Po Nagar Cham Towers
2 Thang 4 road (end of Som Bong Bridge), Nha Trang city, Khanh Hoa province, VietnamPrices
Admission 21,000dOpening hours
6:00 am - 7:00 pm
Commonly known as Thap Ba, the Po Nagar Cham Towers are a complex of temples erected approximately before 781 A.D
Historically, Cham is an ancient civilization that was really influential in Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam and Cambodia. The Cham ruled Vietnam for 10 centuries, their unmistakable architecture and art style had spread widely across places in the country. They are said to have their root in the India’s Buddhism. Thus, there are a great deal of similarity between Angkor Wat and the Po Nagar Towers found in Nha Trang.
History and architecture
Po Nagar Cham temple complex was built between 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 their own 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 Cambodia and Thailand.
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. Although most Cham people have converted to Islam, they still worship their gods at Po Nagar Cham Towers during 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 honour 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 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 metres, 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 honour.
To the centre 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.
What to see
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
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. Po Nagar Cham Towers are situated on the high ground of Mount Cu Lau on the bank of River Cai, a few kilometres north from the city centre.
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.
Cham cultural shows occur behind the main tower when there are enough visitors.