Hinduism History and Hindu Temples in Vietnam

Hindu Temples in Vietnam
Hindu Temples in Vietnam

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 the 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 20thcenturies, 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.

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 Mariamma Temple with a raja gopuram. Similarly, in the 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 wives. Their offsprings have pure Tamil names but they are unable to speak or write in Tamil.

1. Sri Thenday Yuttha Pani Temple
Sri Thenday Yuttha Pani Temple, Vietnam
Sri Thenday Yuttha Pani Temple, Vietnam 
Among the three more well-known Hindu temple in Saigon, this is the best and they still keep very traditional Hindu practices like the burning camphor lamp during puja. The man in charge of this temple has his roots from Madras, India, and he has kept it very authentic as opposed to the other temples where Khmer priest was used.

They also invited the Brahmin priest from Malaysia when they consecrated the new murti (God statue). Lord Muruga as Dandayuthapani is the main deity, but typically Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, and Durga are worshipped too, with Krishna as Jagannath. Facing the main shrine is a stone peacock, being the vahana or vehicle of Muruga.

Sri Thenday Yuttha Pani Temple, Vietnam 
The temple also has a stunning silver chariot with Lord Muruga and his two wives. His guardian, Idumban is also present in the temple. Do go up to see the tower over the inner sanctum, and if u see the man in charge, he can show you photos of how the ceremonies were conducted in a traditional Indian way (some of which I have included here). There is also a stunning image of Muruga as Shanmugam, the six-faced form of him.

Sri Thenday Yuttha Pani Temple on Google Map

2. Po Nagar Cham Hindu Temple Towers in Nha Trang 
Po Nagar Cham Vedic Hindu temple entry
Po Nagar Cham Vedic Hindu temple complex was built between the 8th and 11th centuries by the Cham people who once ruled the central plain of Vietnam. The Cham people, who were Hindu in origin, had Most Ancient Sanskrit-based script.

They are renowned for their skills in sculpture and architecture and left behind a legacy of artifacts and temple settlements not only in Vietnam but also in Cambodia and Thailand.
Po Nagar Cham Vedic Hindu temple complex
Po Nagar Cham Vedic Hindu temple complex
In the 14th century, the Kingdom of Champa fell into the hand of the invading Viet, whose descendants are today the Vietnamese people. A small minority of Cham people, now an ethnic minority, still live in the central plain somewhere near Danang. They still worship their gods at Po Nagar Cham Towers during the annual religious festival of Thap Ba, which falls around the end of April and the beginning of May.

Po Nagar Cham Towers were built to honor the goddess Po Nagar- literally translated as 'The mother of the Country' -who is said to have taught agricultural and weaving skills to the Cham people. Later, historians have come to identify Po Nagar with the Hindu goddesses Bhagavati, the wife of Shiva, and Durga, the buffalo-demon slayer.

The towers of Po Nagar Cham are a square red brick structure with protruding support frames and tapering roofs. There were once ten buildings, each dedicated to a different deity, but now only four remain. The tallest building, at 25 meters, the Po Nagar Kalan, is the most impressive. Here, Po Nagar was worshipped and, according to historical stone inscriptions, animal sacrifices were made in her honor.
Po Nagar Cham Towers are situated on the high ground of Mount Cu Lau on the bank of River Cai
Po Nagar Cham Towers are situated on the high ground of Mount Cu Lau on the bank of River Cai
To the center of the complex, stands a tower of Cri Cambhu, goddess of fertility. The other two temples are the shrines of the Hindu gods Shiva and Ganesh respectively.
Po Nagar Cham Towers are situated on the high ground of Mount Cu Lau on the bank of River Cai, a few kilometers north from the city center.

Po Nagar Cham Hindu Temple Towers on Map

3. Subramaniam Temple
Subramanian 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. The 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 (the 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 gopuram 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 the temple in a tiled platform. Nine grahas are dressed in 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 uses this book for daily prayers. There are several devotional songs books in Tamil donated by the visiting devotees from Singapore and India.

4. Mariamman Hindu Temple
Mariamman Hindu Temple outside view
Mariamman Hindu Temple outside view
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 center 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 the 19th century and dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Mariamman.

Mariamman Hindu Temple outside view
Mariamman Hindu Temple entrens
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. Favorite 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 colorful 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 the 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 a procession along the roads of Ho Chi Minh City.

Mariamman Hindu Temple inside view
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. Colorful 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 on a regular basis.

Mariamman Hindu Temple on Map

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.


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