Po Nagar temple, known locally as Thap Ba, is an ancient temple of historical significance located in Nha Trang near the city centre. Po Nagar is a temple complex the most prominent parts of which are the 4 towers, often referred to as the Po Nagar Cham Towers, and the central statue of the goddess Yan Po Nagar who bears similarities to the Hindu deity Durga and is identified as the goddess of Vietnam. Po Nagar is an important part of Vietnam’s cultural heritage.
History of Po Nagar
Po Nagar temple is closely associated with the Cham empire which controlled large parts of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from the 6th to 15th Century AD. The origin of the Cham ethnic group, who are still identifiable as one of modern Vietnam’s distinct sub-cultures, are the source of some debate.
The Cham peoples appear to be descended from an earlier group of people who came to Vietnam by boat from Borneo and adopted Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and blended these religions with their own traditional beliefs. This multiplicity of religious traditions is reflected in the design and symbolism of Po Nagar temple with statues and reliefs related to several different religions at the same time. For this reason when you read the about the temple you will find that is variously described a Hindu or Buddhist or something else depending on the perspective of the writer.
The temple complex has grown and changed over time. The earliest written record of Po Nagar temple is an inscription at the temple itself stating that in 781 AD the Cham King of that period had recaptured the temple from foreign invaders who had damaged the temple and taken away precious stones and other items of value. From 781 AD onward the Cham peoples restored and added to the temple. Inscriptions at the temple show that the tallest of the towers was constructed in 817 AD. This period of gradual expansion of Po Nagar went on until the 17th Century when the Cham were displaced by the Viet peoples and visitors to the temple have hundreds of buildings, statutes, inscriptions and artefacts to see at the temple complex relating to a period of more than 900 years.
Travel to Po Nagar
Po Nagar temple is on a hill overlooking the Cai River in the northern half of the city which is joined to the southern and busier part of Nha Trang by the picturesque Tran Phu bridge. Nha Trang’s train station and bus station are in the southern half of Nha Trang and if you plan to visit Po Nagar more than likely you will be travelling from the southern part of the city. To reach Po Nagar temple by public transport take the a bus along the Tran Phu Road and alight at the first stop after crossing the bridge, its a short walk from there to the temple.
Nha Trang is over 400 km from Saigon and by train it takes 7 to 10 hours to travel from Saigon to Nha Trang depending up which train you take. Many travellers choose to book a sleeper berth on a overnight train to travel from Saigon as the journey by bus, or a day time train departure is long and tiresome. Waking up at your destination after sleeping on the train is an easier option.