Tamil and Sanskrit names in Cambodian Inscriptions and Folktales (Post No.5387)




Date: 2 September 2018


Time uploaded in London – 15-10 (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5387



Tamil and Sanskrit names in Cambodian Inscriptions and Folktales (Post No.5387)
South East Asian countries were ruled by Hindu kings for over one thousand years. Influence of Sanskrit language is seen everywhere, but Tamil influence was not noticed by many. When I read two books written by Judith M Jacob, senior lecturer at SOAS, University of London, I made some marginal notes and I give them below:-

Slave names in Cambodian inscriptions have beautiful Tamil and Sanskrit names. Some musicians and dancers have very poetic names e.g Vasanta mallika, (spring jasmine) in Khmer inscription K 557.

We may compare it with the 400 beautiful names in Rajaraja Choza inscriptions in Thanjavur. He had given the names of all the 400 dancers employed in the big Hindu temple. Some of them are beautiful Tamil names and others were beautiful Sanskrit names.


Slaves in Cambodia were treated as ‘goods’ possessed by an owner. They were gifted to temples along with lands and other goods.
A case suggesting two dependent parents is recorded on inscription K904,A1.23,
“me kandan, ta kandan ku Kandan” meaning mother of Kandan, father of Kandan.

Kandan is a Tamil name derivedfrom Sanskrit Skanda.
Va and Ku are used frequently in inscriptions, Va is Mr and Ku is Mrs or Miss.

In folk tales Kandhan , with Tamil spelling, Kam Raj, Krishna Kumar and Suvanna Kumar ( Swarnakumara) are used. Though these names are Tamilized Sanskrit words these are more common in Tamil Nadu than other parts of India.


Order of details in Inscriptions
Pre-Angkor inscriptions followed the same order in giving details like India. Here also we see Indian influence.
The date or name of the reigning king;
The title and name of donors;
The name of the god;
Names of the people from whom the donor obtained land to offer to the foundation;
The extent, location, capacity of the donated rice fields;
The names of the donated slaves with an indication of their duties;
Details of the subsistence given to the religious personnel;
Details of other lands given to the foundation, orchards, market, garden etc
List of precious objects given to the foundation;
The statement s that the revenues are to be combined with those of another foundation ;
Warning of punishment for anyone using or abusing the belongings of the foundation.

King Vikramaditya
‘Satra keng kantrai’ is a collection of legal tales known also in Laos, Thailand and Burma. In each case the dispute cannot be solved by a mere judge and has to be referred to the king. His judgments are wise and fair. When two women claim to be the mother of one child, for example, he settles the case very much as Solomon did.
It is like our Vikramaditya, a wise and just king.


Tamil Anangu
The frequent appearances in the stories of spirits ‘anak ta’ always associated with a specific locality such as a strangely shaped tree trunk or huge rock may be compared with ‘Thaakku Anangu’ in Sangam Tamil literature and Brahmarakshas in Sanskrit literature. This shows clear Indian influence. (Thaaku Anangu= Anak Ta)

When we look at all these stories we come across Sanskrit or Tamil words or parallel Indian stories. That shows even Solomon’s stories are borrowed from India and adapted.

‘Themen Chey’ is a story known in Cambodia, Burma and Thailand. It is the corrupted form of Dhananjayan, one of the popular names of Arjuna. Also a common name among business community of Tamil Nadu. In the story, he is a poor boy who rises first to be the servant of a rich man, then to attend upon the king, and finally to be the most eminent man in the land.



Who is Dhananjayan?

Picture: Dhananjayan with folded hands on left & Pandya king on the right.


I was fascinated by the name DHANANJAYAN when I found it in Mahabharata, Alupa coins, Cambodian folk tales, Vishnu Sahasranama, Nagas and history of Madurai Meenakshi temple. I also knew that Dhanajayans are famous names in Bharatanatyam. But I was provoked to do some research in to it when I read Dhanajayan under baby names it is the name of Murugan (Lord Skanda). I think it is wrong because I found no proof for that claim.


The most famous Dhanajayan was Arjuna. One of his ten names was Dhanajayan. If the roar of thunder is heard, Hindus used to recite the ten names of Arjuna to avoid thunder striking them. Arjuna got this name when he won the wealth (Dhanam= wealth, Jayan= victor) of Uttarakuru country in the north.


Bhagavad Gita Dhanajayan

The name Dhananjayan comes in Vishnu Sahasranama (couplet 70) as one of the names of Lord Vishnu. The meaning according to Sahasranama bhasyam is:

“Arjuna is called so because by his conquest of the kingdoms in the four quarters, he acquired great wealth (Dhanam). Arjuna is a Vibhuti, a glorious manifestation of the Lord, according to the statement of the Gita (10:57): Panadavanam dhananjaya:–among the Pandavas, I am Dhananjaya, says Krishna.”

Pandya Dhanajaya on Coins:

The Alupas, one of the very ancient dynasties of Karnataka, ruled for over a thousand years in the coastal tract of Karnataka. Even Ptolemy (79  to 168 AD) refers to the Alupas. They are referred to in the famous Halmidi (500 AD) inscription. The Alupas belonged to the lunar race and had fish as their royal emblem, exactly like the Pandyas of Madurai. Among the most important titles of the Alupas, were Pandita Pandya and Pandya Dhananjaya. This has been found on coins and inscriptions in Kannada. This shows Pandyas were very familiar with the name Dhanajaya. This takes us to the history of Madurai Meenakshi Temple.


Picture of Golden Lotus tank in Madurai Temple


Dhanajaya statue in Madurai

The story of the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple begins with a merchant called Dhananjaya. (Please read my article THE WONDER THAT IS MADURAI MEENAKSHI TEMPLE in this blog). A merchant by this name travelled to a neighbouring town and returned to his home town Manavur through the thick forest of Kadamaba trees. Since the sun was already set he took rest under a tree. Suddenly he saw bright lights. He hid himself and watched Indra and other angels from the heaven came down to earth doing Puja to a Linga (formless Shiva). He was so excited and reported it to the Pandya king Kulasekara the very next morning. The king visited the place with all his retinue immediately and built a temple over the Shiva Lingam and a city slowly came up around this temple. Anyone can see Madurai as a well planned city in the shape of squares within squares round the temple. It is called lotus city.

The statue of Dhanjaya is in the Golden Lotus Tank pillar inside Maduari temple. This story is narrated in Thiru Vilayadal Puranam in Tamil.


Surprise from Cambodia

Mahabharata’s character Arjuna had good connection with the south of India by marrying Chitrangada. They had a son by name Babruvahana/bull vehicle which also links to Shiva whose vehicle is a bull. When we read that Dhananjaya Pandya in Karnataka and Dhannjaya’s early connection with Manalur, the previous capital of Pandya, we see a link between Arjuna-Pandya-Dhananjaya-fish symbol- Bull Vahana/vehicle etc. This calls for deeper research in to this area.

Picture of Halmidi Kannada inscription


The next surprise comes from Cambodia. If someone sees names like Rama, Krishna, Buddha in Cambodia one won’t be surprised because we have a history of Hindu rule in South East Asia for 1300 years. (Please read my article THE PANDYA KING WHO RULED VIETNAM). This Dhananjayan is neither a king nor a historical figure. But he was a jester in a folk tale. The famous stories of Tenali Rama are duplicated in Cambodia by replacing Tenali Rama’s name with Dhananjaya. How did his name travel that far from India and how did he become a jester or clown is a mystery. This calls for more research.

Judith Jacob in her book ‘Cambodian linguistics, literature and history’ says:

“Thmenh Chey (Dhmen Jay or Dhananjay) is a story known also in Burma and Thailand. Thmenh Jay is a poor boy who rise, first to be the servant of a rich man, then to upon to attend the king and finally to be the most eminent man in the land. All this he does by his wits and in particular by outwitting his current master in verbal adroitness”.

I have read some of the stories and they are very similar to stories of Tenali Rama.


Asvagosha’s Dhanajaya

Asvagosha was one of the great writers of ancient India. He lived in the period of Kushan emperor in first century AD. Unlike other Buddhist writers he wrote in Sanskrit. Many Kavyas and dramas are attributed to him. One of the characters in Asvagosha’s drama was Dhananjaya! Probably Cambodian’s followed this fictional character to create their jester.


More Dhananjayans

Dhananjayan is a famous name in Bharatnatyam in Chennai. The couple started their own school in their names. The ancient Djhanajayas include the son of Naga woman Kadru, a Jain author who wrote ‘Dhananjayam’ and a commander in Lord Muruga’s army. This is the only link with Muruga/Skanda. Dhanajayan is one of the names of Agni/fire. Since Vedas connect Agni to Lord Skanda/Murugan we may see some distant link to Murugan.