Vietnam seeks ASI help in restoring ancient temples

Vietnam seeks ASI help in restoring ancient temples

"Yes, we have been approached by the Vietnamese government to undertake restoration works at the sanctuary which houses centuries-old temples, some dating as far back as the 4th century AD," ASI's Director General Gautum Sengupta told PTI.

Set in a valley surrounded by high mountains, the 70-odd monuments in My Son Sanctuary's precincts were badly damaged by US' week-long carpet bombing during the Vietnam war in 1969. The surrounding terrain is considered perilous even now because of another legacy of the war - undetected landmines.

In 1999, My Son Sanctuary, constructed by Vietnam's Champa kings between the 4th and 14th century AD, was awarded the UNESCO world heritage site tag after it won recognition as an exceptional example of cultural interchange.

After the Vietnamese government approached the ASI to help restore the temples, the body, on the direction of the Ministry of External Affairs, deputed a team of archaeological experts to study the ruins and submit a report to the Centre.

"The team made a detailed report on the project, including the cost that will be incurred for the undertaking, and submitted it to the MEA," the senior ASI official said.

For years, teams from Italy and France have been working on the site, dotted with red-brick shrines and other structures, mainly built in the Indian architectural style, he said.

On why India was approached to help restore the pantheons, Additional Director General B R Mani said, "The Vietnamese government has no expertise in conserving brick monuments. Our country, on the other hand, has a lot of brick and terracota structures, so this project isn't new to us."

He said although a majority of the temples in My Son Sanctuary had survived years of wars and natural calamities, worries still persist regarding their structural soundness.
"For conservationists, the challenge is much of the construction technique used to build the temple remains a mystery. The carvings on the temples, for example, were cut directly onto the bricks, rather than onto sandstone slabs inserted into the walls," Mani said.

The ASI is presently awaiting the MEA's nod before initiating the project, the official said.