The Unsung Heroine Who Shaped the Khmer Empire
In the annals of Cambodian history, King Jayavarman VII stands tall as a powerful and benevolent ruler who shaped the Khmer Empire with his vision and determination. His reign marked an era of prosperity, welfare, and religious transformation.
However, behind the great king was an equally remarkable woman – his mother, Sri Jayarajacudamani. In this article for The Better Cambodia magazine, we delve into the life of this extraordinary queen who played a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of the Khmer Empire.
Born in the 12th century, Sri Jayarajacudamani was a princess and the daughter of Harshavarman III. She married Dharanindravarman II, who later became the king of the Khmer Empire (1150–1160). As queen consort, she was known for her virtuous conduct, devotion to her husband, and unwavering commitment to the welfare of her people.
Her most significant contribution, however, was as the mother of Jayavarman VII, who was born around 1125. As a loving and nurturing mother, Sri Jayarajacudamani instilled in her son the values of compassion, wisdom, and a deep sense of duty towards his people. These qualities would later define Jayavarman VII’s reign as he embarked on ambitious projects to improve the lives of the Khmer people, including building hospitals, highways, rest houses, and temples.
Sri Jayarajacudamani’s devotion to her husband was evident when he went into exile. An inscription from that time poignantly describes her as a woman of “asceticism, virtuous conduct, and tears, her likeness to Sita, found by her husband and then separated from him, her body thinned by observances, her religion, her devotion to him, her joy at his ultimate return”. This unwavering loyalty and devotion undoubtedly served as an inspiration to her son, who would later become a king known for his compassion and dedication to his people.
As the first Khmer king devoted to Buddhism, Jayavarman VII’s reign marked a significant shift in the religious landscape of the empire. Jayavarman VII, widely recognized by historians as the most powerful Khmer monarch, led a transformative era in the Khmer Empire. His government undertook numerous projects, such as constructing hospitals, highways, rest houses, and temples, all aimed at enhancing the lives of the Khmer people.
His mother, Sri Jayarajacudamani, played a crucial role in shaping his spiritual beliefs and values. Her influence can be seen in the numerous monuments and temples dedicated to Buddhism, including the iconic Bayon temple, which stands as a testament to the king’s commitment to his faith.
Sri Jayarajacudamani was a remarkable woman whose influence extended far beyond her role as queen consort. As the mother of King Jayavarman VII, she played a vital role in shaping the destiny of the Khmer Empire and nurturing a compassionate, wise, and devoted ruler who would leave an indelible mark on Cambodian history. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the power of a mother’s love and the profound impact it can have on the lives of her children and the world they inhabit.