Treasures of Cham (vietnam) sculpture – part 2 – Ravana

Ever since i visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum and got bitten and smitten by the beauty of Cham art – the ruins of MySon ( in central vietnam) and the Danang Museum of Cham sculpture had steadily crept up to the top of the charts of my bucket list. The checkbox got ticked off recently and what a weekend it turned out to be.

Wanting to beat the heat and the tourists (!!) and hoping to catch the early rays of the Sun amidst the sacred valley of My Son – kept the alarm for 4.30 AM start ( stayed at Hoi An instead of Danang – which is closer to My Son) – Sadly being peak summer the sun was already up by the time we arrived at the beautifully manicured lawns of the newly opened site museum, just before the short drive up the hills. Vehicles are not allowed nearer to the ruins and a steady 5 min walk gets you the first look.

But you will have to wait a bit longer for a detailed post on MySon persay as i am still reading and classifying my images. However, as an interesting start I choose this fanstastic Tymphanum which sadly has been left on the floor of one of the standing towers of MySon – i think it will be moved shortly down to the site Museum. At first glance am not sure how many visitors would understand the panel ( no labels as well).

Yes, it is a very intricately carved Ravana Anugraha murthy – should be dated to the 10th C CE i think. Surprisingly there is not much literature available on this particular beauty. A chance search made available this reference though and what a reference it turned out to be

Champa and the Archaeology of Mỹ Sơn (Vietnam)

The label in the book reads as : Tympanum depicting Ravana shaking Mt. Kailash. Recovered at My Son. Present location unknown ( photograph Musee Guimet Archive, undated)

Thanks to our gifted artist Muralidharan – he agreed to sketch it for better study. Clearly the panel has suffered further damage with the lower torso of ravana completely damaged as it stands now !.

It is interesting to note that Ganesha is seen prominently along with Nandhi in the panel. Remember the one we discussed earlier from Cambodia also has Ganesha seated.

There are many unique things in this panel – one of course is the depiction of a Vimana / tower / temple – classically modeled. There is a large elephant below it and also what seems like a forest complete with animals inside caves.

The beauty of this panel is in the portryal of Ravana’s massive arms – interestingly they seem to be trying to juxtapose two different poses for his legs – thereby coming with three legs.

That Ravana is facing into the panel takes up the difficulty quotient and there is a tendency to compare it with the panel in Ellora

But the masterstroke here is how the sculptor has chosen to depict the heads of Ravana.

Is a stunning solution to a complex problem one which i feel even the master Pallava sculptors of Rajasimha Pallava could not conquer in the Mallai Olakkaneshwara Panel.

Hats off to the master sculptors of Cham for creating this dynamic beauty. Just as i was to complete the post, Murali sends across his completed sketch or should i say masterpiece ! Art lives on.

Treasures of Cham (vietnam) sculpture – part 1

Not many of us would have heard the name Champa / Cham. It is a glorious kingdom that prospered in modern day Vietnam in and around the centre of the country closer to present day Danang – with their origins as early as 7th C CE. The early history was predominantly Saivite and it is interesting that the cities were names Indrapura, Amaravati, Panduranga, Vijaya etc.

The Hindu art of the Cham is really interesting, but very rarely found outside of vietnam. Much of the treasures have not survived the pressures of conflict but what remains is a real treasure. Most of them are housed in the Museums in Saigon ( Hochiminh city) and Danang. The popular forms are a profusion of Linga, Mukalingas, Sayana ( sleeping) Vishnu and ofcourse Ganesha.

Today, we see the first part of this series on Cham sculptures, with a magnificient early Ganesha – dated to the early period of Cham art – 8th C CE.

For starters the time line of Cham artifacts are split in the following styles ( the names are the regions from where the art of the periods were found)

My Son E1 (7th to 8th century CE)
Dong Duong (9th to 10th century CE)
My Son A1 (10th century CE)
Khuong My (first half of 10th century CE)
Tra Kieu (second half of 10th century CE)
Chanh Lo (end of 10th century to mid-11th century CE )
Thap Mam (11th to 14th century CE)

The Ganesha is carved out of sandstone and the most characteristic features are the attributes. Sadly, only one of the hands has survived but he holds a very interesting object in it

For a second we were wondering what it might be, before we realised that it was our humble corn, complete with the peeled skins hanging down.

It was also interesting to note that he had a Naga ( snake) yagnopavitha – the sacred thread.

There are also remnants of ornamentation seen on the arm and also the simple crown. The detailing and size of the toes/ feet, the waist cloth etc are also beautiful. There seem to be some provision to insert the eyes ( precious stone?).

Thanks to master artist Mr. Srinivas of The Chroma Academy, we get a chance to recreate the sculpture.

The Cham sculpture however is distinct and different from the Ganesha’s we see ( contemporary period 8th C CE) in South India.

It would be interesting to study it more, and for those interested to pursue one of the very early Ganesha forms is the Terracota Ganesha escavated from veerapuram ( Kurnool district in AP) ( courtesy : Ganesh: studies of an Asian god
By Robert L. Brown) – dated to 2nd C BCE !!

There is lot more to come in this series and next up will be this very very interesting and unique panel

Photos Courtesy : Mr Wasanta Fernando
Vietnam History Museum Address:
Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.