The Mysterious Charm of Po Sah Inu Cham Towers

Exploring the essence of ancient Champa culture.

The Po Sah Inu Towers, also known as the Cham Towers of Phố Hài, are a few of the remaining, iconic structures of the ancient Champa Kingdom. They are a noteworthy achievement of a once-vibrant culture, preserved in Bình Thuận province.

Bình Thuận is widely known as a land of cultural diversity, with the Sa Huỳnh and Cham standing out in particular. Sa Huỳnh flourished in central Vietnam 2,500-3,000 years ago. It was the predecessor to the Chams, who thrived between the 9th and 10th century. The Chams’ customs, daily life, clothing, writing, ceramics and architecture can be seen in the Po Sah Inu Cham Towers complex.

The Po Sah Inu Towers are situated on Bà Nài Hill of Phú Hải Ward, about seven km northeast of Phan Thiết’s city centre. These towers were built in the 8th-9th century to worship Shiva, the powerful god that Indians and Chams revered.

By the 15th century, a number of smaller temples with simpler architecture were built in this area to worship Princess Po Sah Inu, daughter of Para Chanh King. She was adored by the Cham people because of her talent and virtue. Legend has it she taught people how to grow rice, weave and breed livestock. During reconstruction (1992-1995), archaeologists discovered a large shrine buried underground for more than 300 years that complements the three main towers.

The unique architecture of the towers.

The complex was designed in the prominent Hòa Lai style of the ancient Cham people. It is regarded as a masterpiece they left to mankind. In 1991, the Po Sah Inu Cham towers were classified as a National architectural and artistic monument by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The Po Sah Inu Cham towers consist of three structures, constructed from red bricks bound together without any visible mortar – a signature style in Cham architecture. The biggest and primary tower is 15 metres high, located in the centre. It is protected by one main, long entrance facing east, where the deities reside. There are three spurious entrances in the other directions. The tower has three floors, each decorated with flowers and bizarre figures densely carved on the brick surface. Inside, you can see the stone altars of Linga and Yoni, the abstract symbols of the Hindu god Shiva.

Po Sah Inu Cham towers complex.
Po Sah Inu Cham towers complex.

Next to the primary structure is the tower where the deity of fire is worshipped. It looks like a kitchen from afar. At four metres high, this tower is the lowest in the complex, and simplest in terms of decoration. Far to the north is the tower of the Nandin deity, a guardian of Shiva. At about 12 metres tall, it has the same structure as the primary tower but minimal detail for harmony.

Symbol of the Champa culture’s essence.

The majestic beauty of the towers lives on.
The majestic beauty of the towers lives on.

Although many buildings have been destroyed, the Po Sah Inu Cham Towers stand firm as a testament to the ingenuity of ancient Cham architecture.

The Po Sah Inu Cham Towers are a significant legacy and are honoured by today’s Cham ethnic group in Bình Thuận province. Every year, a lot of major activities take place here, such as the Kate festival on July 1 of the Cham Calendar (September or October). The Rija Nagar and Poh Bang festivals (similar to the Lunar New Year of the Vietnamese people) are held at the beginning of the Cham calendar’s first month. This is when Cham people celebrate the harvest and pray for rain. During the festivals, joy and pleasure are reflected through the Cham girls’ graceful dance moves, harmonizing with the bustling rhythms of the drumbeat and captivating visitors.

The majestic beauty of the towers lives on. Centuries have passed, but the majestic beauty of the Po Sah Inu Cham Towers still exudes the essence of Champa culture and they are the pride of the Cham people residing in Bình Thuận province.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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