Photo – Angkor Wat Temple (Angkor Kingdom)
The Angkor Kingdom :
The Khmer Kingdom, officially the Angkor Kingdom, the predecessor state to modern Cambodia, was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist kingdom in Southeast Asia. The kingdom (empire), which grew out of the former smaller kingdoms of Funan and Chenla, at times ruled over and/or vassalized most of mainland Southeast Asia.
Its greatest legacy is Angkor Wat, in present-day Cambodia, which was the site of the capital city during the kingdom/empire’s zenith. The majestic monuments of Angkor—such as Angkor Wat and Bayon bear testimony to the Khmer Kingdom’s immense power and wealth, impressive art and culture, architectural technique and aesthetics achievements, as well as the variety of belief systems that it patronized over time. Satellite imaging has revealed that Angkor, during its peak in the 11th to 13th centuries, was the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world.
The beginning of the era of the Khmer Kingdom is conventionally dated to 802 CE. In this year, King Jayavarman II had himself declared chakravartin (“king of the world”, or “king of kings”) on Phnom Kulen. Angkor Kingdom was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer. Thereafter the kingdom/empire was restored by a new king, Jayavarman VII, who established a new capital and state temple (Angkor Thom and the Bayon respectively) a few kilometers to the north. The kingdom/empire ended with the fall of Angkor in the 15th century.
The end of the Angkorian period is generally set as 1431, the year Angkor was sacked and looted by Ayutthaya invaders, though the civilization already had been in decline in the 13th and 14th centuries. During the course of the 15th century, nearly all of Angkor was abandoned, except for Angkor Wat, which remained a Buddhist shrine. Several theories have been advanced to account for the decline and abandonment of Angkor.
It is widely believed that the abandonment of the Khmer capital occurred as a result of Ayutthaya invasions. Ongoing wars with the Siamese were already sapping the strength of Angkor at the time of Zhou Daguan toward the end of the 13th century. In his memoirs, Zhou reported that the country had been completely devastated by such a war, in which the entire population had been obligated to participate. After the collapse of Angkor in 1431, many statues were taken to the Ayutthaya capital of Ayutthaya in the west, while others departed for the new center of Khmer society at Longvek further south, though the official capital later moved, first to Oudong around 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Phnom Penh in Ponhea Leu District, and then to the present site of Phnom Penh.
Some scholars have connected the decline of Angkor with the conversion of the Khmer Kingdom to Theravada Buddhism following the reign of Jayavarman VII, arguing that this religious transition eroded the Hindu conception of kingship that under-girded the Angkorian civilization. According to Angkor scholar George Coedès, Theravada Buddhism’s denial of the ultimate reality of the individual served to sap the vitality of the royal personality cult which had provided the inspiration for the grand monuments of Angkor. The vast expanse of temples required an equally large body of workers to maintain them; at Ta Prohm, a stone carving states that 12,640 people serviced that single temple complex. Not only could the spread of Buddhism have eroded this workforce, but it could have also affected the estimated 300,000 agricultural workers required to feed them all.
The Cham People (traditional enemy of Angkor Kingdom) :
The Chams, or Cham people, are an ethnic group of Austronesian origin in Southeast Asia. Their contemporary population, a diaspora is concentrated between the Kampong Cham Province in Cambodia and Phan Rang–Tháp Chàm, Phan Thiết, Ho Chi Minh City and An Giang Province in Southern Vietnam. An additional 4,000 Chams live in Bangkok, Thailand, who had migrated during Rama I’s reign. Recent immigrants are mainly students and workers, who preferably seek work and education in the southern Islamic Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, and Songkhla provinces. A large Cham diaspora also established in Malaysia following the turbulence during the Pol Pot regime, where they were quickly assimilated with the local Malay population. Cham people represent the core of the Muslim communities in both Cambodia and Vietnam.
From the 2nd to the mid-15th century the Chams populated Champa, a contiguous territory of independent principalities in central and southern Vietnam. They spoke the Cham language, a Malayo-Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family. Chams and Malays are the only sizable Austronesian peoples, that had settled in Iron Age Mainland Southeast Asia among the more ancient Austroasiatic inhabitants.
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