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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Aninditapura (Pre-Angkor Cambodia & Vietnam)
c.AD 713? - 802?

Coastal areas of South-East Asia had already emerged into early regional history by the time the Sa Huỳnh culture of central and southern Vietnam was fading, around the beginning of the third century AD. To the south, the Óc Eo culture flourished as the archaeological expression of the kingdom of Funan.

The history of this early state is extremely patchy but in its late stages - in the early sixth century AD - its dominance was confirmed in the provinces of the middle Mekong. It may have been the usurpation of the Funanese throne by Rudravarman in AD 514 which resulted in discontent becoming apparent here. A movement was led by Bhavavarman and Chitrasena in which they managed to form a principality of their own which was known to the Chinese as Chen-La.

The last vestiges of Funan were removed in 627 during this pre-Angkor period of South-East Asian history. North-eastern Funan territory was gradually absorbed into the growing Cham domains. The remainder was absorbed into Chen-La. However, Chen-La experienced its own internal problems towards the end of the 600s and into the early 700s. By 713 it can be seen that the state had become divided into Upper Chen-La and Lower Chen-La. Each of these two regions had their own king or queen.

Chen-La's cities also had their own governors during the early seventh century under Isanavarman, as attested by the Sui history of the region. Later holders of such offices most likely became princes during Chen-La's troubles at the start of the 700s.

Indeed, something which becomes entirely apparent in the eighth century is the existence of several city-state principalities within the two Chen-Las, and seemingly mainly (or completely) within Lower Chen-La. These city states seem to have possessed a level of local independence while still most likely acknowledging Chen-La as an overlord.

Aninditapura was one such principality, although very little is known of it, even to the extent of its semi-independent existence. One definite ruler is known by name (along with a couple of other possibilities), and even he is barely detailed beyond his name and a few inscriptions. Even the city's location is uncertain. It is thought to have lain on the west bank of the Mekong somewhere above (towards the river's source) the location of Phnom Penh.

Briggs suggests in his work that the name Aninditapura should not even be used in this context. He could find no use of the name prior to the reign of the later Yasovarman I (889-900), apparently a son of Indradevi (see the timeline below) and a direct descendant of Pushkara of Aninditapura. He suggests the name Baladityapura after the city's mid-eighth century ruler.

A later ruler of Lower Chen-La, Jayavarman II, asserted his independence between 802-809. He united his territory with the Upper Chen-La which was ruled by his wife, Jayendrabha. He also swiftly incorporated other rival fiefdoms into this new state which must have included Aninditapura and the other semi-independent states. His new state would emerge as the Khmer empire.

Cambodia's historic past

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the John De Cleene Archive, from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Encyclopaedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations, Charles F W Higham (Facts on File, 2004), from The Khmer Empire (National Geographic supplement, July 2009), from Historical Atlas of the World, R R Palmer (Ed, Chicago, 1963), from The Ancient Khmer Empire, Lawrence Palmer Briggs (American Philosophical Society, 1955), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, George Coedès (Walter F Vella (Ed), Susan Brown Cowing (Trans), University of Hawaii Press, 1968, and available online via the Internet Archive), and Survey of the Southern Provinces of Cambodia in the Pre-Angkor Era (Angkor Database).)


In the early eighth century, Chen-La is apparently divided into Upper Chen-La ('Land' Chen-La) and Lower Chen-La ('Water' Chen-La). They appear to be equal in rank and without a boundary, suggesting that they are still under a single ruler, or at least are somehow federated.

Dress costumes from Funan
Dress costumes from Funan, a kingdom in southern mainland South-East Asia which, by the early sixth century AD, seemed ripe for internal discontent and self-destruction

Queen Jayadevi's reign is reputed to be opposed. She is known to reign until 713, but her fate is not known and the state is certainly divided by the end of her reign. It is also increasingly being threatened by the Shailendra dynasty of Java, and appears to fragment to an extent, allowing individual principalities to emerge (especially in Lower Chen-La), such as that at Aninditapura.

Pushkara seizes the former unified Chen-La capital at Sambhupura and, in 716, has an inscription engraved to confirm his possession. It has been suggested that his gaining the city is through marriage, but there seems to be no concrete back-up for such a hypothesis. He may be a son of Jayadevi of Chen-La, and also rules Lower Chen-La in his own name.

c.713? - 716

Pushkara / Pushkaraksha

Seized Chen-La capital of Sambhupura. Ruled Lower Chen-La.

Despite - or perhaps because - of his change in status, Pushkara seems to acquire a level of celebrity, as he figures in the genealogies of several Khmer rulers in the ninth century. One of his descendants marries the heiress of the Adhirajas of the city of Vyadhapura.

Oc Eo Culture
The Iron Age Óc Eo culture of southern Vietnam and areas of Cambodia serves as the archaeological expression of the kingdom of Funan, with this item dating from near its end in the early 600s AD

The issue from this marriage is Rajendravarman (I). He seems to be the one who re-establishes Chen-La's unity between about 730-760 by inheriting its former capital of Isanapura from his father and Vyadhapura from his mother.

Rajendravarman's own son is Mahapativarman of Chen-La (about 780-788). He marries a royal princess by the name of Rajendradevi and has a daughter named Indradevi. She becomes the mother of Yasovarman I of the Khmer empire (from 889).

fl c.740s / 760s?

Baladitya / P'o-lo-t'i-po?

Related to Funan's kings? Within Lower Chen-La.

Baladitya claims to be descended from Queen Soma and Kaundinya, the founders of Funan. He is later considered - by the Khmer rulers - as the ancestor through whom they are also related to this semi-mythical couple.

Aninditapura appears to be the seat of power for Chen-La's kings during the first part of this century, descendants of Pushkara. This may mean that Baladitya is either a sub-king or an opportunist who claims a kingship during a fresh period of fragmentation towards the end of the century.

Mekong Delta
Now due to disappear beneath the sea by about 2100, the Mekong delta played an important part in the development of early Cambodia and Vietnam

fl c.780s / 790s?


Related to Baladitya? Within Lower Chen-La.

In view of a resemblance in names, it has been assumed that the successors of Baladitya include a certain Nripaditya who leaves a Sanskrit inscription in western Champa. That inscription is undated, but it may originate in the eighth century and the period in which Chen-La is divided.

802 - 809

Jayavarman II, ruler of Lower Chen-La, is a vassal of the Sumatran state of Sri Vijaya. Having originated in Aninditapura, he asserts his independence in 802, unites his state with the Upper Chen-La which is ruled by his wife, Jayendrabha and, on the plain near the site of the future Angkor, builds his capital of Harlharalaya.

With strong support from his home city of Aninditapura, he is declared the universal monarch, chakravartin ('supreme king of kings' - effectively high king over many minor kings) on the Kulen Hills. Chen-La retains its identity until at least 809 but the other principalities within the region are quickly incorporated into his new state, no doubt including Ampil Rolum, Canasapura (perhaps a little later), and Vyadhapura.

Mahabalipuram Temple
Between about 802-809 Jayavarman II of Lower Chen-La unified the region, shrugged off his overlords on Sumatra, and established his capital at Harlharalaya (shown here) to found the beginnings of the Khmer empire

In a very short span of time Jayavarman II brings under his rule much of what is now Cambodia, southern Thailand, southern Laos, and much of south-western Vietnam, forging the beginnings of the Khmer empire.

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