Reuben Rutledge on the kingdom of Champa


Champa (Indianized South Vietnam)

      During the Second Century CE Champa enters into history. This space was carved out of the weakened Han dynasty of China.  This took place in Southern Vietnam. The country was divided into a certain number of provinces that corresponded to the coastal plains. Little is known of the Indianization of early Champa. The Chinese sources were very quiet about this.

      Bhadyavarman, an early ruler of Champa, constructed the earliest temple created in honor of Shiva.  The origins of the Indian state are unknown. The Chams (indigenous people of South Vietnam) readily accepted the Hindu culture. The religion of the court was centered on Shiva/Uma (Parvati), but the rest of the Trimurti was also recognized. The Linga of Shiva was an accepted symbol.  


      With the fall of the Chin dynasty in China, Champa renewed its incursions, but the invaders were disrupted by a storm and had to abandon the siege. The Cham strengthened their incursions into China.  The Chinese set up another siege at Ch’u-su, and succeeded in conquering it. This was followed by an attack on the Cham capital where 100.000 pounds of gold were seized. The Cham king was left to die brokenhearted. His successor sent embassies to China during the years 456, 458, and 472 CE.

      In the year 529 CE a new dynasty began in Champa. The son of a Brahman now occupied the throne. He chose the name Rudravarman. In 543 he raided the north in a manner similar to his predecessors.  He was defeated by a break away group from China. The cause of his death is unknown but may have been due to the Chinese embassies. King Sambhuvarman took his place. He took advantage at the weakened Chinese dynasty to liberate Champa from vassalage. When the new Chinese king, Yang Chien, took control he sought to establish relations. Ten years later the Empire decided to launch a campaign against Champa.  Resistance was futile and the Chinese soon occupied Champa. Sambhuvarman assumed control of Champa and settled relations with China. After a succession of kings, Champa found itself run by a princess. In 653 CE King Vikrantavarman took the throne. Religious structures multiplied during his peaceful reign.

Reuben may be reached at and welcomes thoughts from readers. 


 Due to the rise of the Sailendra regime of Java during the last part of the Eighth Century, Southern Champa found itself in a critical position. The capital city was forced to move south. Posthumous names started being used for the dead.

      In 875 a new regime appears at the Indrapura. Indravarman II founded the new dynasty of Champa. Under him appeared the first appearance of Buddhism in the form of a monastery. Jaya Simhavarman I succeeded him.  Little is known about him.

      Indravarman III consecrated a statue of Bhagavati in 918. Around 950 he had to stop an invasion by the Khmer. But they stole the gold statue.  Finally the Khmer suffered a major defeat. In 965 Jaya Indravarman I restored the sanctuary that was repaired and a new statue of the goddess was installed. In 972 a new king, Paramesvaravarman, was installed. Very little was recorded about him. He was quick to set up relations with China. He was also the first Cham king to have trouble with the Vietnamese kingdom of Dai Ho Viet. He then sent out an expedition to reinstall a Vietnamese noble to the throne. It was destroyed in a gale. A year later he arrested the ambassador from Dai Ho Viet. In 982 Dai Ho Viet sent a retaliatory strike against the Cham capital where the city was destroyed and the king killed. A Vietnamese general named Luu Ke Tong seized power in Cham. 998 the Chams installed Harivarman II in place of the Viet king. This was followed by another invasion from Vietnam. His successor had to abandon the capitol in the year 1,000.  The strength of Champa was never restored. In the year 1000 the capital, Indrapura, was abandoned, and a new capitol at Vijaya was established. This was followed by a continuing series of wars. Requests for assistance from China went unheard. In 1042 Jaya Simhaharman sought investiture with China. 1043 he pillaged the coast of Dai Viet. 1044 the Viets took charge and in a maritime encounter defeated the Chm. The king was decapitated in battle. The victorious Viet army went on to capture Vijaya. Jaya Paramesvaravarman subdued the Viet and restored the sanctuary of Po Nagar. He also established embassies in China.

      Rudravarman III made war against Dai Viet. In 1068 the Viets responded, defeated the Cham armies, and captured Vijaya.  The fleeing king was caught and made a prisoner. After taking a census of the city, the Viets set it to fire along with the suburbs. Rudravarman III was released in 1069 and returned to Champa.

      Harivarman IV became king in 1074. Early on he entered campaigns that defeated Vietnam and the Khmer Empire. He spent much of his regime restoring the glories of Champa. The young king had little experience at running a regime. A regent (Prince Pang) was set up for the task. He eventually usurped the throne and was declared king.

      Once he re-established the throne, Jaya Indravarman resumed relations with China.  He also resumed relations with Dai Ho Viet. In order to recover lost land he attacked Dai Ho Viet. After some initial victories he lost the campaign. He reigned until 1113 restoring structures destroyed in previous wars

       During the beginning of the twelfth century, Champa found much of its territory, including the capitol, in the hand of the Khmer Empire (Cambodia).  There was asylum given to Rudravarman IV. He was crowned in 1145 but never reined. Jaya Harivarmam reign began in 1147.  During his seventeen-year reign he had to fight in order to maintain authority. Victorious at all times, he was able to multiply the establishments at the sacred towns at Mi-son and Po Nagar. In 1163-1164 he made additional endorsements to Mi-son.  It is also uncertain  what caused his death. Jayaindravarma IV took up office and found himself taking up hostilities against Cambodia. He attacked the king of Chenla and put the king to death.

         In 1177 the Cham invaded the Kmer Empire. Jayavarman VII took on the responsibility of undoing the previous misfortune. The date is unknown, but Jayavarman VII left the Kmer Empire and invaded Champa. This attack rid the country from the invaders.  1181 the Khmer Empire was freed from the Cham and Jayavarman VII took the throne. He then proceeded to restore the capital primarily Angkor Thom. After attaining neutrality with Dai Viet he again attacked Champa. The capital Vijaya was seized and Jaya Indravarman was taken prisoner. Champa became a divided nation. From 1203 to 1220 Champa was a Khmer province.  In 1220 the Khmer evacuated Champa and restored Vijaya. King Paraamesvaravarman II took the throne. The Thai were also a new source of combat for the Cham.  Conflicts with Dai Viet were occurring particularly over Cham piracy.  The Dai Viet led an expedition against Champa that resulted in the death of the Cham king.

      Indravarman V was coroneted in 1266. He sent embassies to Dai Ho Viet in order to maintain relations.  Kublai Khan then sent an invasion force into Dai Ho Viet and was defeated. This rid Champa of the Mongols.

      In the early Fourteenth century Dai Ho Viet sent an expedition into Champa and captured the king.   The Dai Ho Viet then placed a military official on the throne. The practice of sati among women is found in the log of a traveler.

      The origins of the kingdom Che Bong Nga is unknown. Ngo-ta Ngo-che became ruler in 1360. In 1369 he led several victories attacks on Dai Viet.  The Viets had to abandon Dai Ho Viet. In the year 1400 Ngauk Kluang took the throne. He had to give up property to Dai Viet in order to prevent a war. In 1407 the Chinese annexed Dai Viet. Cham territories were then returned. The Cham king then attacked Cambodia. 1428 saw peaceful relationships with the neighbors. In 1441 the country went into rapid decay. The Cham capital of Vijaya fell to the Vietnamese in 1446.

      Today the Cham represent a minority group in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. About fifteen to twenty percent of Vietnamese Cham is Hindu. The remainder is Muslim. Today about 77,000 Cham live in the provinces of Thuan Hai, Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen, and the Mekong Delta. Hindus, known as the Balamon, constitute 15-20% of the population. They share a common language with their Moslem compatriots. The two communities do not intermarry. The two traditions do live together harmoniously.








Coedès, Georges, 1968, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, East-West Center Press, Paris


Forbes, Andrew, 2001, The Chams: Survivors of a Lost Civilization, articles/20010703_01/


[1] Many of the names of early Champa are recorded only in Chinese.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.