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Angkor Era - Part I (834 - 1000 A.D)
History of Cambodia

Jayavarman III (834 - 877 A.D.)

After the death of the first Khmer king, his son Jayavarman III succeeded the throne and reigned for about 40 years.  Little account was known about this king, except his story of hunting the white elephants in two circumstances and he could probably build the Prei Monti temple.

Indravarman I  (877-889 A.D.)

He was the third king of the Angkor kingdom after Jayavarman III, and was regarded as the first great builder of the Khmer king.  How Indravarman I ascended the throne still remains in mystery as he did not seem to have any connection with the two former kings.  Indravarman I was a strong man, expanding his territory vigorously throughout Cambodia and moving his capital from Harilaraya to Roluos, about thirteen kilometers east of the present Siemreap town.

Indravarman I built at least two primitive Khmer temples, namely the Preah Ko temple, devoted for his royal ancestral spirits, and the Bakong, a mountain temple dedicated for the Hindu gods.  These two temples with another later one Lolei are collectively known as the Roluos Group, and their architecture was more or less a pioneer to the later temples of the Angkor civilization.  Indravarman I also built a large reservoir named Indratataka.

Yasovarman I (889 - 910 A.D.)

After succeeding the throne in 889 A.D, Yasovarman I built a new Angkor capital called Yasodharapura, located not far away from Roluos on the vast plain of Siemreap and about eight kilometers north of the the Great Lake Tonle Sap. At the center of this capital was the Phnom Bakeng Hill on top of which a temple was built with its galleries branching out in four directions to represent the heavenly residence of Hindu gods with the central Mount Meru and the other four sacred peaks.

Yasovarman I built one of the largest reservoirs in the Angkor Kingdom known as East Baray or "Yasohodharataka", with a length of 7.5 kilometers, a width of 1.83 kilometer and approximate depth of 4-5 meters.  The water capacity of East Baray was estimated at 55 million cubic meters, and this water was used to irrigate over 8,000 hectares of farmland.  Sanskrit inscriptions were found on the stele at each corner of the East Baray to praise the Hindu goddess Ganga, being revered in India as the river-mother goddess of the great Ganges River.

About half a kilometer south of East Baray, Yasovarman I built four ashramas which were the retreating residence of the serious religious believers. Apart from carrying out religious practice, each abbot of the ashramas was found to be somewhat like the manager of the king to help in controlling the water of the East Baray.

Today the East Baray is completely dry, and the four ashramas disappear.   The Pre Rup temple was built  on top of one of these ashramas.

Harshavarman I (910 - 923 A.D.) and Isanavarman II (923 - 928 A.D)

After the death of Yasovarman I, his son Harshavarman I became the next king who ruled over the Angkor for more than a decade. The two monuments built during Harshavarman I were the Baksei Chamkrong, a laterite temple north-east of Phnom Bakheng, and Prasat Kravan, built of bricks dedicated to god Vishnu.  The reign was followed by his brother Isanavarman II whose historical record was null.

Jayavarman IV ( 928 - 941 A.D.)

Possibly Jayavarman IV descended from the different maternal line of his preceding king and already held some power at Koh Ker since 921 A.D.  When Isanavarman II died in 928, Jayavarman IV ascended the throne and move the capital to his town of Koh Ker which was about 90 kilometers north of the Angkor.   At his new capital, Jayavarman IV had constructed an obscure Rahal Baray, untraditionally lying north-south direction, and difficult to engineer. It seems that the sandstone was first introduced as the building materials of the Khmer monuments during this time, as the 7-story pyramid built by this king as his state temple was made up of sandstones. Koh Ker remained as the capital for a short period of about 15 years.

Harshavarman II (941 - 944 A.D)

He was the son of Jayavarman IV, but was not the designated crown prince. Harshavarman II ascended the throne by force with the help of his cousin who later would become the next king.  During the reign of Harshavarman II, repetitive unrests and rebels broke out and could possibly cause the death of this king.

Rajendravarman II (944 - 968 A.D.)

As soon as Harshavarman II died, his cousin Rajendravarman II grasped the power and mounted the throne. He returned to Angkor as his capital, and started to build the mountain-temple of Pre Rup which was sited on top the ashramas installed by Yasovarman I.

Attaining his kingship in an unrighteous way, Rajendravarman II encountered difficulties in keeping his crown as successive rebellions from his rivals occurred during his reign. To acquire strong supports, Rajendravarman II reordered the state by dividing the kingdom into vishaya or provinces whose rulers were his loyal chieftains.  

Interestingly, a new myth of Khmer ancestors - Kambu and Mera, first appeared in the stone inscription during this time and was totally different from that of Brahmin Kaundinya and naga princess Soma.  This myth praised the legendary Kambu's couple exorbitantly as the Khmer ancestors and the word "Kambuja" means the descendant of Kambu.  Probably this legend had been in existence for a long time since the period of Chenla, but was first picked up by Rajendravarman II as his ancestors since he needed some sort of medium to persuade the people of his right to the throne.  

Evidently, Rajendravarman II had a strong military power as he did not only wage civil war with his rivals, but even sacked the Champa Kingdom located to the east in modern Vietnam and the Thai tribal states to the west.

Jayavarman V (968 - 1000 A.D.)

He was the son of Rajendravarman II and succeeded the supreme throne after his father in 968 A.D.  Jayavarman V had to fight vigorously with other princes in order to maintain his kingship.  For some reasons, he built a new capital at the vicinity of Angkor and named it "Jayendranagari" with the meaning of "the Capital of the Triumphant Monarch", which implied his victory over the enemies.  During his reign, two major complex were constructed, i.e. Banteay Srei and Takeo.

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Written by Aphisit W.
Mark Standen: Passage through Angkor

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Khmer Society
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Mastery over Water
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