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Legend has it that during the century AD, Kaundinya, an Indian Brahman priest, following a dream came to Cambodia’s Great Lake to find his fortune. He met and married a local princess, Soma, daughter of the Naga king, and founded the first Kingdom called the Phnom, introducing Hindu customs, legal traditions and the Sanskrit language. Modern historians refer to it as Funan, the first Khmer Kingdom, and the oldest Indianized State in the Southeast Asian region.

The Khmers who inhabited the Tchenla Vassal State took Funan in the mid-sixth century, thus enabling the rise of the Khmer Empire, which became a dominant power in the Southeast Asian region for more than 600 years.


Jayavarman II, a Khmer King, united all the Khmer people under his leadership around the year 800 AD. Establishing his capital in the northwestern part of Cambodia, north of the Tonle Sap Great Lake, Jayavarman II was crowned as King of Kambuja and adopted the Hindu religion.

During the Khmer Empire era, a long succession of strong leaders enabled the Khmer Empire to flourish until the 15th century, with the zenith of its influence, might and architectural splendor reached in the 12th century.

With a succession of capitals located in and around Siem Reap province, the Khmer Kings exhibited an enormous talent for marshalling the genius of their people.

The legacy of this more than half-millennia imperial flourish included one of the most extensive concentration of religious temples anywhere in the world, the Angkor Wat complex. With the temple complex, the largest religious monument ever built as the most significant and world-renowned legacy of this era, the Khmer Kings initiated a four-century long construction boom of magnificent and unparalleled historic sites.


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Copyright 1999 Sophanara Vath
Last modified: October 06, 1999