Strictly speaking, this is detail from a Group G (Temple mountain style) Champa temple at My Son, in Vietnam.
But that’s gobbledygook – so perhaps I had best explain.
In the My Son area of central Vietnam, there are a series of temples and other structures – the last remnants of the Champa people, who ruled this area for more than a thousand years.
They held Central Vietnam from about 200AD to 1700AD; the area was finally annexed by the Vietnamese in the 19th Century as the Nguyen dynasty reached power.
Influenced by Hinduism, the Champa built temple complexes in Central Vietnam – including these at My Son, which is now a World Heritage site.
The temples are largely dedicated to the worship of Shiva, the Destroyer (known locally as Bhadresvara)
There were, at one time, as many as 70 temples and other buildings … but after the fall of the Champa, the jungle began to reclaim the structures.
By the 1960’s the Viet Cong were using My Son as a base – prompting bombing by the US.
In a single week, the story goes, the majority of the buildings were destroyed by carpet-bombing – the indiscriminate laying down of high explosives designed to shatter the support structure of insurgents.
The Vietnamese version is that the carpet-bombing was a crime against history and humanity. The US version is that the temples were already largely destroyed by the ravages of time – and the VC were using the ruins to continue their destabilisation of the legitimately elected government so they had to be moved out.
But whoever you blame (and there’s plenty to go around) it’s still a fascinating place to visit. Most tourists do so on a half-day tour by bus.
The types of ruins were identified by letter when French archaeologists began studying them about 120 years ago – today’s image is from the base of a Type G building.
These echo the “temple mountain” style in Cambodia – and show the Khmer influence on the Cham people.
They were built around 1200AD as the Champa were at the height of their power.
In the foreground you’ll see a sandstone lion statue – and behind to the right just some of the animated terracotta ‘Kala masks’ representing the God of Time, another of Shiva’s incarnations.