o Nagar Nha Trang is a Cham temple tower built between the 7 and 12 centuries. These Cham Towers are are still actively used for worship by Cham, ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists.
Originally the Po Nagar complex is situated on Cu Lao Mountain, a granite knoll 2km north of central Nha Trang on the banks of the Cai River. It consists of three levels with seven or eight towers, but only four remain. The highest of which, the main tower (North Tower), is about 25 m high.
It’s thought this site was first used for worship as early as the 2nd century AD. The original wooden structure was razed to the ground by attacking Javanese in AD 774, but was replaced by a stone-and-brick temple (the first of its kind) in 784.
The towers serve as the Holy See, honouring Yang Ino Po Nagar, the goddess of the Dua (Liu) clan, which ruled over the southern part of the Cham kingdom There are inscribed stone slabs scattered throughout the complex, most of which relate to history or religion and provide insight into the spiritual life and social structure of the Cham.
All of the temples face east, as did the original entrance to the complex, which is to the right as you ascend the hillock. In centuries past, worshippers passed through the pillared meditation hall, 10 pillars of which can still be seen, before proceeding up the steep staircase to the towers.
In 918, King Indravarman III placed a gold mukha-linga (carved phallus with a human face painted on it) in the North Tower, but it was taken by Khmer raiders. This pattern of statues being destroyed or stolen and then replaced continued until 965, when King Jaya Indravarman IV replaced the gold mukha-linga with the stone figure, Uma (shakti, or female consort of Shiva), which remains to this day.
Above the entrance to the North Tower, two musicians, one of whose feet is on the head of the bull Nandin, flank a dancing four-armed Shiva. The sandstone doorposts are covered with inscriptions, as are parts of the walls of the vestibule. A gong and a drum stand under the pyramid-shaped ceiling of the antechamber. In the 28m-high pyramidal main chamber, there is a black-stone statue of the goddess Uma with 10 arms, two of which are hidden under her vest; she is seated and leaning back against a monstrous beast.
The Central Tower (Thap Nam) was built partly of recycled bricks in the 12th century on the site of a structure dating from the 7th century. It is less finely constructed than the other towers and has little ornamentation; the pyramidal roof lacks terracing or pilasters, although the interior altars were once covered with silver. There is a linga inside the main chamber.
The South Tower (Mieu Dong Nam), at one time dedicated to Sandhaka (Shiva), still shelters a linga, while the richly ornamented Northwest Tower (Thap Tay Bac) was originally dedicated to Ganesh. To the rear of the complex is a less impressive museum with a few examples of Cham stonework.
To get here from Sophia Nha Trang, turn right on Tran Quang Khai street after you exit the hotel, go straight 100 meters and turn left. Head north on Tran Phu street, pass 2/4 Square to Sheraton Nha Trang, stay straight on Tran Phu for approximately 10 minutes and you reach Tran Phu Bridge. Pass the bridge to the round-about of Pham Van Dong and Thap Ba Streets and turn right on Thap Ba Street. At the end of Thap Ba street you will see the Po Nagar Tower.
From Sophia Nha Trang, you can also reach here via streets of Hung Vuong – Le Thanh Ton – Quang Trung and 2 Thang 4, north across the Ha Ra and Xom Bong Bridges.
The entrance fee is around 1USD and the site opens from 7am to 7pm and 7 days a week. You can easily access to the site by car, by bus and motorbike.
The annual Po Nagar Festival is held from 21st to 23rd March of lunar year (approximately the end of April and beginning of May), when a lot of Cham people’s traditional activities are celebrated and people from all parts of Vietnam will gather to honour their Goodness who is called Yan Po Nagar or Thiên Y Thánh Mẫu.
The temple towers has a continuing religious significance, so be sure to remove your shoes before entering.
Proper name Po Nagar
Local name Tháp Bà Ponagar
Coordinates 12.265492N 109.196174E
Province Khanh Hoa
Location Nha Trang
Primary deity Yan Po Nagar
Local name Thiên Y Thánh Mẫu
Architectural styles Champa
History and governance
Date built Mid-7th to 12th century