Wat Phu on Laos’ Lingaparvata

Little do Indians know how glorious the emperors and sages of India were before the Mughal era. It appears today that India’s history seems to start only from the Mughal era forward, but to believe that would be grossly incomplete. If Buddha was born in India, how come there are Buddhists as far as Japan? How come there is an Angkor Wat in Cambodia many thousands of miles away? How did Balinese people learn about Ramayana and why do they still have annual Ramayana performances, to this day? How come Indonesia’s Navy slogan is “Jalasyeva Jayamahe” (Sanskrit)? How come there is a mountain called Lingaparvata in Laos, on which there is a Shiva temple called Wat Phu? India’s glory and Sanatana Dharma is spread far and wide by many great souls that are born time and again for the mere reason of spreading dharma to the world.

Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and a predominance of unrighteousness in this world, I manifest myself, O descendent of Bharata!

In this post we will learn about how King Devanika of the Champa dynasty built a city called New Kurukshetra in the Champassak province in Southern Laos. Kurukshetra was the name of the holy battlefield where the Mahabharata war happened in 3102 BCE. Kurukshetra is now in present day Haryana. The Khmer people had imbibed the lessons of the Mahabharata war and they respected India so much that they even named their cities after Indian cities.

In the early start of the 1st millennium, the region now forming Cambodia and Laos was ruled by the Champa dynasty of kings. They were called the Cham rulers. In 400 AD, the Cham King Devanika faced constant attacks from invaders coming from near the South China Sea. One day, very fearful and dejected about losing his land, people and former glory, King Devanika wandered into the forests buried in deep thought and worry. Tired and worn out from his long walk and depressing thoughts, Devanika took refuge in a mountain cave. An old wise sage, who was meditating in that cave, saw the dejected Devanika sitting down in a slump, and in his booming voice addressed the emperor – “Glory be to the divine powers. O King! What brings you here in such great distress?” King Devanika was surprised to find this monk, and immediately fell at his feet and poured out his heavy heart to the wise man “Oh wise sage, attackers are annexing my territory. My people are being killed and their families are being broken. I am at fault, because I have been incapable of protecting my people! It is a shame O great sage, such a shame!”

The omniscient wise man just smiled and said “O almighty king, the time has come for you to regain your glory in a new land. Did you know that Lord Shiva himself has descended from the heavens and taken abode atop a mountain? The lingam stands resplendent in the rising sun. Go and find the Lord, O King! Build a stately temple that is as majestic as Lord Shiva himself. Worship that lingam, and all your former glory will be restored. You shall build a new empire, your progeny shall flourish and dharma shall be established. Go! Do not waste precious time in lamenting thus! With the grace of the Lord, anything can be achieved” King Devanika’s courage was restored by these auspicious words of the omniscient sage. He bowed to him in deep respect and set out for his search.

In this context, one remembers the verse:

O eternally blissful Madhava, to you I bow, by whose grace alone does even a dumb man expound and a lame man surmounts a mountain.

King Devanika assembled his troubled people, and they all began their pilgrimage in search of Lord Shiva. After several weeks of tiring journey, they arrived at the base of a tall mountain and decided to camp for the night. At dawn, the golden rays of the sun began to escape the horizon and lit up the sky in a beautiful tint of red. Devanika was awakened by the chirping birds, and he stood up, rubbing his eyes and lo! On the top of that very same mountain stood the lingam glowing in the golden rays of the rising sun. He was stunned by this breath-taking view. When everyone awoke, they celebrated for having found the abode of Lord Shiva.

As foretold by the sage, Devanika had found the new land where he had to establish his dharmic rule. Inspired by the principles set forth in the Mahabharata war, he named this land “New Kurukshetra”. The mountain was named “lingaparvata” (the mountain of the linga). Devanika established his new empire with Kurukshetra as his capital. The people that lived in the region along with the people who came with Devanika, became the forerunners of the prosperous Khmer people. As foretold by that great sage, Devanika had once again established peace and dharma. A huge temple called Wat Phu was built on this temple. Wat Phu exists even today and is one of the most beautiful Hindu temples in Laos. But it is in ruins. If the ruins themselves are so majestic and astounding in their architecture, the human mind can only perceive how magnificent the original temple would have been.

Mahabharata had happened in 3102 BCE. King Devanika had found the lingaparvata in 456 CE. It is heartening to note that even 4800 years after the great war, these great kings still remembered the dharmic lessons from the war and were inspired by it. India’s cultural influence had spread to very distant lands. The Sanskrit insciptions found in excavations from this lingaparvata site indicate that the city that lay under the rubbles was in fact a meticulously well-planned city. The Khmer kings that followed Devanika were also very prosperous, until their decline in 14th century was caused by western aggression.

People and civilizations may come and go. Buildings and cities may be destroyed by time. These are all transient. But the divine vibrations are always present to help those who seek the truth – one just has to tune in.

  1. #1 by praggya on October 18, 2009 - 4:10 am

    Good learning…Yeah.. one just have to tune in..

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