Po Klong Garai Cham temple, architectural marvel of Ninh Thuan
- on Nov 1, 2019       By: BN
This Po Klong Garai Cham temple complex, classified as a special national site, is rightly considered as the most beautiful and grandiose among the Cham remains left on the coast of the central region of Vietnam which was once the lost kingdom of Champa. A must visit for history lovers in a region of great beauty that is still well preserved from mass tourism.
The Po Klong Garai Cham Temple is located on Trau Hill, on the very site of the Panduranga historic city, 7km west of the center of Phan Rang City, Ninh Thuan Province, between two well-known seaside resorts in Vietnam: Nha Trang in the north and Mui Ne in the south. This Cham architectural marvel, representing an important religious site, is a complex of 3 towers: Po Klong Garai main tower, Lua tower and Cong tower.
History of the Po Klong Garai Cham Temple
According to legend, Po Klong Garai tower were built by King Jaya Simhavarman III, who ruled the Champa Kingdom from 1285 to 1307. He wanted to honour King Po Klong Garai who was a young herdsman before becoming the king of the Cham of the first Panduranga-Champane dynasty, reigning from 1167 to 1205. Po Klong Garai or Jaya Indravarman IV was venerated by the Cham people because he settled the matter peacefully with the Khmers who seemed to want to invade his kingdom.
It is the French archaeologist Henri Parmentier who first in August 1901 undertook excavations on the site of Po Klong Garai. As chief of Archaeological Service of the French School of the Far East (EFEO) and essential member of this institution from its creation in 1898, Henri Parmentier is mandated by the EFEO to study and record the Cham monuments in Vietnam, especially in Annam the central region of the country, cradle of cham culture. His work on Po Klong Garai brought a more precise knowledge of these two dominant cultures in Indochina at that time, the culture of the Champa kingdom and the culture of the Khmer Empire. This central part of the Po Klong Garai site, known as Thap Mam - Binh Dinh, is rich in cham archaeological remains. Moreover, a gallery is dedicated to him at the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang where exposes many significant cham relics of Hindu temples built from the 11th to the 15th century when the center of power of the Champa kingdom was based in this place.
Architecture of Po Klong Garai Temple
The Po Klong Garai temple belongs to what is known as the Thap Mam style. The style of Thap Mam, between the 11th and 13th centuries, is considered more decorative and distinguished by simplified parts but with a very neat ornamentation that reflects the virtuosity of the sculptors of the time. At the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang you can admire the Thap Mam style with the Gajasimha sandstone or elephant-lion statue.
Cong Tower (Gate Tower)
After climbing a series of brick steps, you reach the first of the 3 towers of the complex, Lua Tower (Tower of Fire) located on top of a hill. This tower, all brick, is 9 meters high and has 4 entrances. This small tower was an entrance tower and it’s use was reserved to accommodate offerings for the traditional rites of the past. The Cong Tower (Gate Tower) also has 4 entrances oriented towards the 4 cardinal points. This elongated tower is distinguished by its saddle-shaped roof, which harmoniously illustrates the Thap Mam style of Cham Art. This tower is known to be dedicated to the god of Flames, Thang Chuh Yang Pui. As for the main tower, beautifully preserved, it is characterized by the purity of its lines and the austerity of its decorations. Above the front door is a sculpture of the god Shiva, considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Thap Mam style and listed in the historical-architectural remains of the Cham sculptural art. The main tower houses the stature of King Po Klong Garai (1151-1205) with the symbol Mukha-Linga.
The Kate festival
Traditional Kate Celebration at Po Klong Garai Temple
Every year, in the 7th month of the Cham calendar (between September 25th and October 5th), the Po Klong Garai complex hosts the Kate festival, the most important event of the year for this minority ethnic group, the Cham people. This 3-day event connects the Cham community with their gods and allows them to make wishes for exceptional harvests and the well-being of all beings. On this occasion, women and girls wear colorful costumes while men wear red and white suits. It is an opportunity to enjoy traditional Cham dance, song and music and immerse yourself in a fascinating culture.
Exhibition Center on Cham Culture
At the foot of the Po Klong Garai complex, there is an exhibition center of the cham culture that presents books, objects and a whole series of documents and relics that will allow you to know more about the ancient kingdom of Champa.
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