Vietnam Backpacl Travel Guide – Po Nagar is a Cham temple tower founded sometime before 781 and located in the medieval principality of Kauthara, near modern Nha Trang in Vietnam. It is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the country, who came to be identified with the Hindu goddesses Bhagavati and Mahishasuramardini, and who in Vietnamese is called Thiên Y Thánh Mâu.
|Toàn cảnh Tháp Bà (Ảnh – Khánh Hmoong)|
|Ảnh – Redstone Hill|
A stele dated 781 indicates that the Cham King Satyavarman regained power in the area of “Ha-Ra Bridge”, and that he restored the devastated temple. From this inscription can be deduced that the area previously had come under temporary foreign dominion, and that foreign vandals had damaged the already existing temple. Other steles indicate that the temple had contained a mukhalinga decorated with jewelry and resembling an angel’s head. Foreign robbers, perhaps from Java, “men living on food more horrible than cadavers, frightful, completely black and gaunt, dreadful and evil as death” had arrived in ships, had stolen the jewelry and had broken the linga. Though the king had chased the robbers out to sea, the treasure had been lost forever. The steles also indicate that the king restored the linga in 784.
A stele dated 918 by the Cham King Indravarman III states an order to build a golden statue to the goddess Bhagavati. Later steles report that the original statue was stolen by the Khmer, and that in 965, the king replaced the lost statue with a new one. A stele dated 1050 says that offerings of fields, of slaves, of jewelry and of precious metals were made to the statue. Later steles indicate the celebration of a cult in honor of the goddess Yan Po Nagar, as well as the presence of statues dedicated to the principal deities of Hinduism and Buddhism.
In the 17th century, the Viet people occupied Champa and took over the temple tower, calling it Thiên Y Thánh Mâu Tower. A number of Vietnamese legends regarding the goddess and the tower have come into being.
The Po Nagar complex is situated on Cù Lao Mountain. It consists of three levels, the highest of which encompasses two rows of towers. The main tower is about 25 m high.
Durga, the slayer of the buffalo-demon, is represented on the pediment above the entrance to the temple. The temple’s central image is a 1.2m tall stone statue of the goddess Yan Po Nagar sitting cross-legged, dressed only in a skirt, with ten hands holding various symbolic items. According to Vietnamese scholar Ngô Vǎn Doanh, these attributes show that Yan Po Nagar was identified also with the Hindu goddess Mahishasuramardini or Durga, the slayer of the buffalo-demon. Another sculpture of the goddess as Mahishasuramardini may be found in the pediment above the entrance to the temple: it depicts the four-armed goddess holding a hatchet, a lotus and a club, and standing on a buffalo. This sculpture belongs to the Tra Kieu style of Cham art from the end of the 10th century or the beginning of the 11th
What to see
|Tầng giữa của Tháp Ponagar (Ảnh – [ 117 Imagery ])|
Compared to the original design, the towers nowadays have only a few differences (except for the Golden Dome which has been robbed by pirates). The four Po Nagar Towers today are truly beautiful and charming. Each of them was built to dedicate to a unique deity.
The largest, which is 23m high, was built in 817 AD and contains a linga and a statue dedicated to Ponagar, who is said to have taught new agricultural and weaving techniques to people of the area. In gratitude they have built the complex to honour the Goddess. The central tower is in honour of Cri Cambhu who blesses devotees with fertility, ence childless couples often visit and pray there. The North West tower is in honour of Sanhaka, a wood cutter and foster father to Ponagar. The tower in the south was dedicated to Ganeca, the daughter of Ponagar.
If you are interesting in history, you can be amazed to find hundreds of ancient relics displayed inside the complex. If you love taking travel photographs, the promontory on which the towers stand has a fantastic view of Cai River and the village on the riverside. If you want to discovery the hidden charm of the Cham people’s culture, you can watch as many traditional dance shows as you want.
How to get there
|Ảnh – hieu.trungtran|
The entrance fee is as low as $1 and the site opens from 7am to 7pm. Access to the site is easy done by both car and motorbike.
|Hình nữ thần Durga đang múa giữa hai nhạc công ở tháp chính (Ảnh – Alex Chong)|
The annual Thap Ba Festival is held from 21st to 23rd Mar of Lunar Calendar (approximately the end of Apr and beginning of May), when a lot of Cham people’s traditional activities are operated and people from all parts of the country will gather to honour their Goddess.