Saivism in Cambodia

bust of five headed siva
Bust of Pancha muka Siva from Cambodia, Metropolitan Museum, New York

Compiled by London Swaminathan
Post No.1485; Dated 14th December 2014.

Points from an illustrated talk by Dr R Nagaswami, eminent historian and archaeologist, at the KSR Institute, Mylapore, Madras on 2nd October 1983 ( Dr Sivaramamurti Memeorial Lecture)

1)There are many legends about the origin of the rulers of Cambodia –
a)Kaundinya, a Brahmana of the Agastya clan, receiving a spear from Aswathama (Drona’s son) coming to this land and planting it—his marriage with a local (Naga) princess – their son Bhavavarman founding the city, Bhavapura (There are analogues in Pallava and Chola legends in India).

2)Chinese version – A male – Huen Chan (Houentien) dreaming of a bow given to him by a spirit sailing in a boat – losing his way coming to this land – meeting, defeating local queen and marrying her.

The Kambojan rulers called themselves – Sri Kaundinya somoduhitr praabhavah. This rule could have commenced even as early as 100 CE. There are records and inscriptions – detailed and continuous from the fifth century CE to the present day.

Tagore’s Song
Note: i)Tagore singles beautifully, in Bengali, of the Aryan migration to the Far East:“The great god Vishnu spoke to me, as also Uma, the ten armed Goddess; Make ready thy boat, carry the rites of worship across the unknown turbulent seas. The rivers stretched their arms to the eastern ocean in a flow of majestic gesture…………And the heart of my land murmured to me its hope that it might build its nest of love and piety in the far off lands of its dreams”

siva cambodia
Siva from Cambodia

2)Prof.K.A.Nilakanta Shastri observes— “The Hindu colonists carried abroad a cult with them i.e. the cult of Saivism under the aegis of the then chief purohit/priest of the Pandyas, an Agastyabhatta.
The inhabitants of Kambudesa when the Aryans first arrived there were Khmers – an Austronesian people who had settled there about fifth century BCE and mingled with the local ethnic groups. The Aryans civilised them. The original Aryan colony was Fou-nan (Vanam in Sanskrit and Panom in Khmer), established at the mouth of the Ma Ganga (Mekong)—first century CE.
(The Aryan state Bohuvanam extended up to Laos and Annam in the north and the east and reached down to Malay Peninsula in the west.)

Rulers of Cambodia
After Kaundinya – I, there were other dynasties. A Brahmin sage from Malaya conquered the kingdom early in the fifth century CE and became Kaundinya – II (Siva Chandra Varman?); the successor rulers were Indravarman………. and Jayavarman(470 CE). The last one built new capitals, one of which was Vyadhapura (Angkorbore). He had a long reign of 44 years. His successor Rudravarman became a Buddhist. Later Bhavavarman seized Fou – nan and the empire was integrated. His brother succeeded him – Mahendravarman ruled from Sambhupura. His successor Isanavarman firmly established his suzerainty and extended his conquests – he called himself “Trilokapala” (Fou nan, Kamboja and Dvaraavati) and built a new capital Isanapuri. His successor BhavavarmanII (635 CE) and the next ruler was Jayavarman II (640-680 CE)…. Jayavarman IV (11th century CE) and performed a special sacrifice to free Kambudesa from Javan overlordship. He succeeded and was a great ruler.

Different Names of Siva
The inscriptions give different names of Siva (Ashtamurti) as also of Sankaranarayana, Sambhu-Vishnu, Hara-Achyuta, Hari-Sankara. Even Buddhist inscriptions begin with salutations to Siva or the content is about Siva. In later periods Buddhist Bhikkus, Saivite and Vaishnavite sanyasins lived in harmony, receiving equal patronage from the ruler. There references to Ashramas – Brahmana, Vaishnava and Sangata, with their duties and privileges.
Three headed elephant, Cambodia, Photo by John Farraloo

There is mention of Vedas, Vedangas, Puranas, the reading of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, different Darsanas etc. The Sanskrit inscriptions are of great poetic beauty, hardly surpassed in India.

Siva – Sakti apparently dual is declared as one. The Trinity is also one –“jayati – ambhoja bhavanah jayati! Ambhoja locana jayati ambhoja bhupendra prabho bhavah (1005 CE – Suryavarman’s inscriptions)

After death kings got the names Sivaloka, Isvaraloka, Parameswaraloka.

It is remarkable that rulers with same names – Mahendra, Rajendra ….. ruled about the same time in South India and Cambodia – protagonists of the same culture – R.R.
(Paper cuttings from 7th and 8th of October 1983, Indian Express)

I am throwing away all the old paper cuttings, before which I wanted to upload them, so that it benefits interested readers. Those who don’t have time to read voluminous Cambodian histories will get some idea about it. I have changed all the AD in to CE– swami

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