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«A POINT OF HISTORY Jayavarman VII, A great Khmer king And an emblematic Figure Of the Khmer Nation By MEY SIPHAL His Majesty Jayavarman VII, the ...»

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Jayavarman VII,

A great Khmer king

And an emblematic Figure

Of the Khmer Nation


His Majesty Jayavarman VII, the greatest Khmer king of the Angkor era is fascinating in

several aspects. He is the only king, from the beginning up to contemporary period of our

national history who left behind for the posterity three statues at his effigy, one in Prasat

Preah Khan of Kampong Svay and two others respectively in Phimai to the north of Korat in Thaïland and in Krol Romeas of Angkor. Warrior king, he liberated the country from the Cham domination and, by a brilliant revenge, conducted a punitive expedition against this country he swallowed up and annexed to the Khmer empire. Under his glorious reign, Cambodia reached the apogee of its power and its territorial expansion1 « since it covered, independently of the Khmer country, the Champa, the present territories of Laos and Thaïland, a part of the Malay peninsula (up to the isthmus of Kra) and of Burma (up to the Salwen river).

That is why in the Khmer army conducted in 1207 against Vietnam there were Thai and Birman contingents ».2 Pious king full of compassion toward his subjects because he is a fervent mahâyanist buddhist, he built hispitals, one hundred and two, scattered throughout the empire, and innumerable rest houses (dharmasalas) along all the principal lines of communications within the empire. Great builder, he elevated several great monuments, the most important of which is the Bayon of Angkor Thom, Mahanagara the central State building of his reign he want to be the centre of the Khmer empire like mount Meru which is the centre of the world. It was from him the edict which was found on the stele of Say Fong in Laos and which says: « He suffered from the diseases of his subjects more than his own because it is the public pains which cause the pains of the kings, and not his own pains ».

These prodigious and particularly fascinating traits incite us to learn more about this great king. It is the object of the present article which tends to produce a very modest contribution to the study of this Chakravatin king, a great universal Khmer monarch at the image of the great Indian emperor Açoka who, like him, converted himself to Buddhism after wars and wars that caused innumerable deaths and indescribable devastations.

A. Dauphin-Meunier, Histoire du Cambodge, PUF, 1968, pp 44-45 Map : The kingdom of Cambodia under Jayavarman VII, Bust of Jayavarman VII found at Prasat Preah Khan of Kampong Svay. He was more than 50 years old.

The kingdom of Cambodia under Jayavarman VII The prince of Great Destiny: The future Jayavarman VII unifies in himself the great lines of pre-Angkor and Angkor dynasties Jayavarman VII came from the junction of three great dynasties. By his father Dharanîndravarman II he belonged to the dynasty of Mahîdharapura 3whose founders were Hiranyavarman and Hiranyalakshmi.

Genealogy of the Dynasty of Mahîdharapura, Lawrence Palmer BRIGGS, page 186 Genealogy of the dynasty of Mahîdharapura __________________

By his mother he came out from the union of two other dynasties, the dynasty of KambuMera whose the first kings were Śrutavarman et Śresthavarman et whose territory centred on Vat Phu in le Champassak4 in Laos covered the region of Mekong comprised between Paksé in Laos to the north and Kratié to the south and most part of the Semoun basin in the presentday Thaïland and the dynasty of Kaundinya-Soma of Founan whose direct representatives were Bhavavarman 1er et Harshavarman III.

Hiranyavarman and Hiranyalakshmi had at least three sons and one daughter5: the oldest one who was named Dharanindravarman 1er took the religious life. The second one was Jayavarman VI (1082-1107). The third son was called Yuvarâja (the crown prince). As for the daughter whose name was unknown, she gave birth to Narendralakshmi who will be the mother of the future Suryavarman II ( 1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat. The brother of Narendralakshmi, Mahîdaraditya, got married with Râjapatindralakshmi. From this couple was born Dharanindravarman II. The future Jayavarman VII sprang from the union of the latter with princess Jayarâcûdamani, daughter of Harshavarman III (1066-1080). As he was descended from these great pre-Angkor and Angkor dysnaties, Jayavarman VII inherited the great heroic values from these dynasties.

Map of the Khmer Region where is Vat Phu, Henri Stierlin, Angkor, Office du livre, Fribourg, 1970 Ascendants and predecessors of Jayavarman VII, Bernard Philippe Groslier, Inscriptions du Bayon, EFEO, Bref recall of the recent past: long period of troubles at the end of the reign of Harshavarman III (1066-1080) and continuing up to the event of Jayavarman VII in 1181 through Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat While Harshavarman III still reigned at Angkor, Jayavarman VI auto-proclaimed king and established his authority on the Northern provinces. At the death of Harshavarman III in 1080, his successor Nripatîndravarman continued to reside at Angkor until 1113. Durant this period, Jayavarman VI had to fight Nripatindravarman but he succeeded nevertheless to reconcile the favour of Harshavarman III’s chaplain, Divakarapandita, and to consecrate his authority by the latter. In order to render himself favourable to the celestial Powers, Jayavarman VI dedicated a good number of his sanctuaries to Shiva as well as to Buddha.6 As he had no children, he pass on, at his death in 1107, all his powers to his youngest brother but the latter died prematurely a few time later. Divakarapandita then transmitted the crown to his eldest brother Dharanîndravarman the first after the partisans of the deceased king had succeeded to get him out of his Buddhist monastery. As related to him, an inscription reports: « Without desiring of royalty, when his brother returned to Heaven, by simple compassion and yielding to the prayers of the multitudes of human beings without protector, he governed the earth with prudence ». Dharanîndravaraman the first reigned until 1112. Having been at the end betrayed by Divakarapandita he had however filled with honour and favours, he was overthrown by Suryavarman II (1113-1150) who was not anything else than his own second cousin.

According to the inscriptions of Vat Phu, Suryavarman II « took the royalty by unifying

double kingdoms ». He began by killing Dharanîndravarman 1er. The stele of Vat Phu adds:

« Following a fight which lasted one day, king Çri Dharanîndravarman 1er was stripped of royalty which was without defence by Çri Suryavarman …Leaving on the battlefield the ocean of his armies, he delivered a terrible fight. Leaping up on the head of the elephant of the enemy king, he killed him like Garuda who landed on the summit of a mountain, killed a snake ». Once Dharanîndravarman the first killed, he hurried to attack Nripatindravarman, the legitimate descendant of Harshavarman III he massacred. Divakarapandita, as loyal to himself as he was legitimated the coup of Suryavarman II and proceeded to his coronation in 1113. As soon as he was comfortably sat on his throne, Suryavaraman II sent his first embassy to China.

The history of the Songs mentions the coming of his embassies in 1116 and 1120.

Suryavarman II was a great conqueror. Immediately after his coronation, he went battling against his eastern neighbours, Champa and Dai Viet and against his western neighbours, the Thaï principalities of high Menam and the Môns to the east of Haripunjaya and made his conquests recognized by the emperor of China who conferred to him high distinctions.

Concerning his campaigns against Champa and Dai Viet, here is what A. Dauphin-Meunier

relates in his above mentioned work:

« Taking advantage of the civil discord which accompanied the event of Suryavarman II, the Chams tried to take root in the Mekong delta. Their bands harassed the Khmer’s coasts, sacked the villages, seized treasures from sanctuaries and took the peasants as slaves. As soon as he was consolidated on the throne, Suryavarman II hurried to chase them; in 1123, he pursued them into Vietnam. As the emperor of Vietnam, Li Công–Binh, assured the protection of the Chams who took refuge in his territory, Suryavarman II declared the war with him.

He sent against him an army of 20.000 men and a fleet of 700 ships; in 1131, as he was determined to win the A. Dauphin-Meunier, Histoire du Cambodge, PUF, pp 39-40 Vietnamese, he forced the Cham king, Jaya Indravarman III, to join his forces to his own. The Khmer and Cham troops did not succeed to vanquish the Vietnamese ; the Cham king withdrew from the coalition and even consented to recognize his vassalage to Vietnam, in 1136. Suryavarman vowed to venge. Obliged to leave Vietnam, he meticulously prepared against Champa a war which, in his spirit, will end up with the annexation of that country. In 1145, he went in war. He invaded Champa, crashed in the plain of Çaklang his adversary who was going to disappear, a little later on, death or prisoner, seized the city of Vijaya and occupied the whole country ; in 1147, he designated as viceroy of Champa his brother in law, Harideva. The annexation of Champa lasted five years; in 1149, the Chams in the southern districts raised up against the Khmer authorities, killed the viceroy and recognized as king a prince of their race who took the reigning name of Jaya Hari the first.

Suryavarman died at that time. His german cousin, Dharanîndravarman II (1150-1160) replaced him and pursued the war against the Chams… »

Between the death of Suryavarman II, the founder of Angkor Wat, occurred in 1150 and the accession to the throne of Jayavarman VII in1181, Cambodia crossed a period of troubles where there are only rare indications to light it. Dharanîndravarman II, the father of Jayavarman VII, was not the direct descendant of Suryavarman II because his name was not on the official listing of the successors of the latter. However he was the cousin of his predecessor by his father. It seems he became king7 « at the favour of some palace revolution, what explains the silence of the epigraphy during the last years of Suryavarman II. In addition, the new sovereign was Buddhist and broke away from a long tradition of Hinduism orthodoxy, although this tradition was tolerant towards Buddhism. What we know about him is that he got married with a daughter of Harshavarman III, princess Jayarâchûdamani, who gave him around 1125 a son who will reign later under the name of Jayavarman VII. The latter seemed to have been sent by his father, the new king, in a military expedition against Champa. The Buddhist fervour of Dharanindravarman II was attested by the inscription of Ta Prohm which talks of him in these terms: « Finding his satisfaction in the nectar that is the religion of that moon which is the Sakya (dynastic name of Buddha), putting the best of his power at the disposal of Bihikshus, Brahmans and all the subjects who implore him, desiring to extract the marrow from this body without marrow, impure sojourn, he honoured ceaselessly the feet of Jina (= Buddha) ». Dharanindravarman II, by his Buddhist faith exerted a strong influence on his son, the future Jayavarman VII. The latter will later estimate that it is thanks to the merits acquired by his father that he gained victory over the Chams. That is why he rendered homage to him and veneered him in his aspect of « Jayavarmeçvaralokeça » divinity8.

In 1160, at the death of Dharanîndravarman II who will have reigned 10 years, the throne was transmitted to Yaçovarman II whose genealogy was not known instead of his son, prince Jayavarman who fought with Champa. According to an inscription of Banteay Chhmar that cite G.Coedès and B.P. Groslier and which talks of « difficult road », the prince was surprised in a defile by the Chams and could have preserved his life thanks to the sacrifices of two of his generals, both of them natives of Vijaya (Champa). One of them the K.A.Ś. Vardhana (Kamraten Añ Śri = Anak Sañjak (general) divinised after his death), could be that military chief that accompanied Suryavarman II on the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat and that Dharanîndravarman II had assigned to protect his young son aged at that time of 35 years in that expedition9. Prince Jayavarman was wounded in that murderous ambush set up by the Chams. It was probably one of the reasons which, adding to his great responsibilities in the war, made him unable to put forward his claims for his rights to the throne.10 Nevertheless, this period which separates this date from the accession to the throne of Jayavarman VII in 1181 in occurrence 21 years remains obscure. It was completely ignored by the Khmer epigraphy. There is no any inscription that comes to explain it except a part of the inscriptions of Jayavarman VII and those and other documents from Champa and other neighbours. The Georges Coedès, Les Etats hindouisés d’Indochine et d’Indonésie, De Broccard 1989, p 298 et suivantes Madeleine Giteau, Histoire d’Angkor, PUF 1974, p.70 Bernard Philippe Groslier, Indochine, carrefour des arts, p.149 Bernard Philippe Groslier, Indochine, carrefour des arts, p.168 Brahman priests Divâkarapandita and Bhûpendrapandita I and II died under the reign of Suryavarman II and Bhûpendrapandita III seemed to have served only under Jayavarman VII.

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