to the Brahma-kshatriya family, reigned during this time. It was under his rule that the renowned temple of Bhadresvarasvami was destroyed by fire. His successor, Sambhuvarman (572629 CE), is credited with rebuilding the temple and renaming it as Sambhu-Bhadresvara, adding his name to that of the original founder.
The first preserved examples of Cham Temple art, housed in the Museum of Tourane, however, date back to the reign of Prakasadharma (653 to approximately 686 CE). During his lengthy rule, he greatly embellished Mi-son. He is known to have established a temple called Sri Prabhasesvara and also built a temple dedicated to Kubera, the god of wealth.
The temple site of Mi-son contains ruins of over seventy small and large buildings constructed over time by the kings of Campa. Located in the northeast on the right bank of a stream, is the oldest (seventh-eighth century), and the principal temple was intended to enshrine a large, sculptured pedestal to support a Linga. The sculptures undeniably showcase post-Gupta influence.
In one of the Mi-son sanctuaries, near a Siva-Linga shrine, a standing image of Ganesha dating back to the 8th century CE was discovered. The four-armed figure of Ganesha standing erect, is a magnificent example of Cham art. Adorned with a decorated girdle and a cobra in place of yajnopavita, the image’s weightiness and the manner in which the dhoti is tied using a broad katibandha recall the early Bharatiya traditions of fashioning yaksa images. This nearly 0.94-meter-tall image is attributed to the Mi-son group of temples. There is no evidence to suggest whether Ganesha was worshipped in the Siva temple as an attendant of Siva or if there was a special community dedicated to his worship as an independent deity. However, a 9th-10th century CE inscription of Harivarman I from Po-Nagar mentions that a separate temple was dedicated to Vinayaka when the king replaced the image of Bhagavati in the temple. The image of Ganesha in question is now exhibited in the Museum of Tourane.
From roughly the same period, another exquisite stone image of Skanda standing on a peacock, with the plumage forming an oval-shaped prabhavali, has been discovered. It is also housed in the Tourane Museum.
The popularity of Siva, along with Ganesha and Skanda, is noteworthy. While Siva was worshipped in his Linga Murthy, and the kings of Campa competed in earning religious merit by installing and consecrating new Linga deities, representations of Siva in human form are also found. Among such images, the Siva image from the 10th century CE stands out. This image exemplifies serenity and majesty, and is indeed a very fine representation of Siva. The ornate mukuta enclosing the jatabhara, the karna-kundalas, the bejeweled hara, and the decorated armlets add to its grandeur. It’s also worth mentioning that Siva is depicted as dancing the tandava dance in the Po Klaung Garai temple, where it is fixed over the entrance doorway, similar to some Bharatiya temples. Nataraja Siva with sixteen hands is also represented, and the panel from Phong-le preserved in the Tourane Museum is reminiscent of the Nataraja panel in Rameshvara cave at Ellora. This panel would date back to approximately the 9th century CE. A representation of Ravananugraha-Murti-Siva, similar to the magnificent panel in Kailasa at Ellora, can also be seen at Mi-son.
In the 10th century CE, numerous temples were erected at Mi-son on the left bank of the stream. The old site of the sanctuary of Bhadresvara Linga is marked by two towers. Dating from the beginning of the 10th century CE, it is the largest at Mi-son. Surrounding the main temple are six smaller temples (three each to its north and south). These temples were typically built with brick, though stone was also used in some instances.
A reference has already been made to the relocation of the capital of Cham rulers southwards to Vijaya in the 10th century. King Harivarman II (982-998 CE) strengthened his power, but the kingdom was fated to endure due to external aggression and internal conflicts until the capital was ultimately destroyed in 1069 CE by the Annamite Emperor Ly Thanh Ton. However, it was under Jaya Harivarman I (1147-1166 CE) that Campa regained its independence, and the later temples at Mi-son and Po-Nagar bear testament to such a revival inspired by the architectural style of Angkor Wat. The subsequent power struggle between the two Bharatiya-influenced states of Thailand and Vietnam led to the weakening of both powers, and Campa could not survive for long. By 1471 CE, Vijaya, the capital city, was captured, marking the end of the glory that was Campa.
In Binh-dinh, you can find the remnants of a temple situated within the northeast corner of the citadels enclosure wall. The temple plan is square, and its spire is three-storied (tritala), with corners adorned by miniature shrines similar to the kutas found in Dravidian temples. Each story, as well as the central portion of the sanctuary’s outer wall, features a niche surmounted by an exuberantly decorated arch akin to the sukanasika of the Dravidian temple. This temple is estimated to date back to the 11th century CE.
The Po-Nagar group at Nha-Trang comprises approximately eight structures, with four still standing. Inscriptions discovered at Po-Nagar detail the construction of a wooden temple enshrining a mukhalinga by a king named Vicitrasagara. The inscriptions further mention that this temple was destroyed and a new one was built in its place by King Satyavarman, who installed a new mukhalinga along with images of Bhagavati and Ganesha. However, it is not possible to identify these mentioned temples with the extant ruins.
Among the surviving structures, the principal temple deserves special mention. It is fairly well-preserved and exemplifies the defining characteristics of temples from Campa. The temple features a three-storied shikhara reminiscent of the late Calukyan style.
The final center from which the Cham kings ruled is known as Phan-rang (Panduranga). The founder of this dynasty was King Prthivindravarman, who ruled from 758 to 773 CE. Among the succession of kings, Harivarman (800-820 CE) is notably mentioned as raja-dhiraja campapura-paramesvara.
The standing monuments in the Panduranga area, however, belong to a later period, marking the final stage of Cham art and architecture. The Po Klaung Garai temple, assigned to the 13th century in its current form, features an inscription carved on three faces of a rock, a part of which is in Sanskrit. This inscription mentions the installation of a Siva-Linga by a prince.
The temple, located on a hill, is remarkably well-preserved and boasts a tritala vimana (three-story spire) with miniature curvilinear sikharas placed at each corner of every story. The temple likely dates back to the reign of Jayasimhavarman IV, who ruled between 1287 and 1307 CE.
The reference to the construction of the earliest temple of Bhadresvara in the first quarter of the 5th century represents a significant development for the study of Bharatiya temple architecture. The later temples of Campa, ranging from the 8th to 14th centuries, warrant more detailed examination to highlight their similarities with their Bharatiya counterparts and to trace potential influences from other Bharatiya influenced states in the Far East. Majumdar has suggested that the temples of Badami, Kanchipuram, and Mahabalipuram influenced the temple styles of Campa. However, a closer study is necessary.
While Saivite tradition was popular in Campa, Vaishnavite traditions and the worship of Vishnu were also prevalent, though not to the same extent as Saivite tradition. The Duong-mong inscription mentions the construction of a temple for the god Visnupurusottama. Vishnu is also referred to as Narayana, Hari, Govinda, Madhava, Vikrama, Tribhuvanakranta. He is depicted on a pedestal of the Mison temple in his kurma form. He is also shown riding a Garuda and holding a sankha, cakra, gada, and padma on a relief. A king named Jayarudravarman is mentioned as an incarnation of Vishnu and the Batau Tablah inscription of Jayaharivarman I, indicates that the king died at Panduranga. Representations of scenes from Ramayana are also found at Tra-kien. Laksmi, the consort of Vishnu, is also referred to as Padma and Sri. Representations of Gajalaksmi are also found. At Tru-kien, she is depicted holding two lotuses.
Other deities like Kubera, Brahma, Vayu, and Surya are also depicted. The Mahayana form of Buddha Dharma was also prevalent in Campa and representations of Buddha and Avalokitesvara are frequently encountered. However, I-tsing mentions that in Lin-i or Campa, the Buddhists predominantly belong to the Aryasammitinikaya and there are also a few followers of the Sarvastivadanikaya. This would suggest the prevalence of Theravada tradition in Campa. Based on the evidence of inscriptions and sculptures, one can conclude that Buddha Dharma was particularly prevalent in the Dong-duong region.