By : Thoeb Seyha Email : email@example.com
History of King Jayvaraman VII
Born into the royal family of Angkor, he settled in the Champa kingdom (present-day central Vietnam) in his young adulthood and engaged in military campaigns.
In his late fifties he led his people in a struggle for independence after their subjugation by the Cham. He was crowned king of a reconstituted Khmer empire at 61.
He ruled more than 30 years and brought the empire to its zenith in terms both of territorial extent and of royal architecture and construction. Champa, southern Laos,
and portions of the Malay Peninsula and Myanmar (Burma) came under his control. He built temples, hospitals, and rest houses, and rebuilt the city of Angkor
(now called Angkor Thom).His dedication to both the spiritual and physical needs of the people has made him a national hero to modern Cambodians.
He was the son of King Dharanindravarman II (r. 1150-1160) and Queen Sri Jayarajacudamani. He married Jayarajadevi and then, after her death, married her sister
Indradevi. The two women are commonly thought to have been a great inspiration to him, particularly in his unusual devotion to Buddhism. Only one previous Khmer
king had been a Buddhist.
- Jayavarman’s Early Years
The Cham shared with the Khmer the Hindu and Buddhist religions, as well as the use of Sanskrit as a formal language.
- Jayavarman’s Defeat of the Cham and Coronation
across Lake Tonle Sap, and then up the Siem Reap River, a tributary of the Tonle Sap. The invaders pillaged the Khmer capital of Yasodharapura and put the king to
death, as well as taking the Apsara dancers.Also in 1178, Jayavarman came into historical prominence by leading a Khmer army that ousted the invaders. At the time,
he may already have been in his 60s. Returning to the capital, he found it in disorder.He put an end to the disputes between warring factions and in 1181 was crowned
king himself. Early in his reign, he probably repelled another Cham attack, quelled a rebellion, and rebuilt the capital of Angkor. In 1191, he sacked the capital of Champa.
- Jayavarman’s Construction of Public Works and Monuments
Buddhist, his declared aim was to alleviate the suffering of his people. One inscription tells us, “He suffered from the illnesses of his subjects more than from his own;
the pain that affected men’s bodies was for him a spiritual pain, and thus more piercing.” This declaration must be read in light of the undeniable fact that the numerous
monuments erected by must have required the labor of thousands of workers, and that Jayavarman’s reign was marked by the centralization of the state and the herding
of people into ever greater population centers.Historians have identified three stages in Jayavarman’s building program. In the first stage, he focussed on useful
constructions, such as hospitals, rest houses along the roads, and reservoirs. Thereafter, he built a pair of temples in honor of his parents: Ta Prohm in honor of his mother
and Preah Khan in honor of his father. Finally, he constructed his own “temple-mountain” at Bayon and developed the city of Angkor Thom around it. He also built Neak
Pean (“Coiled Serpent”), one of the smallest but most beautiful temples in the Angkor complex, a fountain with four surrounding ponds set on an island in that artificial
- Jayavarman’s Early Years
Khmer the Hindu and Buddhist religions, as well as the use of Sanskrit as a formal language.
- Ta Prohm
to its upkeep, including 18 high priests and 615 female dancers. The first Lara Croft film was shot in Ta Prohm as well as a few scenes from the movie Troy.
- Preah Khan
- Angkor Thom and Bayon
temple now called the Bayon, a multi-faceted, multi-towered temple that mixes Buddhist and Hindu iconography. Its outer walls have startling bas reliefs not only of
warfare but the everyday life of the Khmer army and its followers. These reliefs show camp followers on the move with animals and oxcarts, hunters, women cooking,
female traders selling to Chinese merchants, and celebrations of common footsoldiers. The reliefs also depict a naval battle on the great lake, the Tonle Sap.
- Fixing the Dates
evidence. Thus, many of the dates marking the life and reign of Jayavarman VII are a matter of conjecture and inference. What is known is that King Suryavarman
(Sun Shield) II, builder of the great Angkor Wat, died some time in the early 1150s. He was succeeded by Yashovarman II who was himself overthrown by
Tribhuvanadityavarman (Protegee of the Three Suns) assumed to be an usurper. There is a minority view that the current biography of Jayavarman is imaginary and that
the evidence could just as easily support the view that he was the usurper. One date that has been generally accepted is 1177 when the Chams, who had themselves been
subjected to numerous Khmer invasions, took the city of Yashodharapura. Nonetheless, this date, not to mention the event itself, has been questioned by Michael Vickery
, who doubts the reliability of the Chinese sources for this period. A Cham king took the title of Jaya-Indravarman. In 1181 Jayavarman VII became King after
leading the Khmer forces against the Chams.Jayavarman died in about 1215, at an advanced age ranging from 85 to 90. He was succeeded by Indravarman about whom
almost nothing was written. There is only one inscription about him, one that establishes he had died by 1243. This lack of praise and pomp led David P. Chandler, in an
influential article, to speculate that Indravarman may have been the Leper King of Cambodian legend and later record. Indravarman was succeeded by Jayavarman VIII
who it is thought supported a Hindu revolt. Certainly there is evidence of enormous and organised defacing of Jayavarman VII’s works. The niches all along the top of the
wall around the city contained images of the Buddha. Most of these were removed. A statue of Jayavarman VII was found by excavators having been thrown down a
well. Buddha images in Preah Khan were re-worked to resemble Brahmins. When Cambodia finally did become a Buddhist country, it followed Theravada Buddhism,
not the Mahayana Buddhism practised by Jayavarman VII.
thrones; Jayavarman VII himself had many sons, such as Suryakumara and Virakumara, who were crown princes (the suffix kumara usually is translated as crown
prince). They did not inherit. Jayavarman VII remains a potent symbol of national pride for present day Cambodians. As a Buddhist King in a now Buddhist country he is
regarded with great respect. He built and repaired many ‘firehouses’ across the Empire, which are thought of as places for travellers to rest and many buildings which are
now called hospitals in translation. This has contributed to a legend of the Buddharaja, the King-Buddha, who privileged compassion in ruling. This view of Jayavarman
and his reign is supported by some beautiful portrait sculpture of him in meditation
- David P. Chandler, A History of Cambodia (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992.)
- Michael Vickery, WPS 37 Champa Revised. Singapore: Asia Research Institute, 2005, p. 57.