Founded before 781 A.D, Po Nagar is situated in the medieval principality of Kauthara, near modern Nha Trang in Vietnam. The Cham temple is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the country, and Thiên Y Thánh Mâu which is found to be the Hindu Goddess Bhagavathi and Mahishasuramardini respectively.
The History Of Po Nagar Cham Towers
There is a stele in the temple that dates back to 781 and indicates how Cham King Satyavarman regained power in the area of “Ha-Ra Bridge”, and he is responsible for restoring the devastated temple back to its normal form. The stele also indicates how the area had been subjected to foreign dominance, and how foreign vandals had damaged the existing temple.
There used to be a Mukhalinga in the temple, which was decorated with jewelry and resembled an angel’s head. “Men living on food more horrible than cadavers, frightful, completely black and gaunt, dreadful and evil as death had arrived in ships, stole the jewelry and had broken the linga,” according to the inscription. Historians deduce that those foreign robbers might have been from Java. Cham King Satyavarman then had chased the robbers out to the sea, but the treasure had been lost, forever. But the king restored the lingam in 784.
Under the reign of Harivarman I, the Cham military leader Senapati Par, made endowments. Vikrantavarman III, the successor of Harivarman I, also made endowments.
Another stele that dates back to 918 states that Cham King Indravarman III ordered to build a golden statue dedicated to goddess Bhagavati. Other steles say that the original gold statue was stolen by Khmer’s Rajendravarman II in 950, and then in 965, the King Jaya Indravarman I replaced the lost statue with a new stone. One stele dating back to 1050 state that Jaya Parameshvaravarman I made offers of land slaves, and precious metals to the statue. After reuniting the country in 1084, Paramabhodisattva also made rich offerings. Jaya Indravarman III added the Shivalinga and Shrishana Vishnu in 1141. Jaya Harivarman also offered rich gifts in 1160.
One stele states that “Jayavarman VII of the Khmer Empire took the capital of Champa and carried off all the lingams.”
When Viet people occupied Champa in the 17th century, they took over the temple tower too and called it Thiên Y Thánh Mâu Tower. Many legends came into being after that.
The Po Nagar complex
Situated on the Cu Lao Mountain, The Po Nagar complex consists of three levels, the highest of which encompasses two rows of towers. The highest tower is the main one with 25m height.
There is a 1.2m tall stone statue of goddess Yan Po Nagar at the center of the temple, sitting cross-legged, dressed only in a skirt, with ten hands holding ten different symbolic items.
Historians and scholars like Ngô Vǎn Doanh show that this figure is similar to Hindu Goddess Mahishasuramardini or Durga, the slayer of buffalo-demon.
There is another sculpture of the same goddess at the entrance of the temple, with four arms holding a hatchet, a Lotus, a club, and standing on a buffalo.
The style belongs to Tra Kieu Style of the Cham art from the end of the 10th century or the beginning of the 1tth century. However, scholars claim that it could be Hindu Goddess Mahishasuramardini.