Goddess temple

Dai Dien Trung village, Dien Dien commune, Dien Khanh district, Khanh Hoa province

  • Certification: 230826164718
  • National monuments

Goddess Temple is the religious architecture where Vietnamese worship Thien Y A Na, who is originally a goddess of the Cham people called Po Inu Nugar (also known as Ponagar). Vietnamese people often call her with many names: Fairy Goddess, Ngoc Goddess, Thien Y A Na Dien Ngoc Phi, Ngoc Dien Phi Goddess, Ngoc Tien Nuong Goddess (Fairy Goddess). However, the name Thien Y A Na is the most commonly used name.

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The legend was engraved on the stone stele at Ponagar Tower in 1856 by the minister of the Ministry of Ceremonies of Nguyen Dynasty Phan Thanh Gian, writing that: 

In the past, there was an old man and his wife who worked as melon growers and lived on Dai Dien mountain. The couple has no children. During the melon harvest season, the couple found that melons were lost every day. The old man watched and saw a girl about nine or ten years old picking melons from his field. He asked her why she had to be here alone picking melons. She said she no longer has any relatives. Lovingly, the old man took her home to raise and love her like a biological child. One day, it rained and windy; she remembered the scene of the fairyland, so she used rock and soil to build a fake mountain to play. The old man was angry and scolded his daughter.

Angrily, she hid herself in the floating Ky Nam stick and let the waves take her away. Ky Nam stick drifted to the distant sea. People felt the strange smell of wood and immediately picked it up, but no one could lift it. The news reached the court, the king sent soldiers to pick up the Ky Nam stick, but they could not lift it. When the prince, who was in his twenties, heard that strange news, he went to see it and strangely, the Prince brought the Ky Nam stick to the palace easily. One moonlit night, the Prince saw a beautiful girl appear from the Ky Nam stick, he immediately kept her and asked to marry her. Soon after, she gave birth to a princess named Quy and a prince named Tri. The relationship between husband and wife was growing stronger. But one day, she missed her mother and father in her homeland, and immediately brought her two children to the Ky Nam stick and returned to her homeland by sea. Arriving at Cu Lao Huan, she and the children went to the mainland. When they returned to their hometown, her old parents were dead. The old scene was ruined, weeds were overgrown. She immediately built a temple for her parents and taught the people to reclaim the land, cultivate crops, raise animals and weaving. One day she and her two children returned to heaven. From then on, she became awe-inspiringly powerful and often went back and forth to the mountain Yen Dinh Cu to save the world".

Goddess Temple is located in the middle of the way to the top of Dai An mountain, also known as Qua Son (Cucumber Mountain) in Dai Dien Trung village, Dien Dien commune, Dien Khanh district, Khanh Hoa province. The mountain is 284 m high. Goddess Temple is about 80 m high from the foot of the mountain.

Up to now, there is no document specifying the specific time when the Goddess Temple was built; but through the story of the local elder, Ponagar Temple was originally a small temple located with Dai An pagoda and after many times of restoration, the temple became a spacious place to worship Thien Y Holy Mother as it is today. Although the small temple named Dai An is no longer present, the blend of Holy Mother worship and Buddhist rituals is still intact and is a typical cultural feature in Goddess Temple.

The architectural system of worship at Goddess Temple has many similarities with the architecture of Khanh Hoa communal houses. The worshiping structure has the combination of worship which is similar to other religious facilities in the province and this is a religious feature of the people of Khanh Hoa. The architectural works in Goddess Temple include Tam Quan (Three doors), Mr. and Mrs. Tieu’s graves, stele, Son Lam temple, Ngu Hanh temple, and the main hall.

The Main Hall has been restored many times and now it has a three-compartment architectural form. If you only look from the outside, surely Goddess Temple is not an ancient relic, but when going inside, pilgrims will be immediately impressed by the worshiping decoration system here.

The first altar is the altar to worship the tablet of Tieu Cong husband and wife. Next is the worship room of Thien Y Holy Mother, which is splendidly decorated, which is the most concentrated point of the worshiping structure in the Main hall. Her statue is painted red and gold. On both sides are the shrines to worship the Six Young Fairies and the Twelve Old Fairies, also called the alters of Uncle and Aunt – two children of the Goddess. Although it is not large, it has an atmosphere of dignity and coziness.

As a long-standing relic of the Vietnamese people, it is revered and worshiped regularly by the people in the region. Under the Nguyen Dynasty, Goddess Temple was bestowed by the kings with the words “Hồng Nhơn Phổ Tế Linh Cảm Diệu Thông Mặc Tướng Trang Huy Thiên Y A Na Thượng đẳng thần”.

Goddess Temple festival takes place from the 1st to the 3rd day of the third lunar month every year and it takes place according to a traditional process: the “Mộc Dục” ceremony (the bathing of statues), the “Tam Hiến Trơn” ceremony, the main sacrifice, the sacrifices for Female mandarin, “Hậu Thường” worshiping ceremony (offering to the Goddess). The singing for the Goddess, incense offering ceremony and “Múa Bóng” (dancing offering) take place during the festival.

According to the traditional record, under the Nguyen Dynasty, on the occasion of the spring-autumn worshiping ceremony in Goddess Temple, the head of the province is responsible for organizing and presiding over the ceremony with very solemn rituals according to the regulations of the court. This further affirms the position of Thien Y A Na belief in the spiritual life of Khanh Hoa people.

Coming to Goddess Temple, pilgrims also learn about the history of the indomitable struggle of the people of four Dai Dien hamlets in the resistance war against the French. Due to the strategic position, the terrain in front is easy to control, the rear has a dangerous mountain position; In 1947, the French colonialists built at Goddess Temple a defense system consisting of many solid bunkers, back against the mountain. That is why, in this period of time, Goddess Temple was destroyed by war. Only the statue of the Goddess remained intact, making the people in the region believe in her sacredness even more and pass it on to this day.

It is no coincidence that the two monuments Ponagar Tower and Goddess Temple have become the two most important Holy Mother-worshiping sites in the province. Each relic itself contains distinct tangible and intangible values, but they have an inseparable connection, which is expressed through objects of worship, sacrifice rituals, folk legends, offerings, customs and beliefs of the Vietnamese people in Khanh Hoa.

According to Vietnamese legend, the day she descended to Goddess Temple was on the 1st day of the third lunar month, and the day she ascended to heaven from Ponagar Tower was on the 23rd day of the third lunar month. The place of human-manifesting and the place of holy-manifesting of the Holy Mother are two particularly important relics of the Vietnamese and the Cham people. The Vietnamese-Cham spiritual harmony is shown most clearly in the Goddess Temple Festival. That shows the ability to integrate and the harmonious and open attitude of the ancient Vietnamese in Khanh Hoa in absorbing the quintessence of other cultures. It is handed down in folklore “Goddess Temple – place of human manifesting, Ponagar Tower – place of holy manifesting”.

With tangible and intangible cultural values, in 1999 Goddess Temple was ranked as a national historical - cultural relic.