Queen Indradevi : Cambodia’s first known female poet.

The massive inscription discovered at Phimeanakas in the province of Siem Reap, Cambodia, contains the inscription of Queen Indradevi in Sanskrit, which she wrote somewhere between 1190 and 1200 AD. Her poetry demonstrates her near-perfect knowledge of the language as well as its complex poetic patterns.

We are fortunate to have a translation of one of these inscriptions, which was written at the height of the Angkor era by Queen Indradevi, renowned as one of Cambodia’s first known female poets.

In 1916, the poem was discovered among the palace temple’s stone ruins. The stele contains 102 stanzas; the final stanzas are included here. It is thought that the entire stele was plated with gold.

In the city named the Temple of Patience,
in the city of Former Eloquence, and eventually
in the city of Angkor, this brahmin girl of royal rank
became the beloved of King Jayavarman.

Her lowered head on the raised feet of the king,
she approached the Ganges, whose fallen feet lay on Shiva’s head.
Among the lovelies who loved learning, she scattered the king’s favors,
lovely nectars in the form of learning.

Wise by nature, a polymath, perfectly pure,
devoted to King Jayavarman,
having composed this pure paean
at the expense of all other arts, she gleamed.

Translation © 2015 by Trent Walker. All rights reserved.

Queen Indradevi was the elder sister of Queen Jayarajadevi, the first queen of Jayavarman VII, and the daughter of “kshatriyas”, among the elite of the royal family.

Additionally, Queen Indradevi took control of her sister’s educational institutions and was appointed head of Nagendratunge, Tilakottare, and Narendrarama, the three institutions which appeared to have been specifically designed for women and girls and that taught Buddhist doctrine and other sciences.

Being bright and well-educated, Queen Indradevi’s husband reportedly gave her power over state affairs.

Indradevi wrote poems on Jayavarman VII’s rule.

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