Khmer Empire


The Khmer Empire at the end of the 12th century
The Khmer Empire at the end of the 12th century

The Khmer empire was the largest Empire of South East Asia located now in Cambodia. The empire ruled over a parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.  Its greatest legacy is Angkor, which was the capital during the empire's zenith. Angkor bears testimony to the Khmer empire's immense power and wealth, as well as the variety of belief systems that it patronised over time. The empire's official religions included Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, until Theravada Buddhism prevailed after its introduction from Sri Lanka in the 13th century. Modern satellites have revealed Angkor to be the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world, larger than modern day new york.

The history of Angkor as the central area of settlement of the historical kingdom of Kambuja is also the history of the Khmer from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

From Kambuja itself - and so also from the Angkor region - no written records have survived other than stone inscriptions. Therefore the current knowledge of the historical Khmer civilization is derived primarily from:

The beginning of the era of the Khmer kingdom of Angkor is conventionally dated to 802. In this year, king Jayavarman II had himself declared "Chakravartin" (king of the world).



Jayavarman II - the founder of Angkor

Jayavarman II  became king of a kingdom called "Kambuja" by the Khmer. In the following years he extended his territory and eventually established his new capital of Hariharalaya near the modern Cambodian town of Roluos. He thereby laid the foundation of Angkor, which was to arise some 15 km to the northwest. In 802 he declared himself Chakravartin, in a ritual taken from the Indian-Hindu tradition. Thereby he not only became the divinely appointed and therefore uncontested ruler, but also simultaneously declared the independence of his kingdom from Java.


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