Situated in the Mekong valley between Thailand and Vietnam. Early history is poorly documented: Indian cultural and religious influences. Brahmanism and Mahayana Buddhism enjoyed favour and the Sanskrit language was used. Khmers took several hundred years to consolidate their power over the lower Mekong region and around Tonle Sap. Much archaeological remains. Some conclusions about early Khmer kingdom: culturally rich and creative; inscriptions are all connected with religious shrines; administratively well organized. Hinduism was predominant, in particular the linga cult of Siva was the essence of court religion.
Theme of conquest
Power consolidation – role of religion
Jayavarman II (8th century)
Founder of the Angkor kingdom (though not the actual city). Came to throne with a fierce desire to attain independence from Javanese overloads. Took into service a Brahman, Sivakaivalya, who became the first priest of the new cult which he established as the official religion – the Deva-raja (god-king. This is a form of Saivism which centers on the worship of a linga as the king’s sacred personality transmitted to him by Siva through the medium of his priest. Prosperity of the kingdom is considered to be bound up with the welfare of the royal linga. Its sanctuary was at the summit of a temple-mountain, natural or artificial, which was at the center of the capital and was regarded the axis of the universe.
From his time onwards for several centuries, it was the duty of every Khmer king to raise temple-mountain for the preservation of the royal linga. Thus arose the great temples. His reign made a great impression upon his kingdom. He was the founder of its greatness.
In the 9th and 10 centuries Saivism predominated. By the 12th century, Vaisnavism was powerful enough to inspire great foundations, such as Angkor Wat. But Buddhism always had its followers and was tolerated. There...