Dancing Shiva-Stone Sculptures

The ancient kingdom of Champa existed on Vietnam’s central coast between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Due to its crucial position on the maritime silk road, Champa enjoyed trade and cultural ties with distant lands. Champa’s culture was profoundly shaped by cultural influences from India.

Hinduism was adopted into Champa quite early. In its home country, Hinduism was dedicated to the Unified Three Gods, which held supreme power, namely Brahma (Creation God), Vishnu (Maintenance God) and Shiva (Destruction God). However, as time went by, Hinduism was transformed and assimilated into the vernacular culture of the Chams, shaping a religion exclusively dedicated to Shiva, known as Shivaism. The Chams likened Shiva to the King of the Chams. They made many limages of Shiva, particularly in stone sculptures.

Statue of Shiva shed light on the culture, arts and history of Champa

According to Hindu legends, the primitive embodiment of Shiva was the Linga flame pillar (male genitals, symbolising Yang elements). As a result, Shiva was symbolised into the Linga – the pillar of the universe worshipped in temples. The Linga was usually coupled with a Yoni (female genitals, symbolising Yin elements) to form the Linga – Yoni symmetry to express the creation power of Shiva. The Chams made many diverse Linga – Yoni sculptures, including ones in large sizes

Shiva was also portrayed in humanised forms of various shapes and roles. The predominating form was that of Nataraja (King of Dances). This form is an expression of the absolute prowess and perfection of Shiva. Hindu believe that at the end of each universal cycle, Shiva performs his divine dances to destroy the old depleted universe in preparation for the creation of a new universe. Two popular forms of Nataraja dances are Tandava – Vigorous Dance for violence coupled with destruction and Laysia – Tender Dance for rebirth and procreation. Laysia is performed after Tandava, with corresponding dances by Shiva’s spouse, the Goddess Parvati.

In Indian sculpture, Shiva Nataraja was usually portrayed in bronze in round statue forms, with relatively consistent expressions. Shiva performs his dances within a flame circle, a symbol of the universe His right foot treads above the Dwarf Demon Apasmara, a symbol of Shiva’s victory over fallibility, foolishness and ignorance. His left foot is raised to the left to maintain balance. He has four hands: the rear right hand holds the Damaru Drum, which symbolises creation. His rear left hand holds the flame to symbolise destruction. His front right hand makes a mudra, to express overcoming fears. His front left hand is left open, crossed to the right and facing downward to denote emancipation. In general, Tandava is a dance that sums up Shiva’s operations of the universe to embark on a new cycle: Creation -Maintenance – Destruction.

In Champa culture, likenesses of Shiva Nataraja were usually depicted on sandstone as reliefs or bas-reliefs and placed as decorations on the pediments of Champa temples. Unlike the fierce and violent depictions of Indian arts, Champa images of Shiva Nataraja performing the Tandava dance were portrayed in a gentle and flexible manner. The foot movements were quite soft. Shiva’s hair was braided in the three-layer Jaka – Mukuta style or braided in the crown Kirita – Mukuta rather than hanging loose like Shiva Nataraka statues in India.

The Kingdom of Champa was heavily influenced by the culture of India

Champa statues of Shiva Nataraja featured diverse facial expressions. Shiva was rarely depicted alone, but was usually accompanied by other performing musicians and watched by other deities. Statuettes made between the 8th and 10th centuries and exhumed in Quang Tri, Quang Nam are uniquely realistic. Shiva was portrayed with typical genetic characteristics of the Cham. In contrast, artefacts dating from the 11th to 13th century found in Mam Tower, Binh Dinh are noticeable for their magnificence, with a strong focus on meticulous decorative details that suggests cultural exchanges with the Khmer.

Interested in Cham religious festival?

The most forceful evidence of the diversity of depictions of Champa’s Shiva Nataraja lies in the god’s number of arms and hand movements. Shiva was depicted having four, six or eight arms, except for some cases with up to 10,16 or 28 arms. Regardless of the number, his hands were always depicted as moving in a circle, which embodies the eternal cycle of the universe. The most popular form was the mudra coupled with arms holding belongings, in which the two upper arms were always raised above his head and the remaining two hands made Uttarabodhi mudra to symbolise enlightenment. Other hands might hold belongings. These belongings differed depending on origin and stage. Sometimes, Shiva held a trident, symbolising Creation – Maintenance – Destruction and a sword to symbolise emancipation. Sometimes, he held a variety of belongings such as a lotus, rosary, Naga snake, Parashu axe or Damaru drum. Sculptures of Shiva reveal that this god dominated the spiritual life of the Chams.

By Huu Vy

Cham Tower(Ninh Thuan)-Silent Guardians

The Po Klong Garai Cham tower complex in Phan Rang, Ninh Thuan is the most beautiful and best-preserved Cham tower complex in Vietnam. Just 7km from Phan Rang town, the Po Klong Garai towers loom on a dry hillside. Built in the 13th century in honor of King Po Klong Garai, the towers play an important role in Cham culture.

The steps leading up to the main arched gate of Po Klong Garai take us back in history to the medieval Cham kingdom of Panduranga

King Po Klong Garai is remembered for his contributions to agricultural development and irrigation. According to legend, the king was an orphaned cowherd who won the support of the Dragon God and became a talented and highly moral king who helped to develop and protect the Cham kingdom. The king held a sacred tower building contest with the goal of promoting peace and protecting the kingdom from Khmer invasions (Cambodia). The result was this architectural masterpiece. In the mind of the Cham people, after his death the king became a sacred deity who protects the living.

Located on a hill over 100m high, the compound initially consisted of one main tower and five surrounding ones. Today, only three towers remain, the largest standing 20.5m high, the Fire Tower 9.13m high and the Gate Tower 5.65m high. Po Klong Garai features distinctive Cham architecture. The deity honored here is Mukha Linga who bears the honorable face of King Po Klong Garai, who is also a subject of worship in the religious rituals of Cham people. The Po Klong Garai towers remain central to the religion of local Cham people. Cham people still attend festivals at this compound to pray for good luck.

The towers were built in honor of King Po Klong Garai, who helped to improve farming and irrgation techniques

Arched gates, pointy towers and decorative bas-reliefs made of Cham bricks have withstood the ravages of time. A nearly solid block of bricks, the towers’ interior spaces are just large enough for primary rituals. In front of the entrance gate of the main tower rests a Siva statue. Smaller towers rise in great symmetrical pairs to narrow towards the top, creating an ascending shape that is both solemn and impressive. All facets of the tower are decorated with patterns and sculptures inspired by ancient Cham culture and Vietnamese culture. Images of humans, dragon tails and sacred bulls are familiar Cham motifs. The ancient Cham craftsmen who made these sculptures were highly skilled and versatile. The towers appear both tough and rugged, yet feature sinuous and soft carvings. They are made entirely of bricks, their dark red color leaving a profound impression on visitors. To this day, researchers are still debating how the Cham made their bricks. Nobody is sure if the bricks were baked or unbaked. Yet however they were made, despite this regions harsh weather, they have withstood the ravages of time.

The standing towers remain firm and the bricks tightly stacked. The type of mortar that the Chams used, or whether they even used mortar, remains a topic of debate. What is certain is that the sophisticated techniques of the ancient Cham builders have allowed these towers to remain as silent symbols of Cham culture.

Cambodia – The emerging tourist attraction in Southeast Asia

Cambodia is a developing small country neighboring with Thailand and Vietnam. With the long standing history and unique culture, it is a worthy place for tourists to visit

The region of Southeast Asia is the land of architecture, rich culture and religious for discovery along with the natural beauty of cultural heritage sites. Once you visit this region, you can sightsee from golden temples to the tropical forests, spicy cuisine to isolate beaches, more and more developing urban scenes to the ancient wonders of the world. Cambodia belongs to the Southeast Asia so more or less; it has these features of attractions.


Let’s take a look to the most charming beauty of Cambodia in the following angles:

Glorious history

When learning about the history of Cambodia, you will know the glorious period of this land is in Khmer regime when the Angkor was the capital city and also the largest city in the pre-industrial stage of the world until French colonist took over and then the atrocity of the Khmer Rouge regime. Khmer Rouge crime is a dark period of Cambodian history made the whole world shocked and disappointed.

Land of the great temples

No need to argue about Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia which is the most famous and visited place. It is additionally the largest religious construction worldwide with spectacular, unique and sophisticated architecture. Designed with the main entrance in the west, Angkor Wat makes visitors overwhelmed by the image of giant temple featured on the sunlight. In addition to that feeling, tourists are impressed with the statue Apsara carved on most of walls or in floral motifs and animal cared carefully on the steps of the wall.
The world’s wonder of Angkor is one of the typical artistic monuments of Khmer. So, tourists cannot miss when traveling to Cambodia.


A World Heritage Site in Cambodia is Preah Vihear and other impressive temples, both old and new, scatters around the country. There is no other place owning many ancient temples like Cambodia and scientists are still continuing to discover the remains buried in the dust of time. This is an interesting thing for you to choose the tour to Cambodia.

Cambodians are nice and friendly

Khmer people the greatest asset of Cambodia and also the main reason that so many tourists visit once but love this country forever. Khmer people are happy with their current life. They are honest, open-minded, friendly and hospitable. They are now totally different from they used to be in their difficult history. They live with the optimistic sense from the ruins of history, so this country is known as the “land of smiles”. However, it is not similar to Thailand as it is friendly but a little enigmatic.

An idyllic and unique country beauty

Another attractive reason in Cambodia is pristine beauty and idyllic landscapes where travelers can breathe the fresh air and feel the peace. Cambodia is a beautiful land, a fascinating tropical country because of the isolate but unique scenes.

Cambodian rural areas are very idyllic with green rice paddies, the wooden house in the village, where there are children and animals playing outside.

The city still little development of French colonial architecture, the golden temple with curved roof incondite highest in urban areas. The developing cities still keep the architecture style from French colonist, which are the golden pagodas with arching dorms. Apart from Cambodia, you can check out Japan-the country of rising sun.

Pristine beaches


Perhaps one of the most amazing things in Cambodia is the treasure of the gorgeous coastlines. Cambodia beaches with white sand and clean turquoise waters make you remember the Thailand’s coastlines. However, they are not as crowded as in Thailand.

Near the crowded beaches are resorts and vibrant nightlife. Meanwhile, further than that is the Koh Rong Island, which is a truly tropical paradise is waiting for you to discover. It takes you 2 hour drive by boat on the sea. After arriving, you will realize that the opposition to the noise, bustle and hustle of Sihanoukville, the Koh Rong Island brings you the quiet space and pristine beauty. You will feel like you are living in a “paradise” so, make sure this place will not let you down.

In brief, Cambodia has everything to meet your needs for the trip of the exciting experiences. Along with friendliness, this place is a tourist attraction of the world due to beautiful natural scenes and glorious history. Take a visit to Cambodia and feel for at least one time in your life!

Japan – each season has its own beauty

It can be said that there is no country that is given so many romantically beautiful scenes like Japan. In the country of rising sun, each season, each month has its own unique beauty that cannot be mixed.

Japan – the heaven of romance in Asia. Photo by ka.e.de_nagase

Japan in the spring days

If tourists travel to Japan in spring, they can both enjoy the warm and comfortable weather there but also have chance to sightsee the beauty of many colorful flowers such as white-dotted flowers and cauliflowers in March, or cherry blossom in April along with other kinds of booming flowers all around the rice fields in Japan in May.

Traveling to Japan in summer

In summer, the weather is not as comfortable as that of the spring. Moreover, when the summer comes, it always brings much rains and the glowworm in June is bestrew in the many rural areas.
If you have chance to visit Japan in these months of summer, you definitely will not forget the dim light of the fireflies in summer, which is a kind of unique romance. It is so special that we cannot compare with the brilliant light in the big cities.

In the sweltering heat of summer in July and August, in Vietnam you may take part in the Kate festival of Cham people and meanwhile in Japan it is the occasion for the colorful festivals and firework displays held around the country. There is no more wonderful than wearing Yukata clothes, wooden clogs and the paper fan in hand to walk around the festivals in the country of cherry blossom and then, stop at the traditional stalls to enjoy Japanese dishes. It is so great, isn’t it?

The romantic atmosphere in autumn in the country of cherry blossom

There is a saying like the autumn comes right after the summer passes. The October is the transition time when you feel the breath of the autumn with the color change of the Yellow Walking Iris leaves which turn into yellow. Looking at the leaves, you will feel like you are seeing a romantic picture hanging on the wall in the past days. Two lines of falling yellow leaves on the streets with the same color of the fence create an extremely beautiful scene for anyone who walk by and feel. It is also the idea place for young people to come and to take photos or check in.

Extremely beautiful scene of falling yellow leaves in Japan

Traveling to the country of rising sun in November means that you arrive in the month of the red maple leaves in the melancholic but attractive autumn sky. The autumn in Japan is not like the autumn in other countries of Europe or South Korea because the fall of Japan is romantically picturesque in the pretty cold weather with the sad-like lines of trees.
When it comes to the autumn in Japan, it is very common to refer to the ancient city Kyoto which is one of the world’s most beautiful together with Paris, Rome, London and other cities. Kyoto is a place where if you visited once, you could not forget but always remember in your minds and hearts

Cold but brilliant winter in Japan

The winter in Japan often begins in the December and ends in February. This is the great chance for tourists to go skiing and enjoy the stunning festivals of light in the largest cities in Japan in the season of Christmas and the New Year. In the mountainous areas like Nagano, Shiga, Fukui and Hokkaido, there are many great skiing places with the high mountain flank so that visitors can see and enjoy the landscapes from the high position in the far distance.
Also, it is the place for the big Olympics of the world such as Winter Olympics and ideally for professional skiers flocking to from all over the world.
Although there is no snow in the big cities like other places, many breathtaking performances of lights with thousands of bulbs are held in the cold season of winter. So, it is worth visiting Japan in winter for enjoyment

Hokkaido is the ideal place for skiing

Generally speaking, Japan is very wonderful country, isn’t it? No matter which season you will visit Japan, you still can enjoy the most beautiful things and festivals with a lot of interesting activities in the country of cherry blossom. In the holidays, do not forget to think about this country and book tickets for you and your family or friends to travel to and have great moments together.

The Kate Festival – A Celebration of Cham

On a hot September morning, we find ourselves in the shadow of Po Rome, one of the many Cham towers that dot Vietnam’s central coastline. The eight-meter brick tower located on a hill outside the town of Phan Rang was built in the 17th century in honor of a wise Champa king but today, it’s the epicentre of the Kate Festival (pronounced “kah-tay”), one of the most important Cham religious festivals of the year. One of Vietnam’s 54 minority groups, the seafaring ancestors of the Cham people most likely migrated from Borneo sometime during the second century AD.

It’s early yet, but bamboo mats cover almost all the space around the tower and spill onto what little grass there is. There are offerings including fruits, rice and meat which are laid carefully
Just as it looks like there cannot possibly be room for another family, someone slides over and another mat is put down.


Kate is primarily a religious ceremony in which local deities are worshipped, including a ritual changing of their godly-clothing. This happens within a small area within the tower itself, but only a select few, mainly the Brahmanist-influenced priests of the Cham people, are allowed entry.
While Kate is said to have traditionally lasted a full month, it is now usually condensed to just three days. Yesterday, the first day of Kate, we rose with the chickens to join the colorful procession of white-clad priests, Cham laymen and curious onlookers, all heading towards the local soccer stadium repurposed for the opening ceremonies, umbrellas providing meagre shade against the blazing sun. Even at this early hour, the bleachers are filled with spectators, so the crowd forms a human wall surrounding the young men and women from the villages performing traditional dances accompanied by folk music.

“Cham people live all over Vietnam, but even if we’ve been away 10, 20, 30 years, we have to come back for Kate,” says Hung, a third year agriculture student who’s returned from Saigon especially for the event. Young Cham typically leave the village for bigger cities because there are no universities nearby. After graduation, they often join other Cham adults in urban centres where work opportunities are more plentiful, meaning that mostly the very young and very old are left in the villages, putting the Cham way of life in danger of disappearing.
It’s for this reason that the Kate Festival has so much meaning, because it showcases many of the religious, cultural, linguistic and traditional elements of Cham society.


Acclaimed Cham poet Inrasara, however, is fearful that without preservation efforts, these elements may soon be gone forever. “What’s been lost the most is related to our culture and language. Language is living. Spoken language can be lost very quickly. I’m afraid that the younger generation will not treasure this part of our culture…. I know that once the doors have been opened, they cannot be closed, but while we have to accept the new, we can’t lose ourselves in the process.”

The priests at Kate are decked mainly in white, highlighted with beautifully woven scarves and detailing, with threads of red, silver and gold. Inrahani, a master Cham weaver, explains: “ The colors and patterns are used to show hierarchy’. It’s worn by our priests who talk to God. It’s worn by our mothers and fathers when they pass on. So how can it die?” she asks of the importance of this ancient art. “We still have the [Cham] towers which are historical artefacts. I also want to make sure our culture survives – our food, our arts, our way of life.

“That’s the story for so many ethnic minorities,” says Jake Orak, founder of a bag company called Ethnotek, which partners with Inrahani to include Cham textiles in some of its designs. “They’re either being pushed out or put on display. Ethnocide faces the biggest threat when there’s no support. It’s really important for us to restore demand, to bring business to these places where the people are trying to get by on agriculture or by conforming.”

Even the Kate Festival itself is under pressure to conform often re-packaged as a “Cham New Year” to better sell to tourists, obscuring the true religious and cultural nature of this meaningful festival. However, those able to participate in this peaceful, colourful event should consider themselves fortunate that they’re able to witness centuries-old traditions of one of Vietnam’s minorities.

This year, the Kate Festival will be held from October 13-15 in the small town of Huu Duc, just a few kilometres outside of the coastal city of Phan Rang.