In Quest of Our Glorious Past: Cambodia

By Ratan Lal Basu

Dr. Ratan Lal BasuEditor's Note: The author is a prolific writer of books and articles in economics. His articles, published in various journals, cover all conceivable branches of economics. He is one of the few scholars who have done their doctorate degree on the Arthasastra of Kautilya, a treatise on Economics, Statecraft and Espionage Mechanism written in India around 300 B. C. Dr. Basu is an Indologist and an authority on the economic ideas embedded in the Ancient Indian Sanskrit texts and his well-known Book ‘Ancient Indian Economic Thought: Relevance for Today’ has obtained wide acclaim all over the world. Dr. Basu may be contacted at rlbasu@rediffmail.com

Dr. Basu is one of the most featured contributers to WBRi Online Magazine - his stories, essays and historical analyses are very popular among our audience. His novel Swapno (স্বপ্ন) is being published serially on our web-site - please search for the keywords "Ratan Lal Basu" in our search box at top for his other publications on WBRi.


Kolkata, Jan 17, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio) As soon as I looked out the exit gate of Phnom Penh Airport at late afternoon I felt as though I have entered into an unknown enchanting world radically different from the drab modernized Bangkok where I had been only a few hours ago. Later on I was marveled by the exquisite architecture of the city, a fine blending of French and Buddhist architecture.

The car for Landscape Hotel was at the exit and the driver displayed my name on a placard. Boarding the car I asked him how long it would take if I change my earlier plan and go right to Siem Reap, the city constructed by UNESCO for Angkor Wat tourists. The driver could not understand and with his cell phone I called Kim, my travel arranger. Kim replied, ‘Sir, if you start right now it would be about 2 a.m. to reach the hotel there. Should I send a guide? The driver does not know English.’ ‘Without any delay and inform immediately both Landscape Hotel and Soma Devi Hotel about change of my itinerary.’

The guide came in no time and my adventurous journey in an ancient unknown land started. The car cruised through narrow roads and soon we were engulfed in complete darkness as we reached the rural areas without street lighting. It started raining heavily and the wipers struggled hard to keep the wind-shield clean. I felt thrilled and my mind drifted back to the long past when Cambodia was ruled by dynasties of Indian origin.  

Hindu Kingdoms in Cambodia


To avoid misgivings, it should be pointed out that the term Hindu here is not referred to a specific religious group known by the same term, but in a wider sense to mean the philosophy and culture of ancient Hindustan that includes India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan. In ancient times all people (whether Brahminical, Jainists or Buddhists) from south Asia were known in East, West and locally as Hindus. The kingdoms I am going to mention here were mainly associated with Buddhist and Brahminical religious groups. From pre-historic times India had developed deep trade relations with all East Asian countries and there was continuous flow of people, culture and religious ideas from Hindustan to these countries and in the process, several Hindu kingdoms sprang up in various parts of East Asia.

Kambuja (Cambodia)


According to Chinese chronicles, Fu-nan, the earliest Hindu kingdom in East Asia, was founded by a Brahmin named Kaundinya before the third century A.D. He was the first Emperor in Indo-China. Jaya Varman and Rudra Varman of the dynasty ruled during the sixth century.

Early in the seventh century, Kambuja, originally a vassal state of Fu-nan, conquered Fu-nan, and became the leading power in the region and gave the name to the whole country. In the eighth century, a Sailendra king of Java conquered Kambuja, but it gained independence under Jaya Varman II who ruled from 802 to 854. The most powerful king after him was Yasa Varman who ruled from 889 to 908. The dynasty ruled till 1001 with political authority over Siam, Laos and probably Yunnan.

Surya Varman, founder of the next dynasty, established authority over northern Siam and invaded lower Burma. Surya Varman II, who constructed the famous Angkor Wat temple, ruled from 1113 to 1150. Jaya Varman VII, who ascended to the throne in 1181, made Champā a vassal state of Kambuja and conquered portions of lower Burma.

The kingdom declined during the 13th century because of Thai invasion (Ibid. PP. 480-481).

Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom


I reached Soma Devi Hotel at about 2.30 AM and instructed the driver and the guide to take rest and pick me up right at 10'o clock in the morning. I slept like a log and the hotel reception called me at 8.30 as directed by me. The car came on time and in half an hour I was close to the gopuram of the largest temple ever built in human history. I don’t have the audacity to describe the temple - the net area is about 3.5 km by 2.5 km – just one single temple. The area enclosed by the vast mote is about 6 by 4 km. About Ankar Wat and the Buddhist temple built by Jaya Varman (he became a Buddhist later on) you may get much information from the internet, but you cannot get the true impression unless you see them with your own eyes. I myself don’t find any words to describe them. So please take trouble to visit yourself - I simply paste some photographs here.

ANGKOR WAT


THE MOAT, GOPURAM AND THE FIRST PART


Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part

Cambodia Angkor Wat Moat Gopuram and First Part


RAMAYANA & MAHABHARATA EPISODES IN BASS RELIEF


Cambodia Angkor Wat Ramayana Mahabharata Bass Relief

Cambodia Angkor Wat Ramayana Mahabharata Bass Relief

Cambodia Angkor Wat Ramayana Mahabharata Bass Relief

Cambodia Angkor Wat Ramayana Mahabharata Bass Relief


DAMAGED TEMPLE  UNDER REPAIR  

Cambodia Angkor Wat Ramayana Mahabharata Bass Relief


WAY TO THE SECOND PART


Cambodia Angkor Wat 2nd Part


THIRD PART – ENTRY RESTRICTED


Cambodia Angkor Wat 3rd Part


ANGKOR THOM


SAMUDRA MANTHAN at the entrance


Cambodia Angkor Thom


THE DILAPIDATED TEMPLE


Cambodia Angkor Thom

Cambodia Angkor Thom

Cambodia Angkor Thom

Cambodia Angkor Thom


ECSTATIC AFTER EARNING ONLY ONE US DOLLAR

Cambodia Children


MEKONG-SOP CONFLUENCE FROM THE WINDOW OF THE 11TH FLOOR OF LANDSCAPE HOTEL


Cambodia Children

Cambodia Children