Exploring My Son



Exploring My Son

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Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, My Son is best visited in the early or late hours of the day to avoid the stream of visitors. Although centuries of pillage and more recent bombings have taken their toll, the ruins provide a glimpse into a fascinating Indianized culture. Evocative as the complex is, the groups of monuments are rather unimaginatively named after letters of the alphabet. The most important edifices at Group B are reached first, while Group C is less well preserved. To the east, the halls of Group D house displays of Cham sculpture, while Groups E, F, G, and H are currently undergoing restoration.

Groups A and A1

Said to be among My Son’s most impressive edifices, Groups A and A1 were almost completely destroyed by USAF bombing in 1969. Little remains beyond rubble, but there are plans for restoration. Records show that Group A once featured a striking tower, A1, said to have been the most important kalan (sanctuary) here. Unlike most Cham temples that only face east, A1 also had a door to the west, usually associated with death. This may have served as a link with Cham kings said to be interred in Groups B, C, and D. Also noteworthy is A9, with its winding patterns.

Groups B, C, and D

Situated at the center of the complex, Group B is remarkable for exhibiting elements of both Indian and Javanese art. The main sanctuary, built in the 11th century, was dedicated to King Bhadravarman, who built the first temple at My Son in the 4th century, and to Shiva. One of the most unique structures in this group of monuments is B6, whose roof is decorated with an image of the Hindu god Vishnu being sheltered by a 13­headed naga. Group C forms a contiguous complex with Group B, separated only by a brick wall. Its central tower, C1, combines many elements from the older structures, including the tympanum and lintel. Built in the late 8th century, C7 is a squat tower with a stone altar, and is an architectural link between the styles of the Cham cities of Hoa Lai and Dong Duong. Toward the east of Groups B and C,  the mandapa or meditation halls of Group  D are now galleries for sculpture. Shiva lingam, as well as statues of Shiva and Nandi are housed in D1, while D2 contains a stone Garuda, a Dancing Shiva, and apsaras.

Groups E, F, G, and H

Although the monuments in the northernmost reaches of  the complex are the most dam- aged, they still offer fragments  of beautiful craftsmanship. Built between the 8th and 11th centuries, Group E differs from  the usual design of Cham temples. The main kalan has no vestibule, and only one temple faces eastwards. Adjoining it, Group F is badly damaged, but a finely carved lingam survives in the altar.

The 11th­century Group G has been restored over the last decade. Its tower’s base features bas-reliefs of Kala, God of Time. Group H is badly damaged, and a carved stone tympanum of a Dancing Shiva that once adorned the temple is now in the Museum of Cham Sculpture.


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