Ancient Vedic Culture
Krishna Consciousness is not something new. It is very ancient. It is only new to contemporary western society. Hare Krishna

By James Cooper

Cambodia along with its neighbours Burma and Thailand was once part of the ancient Vedic Kingdom. The original name of Cambodia is Kambhoja, which according to Vedic tradition was named after a powerful Vedic King from the Bhoja dynasty. In the ancient classic of India, the Srimad Bhagavatam, we find
this verse “Thereafter, all the watchmen very quickly approached King Kamsa, the ruler of the Bhoja dynasty, and submitted the news of the birth of Devaki’s child.” – SB 10.4.2. This is the source of the name of present day Cambodia.

Throughout Cambodia we see villages which have the word Phumi before its name, villages such as  –  Phumi Kampong Tralach, Phumi Prek Kak, Phumi Boeng Mealea, Phumi Mlu Prey and at least another 20 villages, all beginning with the word Phumi. Phumi means village, its a corruption of the Sanskrit word Bhumi which as well as meaning planet earth means land, district, ect. The B has simply been replaced with a phonetically similar PH which is a common way that language corrupts or transfers from an oral language to a written one, however it shows the extent of the Vedic and Sanskrit influence which once pervaded Cambodia.

Angkor Wat is the worlds largest temple complex, with walls one and half miles long on either side, built over a thousand years ago in Cambodia. Angkor is simply a corruption of Nagar meaning city, they have simply placed an A in front, and Wat is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Vat meaning enclosure  –  enclosed city. It was built by King Suryavarman in honour of Lord Visnu. His name means one who is protected by the sun God Surya.  Astronomy and Vedic cosmology are inseparably entwined around Angkor Wat, the central towers representing Mount Meru, the cosmic axial mountain. The five inter nested rectangular walls and moats indicate chains of mountains enclosing the world and the cosmic oceans beyond. Science journal noted that Angkor Wat had encoded precise Calendrical, historical and cosmological themes into the architectural plan for the temple. As many as 18 astrological alignments have been identified within its walls. Rarely in history has any culture given rise to a structure that so elaborately and expensively incorporates its concept of the universe.

100 stone temples survive as the remains of what was once a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis. From here the Khymer Kings ruled over a vast domain which reached from Angkor to Vietnam to China to the bay of Bengal. Like mount Sumeru, the centre of the universe, it is surrounded on four sides by a moat of water. Its geographical location and temple layout is based on the sacred geometry of the Vedas. Under computer simulations it has been shown that the ground plan of the Angkor complex and the placement of its principal temples mirror the stars in the constellation of Draco in 10,500 BC in the same way the great Pyramids mirrored the constellation of Orion also in 10,500 BC. So although the temples themselves may be over a thousand years old, the original structure and complex itself may be much older.

At the entrance to the complex, as shown in the picture below, is an 800 metre long series of sculptures which mainly depict the churning of the ocean of milk. On one side are the Asuras pulling their rope and on the other side of the walkway are the Devas. The rope is Vasuki, the celestial king of the snakes and as they pull back and forth the ocean of milk is churned releasing heavenly gifts such as Soma Rasa, the ambrosial nectar of immortality. Angkor Wat is now a UNESCO world heritage site and tourist attraction, visited by some 700,000 people a year.

In Cambodia we also have the ancient city of Hariharalaya, once the capital of the Khmer Kingdom. Hari is Lord Visnu, Hara is Lord Siva and Alaya simply means abode. Its named after a deity which had the combined form of Siva and Visnu. The Cambodian King Jayavarman II declared himself King at Mahendraparvata whose name means “Mountain of the great Indra”, now known as the easily recogniseable Phnom Kulen. Shortly afterwards the King returned the capital to Hariharalaya.

His successor, Indravarma, built the temple of lolei, which was dedicated to Lord Siva. It was an island temple built in the middle of a large man made reservoir called Indratataka “The reservoir of Indra”. These reservoirs were a major source of Khmer power. By harnessing the monsoon rains these reservoirs provided a reliable source of water for producing rice and its canals were a means of transport and trade. Each reservoir had a small temple built at its centre. Like other Khmer temples they were meant to represent Vedic cosmology. The central structure represented mount Meru, the home of the Gods, while the surrounding area represented the world ocean. At the centre of these towers stood a large Siva linga. Water flowing over the linga would be considered holy and collected for a variety of physical and spiritual ailments. Below is a picture of what the Cambodians call Preah Koh which means the sacred bull. There are three of these which lie in front of the entrance to the temples, they are statues of Nandi which awaits the return of Lord Siva.

Throughout the whole of Cambodia we see remnants of its ancient Vedic past. Ratnakiri is a province in the remote northeast of Cambodia. Ratna is Sanskrit for jewel or precious and Kiri is a corruption of Giri meaning mountain. Ratnakiri is known for its jewelled mountains from which they derive a lot of their income from mining. Its also interesting that we find its Indian counterpart in southwestern Marharashtra  –  The port city of Ratnagiri. The district of Rukhakiri is a Sanskrit/Vedic term meaning “bountiful mountain”. Rukha is a Sanskrit word meaning bountiful and Kiri is a corruption of Giri meaning mountain  –  Bountiful mountain. The district of Ratanak Mondol is known as precious mandala. Ratanak is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Ratna meaning precious and Mondol is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Mandala meaning round, and from this we gets its name  –  Precious mandala.

Koh Kong is part of the South Western province of Cambodia, it embraces the Cardamon mountains and Cambodias largest national parks. According to acadamia its original name was Patchanta Kirikhet. These are all Sanskrit words. Kiri is a corruption of Giri meaning mountain and Khet is Sanskrit for consume, Anta is Sanskrit for end and Patchanta is probably a corruption of Paksanta meaning full moon. Its name may mean mountains consumed by the full moon, which is reasonable as it being a mountainous forested area. Mongkol Borey is a district in north western Cambodia. The Borey, according to acadamia was originally Buri which is simply a corruption of Puri meaning town or city. Mongkol is most likely a corruption of Magala which is Sanskrit for auspicious and from this the city gets its name  –  Auspicious city.

As well as place names and temples reflecting Cambodias Vedic past, we also have bronze artifacts created over 1000 years ago in Cambodia, below are just a few.

Oudong is a town in Cambodia located at the foothills of mount Udong. According to academia its name is derived from the Sanskrit word Uttunga meaning supreme. It was founded by King Srei Soryapor, a corruption of Sri Suryapur  –  The auspicious abode of the Sun God Surya. Srey Santhor is a district of the Kampong Cham province of Cambodia, its name means glorious city. Srey is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Sri meaning glorious and Santhor is most probably a corruption of the Sanskrit word Santa meaning peace. Prasat Balangk, Prasat Sambour, Trapeang Prasat and Prasat Bakong are all Sanskrit terms, as according to academia Prasat comes from the sanskrit word Prasad meaning mercy or temple.

Mondulkiri is a district whose name means the Mandala mountain. Mondul is a corruption of the Sanskrit Mandala meaning round and Kiri is a corruption of Giri meaning mountain. The district of Chum Kiri has its Sanskrit derivative, the word Kiri a corruption of Sanskrit Giri meaning mountain. The district of Sambour is Sanskrit as the bour is according to academia a corruption of buri which is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Puri meaning city.

Oddar meanchey is a district of Cambodia whose name means victorious northwest. According to academia Oddar comes from the Sanskrit word Uttara meaning north and the Chay at the end of Meanchay is simply the Sanskrit Jaya meaning victory. Sihanoukville is a district of Cambodia. According to academia its name is composed of two Sanskrit words Siah meaning lion and Huan meaning jaws. Its alternate name Kompong Som is also Sanskrit meaning the port of the moon or Sivas port. Som is simply the Sanskrit word Soma meaning the moon.

The final picture is an ancient map of Cambodia which clearly shows the name Camboja, connecting this country with the ancient Vedic kings of the Bhoja dynasty, going back at least 5000 years. The ancient classic of India, the Srimad Bhagavatam, composed over 5000 years ago mentions this Bhoja dynasty  – “Thereafter, all the watchmen very quickly approached King Kamsa, the ruler of the Bhoja dynasty, and submitted the news of the birth of Devaki’s child.” SB 10.4.2. And the Bhagavad Gita spoken 5000 years ago has the following verse  –  “There are also great, heroic, powerful fighters like Dhrstaketu, Cekitana, Kasiraja, Purujit, Kuntibhoja and Saibya”. BG.1.5

And finally although we take for granted the amazing architecture of Angkor Wat and its Vedic artifacts, when it was discovered especially by the Europeans their first impressions are worth recounting  –

“At the sight of this temple, one feels one’s spirit crushed, one’s imagination surpassed. One looks, one admires, and, seized with respect, one is silent. For where are the words to praise a work of art that may not have its equal anywhere on the globe? … What genius this Michaelangelo of the East had, that he was capable of conceiving such a work.”  –  Henry Mouhot French naturalist and explorer.

“It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” “To obtain any idea of its splendour on one must imagine the most beautiful creations of architecture transported into depths of the forests in one of the more remote countries in the world.”  Henry Mouhot French naturalist and explorer.

“They were the masters of their world. It was quite wonderful. There was peace and order. Temples full of riches. Happy Brahmins full of good rice, good food. And, of course, some of the most magnificent temples ever built. Nothing in that part of the world would compare. Nothing! That’s quite something, n’est-ce pas? – isn’it?”  “The Khmer took everything from India, from irrigation to astronomy and including Shiva and the rest of Hindu religion…And the Khmer built Angkor. ”  Bernard Philippe Groslier (1926 -1986)  the great French conservator and archaeologist.

“As I walked along the huge, ancient stone of the causeway leading to Angkor Wat, I was forced to look inward and question my own significance in the universe. Everything here, from the huge moat protecting the complex to the giant nagas flanking my path, is designed to make one shrink before the majesty of Vishnu. After passing through a succession of courtyards, each grander and more elaborate than the last, I arrived at an enormous Meru with its five soaring peaks and exquisitely carved walls. What a spectacle this all must have been long ago….Angkor Wat is the representation of the Khmer universe, reflecting a relationship to nature on such a deep level, that it makes modern architecture seem spiritually empty. The soul of the Khmer is alive in these temples and mirrored in the faces of today’s Cambodians, the recipients of a rich artistic and spiritual heritage.” John Ortner  –  Sacred Places of Asia: Where Every Breath Is A Prayer.

“I am convinced that such research will reveal numerous facts which will indicate a much deeper Indianization of the mass of the population than the sociologists will at present admit.”  George Coedes (1886 – 1969)


Article by James Cooper

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