A short distance north of Nha Trang, perched on top of a small mountain, stand the magnificent Po Nagar Cham Towers. This temple complex was built between the 7th and 12th centuries during the Champa empire and is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the Cham people.
The Cham towers once stood at the entrance of the Cai River in isolation on a rock foundation. Over the centuries, as the river changed course, the towers and the land it stands on became part of the mainland.
Today, the towers are situated north of the river and the rock formation it stands on became known as Mt Cu Lao. At the base of the mountain is the town of Vinh Phuoc, a former a fishing village.
Most of the original towers were destroyed with only four towers left standing today. The main tower, 22.48 meters high, is the tallest and most beautiful. It’s specifically dedicated to Po Nagar. The remaining towers are dedicated to other deities including Shiva and Shiva’s son.
Yan Po Nagar, the Goddess of the Cham people and wife of Shiva, is identified with the Hindu goddesses Bhagavati and Mahishasuramardini (or Durga).
The Cham people are an ethnic group in Southeast Asia. They are concentrated between the Kampong Cham Province in Cambodia and central Vietnam’s Phan Rang-Thap Cham, Phan Thiết, Ho Chi Minh City and An Giang areas. Cham form the core of the Muslim communities in both Cambodia and Vietnam. The Cham are remnants of the Kingdom of Champa (7th to 18th centuries).
A brief video of the traditional dance performance at the Po Nagar towers:
The kingdom of Champa was an Indic civilization that controlled what is now southern and central Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through to 1832. In 1471, Viet troops sacked the northern Cham capital of Vijaya, and in 1697 the southern principality of Panduranga became a vassal of the Vietnamese emperor. In 1832, the Vietnamese emperor Minh Mạng annexed the remaining Cham territories. Mỹ Sơn, a former religious center, and Hoi An, one of Champa’s main port cities, are now heritage listed. (Wikipedia)