The Rise of the Angkor Empire
Gradually the Cambodian region was becoming more cohesive. Before long the fractured kingdoms of Cambodia would merge to become the greatest empire in Southeast Asia.
A popular place of pilgrimage for Khmers today, the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen (pl77), to the northeast of Angkor, is home to an inscription that tells of Jayavarman II (r 802-50) proclaiming himself a ‘universal monarch', or devaraja (god-king) in 802. It is believed that he may have resided in the Buddhist Shailendras' court in Java as a young man. Upon his return to Cambodia he instigated an uprising against Javanese control over the southern lands of Cambodia. Jayavarman II then set out to bring the country under his control through alliances and conquests, the first monarch to rule most of what we call Cambodia today. If you want to discover more about Vietnam beautiful country, come to visit Vietnam through a Halong Bay cruise overnight.
Jayavarman II was the first of a long succession of kings who presided over the rise and fell of the greatest empire mainland Southeast Asia has ever seen, one that was to bequeath the stunning legacy of Angkor. The key to the meteoric rise of Angkor was a mastery of water and an elaborate hydraulic system that allowed the ancient Khmers to tame the elements. The first records of the massive irrigation works that supported the population of Angkor date to the reign of Indravarman I (r 877-89) who built the baray (reservoir) of Indratataka. His rule also marks the flourishing of Angkorian art, with the building of temples in the Roluos area, notably Bakong (pl74).
By the turn of the 11th century the kingdom of Angkor was losing control of its territories. Suryavarman I (r 1002-49), a usurper, moved into the power vacuum and, like Jayavarman II two centuries before, reunified the kingdom through war and alliances, stretching the frontiers of the empire. A pattern was beginning to emerge, and is repeated throughout the Angkorian period: dislocation and turmoil, followed by reunification and further expansion under a powerful king. Architecturally, the most productive periods occurred after times of turmoil, indicating that newly incumbent monarchs felt the need to celebrate, even legitimise their rule with massive building projects.
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