Srivijaya was one of the greatest empires in the Malay Archipelago. It lasted for possibly about 1,000 years and had interacted with so many proud kingdoms that existed during its time. The Chinese civilization was the source of Srivijaya richness through a tributary system, which gifts were exchanged between the courts of the two emperors. The exchange was not exactly free trade but it was trade nonetheless. In the east, there was the Chola of which the great Rajaraja was king. In most cases, the two outsiders exerted stronger influence on Srivijaya culturally, economically and politically though from time to time, Srivijaya exported culture to China due to it being the center of Buddhism outside of India. Apart from that, Srivijaya left a mark on one of the great kingdoms of Southeast Asia — the Khmer Empire.

Some time in the 8th and the 9th century, for reasons not quite clear, Srivijaya conducted raids against a small area located in modern day Cambodia. That place, somewhere along the Mekong, is suspected to be Indrapura.

A 10th century Arab historian, Abu Zaid Hasan wrote that a Khmer king desired to see the head of a Srivijayan emperor. The news somehow traveled from Indochina all the way to the Srivijayan emperor, Samaratunga. Samaratunga was one of, probably at least, 40 emperors of Srivijaya. One point of interest: he and the Sailendras completed the Borobudur in 825. The Borobudur is of course one of the most famous monuments in the world.

According to the Arab historian further, Samaratunga became enraged and led a force to Cambodia to swiftly took the head of the Khmer king. He returned to Srivijaya soon after and Cambodia was leaderless. A Cambodian noble raised within the Srivijayan realm of Java by the name of Jayavarman was sent to Indrapura as a governor to maintain order. Today, we know that Jayavarman as Jayavarman II.

Srivijaya did not control the banks of Mekong for too long though. The governor installed by Samaratunga declared sovereignty and established the Khmer Empire, famous for its great Angkorian period. The empire prospered up to the 15th century when a new power, the Thai civilization, rose up to take their place in history. About 300 to 400 years earlier, it was the that Thai continually absorbed the Srivijayan cities of Chaiya, Ligor, Kedah and eventually, the rest of the lower Malay Peninsula.

During the same time, the sun was setting on Srivijaya, making way for new powers to be born to culturally enrich Southeast Asia.

9 Responses to “[1224] Of the link between Srivijaya and the Khmer Empire”

  1. on 17 May 2007 at 02:32 Bob K

    A good overview of the known history of the Nusantara. Interestingly, when I was in school, we did cover the earlier empires and kingdoms like Srivijaya and Majapahit quite a bit. I recall Srivijaya and Majapahit having some overlap but Majapahit definitely ascended after the decline and eventual demise of Srivijaya.

    The timeline for the introduction of Islam in the archipelago is a bit more sketchy. The Batu Bersurat found in Terengganu dates Islam in the region to at least 14th century although I have seen some artifacts in the Patani museum that suggests an earlier date. Nontheless, I don’t think the presence of Islam in the region during the latter part of Srivijaya’s existence is disputed.

    Interesting overview nonetheless. If our official history was less tainted by political considerations, it’d make much more compelling reading.

  2. on 17 May 2007 at 07:31 Bryan

    When I was in Cambodia recently I noticed the Khmers look exactly like the Malays. Even their kampong houses looked alike. Think there’s a connection?

  3. on 17 May 2007 at 11:37 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Dear Byran,

    I cannot say for certain but it is possible. I hoping to visit Cambodia later this year. So, I would share my experience here later if I found myself in Cambodia and maybe would come back to your question.

  4. on 17 May 2007 at 14:38 古越遺民


    there must be some cultural connections btw m’sia and the khmer since we’re in the same region. furthermore, nusantara and the khmer are 2 cultures greatly influenced by the indian civilization.

    however, the khmer being the austroasiatic language group is very much distinctive to austronesian in terms of the language.

    we can say that the two groups have different ancestors, but they have interacted throughout the history n become more and more alike.

  5. on 18 May 2007 at 10:25 Bryan

    The Khmer word for village is ‘kompong’ and the word for market is ‘psar’. I’m sure there are others as well. But then again, BM has borrowed from so many sources including Indian….

  6. […] Srivijaya of course was the confederation of Malay states or rather, cities with the principal center being Palembang on Sumatra. The principal city did move from time to time to Jambi but Palembang was the main center of power for most of the times. From Palembang, the influence radiated outward to the Isthmus of Kra, western Borneo and Central Java. It also controlled several areas on the bank of the Mekong until Jayavarman II declared independence from Srivijaya to establish the Khmer Empire. […]

  7. […] in Asia at the turn of the 13th century. That is roughly 500 years after Jayavarman II declared Khmer’s independence from Srivijaya, about 300 years after the devastating raids by the Cholas on Srivijaya and less than a century […]

  8. […] at the heart of the Khmer empire, aware of its wider importance to Southeast Asian history, all the way to Srivijaya and the Sailendras. It was at that time that I felt glad that I loved history. […]

  9. […] about actually being there was that I knew the history behind both Angkor Wat and Borobudur. I know exactly how both are linked. The Sailendras built Borobudur. Jayavarman who lived among the Sailendras, was sent to Cambodia […]

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