India grants $3 million to restore Hindu relic in Vietnam

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India has pledged a US$3 million grant to restore a cluster of bombed Hindu temples at My Son, the UNESCO heritage site in central Vietnam.

Ranjit Rae, the Indian ambassador in Vietnam, announced the grant at a two-day conference to discuss the restoration that ended Wednesday in Da Nang.

The Archaeological Survey of India, which helped restore Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm in Cambodia and Wat Phu in Laos, will begin the work next week.

The My Son complex in Quang Nam Province was built between the 4th and 14th centuries CE by the Champa kings to worship Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

Regarded as one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia, most of it was destroyed by US bombs during the Vietnam War.

Indian experts at the conference spoke about their restoration experiences at home and in Southeast Asia.

Many Champa (1921832) findings reflected the influence of Indian culture on Vietnam, they said.

J.C.Sharma, former Indian ambassador to Vietnam, said the Champa had a "special" cultural connection with India.

The oldest Sanskrit engravings in Southeast Asia are found at Champa relics in central Vietnam, he said.

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Prof Anupa Pande from the India National Museum said only two dancing statues of Goddess Sarasvati have been found anywhere in the world one created in the ninth century in central Vietnam and the other in the 11th century in India.

The Indian statue could have been inspired by the Champa one, Tien Phong newspaper quoted him as saying.

Dr Le Dinh Phung from the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology said the absorption of Indian culture during the Champa period created "the most impressive non-Chinese culture in Vietnamese history."

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