Khmers: Just Who They Were?

Distant memory, though, still serves me well enough. Mother used to tell us at bedtime of a land in the distant East, where Indian princes used to visit but they never returned. Through black magic or some such abilities that those princesses possessed, they would keep those visitors in tiny boxes for their pleasure; a la ‘Honey I shrunk the kids’. Now having done a minor research, I find those princesses were none other than the Khmer Princesses of the likes of Soma or Mera,

The legendary founders of the kingdom of the KambojDesh were a  Brahman Kamboj Svayambhuva and the Nāga princess Soma or Mera. Upon following an arrow in his dream that pointed in the direction of KambojDesh which in time came to be called Cambodia, he landed there. Their marriage is said to have given rise to the name Khmer. The legend also has it that as dowry, the father of princess Soma drank the ocean, and the land that was revealed underneath became Cambodia.

Most archaeologists & linguists, and other specialists like Sinologists and crop experts, believe that they arrived there over four thousand years ago. They were the builders of the Khmer Empire, which dominated Southeast Asia for six centuries beginning with the King Jayavarman II in 802 CE.

The Khmers developed the Khmer alphabet, still in use in Southeast Asia, which in turn gave birth to Thai and Lao alphabets. That is to say the Khmer have historically been a lowland people who lived close to one of the tributaries of Mekong River. The reason they migrated into Southeast Asia is not well understood, but scholars believe that Austroasiatic speakers were pushed South by invading Tibeto-Burmese from the North as is evident by Austroasiatic vocabulary in Chinese.

Owing to their indian ancestry, they brought along with them Indian sacred mythology, beliefs with strains of Buddhism, Jainism, animism and beliefs related to rebirth and reverence of the ancestors.

In India there was prevalence of learning of Vedas, Puranas and other holy scriptures which besides being very rich in spirituality and culture, were passed down through the Guru-Shishya traditions; most of them vocal records and with utmost faith in divinity. Texts such as Vaastu-Shastra, Shilp-Shastra, Dhanur-Vidya, Jyotish-Vidya, all were learnt from seers of great knowledge & wisdom. They were not only absolute authority on these subjects, but their only occupation was well-being of the people, absolutely without any selfish motive.

Khmers also brought with them Sacred Architecture through which towns and cities or villages were developed.

Angkor and many other such developments were as a result of these deep learnings from the sacred lineage from distant India.

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