Po Nagar Tower - The soul of Cham people

Published:  02:14 Saturday - February 18, 2017

Po Nagar Tower - The soul of Cham people

Commonly known as Tháp Bà, the Po Nagar Towers are a complex of temples erected approximately before 781 A.D. It is known as the soul of Cham people here due to diversified culture and ancient civilization long time ago.

With its shimmering, blue ocean, white sandy beaches, grand hotels and tourist friendly resorts, including VinPearl (Hon Ngoc Viet), Bamboo Island (Hon Tre), Silkworm Island (Hon Tam) and the Hot Spa Tourism Centre, the southern city of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa province is a Mecca for tourists in Vietnam. In addition to all these modern attractions, visitors to the area also have opportunity to step back in time as well as explore relics from the ancient kingdom of Champa, most notably the unique Po Nager Temple Tower. 

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, there are a great deal of similarity between Angkor Wat and the Po Nagar Tower found in Nha Trang, therefore. 

Po Nagar is the biggest tower in an architectural complex comprising four temple towers that were built and upgraded several times from the 7th and 12th centuries. It is a square, two storey-tall, red brick tower with numerous tiers and level built on a hill outside the city facing east towards the sea. The bricks are laid so tightly together that the mortar is almost invisible. Visitors climb up many stairs to the upper level of the hill where four towers are situated in a square. 

The outside of the Po Nagar tower appears quite ornate with many pilasters, carvings and tiers of miniature towers on the temple roof. The main part of the tower has decorative elements such as bas-reliefs and terra-cotta statues symbolizing the goddess Po Nagar and the God Tenexa, as well as fairies and animals like deer, golden geese, lion, etc. The main tower is delicated to the wife of the god Shiva called Yan Po Nagar who was the goddess of the country. 

This tower has four vertical levels, each with an entrance and miniature towers at four corners. Inside the temple, there is a 2.6 metre tall statue of the Goddess made from black granite sitting on a lotus-shaped stone base and leaning against a large stone plate shaped like a fig leaf. This statue is considered a masterpiece of Cham sculpture, the perfect balance between carving, polishing and embossing techniques. The other three towers on the top of the hill are dedicated to the Indian supreme God Shiva and his two sons, Sanhaca and Ganeca.

The Po Nagar Festival is held from March 20th to the 23rd in the lunar calendar annually to praise the Godess who built up the land, kept the Cham race alive, discovered rice and taught the people how to farm and make handicrafts. 

Po Nagar Festival 

There are two parts of festival, a sacred ceremony and other festival activities. The ceremony begin with "changing the robes" of the Goddess, which involves bathing her with perfumed water and dressing her in new garments. This is followed by a solemn ritual, praising the merits of the Mother Goddess and bodies and waving their sun-tanned arms to invite visitors back to the time of the original, flourishing kingdom of Champa. 

Afterwards, there is dancing, singing and performances acting out the old stories and legends in front of the main tower. The beautiful Cham girls in the tower's mystical bas-reliefs seem to come to life swaying, their charming slender bodies and waving their sun-tanned arms to invite visitors back to the time of the original, flourishing kingdom of Champa.

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