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.