Jayavarman VII – The Great King of Khmer Empire
At about 1125 AC., King Dharanindravarman II ,who reigned after King Suryavarman II, has got a son by queen Srirajacudamuni. The prince was given a name called Jayavarthuna, the name before he become a great king of Khmer Empire. Jayavarthuna was born in the surname of Varman, the royal family of Angkor. He married a very religious and strong minded princess, Jayarajadevi, who exerted an important influence on him even before his reign. She was initiated to Buddhism by her older sister. She remained in profound religious worship and devotion. She performed a ceremony by which she could see the image of her husband when he was away. When her husband returned she increased her charitable works. After she died, her husband married her older sister, Indradevi. Indradevi was a smart woman who had more knowledge and was chosen to be a professor in a Buddha pagoda. She was the composer of the inscription at Phimeanakas temple, which was the root of King Jayavarman VII biography.
Before becoming king, Jayavarthuna had led the invasion to fight against Champa at Vijaya (the central region of Vietnam in present day) during his father’s reign (1150-1160) and also during the reign of king Yasovarman II (1160-1166), who succeed after his father.
In 1165, there was a revolution against Yasovarman II led by Tribhuvanadityavarman, a high ranking official. Jayavarthuna returned back hurriedly, but the king was murdered. And there was a reign of usurper Cham. Jayavarman had to live in exile in Vijaya. He and his queen had a very difficult time, waiting for a good chance to get back Yasodharapura.
Twelve years later, Jaya Indravarman IV, the king of Champa, led the army force to Yasodharapura by sailing through Mekong river, across Tonle Sap Lake and then up the Siem Reap river, a tributary of the Tonle Sap Lake. Angkor city had been under control of Champa for four years after Tribhuvanadityavarman has been defeated. Prince Jayavarthuna led the navy army to fight against Champa for four years and finally he had his victory. The bas relief about the Khmer navy fight against Champa at Bayon temple and Banteay Chmar temple are evidences of this events and it’s also dedicated to the prince’s favor.
After victory at Angkor, prince Jayavarthuna was coronated as the King of Khmer Empire at the age of 56 at Yasodharapura (in 1181). He has got the name of his thrown as Jayavarman VII and established a new capital, Angkor Thom.
Military Affair After The Coronation
After the coronation of King Jayavarman VII, there was a revolution in Malayang (south of Battambang), but immediately the revolution was defeated.
King Jayavarman VII still remember about the battle of Champa in 1177 which he promised to himself that have to revenge Champa. In 1190, King Jayavarman VII made relationship with Dai Viet in order to keep this country in peace with Khmer, so that it will be convenient for him to led the army force against Champa. In the same year, Champa also fought Khmer with king Jaya Indravarman IV as commander. This was a good chance for King Jayavarman VII to complete his promise. Under direction of Jayavarman VII, Vidyananda led the invasion to dispute over Champa by gaining the control of Champa’s capital, Vijaya, and arrest king Jaya Indravarman IV.
In 1203, King Jayavarman VII commanded Ongthunabatikrama, uncle of Vidyananda, to fight against his newphew. Because Vidyananda betrayed the king by announced himself as king and reigned in Vijaya.
During his reign, the Khmer Empire’s territory extended beyond the Menam Basin to the west (the Bayon inscription mentions the existence of two statues of divinities guarding the cities of Ratchaburi and Phetburi in Thailand), the seacoast of Champa to the east, the city of Sukhothai to the north, and all the way down to the southern sea.
Ancient Temples Constructed by Jayavarman VII
Ta Prohm temple, constructed at Angkor in 1186 and referred to as the ‘Royal Vihara’, was dedicated as a Buddhist temple which housed a statue of Jayavarman VII’s mother (Srirajacudamuni) represented as Prajnaparamita.
Preah Khan temple, constructed in 1191 in order to house a statue of his father, Dharanindravarman II, in the likeness of Lokesvara.
Neak Pean temple, located in the centre of the Jayatataka Baray, in which he placed a statue of Buddha, the healer and protector against illness (Bhaisajya-guru). Also in this temple he placed a statue of his father, as Jayavaramesvara.
Bayon temple, the first mountain temple which dedicated to both Buddhism and Brahmanism.
Many other temples through out the kingdom were built such as Banteay Kdei temple, Banteay Chhmar temple (dedicated to his son, Srindrakumara in Banteay Meanchey), Banon temple (Battambang), Wat Nokor temple (Kompong Cham), Ta Prohm at Tonle Bati (Takeo), Ta Som, Krol Ko, and the moat, walls, and gateways of Angkor Thom.
Jayavarman VII was a Mahayana Buddhist and through his reign, Brahmanism was tolerated. The king changed the royal religion from Brahmanism, which had long been the traditional religion, to Mahayana Buddhism, of which the principal divinities are Lokesvara and Prajnaparamita. However, citizens who were Brahmanist was not forbidden to worship their gods. As we can find in the Bayon temple there are Buddha statue as well as the lingam.
King Jayavarman VII was greatly concerned with the well being of his kingdom. To take care his people, he built 121 rest houses and 102 hospital through out the kingdom. He also built many roads and bridges. Kampong Kdei bridge is an ancient bridge was built in his reign.