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Jayavarman II (J II) the first king of the Angkor dynasty.(Unfinished & Subject to alteration;25 Sept. 2014)

 Jayavarman II had left very few inscriptions and had not been recorded by the Chinese chronicles. So, we have little evidence about him. Only the Sdok Kak Thom inscription (SKT=K235) dated 1052 in the reign of Udayādityavarman II, tells us his history however it was made nearly 200 years later after his death.

SKT inscription recounts that on the top of the Kulen mountain, Jayavarman II instructed a Brhaman, Hiranhadama to conduct a religious ceremony as the cult of the ‘Devaraja’ which place him as a ‘Chakravatin’, universal monarch. In 802, he declared independence from ‘Java.’  But no inscription was left to record this event.

J II is said to have returned from ‘Java’ in 770, but not sure and his age was unknown. In this case ‘Java’ means the Malay Peninsula, probably Chaiya area, and not the Jawa Island. He died in 834, so he must have landed in early 20s. He could not have ‘returned’ alone, because he had started conquering the whole Cambodia. Without doubt he had been supported by Śailendra (Srivijaya)army. That means he was a member of royal family of Srivijaya and was assigned the commander of Śailendra army.
In the past Srivijaya had assigned their royal prince as the commanders of invading force, for instance ‘Dapunta Hyang’ in case of Palembang and ‘Dapunta Selendra’ in case of Pekalongan (the central Jawa).

Before invading Cambodia, several important events happened in this area.

1) Funan was kicked out from Cambodia by Chenla

In the middle of the 5th century, Funan had been kicked out from the Mekong Delta by Chenla and the Royal family of Funan fled to ‘Ban-Ban’, the kingdom of the Bay of Bandon, at Surat Thani area. Funan occupied Ban-Ban and established the base of Srivijaya (Shi-li fo-chi=室利仏逝) in the middle of the 3rd century. Acctually Funan had used Ban-ban as its proxy state to make tribute to China since the 5th century. Ban-ban was more convenient to send tributary mission to China, because the western precious goodg were transported to Ban-ban from Talua Pa, the west port of Ban-ban. The number of tribute mission from Ban-ban increased in the 6th and 7th century. Funan apparently changed its port from Oc-Eo to Chaiya after 5th century. Srivijaya had sent the first tributary mission to the Tang Court in 670, not 695 as Coedés says. Coedés considered Srivijaya was founded in 683 at Palemabng, so it is inconvenient for Coedés that Srivijaya had sent mission to China in 670 however Srivijaya had not sent its envoy to the Tang in 695. Coedés told a lie or made big mistake here.

2) Formation of Srivijaya(Shi-li-fo-shi=室利仏逝)

Funan fled to the Ban-Ban with their fleet of navy and continued to dominate the Gulf of Thailand. So, Chenla could not use the sea route to send tributary mission to China and once went to China with Champa in 628., and usually used the land route. So Chenla had to destroy Srivijaya to dominate the Gulf of Thailnd.

Srivijaya had sent the last envoy in 741 and after that Srivijaya disappeared from the document of the Tang Court and in 904 reappeared, but it was ‘San-fo-chi = 三仏斉=Three Vijaya. San-fo-chi was the newly established polity by three major Srivijaya states, Chaiya, Kedah and Jambi.

Probably after 741, Chenla (‘Water Chenla) army attacked the capital of Srivijaya, Chaiya and neighboring port, Nakhon Si Thammarat, at that time called Langkasuka. Chenla’s sudden attack was successful and many officials of Srivijaya were killed, but the Maharaja might have escaped.

3) Srivijaa counter attacked Chenla。

Soon after the event, Srivijaya intended to counter attack and regain the occupied area. At that time Srivijaya group had at least 14 states and the second capital was located at Kedah. The allied army of Srivijayas successfully kicked out Chenla   from Chaiya area around in 760. The major state of the allied force was the Śailendra kingdom, from the central Jawa. The commander of the Śailendra army was Prince Panangkaran, who later was recommended to take the title of the Maharaja of Srivijays. After he went back to the central Jawa, he also took over the reign of kingdom ‘Kha-ling’ in 760s. Before that the central Jawa had been reined by Sanjaya-line, former kingship of Kha-ling state. In the central Jawa, there is Canggal inscription dated 732 which does not mention Śailendra, and tells the names of Sanjaya kings. At that time the central Jawa had been nominally reined by Sanjayas, and the all navy had been controlled by the Śailendras since 686. 

Panangkaran was the ruler of Mataram Kingdom after 760, and was assigned Maharaja of Srivijaya later throned the kingdom of Mataram, the central Java island. He was crowned as Rakai Panangkaran but at the same time he was the Maharaja of Srivijaya. The Sanjayas were Hindus while Śailendras were Buddhists.

The victory over Chenla force was memorialized as so called the ‘Ligor (Chaiya) Inscription’ dated 775 AD. It was originally set up at Wat Hua Wieng, Chiya.

1. Formation of Śailendra=Srivijaya occupied Kha-ling

Before the Ligor inscription’s ceremony, new ‘Kha-ling’ sent its first tributary mission to the Tang Dynasty in 768. This ‘Kha-ling’ was Śailendra, the champion state of Srivijayas. Śailendra had to send its mission under the name of ‘Kha-ling’, because the Tang Court had strictly proibited quarrel or fighting among tributary states. So, Śailendra disguised as the same state of ‘old Kha-ling’ which had sent the last mission in 666. In 686, Srivijaya sent navy from the Bangka Island, the evidence is the ‘Kota Kapur Inscription’.

The Kota Kapur Inscription was discovered in western coast of the Bangka Island, off-coast South Sumatra in December 1892. It was named after “Kota Kapur” village. This inscription is using old Malay language written in Pallava letters. It was one of the oldest surviving written evidence of ancient Malay language. The inscription dated first day of ‘half-moon Vaisakha’ on the year 608 Saka (28 February 686 A.D.), mentioned about the curse of whomever committed treason against Srivijaya and the starting of Srivijayan invasion against Java. Coedés said that Srivijaya invaded ‘the West Jawa’ the ancient kingdom Taruma, however Taruma had never been a rival of Srivijaya, and not recorded in the “Shin-Tang Shu” and other chronicles of the Tang era. Srivijaya had without doubt targeted at ‘Kha-ling’ in the central Jawa. Coedés told the second lie here or made serious mistake.

Coedés thought Funan had fled to the Jawa Island after being kicked out ftom the Mekong delta in the middle of 6th century and there Funan established ‘Śailendra(mountain King)’ dynasty, so Srivijaya had no reason to invade the central Jawa. As the result Coedés made the new scenario that Srivijaya army went to the ‘West Jawa’. This is  a fiction of Coedés, and few historians have detected his contradiction.

As the solid fact, Srivijaya navy had easily conquered the old ‘Kha-ling’. In 1963, at Sojomerto village near Pekalongan, the biggest port of the central Jawa, an old inscription was discovered, on which the name of ‘Dapunta Selendra’ was engraved. ‘Selendra’ means ‘Śailendra’ in Sanskrit. The inscription was written in old Malay with Kawi (old Indonesian) script. Michael Vickery says Selendra is local indonesian’s name and has no significant meaning. However Dapunta Selendra was without doubt the commander of the Srivijaya navy dispatched from the Bangka Island.

After the victory, the commander Śailendra was assigned as the ruler of the central Jawa by Srivijayas. Srivijaya avoided to change the name of kingdom and gave old ruler the kingship. Considering strict regulation of the subordinate states of the Tang Dynasty, Srivijaya could not have completely occupied and reined Kha-ling. As a matter of fact it was impossible for the Srivijaya force to take full responsibility of governing the whole Jawa. Actually Srivijaya had little experience to control farmers and collect tax from them.

2. Srivijaya invaded Cambodia, commander was Jayavarman II

After the victory of the Chaiya area, Srivijaya sent navy to the Mekong River and ocupied major ports of Khmer and probably captured one of Chenla king and killed him. Srivijaya sent back his head to the prince of Chenla. The similar story is written by Sulaiman as quoted its translation by Q. Wales (“Towards Chaiya”, p175-178)

‘An Arab merchant, Sulaiman by name, who travelled through the empire of Zabag (Srivijaya) in about A.D. 851, has handed down to us the following account which tells us exactly how the matter came out, and is of such lively interest that I shall quote it in extenso. It would appear that in this case the Cambodian king brought the trouble upon himself, though one can well imagine that the King of the Mountain, or Maharaja as he is termed by the Arab writer, was not averse to taking advantage of the opportunity offered. As we know from other sources, these events took place in the last quarter of the eighth century, following quickly on Śailendra’s southern conquests.


They say that formerly there was a Khmer king who was young and rash. One day he was sitting in his palace which overlooked a river resembling the Tigris (from the palace to the sea the distance was a day’s journey), and his minister was with him. He was discussing with his minister the grandeur of the kingdom of the Maharaja of Zabag, of its immense population, and of the large number of islands which it comprised. “I have a desire,” said the king, “that I should like to satisfy.” The minister, who was sincerely devoted to his sovereign, and who knew with what rashness he often msde up his mind, replied, “What is your Majesty’s desire?” The latter answered, “I wish to see the head of the Maharaja, King of Zabag, before me on a plate.” The minister understood that it was jealousy that had suggested this to his sovereign, and said, “I do not like it, your Majesty, to hear my sovereign express such a desire. The peoples of Cambodia and Zabag have as yet shown each other no hatred, and Zabag has done us no harm. It is a distant land, and its king has shown no wish to attack us. No one must hear about this desire, and it must never be repeated.” The Khmer king was angry with his minister, and ignoring the advice of his wise and loyal counsellor, repeated the proposal before the generals and courtiers who were present

 The idea spread from mouth to mouth, until it reached the knowledge of the Maharaja of Zabag himself. The latter was energetic and experienced monarch, who had then reached a mature age. He called his minister and informed him of what he had heard, adding, “After the proposal that the foolish Khmer king has made in public concerning a desire which is born of his youth, I must take steps in the matter. To take no notice of these insults would be no humble myself before him.” The King ordered his minister to keep this conversation secret, and to go and prepare a thousand ships of moderate size, to equip them. And put on board arms a many valiant troops as possible. To explain the situation it was given out that the Maharaja intended to make a tour among islands of his kingdom; and he wrote to the governors to warn them of the tour that he was going to make. The news spread everywhere, and the governors of each island prepared to receive the Maharaja.

 When the King’s order had been executed and the preparations were finished he embarked, and with his fleet set sail for Cambodia. The Khmer king had no suspicion of what was going on until the Maharaja had arrived at the river which led to the capitafate has in store for him.”l and had landed his troops. These invested the capital by surprise, surrounded the palace, and seized the King. The people fled before the invaders. But the Maharaja proclaimed by public criers that he guaranteed the safety of everybody; and then he seated himself on the Khmer king’s throne and ordered the captive monarch to be brought before him. He said to the Khmer king, “why did you formulate a desire which was not in your power to satisfy, which could not have done you any good if it had been satisfied, and which would not even have been justified if it had been possible?” The Khmer king did not reply, and the Maharaja continued: “You wished to see my head before you on a plate. If you had similarly desired to seize my kingdom or to ravage part of it I should have done the same to Cambodia, but as you only wished to see my head cut off I shall return to my own country without taking anything from Cambodia of value great or small. My victory will serve as a lesson to your successors, so that no one will be tempted in future to undertake a task beyond his powers, or to desire more than fate has in store for him.” He then had the Khmer king beheaded, and, addressing the Khmer minister, said, “I am going to recompense you for the good that you tried to do as minister, since I know well that you had wisely advised your master. What a pity for him that he did not listen! Now seek somebody who can be a good king after this madman and put him on the throne instead.”

The Maharaja left at once for his own country, and neither he nor his followers took anything away from the Khmer country. When he returned to his own kingdom he seated himself on his throne, which looked over a lake, and he had the Khmer king’s head placed before him on a plate. Then he called together the dignitaries of his kingdom. And told them what had happened and why he had undertaken this expedition against the Khmer king. On learning this, the people of Zabag prayed for blessings to be bestowed upon their ruler. The Maharaja then had the Khmer king’s head washed and embalmed, and, placing it in a vase, had it sent to the new Khmer king, together with a letter to the following effect: “I was obliged to act as I did because of the hatred that the former king manifested against me, and we have chastised him to serve as a lesson to those who might wish to imitate him.” When the news of these events reached the kings of India and China the Maharaja rose in their estimation. Since that time the kings of Cambodia every morning turn their faces towards Zabag and bow to the earth to do homage to the Maharaja.


This original script was from G. Ferrand in his work “L’Empire Sumatranais de Çrivijaya, in Journal Asiatique (1922)

My hypotheses are as following; Actually Khmer invaded Chaiya, the capital of Srivijaya first and occupied there around in 745, then the allied army of Srivijayas counter attacked Khmer shortly before in 760. The main force was the army of Śailendra from the central Jawa. After the victory of the Malay Peninsula, Srivijayas invaded Cambodia along the Mekong River and killed one of the Khmer kings and occupied some important ports. Then Srivijayas made the strategy to occupy the whole Khmer kingdom and as the commander, young Jayavarman II had been assigned. At that time he was early 20s years old. He was probably a price of royal family of former Funan. He is said to have landed Cambodia in 770.

3. Jayavarman II conquered Cambodia

Claude Jacques says in his “Angkor cities and temples, 1997, Ricer Books Co., Ltd” as follows

“In 790 AD a young prince became king, taking the name of Jayavarman II. He was a descendant of the great family of Khmer kings whose lineage went back to the princes of Aninditapura. He came from ‘Java’ where he ia asumed to have been ‘held prisoner’ with his family……It may have lain in the region of present-day Malaysia but it was probably not the island of Java itself. Jayavarman II assumed power in the kingdom Vyadhapura in the general area of the town now called Prei Veng in south-east Cambodia.”

 Whether he had been captured by Srivijaya or not is uncertain. Probably he was a prince of the royal family of former Funan. In Cambodia Srivijaya navy may have occupied Vyadhapura (Prei Veng) beforehand and where would become the front base of Srivijaya.

C. Jacques continues; “Jayavarman seized the kingdom of Shambupura, today’s Sambor, south of Kratie. As his capital he chose Indrapura, present day Banteay Prei Nokor, 40 kms south-east of Kompong Cham town.

At first, Srivijaya’s strategy  had been occuping the major ports of the Mekong River, so Jayavarman might have proceeded as C. Jaques say.  By using strong power of army, to occupy the ports along the Mekong River was easy job for Jayavarman II. His problem was how to invade the center of Cambodia, especially , the north of the lake Tonle Sap.

C.Jacques considers;”Pursuing his conquests northwards he reached Wat Phu in the southern Laos, where there was a shrine….He then made his way along the southern range of the Dangrek mountains and finally took the kingdom of Anninditapura, setting in its capital Hariharalaya somewhere in the region of Rolous.”  

 Micheal Vickery has a different idea that Jayavarman proceeded into the Thonle Sap Lake and went westwards to occupy Battambang area by using navy and came back to the Angkor area, northern part of the Tonle Sap. He finally settled at Rolous.  

I think the idea of Michael Vickery has reasons, because it was difficult for a big army, to take on land route due to the logistics problem and traffics.

(Unfinished & Subject to revise)