Vedik South East Asia
last updated 21st January 2006

The Period of the Hindu Kingdom of South East Asia

Ganesh in South-East Asia

Bali & Java

Two prominent Indonesian islands and two distinctive worlds. Java is predominantly Muslim, whereas Bali still clings proudly to its Hindu traditions. Both names exude tropical sensuousness and appropriately so. With lush tropical forests, soaring volcanoes, huge terraced rice fields covering the hillsides, tea plantations, unspoiled beaches and blue waters, Bali and Java are simply rich in color.

Yogyakarta   This centrally located town on the island of Java is only a short flight away from Bali. Yogyakarta is the gateway to many great sites in Central Java, primarily the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. However, do allow yourself a little more time to discover this charming town.

Kraton--the Sultan's Palace
Pasar Ngasem--the Bird Market
Taman Sari--the Fragrant Garden Water Palace
Villages renowned for Indonesian arts & handicrafts

If you would like to learn the craft of making batik, day or weeklong lessons are available. We can arrange that for you.

Borobudur   A gigantic Buddhist monument that is ranked with Angkor Wat and Bagan's land of pagodas as a world religious treasure. How it was constructed remains a mystery. But it is certain that Borobudur was built between the 8th and 9th centuries during the Sailendra dynasty. In the early 19th century, Sir Thomas Raffles salvaged it from the volcanic ashes. After tedious restoration, it was included on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 1991.

Borobudur is about 27 miles from Yogyakarta, and so a day trip would be convenient. Over 1,400 panels of relief sculpture depict the Buddha's teachings, begining from the world of samsara at the base terrace and rising gradually to nirvana at the summit. Perhaps you may want to skip some panels as they are over 3 miles long.

Candi Prambanan   Or known simply as Prambanan. It is claimed by the locals to be the most beautiful Hindu temple in Indonesia. Completed in the 10th century, Prambanan's main temple was dedicated to a Hindu god, Shiva the Destroyer. There are over 200 temples that make up the Prambanan complex.

Solo   Its other name is Surakarta. This delightful town has two palaces-- Surakarta Hadiningrat Palace and Mangkunegaran Palace, a large batik market, and a small antique market that sells old paintings, wayang kulit puppets and fake antiques. Solo is about 42 miles from Yogyakarta and is often visited in conjunction with Prambanan, which is on the same route.

Bali   The image of Bali as a tropical paradise began to appear in the West as early as the 1920s. It is now a major tourist destination. However, many beautiful beaches where tourists stay have very little of the "real" Bali. To experience it, you have to go inland and explore the charming villages and towns.

Over six miles long, Kuta Beach pulsates with activities and holiday-makers; it has a hippie atmosphere. Nusa Dua is quiet and has many exclusive hotels. Sanur is in between: less crowds and more of the feel of Bali. Farther away in the northern part of the island is the black sand beach of Lovina which is relatively less popular.

Uluwatu Temple--this old temple sits at the edge of a cliff that drops 300 feet into the Indian Ocean
Taman Ayun Temple--temple of multi-tiered roofs built during the Mengwi Kingdom
Tanahlot Temple--built on a huge rock over 400 years ago. Surrounded by the sea during high tide, this temple is definitely a postcard image of Bali
Besakih--considered by the Balinese as the "mother" temple of Bali
Ubud--an inland, hilly town inhabited by many local and foreign artists offering plenty of art galleries and wayang kulit (shadow puppets) shows. There are plenty of beautiful resorts in Ubud for those tired of the beach scene, with prices ranging from very reasonable to the very high- end

Cambodia - Campucheia - Ankor Wat

Temples of Angkor Wat

One of the  true wonders of the world

To the Khmer people, Angkor Wat is more than just an ancient pile of stones, it is more than just the remains of a highly advanced kingdom, it is more than just a tourist attraction - to the Khmer it is a symbol of hope.

For over five hundred years, from the coronation of Jayavarman II in 802 AD, the Khmer Kingdom was the most significant influence upon Southeast Asian development, expanding exponentially at the expense of rival neighbours - Cham, Viet, Burmese and Siamese. The first royal city of Angkor was built by Jayavarman's 10th-century successor, Yasovarman I, and this saw the beginning of the empire's golden age. It was not until the early twelfth century, and the rule of Suryavarman II that the empire was to reach its peak, and the construction of the magnificent 65-metre tall towers of Angkor Wat was to take place.

After being driven out by the Cham in 1177, the Khmer returned to their city with a new king - Jayavarman VII - a new religion - Mahayana Buddhism - and even higher aspirations for the development of Angkor. The Cham were routed, and Jayavarman VII began construction of the 9-square kilometre Angkor Thom and the 216 faces of the Bayon temple.

By the end of its predominance in the region, the Khmer empire had constructed over 70 huge temple complexes at Angkor, spread across 200 square km. Why exactly the empire fell into its 200-year decline is still somewhat of a mystery, however the cataclysm that was to end it all came in 1431 when Siamese invaders ripped Angkor apart, killing and enslaving much of the population, and stripping the city of its wealth. The Khmer empire was never to recover, remaining a vassal state of one or other overloard for over five hundred years.

Today, the national flag of Cambodia carries a symbol representing the five giant towers of Angkor Wat. It is a symbol of the Khmer's independence, reminding them of what can be achieved. It is a symbol of hope.

Angkor Wat - Built to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, is the world's largest religious building and took some 50,000 artisans, workers and slaves, and nearly 40 years, to complete. The temple forms a rectangular enclosure measuring 1,500 metres by 1,300 metres surrounded by a moat 200 metres wide. The main entryway to Angkor Wat is a paved avenue nearly half a kilometre long, ornamented with balustrades and fringed by artificial lakes.

Inside the outer walls, the structure rises over three levels to a central core topped by five almost pineapple-shaped towers. Virtually every surface in the maze of chambers and courtyards is richly decorated with low-relief scenes of legends, wars and everyday life, enhanced by carvings of nearly 2,000 apsaras, or celestial dancers. The amazing structure as a whole is best viewed in soft light. Somerset Maugham wrote in 1930: "It needs the glow of sunset or the white brilliance of the moon to give it a loveliness that touches the heart."

The Bayon - At the centre of Angkor Thom (literally "Great  City"), which forms the heart of the Angkor complex as it is today. This inner city is surrounded by a moat, and approached at the four cardinal points via huge stone gates and causeways flanked by statues of gods and giants. The Bayon forms a three-tiered pyramid with 54 towers, each dominated by over 200 huge, 4- metre high, mysterious faces facing out to the north, south, east and west. Each mystically serene countenance, with closed eyelids and faint smile, represents a Bodhisattaya (fully enlightened being) who delays entry into Nirvana to aid the spiritual development of others.

The structure is rich in decoration, detailing scenes from battles, religious rituals, and everyday life. On approaching from a distance, it resembles a rather formless initially disappointing jumble of stone, but inside, the visitor discovers a maze of galleries, towers and passageways on three different levels. Under the sightless gaze of the ever-present faces, it is here, particularly if alone, that many tourists experience a feeling of profound spiritual awe.

There are several other sites of interest within Angkor Thom, including the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. At its height, the city had a population of nearly one million, and its 9 square km area was comparable in size to anything in Europe at that time.

Ta Promh - If Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom are best known for grandeur and majesty, then to the east, the temple and monastery of Ta Promh wins hands down for sheer dramatic effect. Unlike most other monuments, Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found. The ancient structure is thus still gripped by massive strangler fig and banyan tree roots ("spongs") giving the feeling of discovering the archeological treasure for the first time.

Faced with this extraordinary image, it is easy to relive the emotions of the French naturalist Henri Mouhot when he came across it hidden in the jungle in 1860. At its peak, over 70,000 people, including high priests, monks, assistants, dancers and laborers, populated this vast 600- room monastery. The structure measures 145 by 125 meters and contains a maze of courtyards and galleries, many impassable because of the dense overgrowth of creepers and roots.

Prah Kahn - Another temple that has been left to creeping jungle, with huge trees and multi- colored lichen infiltrating the structure's stone corridors and often gloomy interiors. Although it is not as visually arresting as Ta Prohm, this fascinating temple is formed in a cross by a long 200- metre central passageway cut by another wide perpendicular corridor. Both of these have networks of smaller passages, which themselves open to breezeways, courtyards, and rooms of all sizes. Although the central portion is fairly clear, exploring the outer passageways becomes increasingly adventurous with fallen stones, surreal looking tree roots, and tiny apertures leading into almost pitch dark interiors.

Banteay Srei - Approximately 25 kilometres from the main complex, this  relatively small 10th century monument in pink sandstone is dedicated to Shiva. Its perfectly proportioned decoration and detail with exquisite sculptures, lintels, and friezes, makes it one of the oldest and most aesthetically beautiful. Almost every surface is a masterpiece of superb detail, each one it seems, more beautiful than the one before.

Phnom Bakheng - Built on the highest hill in the area and offering spectacular views, especially at dawn and sunset, this small but attractive temple makes an ideal start or end to the day's sightseeing, although most tourists congregate here toward dusk

East Mebon Temple & The Baray Lakes - One of the Khmers' most notable hydrological accomplishments were the West and East Barays, huge, perfectly rectangular artificial lakes covering 14 and 16 square km respectively, and used to irrigate thousands of acres of surrounding farmland. A temple was built in the middle of each lake, and since East Baray was drained, the East Mebon Temple is now easily visited. West Baray (2 km wide & 8 km long) is still filled with water. The boat service is accessible to the west Mebon Temple which is in the middle of the west Baray. East Mebon, however, is a fascinating site, best known for the almost life-size stone elephants on the corners of its tiers. Since each one appears to have been hewn from a single block of stone, the task of carving and transporting such huge pieces must have been tremendous. Smaller stone figures flank the stairways leading up to the central elevated platform. From here, the bed of the lake, now fertile paddy, stretches below you in every direction..

The Ruluos Group - Lying approximately 10 km from Siem Riep town, is a cluster of three 9th century temples, namely Prah Ko, Bakong and Lolei. Being the oldest in Angkor, and ostensibly the site of the capital at that time, they are interesting in their own right, particularly Bakong, which is the best preserved of the three. Stairways lined with stone lions lead up the five tiers of the pyramid shaped structure, terminating in a sanctuary on top. Eight small sanctuaries also encircle the base, an architectural concept common to many other Angkor temples.

The Temples of Angkor

Angkor Wat - 14 pictures depicting Vedik relics

Angkor watt temple, history

Ancient Cambodian Temple Links

  Namaskar Mitra,
  travel to Angkor Watt - Cambodia, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, probably the largest temple complex in the world.

  1. See Pictures -
  2. Brief History of Temples in Cambodia & Vietnam -
  The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit word 'nagara' meaning 'holy city'. Wat is the Thai name for a temple. "The city which is a temple," Angkor Wat is a majestic monument, the world's largest religious construction in stone, and an architectural masterpiece. It was built by King Suryavarman II around 1113-1150 AD as a temple dedicated to Vishnu. The Khmers attribute the building to the divine architect Visvakarman. It occupies a rectangular area of 500 acres and is defined by a laterite enclosure wall that is surrounded by a moat, which is 200 metres wide. Estimated time for construction is 30 years. Kambuja is the Sanskrit name for Cambodia.

  The Khmers adhered to the Indian belief that a temple must be built according to a mathematical system in order for it to function in harmony with the universe. Distances between certain architectural elements of the temple reflect numbers related to Indian mythology and cosmology.

  We spent three afternoons visiting this magnificent monument, and still felt like coming for more. The sheer scale and plan of the monument makes it difficult to grasp: it's a series of elevated towers, covered galleries, chambers, courtyards on different levels, all linked by stairways. Angkor Wat represents the cosmic world, with the central tower symbolizing Mount Meru situated in the center of the universe.

  -----cheers om, share the wealth


lord ganesh in INDONESIA

Namaskar Mitra,

Got this piece from the Indonesian Consulate General Office. There are atleast 15 spots in Indonesia where Lord Ganesh idols are found. The link gives you the names of each spot and photographs too.

One of the Indonesian currency notes carries the picture of Ganesh. (see note on site). In India Ganesh has made names like Ganapati, Vighnesvara while in Indonesian language is named 'Gajah' which is probably derived from Sanskriti word 'Gaja' or elephant.

share the wealth, cheers om


 Many well-organized kingdoms with a high degree of civilization were ruled by indigenous kings who had adopted the Hindu or Buddhist religion. This explains why this period in history is called the Period of Hindu Kingdoms. It lasted from ancient times to the 16th Century AD. Because the culture and civilization, which emanated from the Hindu and Buddhist religions, were syncretized with the local cultural elements, the period was also referred to as the Hindu-Indonesian period.

Indian culture and customs were introduced, such as the system of government in a monarchy, the ancestry system, the organization of military troops, literature, music and dances, architecture, religious practices and rituals, and even the division of laborers into castes or varnas. The Hindu literary works known as Vedas and the "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana" epics were also introduced through the wayang, or shadow-play performance, which is still very popular in many parts of present day Indonesia.

The first Indian Buddhists arrived in Indonesia between the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. They brought with them Buddhism in its two sects, Hinayana and Mahayana. The latter became more advanced in the 8th Century AD. With the spread of Buddhism to China many Chinese pilgrims sailed to India through the strait of Malacca. On their way, some stopped and temporarily stayed in Indonesia to learn more about Buddhism. In 144 AD a Chinese Buddhist saint, Fa Hsien, was caught in a storm and landed in Java-Dwipa, or Java island, where he stayed for five months. The northern part of the island was then ruled by an Indonesian Hindu King named Kudungga. Kutai, on the island of Borneo, was successively ruled by the Hindu kings Devawarman, Aswawarman and Mulawarman. When the Greek explorer and geographer, Ptolemy of Alexandria, wrote on Indonesia, he named either the island of Java or Sumatra "abadiou". His chronicles described Java as a country with a good system of government and advanced agriculture, navigation and astronomy. There was even mention of the "batik" printing process of cloth that the people already knew. They also made metalware, used the metric system and printed coins. Chinese chronicles of 132 AD described the existence of diplomatic regions between Java-Dwipa and China. Ink and paper had already been in use in China since the 2nd Century AD. Around 502 AD Chinese annals mentioned the existence of the Buddhist Kingdom, Kanto Lim in South Sumatra, presumably in the neighborhood of present-day Palembang. It was ruled by king Gautama Subhadra, and later by his son Pyrawarman of Vinyawarman who established diplomatic relations with China. Because of a spelling or pronunciation difficulty, what the Chinese called "Kanto Li" was probably Crivijaya, a mighty Buddhist kingdom. On his way to India, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, I Tsing, visited Crivijaya in 671 AD to study the Sanskrit language. He returned 18 years later, in 689 AD Crivijaya was then the center of Buddhist learning and had many well-known philosophy scholars like Sakyakirti, Dharmapala and Vajabudhi. The kingdom had diplomatic relations with the south Indian kingdom of Nalanda. The Crivijaya mission built a school on its premises where Indians could learn the art of molding bronze statues and broaden their knowledge of the Buddhist philosophy. With the spread of Buddhism, Crivijaya's influence reached out to many other parts of the archipelago. Another known Buddhist kingdom was Cailendra in Central Java. It was ruled by the kings of Cailendra Dynasty. During their rule (750-850 AD) the famous Buddhist temple, Borobudur, was built. In 772 AD other Buddhist temple were also build. They include the Mendut, Kalasan and Pawon temples. All of these temples are now preserved as tourist objects near the city of Yogyakarta. The Cailendra kingdom was also known for its commercial and naval power, and its flourishing arts and culture. A guide to team singing, known as the Chandra Cha-ana, was first written in 778 AD. One of the Pallawa language-stone inscriptions of 732 AD mentioned the name of King Sanjaya, who was later identified as the king of Mataram, a kingdom that replaced Cailendra in Central Java. The Prambanan temple, which was dedicated to Lord Civa, was started in 856 AD and completed in 900 AD by King Daksa. Earlier Civa temples were built in 675 AD on the Dieng mountain range, southwest of Medang Kamolan, the capital of the Mataram Kingdom. In West Java were the kingdoms of Galuh, Kanoman, Kuningan and Pajajaran. The latter was founded by King Purana with Pakuan as its capital. It replaced the kingdom of Galuh. The kingdoms of Taruma Negara, Kawali and Parahyangan Sunda came later. At the end of the 13th Century, the Crivijaya Empire began to fall as a result of severance by its vassal states and frequent attacks by the south Indian kingdom of Chola and by the Majapahit Kingdom. In the end, Crivijaya was completely conquered by Majapahit with the support of King Aditiawarman of the Melayu kingdom. Earlier, Majapahit had conquered the kingdom of Jambi in East Sumatra and, by moving its expansion along the rivers, it finally annexed the kingdom of Pagar Ruyung in West Sumatra. Thus, all of Sumatra came under Majapahit's rule. Meanwhile, for unknown reasons, the mighty kingdoms of Central Java disappeared from historic records and new prosperous kingdom emerged in East Java. King Balitung, who ruled between 820 and 832 AD, succeeded in uniting the Central and East Java kingdoms. The disappearance of records was presumably caused by a natural disaster or an epidemic. At the end of the 10th Century (911-1007 AD) the powerful kingdom of Singasari emerged in East Java under King Dharmawangsa. He codified laws and translated into Javanese the "Mahabharata" epic and its basic philosophy, as exposed in the Bhisma Parva scripture. He also ordered the 12 translations of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavat Gita. Meanwhile, the island of Bali was ruled by King Airlangga, known as a wise and strong ruler. He had water-works built along the Brantas River that are still in use today. Before his death in 1409 AD he divided his kingdom into the kingdoms of Janggala and Daha or Kediri. These were to be ruled by his two sons. Under Airlangga's rule literary works flourished. The Panji novels written during this period are still popular today. They are even taught in the art faculties of the universities in Thailand, Kampuchea and Malaysia. King Jayabaya of Kediri 1135-1157 wrote a book in which he foretold the downfall of Indonesia. Subsequently, so he wrote, the country would be ruled by a white race, to be followed by a yellow race. His prediction turned out to be Dutch colonial rule and the Japanese occupation of the country during World War. However, Jayabaya also predicted that Indonesia would ultimately regain her independence. During the golden period of the Kediri Kingdom many other literary works were produced, including the Javanese version of the Mahabharata by Mpu (saint) Sedah and his brother Mpu Panuluh. This work was published in 1157. The kingdoms of East Java were later succeeded by the Majapahit Kingdom, first ruled by Prince Wiiaya who was also known as King Kartarajasa. The Moghul emperor, Kubilai Khan attempted to invade Majapahit. His troops, however, were defeated and driven back to their ships. As Majapahit grew to become a powerful empire, it conquered the kingdom of Crivijaya in South Sumatra. As mentioned earlier, this kingdom has once been attacked by the Indian kingdom of Chola. Under King Hayam Wuruk the Majapahit Empire became the most powerful kingdom in the history of Indonesia. It had dependencies in territories beyond the borders of the present archipelago, such as Champa in North Vietnam, Kampuchea and the Philippines (1331-1364). King Hayam Wuruk, with his able premier Gajah Mada, succeeded in gradually uniting the whole archipelago under the name of Dwipantara. During this golden period of Majapahit many literary works were produced. Among them was "Negara Kertagama," by the famous author Prapancha (1335-1380). Parts of the book described the diplomatic and economic ties between Majapahit and numerous Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Tonkin, Annam, Kampuchea and even India and China. Other works in Kawi, the old Javanese language, were "Pararaton," "Arjuna Wiwaha," "Ramayana," and "Sarasa Muschaya." These works were later translated into modern European languages for educational purposes.

Malaysia's Vedic Past - Kota Gelanggi Ancient City Discovery and the Origins of Melayu

   Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2005 17:10:10 -0000
   From: "vrnparker" <>

The Star highlights an exciting discovery of a civilisation that dates back even further than Malacca, with some claims of it being older than the Angkor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the ancient World.

While a little out of topic in this blog, I must admit to a fascination in Sanskrit texts and have studied them as a hobby for a better part of a decade, since coming across an ancient Sufi manuscript in Indonesia that described a portion of a Sanskrit 'Sastara' as an embodiment of how God whispers in many languages.

This discovery has much significance in it's historical comstruct of this region and the distinct influences to early Sanskrit literature, which recorded the rise and fall of kingdoms in this region not through essays as we are often used to, but rather as spiritual hymns, that draw upon the occasion as an example to the tantric teachings and woven as a moral lore.

Some things that crossed my mind as I read the articles were that this 'lost' city was probably the kingdom of Lo-Yue, was also the first centre of trade for Sri Vijaya.

Image from The Star

The region has a long history, dating back to more than 2500 years bc. the earliest recorded ruler being Marayo, who ruled from 2666-2604 bc. (Link: Reference and list of Rulers).

This would bring it within the timeline of the mysterious Indus Valley civilisation;

Indus Valley Civilization: 2500(app.)-1700(app.)b.c Also known as the 'Harrapa' named after the site of the first discovered city, archaeologists are still struggling to understand them. We do not know anything of it's religion and no murals or story-art has been found. What we do know is that they were great builders and city planners centered around an agricultural community that existed between the Mohenjo-daro river and the Indus river. Tablets and pottery found depict animals, ornately coiffed women, jewelry and generally hint at a sophisticated artisan society.[Source]

The find brings into context many matters, among those the origins of the Melayu, deeply rooted in the Kesutanan ideology, which resulted from the Islamisation of the Rulers of this region, who previously carried the Raja or Sri title, influenced by the Hindu Empire, which had numerous Raja's ruling across many provinces. They were united then under the Chola Empire, of which the ruler, upon conquest of the provinces assumed the title Rajaraja I (presumable Raja of all the Raja's) circa 985AD.

It is his son, Raja Rajendra Cholavarman I, that is believed to have, in 1017AD, waged war against the Srivijaya Empire (Foshi, to the Chinese Merchants of the time), destroying the city of Gangga Negara in Perak in 1025AD, and subsequently this city of Kota Gelanggi, which might be the lost city of Lo-yue, as described by Raimy.

Although some manuscripts describe it to be a colony of Srvijaya, the Chinese explorer Kie-Tan explicitly mentioned Lo-yue and Foshi as separate countries, perhaps independant as an entity of governance yet paying tribute to the Srivijaya empire, a common occurence in the feudal nature of the region at that time.

"From Kuang-chou (Canton) towards the southeast, travelling by sea for 200 li, one reaches Mount T'un-mon. Then, with a favourable wind going westward for two days, one reaches the Kiu-chou rocks (Hainan). Then southward, and after two days one reaches the Siang-shi, or Elephant Rock. Then southward after three days, one comes to Mount Chan-pu-lan, this mountain is in the sea at 200 li east of the country of Huan-wang (Tongking). Then southward, after two days journey, one reaches Mount Ling. Then, after a day's journey one comes to the country of Montu. Then after a day's journey one comes to the counry of Ku-tan; then after a day's journey one reaches the territory of Pon-to'o-lang. Then after two days journey one comes to Mount Kun-t'u-nung. Then after five days journey one comes to the strait the Barbarians call Chi. From the south to the north it is 100 li.. On the northern shore is the country of Lo-yue, on the southern coast is the country of Foshi."[Source: Kie-Tan's Journal of his travel] Foshi is also mentioned in Leornard Andaya's The Search for the Origins of Melayu, in which he writes;

The name `Melayu' appears for the first time in literary sources as a settlement in southeast Sumatra that sent a mission to China in 644. The earliest detailed account is by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Yijing,who spent time in Palembang and Jambi on two separate occasions in 671, and was there again from 689-95. He spent six months learning Sanskrit grammar in a place whose name for both the country and the capital was transcribed as (Shili)foshi.He was then sent by the ruler to the country ofMelayu,where he stayed for another two months. On his second visit Yijing again went to `Melayu', which he says had now become [Shili] Foshi [Srivijaya], meaning either that it had supplanted Srivijaya, or more likely that it had become a part of Srivijaya.He noted that there were many `states' under this kingdom, and that in the fortified city there were more than a thousand Buddhist priests who had come to study religion. (Fochi means success in Chinese and early scriptures refer to the Srivijaya Empire as San Fo Che meaning three success. This would be a direct translation from Sanskrit in which Srivijaya means Three Great Success, refering to the three kingdoms that formed Srivijaya) An Adobe Acrobat PDF version of this article can be found at Water Cooler Crowd Wiki, Origins of Melayu page

This could also mean that Lo-yue could be a Srivijaya state or perhaps a trading outpost that linked Srivijaya with the Gangga Negara colony and further onwards to the Cambodian rulers of Angkor Wat, the Jayavarman Dynasty.

It is interesting to note that the Jayavarman Dynasty, builders of Angkor Wat, had a ruler, Jayavarman Paramesvara who ruled circa 1325 and was thought to have been on of the last of the Angkor kings, the Empire itself destroyed by the Siamese at about this period. (List of Angkor Kings)

Then again, the Parameswara that founded Malacca was said to be the descendant of Sang Nila Utama, who was credited with naming Singapore. This connection is a display of the strong links that the Khmer kings shared with the region here, or did the dates got bungled as they often do, and the Parameswara we know was similar to that of the defeated Khmer King?

FYI, Parameswara in sanskrit means divine super soul, in essence, one who never dies, referenced in Bhagavad Gita text 28,

samam sarvesu bhutesu tisthantam paramesvaram vinasyatsv avinasyantam yah pasyati sa pasyati This Parameswara's journey did not document the lost city of Kota Gelanggi, meaning that it no longer was in existence by that time.

The relevance of Kota Gelanggi is further heightened by the fact that the Srivijaya Empire extended itself until the Chaiya Province in Surat Thani, Thailand and may have served as the entry outpost for travellers from the Javanese islands, who would than traverse by land, visiting various colonies (to also collect taxes/tributes perhaps) as they headed north.

If one was to look deep into the historical events surrounding Srivijaya and Kota Gelanggi, one may be privy to the historical origins of the Malays, from their Khmer and Funan lineage right up to the current Melayu in Malaysia and see that we have been interlocked with Chinese and Indian culture for thousands of centuries, as they help document and build this civilisation and as we traded, warred and became allies again in an intiguing feudal history, worthy of many tales and truths.

If one were to explore it, I can see no reason for anyone to be racialistic or call another person a racist, for truth be told, we are all rather intertwined by history.I myself have all three blood in my veins.

It is the ignorance of our historical links and the naive stupidity of fear and insecurity that drives us not towards racism, but polarity. Both inter and intra race.

I am at least glad that Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, a man whom I personally respect as extra-ordinary both in thought and idealogy, is putting a lot of importance in this project.

A sterling decision, Datuk Seri, and one that further enhances our racial links, in the hopes that by understanding our ancestors, we understand each other a little more.


Southeast Asia has been inhabited for more than half a million years. Recent archaeological studies suggest that by 4000 B.C., communities in what is now Thailand had emerged as centers of early bronze metallurgy. This development, along with the cultivation of wet rice, provided the impetus for social and political organization. Research suggests that these innovations may actually have been transmitted from there to the rest of Asia, including to China.

The Thai are related linguistically to groups originating in southern China. Migrations from southern China to Southeast Asia may have occurred in the 6th and 7th centuries. Malay, Mon, and Khmer civilizations flourished in the region prior to the arrival of the ethnic Thai.

Thais date the founding of their nation to the 13th century. According to tradition, in 1238, Thai chieftains overthrew their Khmer overlords at Sukhothai and established a Thai kingdom. After its decline, a new Thai kingdom emerged in 1350 on the Chao Praya River.

The first ruler of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, King Rama Thibodi, made two important contributions to Thai history: the establishment and promotion of Theravada Buddhism as the official religion (to differentiate his kingdom from the neighboring Hindu kingdom of Angkor), and the compilation of the Dharmashastra, a legal code based on Hindu sources and traditional Thai custom. The Dharmashastra remained a tool of Thai law until late in the 19th century. Beginning with the Portuguese in the 16th century, Ayutthaya had some contact with the West, but until the 1800s, its relations with neighboring nations, as well as with India and China, were of primary importance.

After more than 400 years of power, in 1767, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was brought down by invading Burmese armies, and its capital burned. After a single-reign capital established at Thonburi by Taksin, a new capital city was founded in 1782, across the Chao Phraya at the site of present-day Bangkok, by the founder of the Chakri dynasty. The first Chakri king was crowned Rama I. Rama's heirs became increasingly concerned with the threat of European colonialism after British victories in neighboring Burma in 1826.

The first Thai recognition of Western power in the region was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United Kingdom in 1826. In 1833, the United States began diplomatic exchanges with Siam (as Thailand was called until 1938). However, it was during the later reigns of Rama IV (or King Mongkut (1851-1868)), and his son Rama V (King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910)), that Thailand established firm rapprochement with Western powers. The Thais believe that the diplomatic skills of these monarchs, combined with the modernizing reforms of the Thai Government, made Siam the only country in South and Southeast Asia to avoid European colonization.

In 1932, a bloodless coup transformed the Government of Thailand from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) initially accepted this change but later surrendered the kingship to his 10-year old nephew. Upon his abdication, King Prajadhipok said that the obligation of a ruler was to reign for the good of the whole people, not for a select few. Although nominally a constitutional monarchy, Thailand was ruled by a series of military governments interspersed with brief periods of democracy from that time until the 1992 elections. Since the 1992 elections, Thailand has been a functioning democracy with constitutional changes of government.

As with the rest of Southeast Asia, Thailand was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War. Since Japan's defeat in 1945, Thailand has had very close relations with the United States. Threatened by communist revolutions in neighboring countries such as Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, Thailand actively sought to contain communist expansion in the region. Recently, Thailand also has been an active member in the regional Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1999

A Brief Historic Overview

The following snapshot of Thailand is a summary of two books, a Time Magazine article dated April 2001, and comments from our mission team leader, Noel Hutchinson, who has lived there.
Thailand, The Golden Land, by I.G. Edmonds; 1972.
Bangkok by John Blofeld; Time Life Books; 1979.

History of the Name

"Thai" means "free man," and independence and love of freedom are the two basic qualities of the Thai people. Thai origins are obscure but the most widely held
theory is they are a branch of the Mongol race originating somewhere in Outer Mongolia. Some two thousand years ago the Chinese tribes began to band together under strong leaders who assumed the positions of kings and emperors. The Thai ancestors, however, were fiercely protective of their individual freedom. Refusing to relinquish it to these kings they migrated south. At this point they commenced to call themselves Thai. Though they ultimately divided into three or so different groups, one group retained the Thai name and settled in Thailand of today.

The history of old Thailand is filled with treachery and bloody wars, complete with images of warriors on elephants pitted in battle. Enemies and vicious neighbours, along with greedy European nations, have sought through the years to enslave Thailand, but through adroit statesmanship and cunningly playing one enemy against another, Thailand has managed to remain what its name implies, the Land of the Free. It is alone among Asian nations in this regard, unique in retaining its freedom and independence since taking its place as a major Indochinese nation 800 years ago.

Thai had always followed their ancient custom by naming the nation after its capital city, and these varied from Ayudhya through Dhonburi to various others depending on the fortunes of war and conquest. It wasnít until 1938 that the Thai people officially adopted the name Prades Thai, or in English, Thailand.


Siam is the name the outside world has principally known this nation as. The word, however, does not actually have any meaning in Thai. Back in 1200 AD the kingdom bore the name Sukhotai from its capital city. The Chinese in their early records referred to Sukhotai as Hsien-lo, which in the 16th century was picked up by the Portuguese and corrupted first to Sayam, and then to Siam. . Though the Thai never could relate to the name it stuck.

Most of us have some familiarity with Thailand, but through its former name Siam. Recall PT Barnumís "Siamese Twins"; Disneyís Siamese cats singing "We are Siamese if you please"; and the highly stylized "Siamese Dancing." The movie "Bridge Over the River Quai" was set in its northern regions, and mother of contemporary golfing great, Tiger Woods, is from Thailand.

In 1851, the reigning monarch, King Mongkut, popularized in the 19th and 20th century through the highly fictionalized and inaccurate portrayals, "Anna and the King of Siam" and "The King and I," adopted Siam as the countryís official name.

The People

The current population total is 60 million, comprised of Chinese, Malaysians, Indians, Karens, Mons, Khmers (Cambodians), aborigine hills tribes and westerners. Except for the hill tribes these foreign elements congregate in the urban areas, the largest of which is Bangkok. Historically the Chinese have controlled the major part of the countryís business. The rest of Thailandís people are scattered through 40,000 to 50,000 or more rural villages. Life in the villages is the real Thailand as there are only a few dozen cities and towns. The nation is chiefly agrarian, the bulk of its population being farmers. Wealth to a rural Thai means land, rice, cattle and family. Like the Cambodians, the Thai are "children of the river." Whenever possible, they like to build along the waterís edge: the river affords ready- made sanitation facilities with the tides flushing away refuse, and it also provides for the obligatory evening bath. Initially the Thai used a network of canals to navigate by boat through their cities. It wasnít until the last one hundred fifty years or so they began using roads.


The country lies entirely in the tropic zone with a hot, moist climate, ideal for growing rice. The average rainfall is 50 inches, with recorded extremes of 165 inches. The rainy season is from June to October, but its downpours are of short duration, and even when soaked to the skin one dries within fifteen minutes or so due to the heat. The cool season, from November to February, has daily seasonal temperatures of 80 degrees F. The hot season, or summer, is from March to May.

Raw Materials

The once plentiful Teak forests of the north are so depleted it is illegal to cut Teak trees in Thailand. The wood, however, is available in neighbouring countries, prized for its durability and strength. It is ideal for shipbuilding and the primary choice for junks and sampans. It is also excellent for furniture making in the tropics, as it is highly resistant to rot and insects. Whereas elephants formerly were the beast of burden in the logging industry of Thailand, they are now a popular part of its tourism.

The industry of southern Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, includes rubber plantations, fishing in the Gulf of Thailand, tin mines and other light industry.


Thai farmers are Buddhists, as were their ancestors. They absorbed the Buddhist religion from the Chinese long before they came to Thailand. Their farming, however, is regulated by old animist beliefs, with spirits in every object, from rocks to rice paddies. These spirits must be appeased and worshipped if one is to avoid trouble. Hinduism also is a part of their heritage, a strong influence from the time of their arrival in the land. Though they reverted to Buddhism in time, the Hindu influence is woven through their belief system, evident in their art, architecture, live theatre and stories. Thai kings even adopted the title Rama from the Hindu epic tale, the Ramayana.

Social Problems

Thailandís major cities are plagued with slums due to masses of people streaming in from rural areas. Northern Thailand has long been a major conduit for trafficking in heroin and the territory of Drug Lords. Recently an easy to make and cheap to buy drug, "speed," has swept through the nation, its use even rampant in the rural areas amongst the young. Inclusive of its ills is child prostitution and exploitation, and corruption. Its main waterways are polluted and its rural environments at risk of destruction due to the clear cutting methods of the Thai.

Spiritually, the Thai are not free. The enemy strongholds mentioned above, from Buddhism to prostitution and drugs, evidence their need for the overcoming power and truth of the gospel of Christ.

Roberto Jaén
April 2001

India's Benevolence to Thailand

The influences abound for strong bonds
Saritdet Marukatat
Bangkok Post

Different roots and religious beliefs are keeping apart Thais and ethnic Indians living here despite the enormous influence India has had on almost every aspect of Thai daily life.

From language to food, Thais are in contact constantly with Indian influences since they have been part of Thai life from before the Sukhothai empire.

Thais speak and write a language which derives from Pali and Sanskrit, their traditional clothing, or sarong, was introduced by Indians, and they deeply enjoy nam phrik, a dish adapted from an Indian recipe.

"Surely, we would not know how to eat nam phrik had we not befriended the Indians," said the late venerable Buddhadasa Bhikku.

Indians mix onions and chili with vinegar in their dish, wrote the renowned monk in his book "India's Benevolence to Thailand". Without contact with Indians, Thai cuisine would be totally different. The other major culinary influence, Chinese, does not use peppers and spices.

Indeed, the four basics in life - food, clothing, housing and medicine - all comprise Indian elements to varying degrees here in Thailand, and of course there are the rites and ceremonies rooted in Brahminism, he writes.

But the most important gift of all, the monk said, is Buddhism.

"Indian culture and its religions, Buddhism in particular, coalesced under the name of the Wheel of Law and were firmly established here, thus giving birth to the Thai Buddhist Realm.

"Had the Wheel of Law not been established here, we might have been followers of other religions, maybe Christianity or Islam."

Buddhism is believed to have been introduced to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries more than 2,000 years ago when the land was ruled by the Khmers. The great Indian king, Ashok, is said to have dispatched two Indian monks, Sona and Uttara Bhikkus, to introduce Buddhism here.

Karuna Kusalasaya, a well-known writer who spent 13 years in India studying the Sanskrit and Hindi languages, confirms the influence of India on Thailand, saying religious and cultural links closely knitted the two countries.

But these bonds have not translated into close contacts between Thais and Indian immigrants, unlike with the Chinese, another major ethnic group, who have integrated smoothly with the local people.

Thais and Chinese mix easily due to their shared Mongol roots while Indians are Indo-Aryan, according Mr Karuna, who translated Buddhadasa Bhikku's book and other Indian literature.

Both the Indians and Chinese left their home countries to settle in Thailand to take advantage of the better economic opportunities here. But the Indians brought with them their religious beliefs and social barriers which make it difficult for them to integrate with non-Hindus because of religious factors, he said.

"The class system discourages Indians from marrying local people" and this has blocked their full integration.

"Blood is very important in binding different groups to each other so they sympathise with each other," he said.

Worse, Indians have a negative image among many Thais typified by the old saying: "When confronted by an Indian and a snake, hit the Indian first."

Mr Karuna said Indians still suffer from the impression created by the first immigrants, who lived rough while trying to build a new life similar. This is common to all such immigrants. "Even the Chinese were once looked down on by Thais."

"We cannot use this image to generalise about all Indians," he said, adding that things are changing as Indians become more involved in the country's development.

Mr Karuna called on Thailand to study India, which is seen as an impoverished nation characterised by selfishness despite the fact it is a land of freedom where many religions were given birth.

"The world is smaller in this age of globalisation so we should put more effort into understanding countries around us based on facts and information. We should no longer underestimate them."


Historical & Cultural Ties between India & Thailand by Mrs Wanna Sudjit, Cultural Attache to the Thai Consulate Mumbai - the article covers historic links, Indian influence on Thai dance, language and ceremonies. Excerpts from her article are -

 1. The ceremonies of Coronation of Thai kings are practiced more or less in its original form even up to the present reign. The Thai idea that the king is a reincarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu was adopted from Indian tradition. Though this belief no longer exists today, the tradition to call each Thai king of the present Chakri dynasty Rama (Rama is a reincarnation of Vishnu) with an ordinal number, such as Rama I, Rama II etc. is still in practice.

 2. Thai literature and drama draws great inspiration from Indian arts and legend. The Hindu epic of Ramayana is as popular in Thailand as it is in India. Thailand has adapted the Ramayana to suit the Thai lifestyle in the past and has come up with its own version of the Ramayana, namely, the Ramakien.

 3. Thai language too bears close affinity with Indian An indication of the close linguistic affiliation between India and Thailand can be found in common Thai words like Ratha Mantri, Vidhya, Samuthra, Karuna, Prannee etc. which are almost identical to their Indian counterparts. Thai language basically consists of monosyllabic words that are individually complete in meaning. His Majesty King Ramkhamhaeng the Great created the Thai alphabet in 1283. He modeled it on the ancient Indian alphabets of Sanskrit and Pai through the medium it on the ancient Indian alphabets of Sanskrit and Pali through the medium of the old Khmer characters.

 4.Loy Krathong ­ the Festival of Lights which is celebrated on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, when the rainy season has ended and the rivers and streams are filled with water. The floating of lanterns, which began in the Sukhothai period, continued throughout the different stages of Thai history. Prior to setting their krathong afloat, people place in it a lighted candle, incense sticks, flowers, a coin and some food offerings. They make a silent prayer of thanks for the water received, a request for forgiveness for wrongs done, and a wish for the fulfillment of a secret dream. The present day understanding is that the festival is celebrated as an act of worship to Chao Mae Kangka-the Goddess of the Waters for providing the water much needed throughout the year, and as a way of asking forgiveness if they have polluted it or used it carelessly.

5.According to the Thai monk Venerable Buddhadsa Bhikkus writing, Indias Benevolence to Thailand, the Thais also obtained the methods of making herbal medicines from the Indians. Some plants like Sarabhi of Guttiferae family, Kanika or hursinghar, phikun or mimusops and bunnak or the rose chestnut etc. were brought from India. He pointed out that Thai food too was influenced by India. He claimed that Thai people learned how to use spices in their food in various ways from Indians.

cheers & om, share the wealth, sanjeev

Vedic Culture in Vietnam

Hindu temples IN VIETNAM

The Editor, Aum Muruga Journal

1. basic Facts on Vietnam

1.1 Geography

Vietnam stretches over 1600km along the eastern coast of Indo-China Peninsula. The country's land area is 326,797sq. km. This makes it slightly larger than Italy and a bit smaller than Japan. Vietnam has 3451km of coastline and 3818km of land borders: 1555km with Laos, 1281km with China and 982km with Cambodia. Three-quarters of the country consist of mountains and hills, the highest of which is 3143m high Fansipan in the Hoang Lien Mountains in the far north-west. The Truong Son Mountains, which form the Central Highlands, run almost the full length of Vietnam along its border with Laos and Cambodia. The largest metropolis is Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) followed by Hanoi (capital) Haiphong and Danang.

1.2 Climate

Vietnam has a remarkable diverse climate because of its wide range of latitudes and altitude. Although the entire country lies in the tropics and subtropics, local conditions vary from frosty winter in the far northern hills to year-round, sub-equatorial warmth in the Mekong Delta. In Ho Chi Minh City, the average annual temperature is 27oC. In April, daily highs are usually in the low 30s. In January, the daily lows average 21oC. Average humidity is 80% and annual rainfall averages 1979mm.

1.3 Population and People

In 1997, Vietnam's population reached 76.5 million, making it the 13th populous country in the world. Eight-four percent of the population is ethnic-Vietnamese, 2% is ethnic-Chinese and the rest is made up of over 50 ethno-linguistic groups.

Evidences indicate that in Saigon (presently Ho Chi Minh City) the Indian population, mainly from South India was of a significant number in the past. Almost all of South Vietnam's Indian population, most of whose roots were in southern India, left 1975 after reunification. The remaining community in Ho Chi Minh City worships at the Mariamman Hindu Temple and the Central Mosque. (Within the last few years, the many Indians are coming back for business purposes).

Vietnam population is very well educated. Vietnam's literacy rate was estimated at 82%, although official figures put it even higher at 95%. Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity.

1.4 Tamils in Vietnam

A tiny and almost forgotten minority group are the Tamils, whose ancestors came from tiny French enclaves like Pondicherry and Karikal along the south coast of India. Their small community in Ho Chi Minh City, now only a few thousand. In the late 19th century the Tamil immigrants from the French colonies of South India erected the Mariamman Temple in Saigon.

Like small ethnic groups anywhere in the world, the minority peoples of Vietnam continue to struggle against absorption into mainstream society. Meager economic opportunities in the countryside have drawn many minority people to urban areas where they must adopt to the ways of the late 20th century. But, another force is also at work. Since the early 1960s, the communist regime in Hanoi has endeavoured to integrate minority groups into the dominant Viet population. However, parents continue to teach native minority traditions at home as many of Vietnam's ethnic groups reach the verge of extinction.

1.5 Cultural Practice: Ancestor Worship Vietnamese ancestor worship based on the belief that the soul lives on after death and becomes the protector of its descendants. Because of the influence of the spirits of one's ancestors exert on the living, it is not only shameful for them to be upset or restless, but downright dangerous. A soul with no descendants is doomed to eternal wandering because it will not receive homage.

Traditionally, the Vietnamese venerate and honour the spirits of their ancestors regularly, especially on the anniversary of the death, when sacrifices offered to both the god of the household and the spirit of the ancestors. To request intercession for success in business or on behalf of a sick child, sacrifices and prayers are offered to the ancestor spirits. The ancestors are informed on occasions of family joy or sorrow, such as weddings, success of examination or death.

Three major religious festivals are celebrated to remember the dead. The first is the Holiday of the Dead (Thanh Minh). This falls in the fifth day of the third moon. In this day, people pay solemn visits to graves of deceased relatives, specially tidied up a few days before, and makes offerings of food, flowers, joss sticks and votive papers. The second is the Summer Solstice Day (Doan Ngu). This falls on the fifth day of the fifth moon. On this day, offerings are made to spirits, ghosts and the God of Death's ward off epidemics. Human effigies are burned to satisfy the requirements of the God of Death for souls to staff his army. The third festival is the Wandering Souls Day (Trung Nguyen). This falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh moon. This is the second largest Vietnamese festival of the year. Offerings of food and gifts are made in homes and pagodas for the wandering souls of the forgotten dead.

2. Pre-history of Vietnam

From the 1st to 6th centuries AD, Vietnam was part of the Indianised kingdom of Funan, which produced notably refined art and architecture. The Funanese constructed an elaborate system of canals which were used for both transportation and the irrigation of wet rice agriculture. In mid-6th century, Funan was attacked by the pre-Angkorian Kingdom of Chenla, which gradually absorbed the territory of Funana into its own.

The Hindu kingdom of Champa appeared around present-day Danang in the late 2nd century. Like Funan, it became Indianised by lively commercial relations with India and through the immigration of Indian literati and priests. Brilliant examples of Cham sculpture can be seen in the Cham Museum in Danang.

During the Chinese rule from 200 BC to 938 AD, Vietnam was a key port of call on the sea route between China and India. The Vietnamese were introduced to Confucianism and Taoism by Chinese scholars who came to Vietnam as administrators and refugees. Indians sailing eastward brought Theravada (Hiayana) Buddhism to the Red River Delta while, Chinese travellers introduced Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhist monks carried with them the scientific and medical knowledge of the civilisations of India and China; as a result, Vietnamese Buddhists soon counted among their own great doctors, botanists and scholars.

2.1 Kingdom of Champa

The kingdom of Champa flourished from the 2nd to the 15th centuries. It first appeared around present-day Danang and later by 8th century spread south to what is now Nha Trang and Phan Rang. The Cham adopted Hinduism, employed Sanskrit as a sacred language and borrowed heavily from Indian art. One of the most stunning sights in Hoi An area is My Son, Vietnam's most important Cham site. During the centuries when Tra Kieu (then known as Simhapura) served as the political capital of Champa. Dong Dong (then known as Indrapura) served as the Cham's religious centre.

My Son was the site of the most important Cham intellectual and religious centre, and also may have served as a burial place for Cham monarchs. My Son is considered to be Champa's counterpart to the grand cities of south-east Asia's other Indian-influenced civilsations: Agkor (Cambodia), Bagan (Myanmar), Aythaya (Thailand) and Borobudur (Java).

My Son became a religious centre under King Bhadravarman in the late 4th century and was occupied until 13th century. Most temples were dedicated to Cham kings associated with divinities, especially Shiva, who was regarded as the founder and protector of Champa's dynasties. The main sanctuary was dedicated to Bhadresvara, which is a contraction of the name of King Bhadravarman, who built the first temple at My Son, combined with '-esvara', which means Siva.

The linga inside was discovered during excavations in 1985. The 8th century was used to worship Shiva portrayed in human form rather than in the form of linga. Inside is an altar where a statue of Shiva, now in the Cham Museum in Danang used to stand. In the Museum, the objects displayed include a large panel of Shiva dancing on a platform above the bull Nandi. To Shiva's left is his son Skanda (under a tree), his wife Uma and a worshipper. To Shiva's right is a dancing saint and two musicians under a tree, one with two drums, the other with a flute. The display also include a finely carved lion - symbol of the power of the king (the lion was believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu and the protector of kings).

2.2 Hinduism in Early Vietnam

Champa was profoundly influenced by Hinduism and many of the Cham towers, built as Hindu sanctuaries, containing lingas that are still worshipped by ethnic-Vietnamese and ethnic-Chinese alike. After the fall of Champa in the 15th century, most Chams who remained in Vietnam became Muslims, but continued to practice various Brahmic rituals and customs.

2.3 Hindu Gods found in Cham Museum

Cham Museum is founded in 1915 by the Ecole Francaise d'Esreme Orient. It has the open-air collection of Cham sculptures in the finest in the world. Many of the sandstone carvings (altars, lingas, garudas, ganeshas, saraswathy, sea monster makara, elephant-lion Gajasimha, and images of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu) and altar ornaments are breathtaking; making this a place you can visit again and again.

The four scenes carved around the base of the 7th century Tra Kieu Altar tell part of the Ramayana epic and are influenced by the Amaravati style of South India:

Scene A (16 characters) tells the story of Prince Rama, who broke the sacred bow (Rudra) at the citadel of Videha thus winning the right to wed King Janaka's daughter, Princess Sita.

Scene B (16 characters) shows the ambassadors sent by King Janaka to Prince Rama's father, King Dasaratha, at Ayodhya. The emissaries inform King Dasaratha of the exploits of his sons, present him with gifts and invite to Videha to celebrate his son's wedding.

Scene C (18 characters) shows the royal wedding ceremony (including three Prince Rama's brothers, who are marrying Princess Sita's cousins).

In Scene D, 11 apsaras (heavenly maidens) dance and present flowers to the newlyweds under the guidance of the two gandhara musicians who appear to the beginning of Scene A.

2.4 Hindu Gods in Po Klong Gari Cham Towers

Phan Rang-Thao Cham's famous landmark is Po Klong Garai, also known as Po Klong Girai (girai means dragon). The four brick towers, constructed at the end of the 13th century during the reign of Cham monarch Jaya Simhabarman III, were bult as Hindu temples and stand on a brick platform at the top of Cho''k Hala, a crumbling granite hill covered with some of the most ornery cacti this side of the Rio Grande.

Over the entrance to the largest tower (the kalan, or sanctuary) is a carving of a dancing Shiva with six arms. This bas-relief is known locally as Po Klaun Tri - The Guardian of the Temple-Tower - and is famous for its beauty. Inside the vestibule is a statue of the bull Nandi (also known as Kapil Ox), symbol of the agricultural productivity of the countryside. Under the main tower is a mukhu-linga, a linga with a painted human face on it. A wooden pyramid has been constructed above the mukha-linga. On the nearby hill is a rock with an inscription from the year 1050 commemorating the erection of a linga by a Cham prince.

The Kate New Year is celebrated at the towers in the seventh month of the Cham calender (around October). The festival commemorates ancestors, Cham national heros and Gods such as goddess Po Ino Nagar who assisted the Chams with their farming. On the eve of the festival, a procession guarded by the mountain people of Tay Nguyen carries King Po Kloong Garai's clothing to accompaniment of traditional music. The procession lasts until mid-night. The following morning the garments are carried to the tower., once again accompanied by music along with banners, flags, singing and dancing,. Notables, dignitaries and village elders follow behind. This colourful ceremony continues into the afternoon. The Cham's New Year celebrations then carry on for the rest of the month as they attend parties and visit friend and relatives. The Cham also use this time to pray for good fortune.

2.5 Hindu Gods in Po Nagar Cham Tower

The Cham towers of Po Nagar, also known as Thap Ba (the Lady of the City), were built between the 7th and 12th centuries. The site was used for Hindu worship as early as 2nd century AD. Today, both ethnic-Chinese and ethnic-Buddhists come to Po Nagar to pray and make offering according to their respective traditions.

There are many stone slabs found throughout the complexes, most of which relate history or religion proving great insight into the spiritual life and social structure of the Chams. Originally the complex covered an area of 500 sq. m. and there were seven or eight towers, four of which remain. All the temples face east, as did the original entrance to the complex, which is to the right as you ascend the hillock. In centuries past, a person coming to pray passed through the pillared mandapa (meditation hall), 10 pillars of which can still be seen, before proceeding up the staircase to the towers.

The 23m high North Tower (Thap Chinh), with its terraced pyramidal roof, vaulted interior masonry and vestibule, is a superb example of Cham architecture. One of the tallest Cham towers, it was built in 817 AD by Pangra, a minister of King Harivarman I, after the original temples here were sacked and burned. the raiders also carried off a linga made of precious metal. In 918 AD King Indravaraman III placed a gold mukha-linga in the North Tower, but it too was taken, this time by the Khmers. This attern of statues being destroyed or stolen and then replaced continued for some time until 965 AD when King Jaya Indravarman I replaced the gold mukha-linga with a stone figure of Uma - a shakti, or feminine manifestation of Shiva - which remains to this day.

Above the entrance to the North Tower, two musicians flak a dancing four-armed Shiva, one of whose feet on the head of the bull Nandi. The sandstone door-posts covered with inscriptions, are parts of the walls of the vestibule. A gong and a drum stand under the pyramid-shaped ceiling of the antechamber. In the 28m high pyramidal main chamber there is a black stone statue of the goddess Uma (in the shape of Bhagavati) with ten arms; two of which are hidden under her vest. She is seated leaning back against some sort of monstrous animal.

The Central Tower (Thap Nam) was built partly of recycled bricks in the 12th century on the site of a structure dating the 7th century. It is less finely constructed than the other towers and has little ornamentation; the pyramidal roof lacks terracing or pilasters. The interior altars were once covered with silver. There is a linga inside the main chamber.

The South Tower (Mieu Dong Nam), at one time dedicated to Shiva, still shelters a linga. The richly ornamented North-West Tower (Thap Tay Bac) was originally dedicated to Ganesha. The pyramid-shaped summit of the roof of the North-West Tower has disappeared. The West Tower, of which almost nothing remains, was constructed by King Vikrantavarman during the first half of the 9th century.

3. Muslims and Hindus in Vietnam

There are small groups of Muslims and Hindus in Vietnam. Most of them are Chams, one of the country's largest ethnic groups, who are almost equally divided between the two. The vast majority of Chams live along the coastal plain between Nha Trang and Phan Thiet or in Ho Chi Minh City which has both a mosque and three Hindu temples. Cham Hindus call themselves Balamons, a sect that traces it roots back to the ancient Kingdom of Champa which drew cultural and religious inspiration from Khmers Hindus who began the construction of Angkok Wat.

Muslims and Hindus Chams live in separate villages within the same communes; they rarely intermarry and they celebrate separate festivals. One of the emblems of their religious harmony is the fact that they produce "forbidden food" for one another; te Muslims do not eat pork but raise pigs for the Hindus, whilst the Hindus do not eat beef but they raise cattle for the Muslims!

4. Hindu Temples in

Ho Chi Minh City, vietnam

4.1 History of Indians in Vietnam

By 1867, the French had captured the southern third of Vietnam, carving a colony called Chochinchina and establishing a capital at the river port of Saigon. The French developed the foundation for modern infrastructure with the construction of highways, railroads, port facilities, telegraph networks, post offices and banks. In late 19th century, the French brought the Tamils from the tiny French enclaves like Pondicherry and Karikal along the south coast of India. They were engaged in the development of Vietnam. Later the Tamils from the Chettiar community (Nagartar) came to Vietnam especially for money lending business

Apart from conducting business, Nagartars were religious and build Hindu temples for their religious practices. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Nagartars spread Hinduism in South-East Asia. Initially some temples were built for their exclusive use but later they were opened to the public. Their interests in the field of education and maintenance of temples are well documented.

4.2 Origin of Hindu Temples

The Hindu temples in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) are over 100 years. In the late 19th century, the Tamils came from Pondicherry constructed the Mariammam Temple with a raja goopuram. Similarly, in mid 20th century Nagartars built two Hindu temples, namely Sri Thendayutthapani Temple and Sunbramaniar Temple, using Indian craftsmen, builders and sculptors. Similar to the ancient temples in India, these temples followed the principles of temple building. All three temples have large sized halls (mandapams) and inner and outer circumferences. All three temples are in close proximity in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

During the Vietnam war, the unfavourable economic and political situations in South Vietnam caused the exodus of Nagartars. Some of them had Vietnamese wifes. Their offsprings have pure tamil names but they are unable to speak or write in Tamil.

4.3 Management of the Temples

In April 1975, after the reunification, the socialist government of Vietnam shut the places of worship, including the Hindu temples. Some temples premises were used as factories. I was told that the flat-roof of one Hindu temple was used to dry fish for export. The temples lost all its valuable jewelleries. Around 1993, the temples re-opened for worship as the result of the negotiations between India and Vietnam at the diplomatic level. In one temple, the flags of India and Vietnam are at the entrance, to reinforce the friendship between these two countries.

Caretakers, appointed by the Vietnamese authorities, manage the Hindu temples. The appointments are subject to annual renewal. There are no priests in these temples to conduct regular pujas in a proper manner. The caretakers or their assistants are acting as priests in chanting slokas and performing arathi. The devotees receive vibuthi and prasadam. It is against the temple regulations to accept money directly from the devotees. However, the devotees could make donation into the till box. Since there is no external financial support to the temples, all temple expenses are met from the till collection.

The Mariamman Temple is enjoying a healthy income. Many locals believe in the sacred power of Mariamman and regularly coming to this temple. Other two temples are struggling to meet the expenses due to poor attendance. Sometimes, the Indians expatriate community collects funds to meet the needs of these temples. In one temple, the flat roof leaks badly and the walls are damaged. With the gradual increase in the Indian expatriate population all three temples could expect more financial support in the future.

Tamil devotional songs are continuously played in cassettes in two temples, although Tamil was not understood by many devotees. The decorations of the deities and joss sticks used are similar to those in Chinese temples. The devotees offer flowers and fruits and burn joss sticks, both straight and spiral shaped. Devotees remove their shoes before entering the temples to maintain the purity of the temple.

One of the attractions in the temples is the presence of a number of colourfully painted vahanas for utsava murthis. They may be either made in Vietnam by the Indian craftsmen or brought in from India.

4.4 Subramaniam Temple

Subramaian Temple is located at 98, Nam Ky Khor Nglina Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. It is in the central business district of Ho Chi Minh City. No historical data available to indicate the year of construction of this temple but the installation of the Navagrahas was carried out in 1928.

The main deity is Lord Muruga with Valli and Deivayaani on his right and left sides, respectively. Lord Ganesh is located on the right side of Muruga. Rahu and Ketu are at the right and left sides of Lord Ganesh. Mouse is placed in-front of Lord Ganesh. Behind the mouse, a palli pedum (sacrificing platform) is situated. On the left side of Muruga, Lord Venkatesh is with Goddess Luxshmi and Andarl on His sides.

Vasantha Mandapam for Utsava Murthis is located at the right side of the entrance. Just outside the graphagraham, well-dressed guardian Idumpan (first person to perform Kavadi to Lord Muruga) shrine is located. Near the temple entrance, a picture of Bala Krishna is housed in a specially made colourful gopurm structure. Red painted horse vahanam is in the main hall of the temple.

The special feature of this temple is the presence of Navagrahas at the right hand side of temple in a tiled platform. Nine grahas are dressed with different coloured silk clothes. Flowers and joss sticks are kept in porcelain containers. Pictures of Shiva, Muruga, Luxshmi, Saraswathy and Krishna are also found in the temple.

Ramasaamy, the caretaker of this temple, was unable to speak in English or in Tamil. His son is Ramassayana. Ramassamy's father is a chettiar and his mother is a Vietnamese. His two sisters, Luxshmi and Sitha, are living in the central part of Vietnam. Ramasaamy had Swami Shivananda's book on Shiva Worship and his son told me that his father use this book for daily prayers. There are several devotional songs books in Tamil donated by the visiting devotees from Singapore and India.

4.5 Mariamman Hindu Temple

The following description from a book on Vietnam provides some information on the Mariamman temple.

Mariamman Hindu Temple, the only (?) Hindu temple still in use in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a little piece of southern India in the centre of Saigon. Though there are only 50 to 60 Hindus in Saigon - all of them Tamils - this temple, known in Vietnamese as Chua Ba Mariamman, is also considered sacred by many ethnic-Vietnamese and ethnic-Chinese. Indeed, it is reputed to have miraculous powers. The temple was built at the end of 19th century and dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Mariamman.

 The lion (Simma Vahanam) to the left of the entrance used to be carried around Saigon in a street procession every autumn. In the shrine in the middle of the temple is Mariamman, flanked by her guardians - Maduraiveeran (to her left) and Pechiamman (to her right). In front of the figure of Mariamman are two lingas. Favourite offerings placed nearby often joss sticks, jasmine, lilies and gladioli. The wooden stairs, on the left as you enter the building, lead to the roof, where you'll find two colourful towers covered with innumerable figures of lions, goddesses and guardians.

After reunification in April 1975, the government took over the temple and turned part of it into a factory for joss sticks. Another section was occupied by a company producing seafood export - the seafood was dried in the sun on the roof. The whole temple is to be returned to the local Hindu community.

Mariamman Temple is only three blocks west of Ben Thanh Market, at 45 D Truong Dinh. It is open from 7 am to 7 pm daily. Take off your shoes before stepping onto the slightly raised platform.

The main deity of this temple is Goddess Mariamman, another aspect of Parvathy. As the mother of universe, Parvathy is amma and prayed as Amman. Utsapa amman is placed next to the main deity. During the festivals she is placed on the Simha vahana and taken on procession along the roads of Ho Chi Minh City.

In addition, my observations are as follows: At the outer hall, Goddess Amman's (Parvathy) sons Ganesha and Muruga are on her right and left, respectively. The Rajagopuram of this temple is about 12m high with a number of statues. Colourful statues of Amman, Luxshmi, Ganesha, Muruga, angels and dancing girls decorate the entrance of the inner hall.

The attractive features of this temple are the beautifully sculptured Amman in her different forms as well as other deities. They are located permanently on the surround outer walls of the temple. They include Nadarajar, Param Sivam, Brahman, Mahavishnu, Kaliamma, Biramasakthi, Samundi, Thirumagal, Mageswari, Meenadchi, Valambigai, Andal, Kamadchiamman, Karumari-amman, Sivagami and Parvathy with Murugan in her lap.

 Iyaaswamy Devar from Tamil Nadu is the caretaker of this temple. Devotees experienced the power of Mariamman for a number of years. Hence, this temple is most popular with the locals. This temple is now taking the necessary steps to bring a priest from India to conduct proper puja in a regular basis. I was told that with many others like Mr. Chidambaram from Tamil Nadu has shown significant interest in the temple affairs.

4.6 Sri Thendayyutthapani Temple

Sri Thendayutthapani temple is located at 66 Ton That Thiep, Quan 1 (District 1), Ho Chi Minh City. At the entrance of the temple, the writings on the name board indicate are as follows:




66 Ton That Thiep, Phuong Ben Nghe,

Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Inside the temple, the regulations of the temple, both in Vietnamese and English, are displayed. The writings in English are as follows:

The Hindus Sri Thendayyutthapani Temple worshipping devotees are advised to comply with the religious belief.

Opening hours from 6 am to 7 pm specially on the first day 15th (lunar calendar) and on Hindu festive days are extended until 8 pm.

The Temple management holds in high esteem those who pay a visit to this sacred shrine and as well as for the believers.

Personnel of this Temple are not authorised to receive any amount of money offered by the visitors or to accept any tips (Please drop your offering in the charity box).

Everybody is requested to protect the temple property located in shrine and in the environment.

Please observe order, keep silence, make no noise that will interfere with worship and others.

Please do not enter the Almighty shrine through the inner sanctum.


Board of Management,

Nov. 15th, 1993.

Beautiful gopurum is on the flat roof of the temple. The statues of several Hindu gods and goddesses are on all sides of the gopurum. The following main scene were well carved and painted at the bottom level of the gopurum:

Four handed Subramanya seated with Valli (blue coloured indicated her hunter race) and Deivayanai on his right and left sides and a snake and peacock in front of Muruga.

Siva with Parvathy and Ganesha on his left and right sides and a mouse in front of Ganesha,

Blue coloured Rama holding a bow in his hand with Sita and Luxmana on his left and right sides and Hanuman sitting at the foot of Rama.

Brahma (four faces and four hands) with his consort Saraswathy.

On the top level of gopurum, the following carved figures can be seen:

Arumugaswamy (Muruga with six faces) sitting with Valli and Deivayanai.

Shiva on a sitting position with one leg down and resting on a demon.

Mahavishnu in sitting position with his consort Luxshimi.

In addition to these carvings, there are several other statues were present. Several peacocks, Idumpan and other guardian figures etc. The main deity of this temple is Thendayatthapani (another name for Lord Muruga) with spear (Vel) in his hand. In front of the arthimula deity, shrines for Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna are located on the left and right sides, respectively. On walls of the temple, very big framed pictures of Mahathma Ghandi, Swami Vivekanada, Rabindranath Tagr, Thiruvalluvar, Abdul Kalam Azad, Nehru, Mahavishu. Narayana on Garuda and Palani anadavar are found. Another attraction in this temple is the presence of four beautifully painted vahanas (vehicles) to take the deities on procession during festival days. They are yellow cow, swinging red horse, brown sheep and fiercely looking Idumpan. The pictures of four Saiva saints namely, Thirugnanasampathar, Thirunavukarasar, Sundarar and Manicavasagar are placed for the prayers. This temple has both inner and outer paths for the devotees to go around the deities.

Muthiah is the caretaker of the Sri Thendayutthapani temple. I spoke to his father, Mr. Palanivelu aged 78 yrs. He speaks fluent Tamil amd his parents are Subbiah Chettiyar and Umayarl. He is married to a Vietnamese and has three children, Muttiah, Subramanium and Arunachalam. The whole family is dedicated to the temple service. Mr. Palanivelu spoke to me in length about the difficulties his children faced in getting jobs and managing the temple.

5. Concluding Remarks

It is an unforgettable experience for me to see three Hindu temples in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. These beautiful temples are the treasures of the Hindus. Since the Indian population is not large enough, these temples are struggling to meet the maintenance expenses. Most of the devotees visiting these temples are Vietnamese. There is no official financial support to these temples and there are no priests in these temples. It is the responsibility of the Hindu community in Vietnam to look after these temples. The political set-up in Vietnam is different to other countries and this has some effect on temple management.

With the Divine powers of Lord Muruga and Divine Mother Mariamma I have no doubt that these temples will flourish in the future. All Hindus must pay a visit to these temples in Vietnam whenever they get the opportunity to go to Vietnam. Vietnam is now welcoming foreigners for joint-venture projects.


Mason Florence and Robert Storey, Vietnam, Lonely Planet
Publication., 1999.

Joseph R Yogerst, Vietnam, Prentice-Hall Travel, 1993.

This article is courtesy of Aum Muruga Journal