QUOTE (SabaiSabai @ Oct 5 2011, 10:46 AM)
Kaundinya, Preah Thaong, and the "Nagi Soma": some aspects of a Cambodian legend.
by Rudiger Gaudes
THE following legend is found in the report of the Chinese official
Zhou Daguan, who traveled to the medieval empire of
Cambodia (or Angkor) in the years 1296-97:
Inside the palace area is a golden tower at the top of which the king
has a bedchamber. The natives say that in the chamber there resides
a spirit in the form of a nine-headed serpent, which is the
owner of all the soil in the kingdom. The spirit appears every
night in the guise of a fair lady, and the king must spend the first
part of the night with her. If she fails to appear, it is a sign of the
king's death. If the king omits a night, the land is in imminent
danger.(1) (Pelliot 1902, 144-45; 1951, 12; Chatterji 1928, 6)
The part played in this medieval legend by the serpent lady is intriguing, for it reflects the importance of the naga (serpentine water spirits) in ancient Cambodian tales about the origins of their land. Travel books on Cambodia mention several versions of a legend about the origins of the kingdom, especially those of the first ruler's dynasty. Bastian (1866, 393-96), for example, relates a tale about a prince he refers to as "Phra Thong," who is expelled from "Myang Rom or Romavisei, not far from Takkhasinla" by his royal father because of his oppression of the people. He arrives at an island in the ocean named "Khok Talok" and there meets and marries "Nang Nakh" (Miss Naga), who regularly comes from the underworld to bathe in a lake. After a marriage ceremony in the subterranean realm, his father-in-law, "Phaya Nakh" (Dragon King), constructs for him the town of "Nakhon Thom, at that time named Kamphuxa, or ~The Water-Born'," as his new residence. His reign is followed by that of his son Samdeit Kamlong.
A variant legend (Bastian 1866, 397-98) says that in the beginning all the land was covered by water, from which the island of Khok Talok slowly rose above the surface. Phaya Nakh and his daughter Nang Nakh used to go there from their subterranean realm in order to sunbathe. In this variant, the god Indra begets a son with the naga princess. Named Ketumalea (or Ketmealea, Ket Mala, Ketumala), the boy is not allowed to live in heaven because of his human odor. Indra therefore has heaven's architect, Phra Pitsanukam (Visvakarman), build the town of Inthapataburi for him on earth.
Quite similar--in parts even identical--versions are recorded by Garnier (1873, 98-101) from the accounts of natives. Both Bastian and Garnier also give other variants, according to which Phra Thong is the son of the king of Burma. He banishes from the island of Khok Talok the Cham king who rules there.
The royal annals go into more detail. Here is a shortened version based on the French translations of these annals by Moura (1883, II, 4-11; 1971, 1-7) and Poree-Maspero (1950, 239-40):
A few months before his death, Buddha arrives at the island Kouk
Thlok [land of the thlok tree] and prophesies that a trakuot [a kind
of lizard] living there by a thlok tree would obtain rebirth as the
son of the king of Intakpath [Indraprastha] and later become king
of a new state at Kouk Thlok. In the year 1 of the Buddhist era
[commonly beginning with Buddha's death in 543 B.C.], the king of
the Chams is shipwrecked near the Dangrek Mountains, where he
forms a new state and also becomes ruler over Kouk Thlok. In
the year 100 of the Buddhist era, King Atichavong of Indraprastha
hands over portions of his kingdom to his sons; to the fourth,
named Preah Thaong, he gives the southern part. As a result of
disobedience, Preah Thaong is later exiled together with his people.
He arrives at Kouk Thlok, displaces the Cham ruler, and
himself becomes king. Later he meets the daughter of the naga
king on the beach. A marriage ceremony takes place in the subterranean
kingdom, after which the naga king creates a realm on earth
for his son-in-law by drinking up the ocean. The new land is
named Kampuchea. After nine months a daughter is born. In
the year 500 of the Buddhist era the Cham king comes with an
army from Laos, but they are beaten back. The daughter of Preah
Thaong and the naga princess then become pregnant by the god
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The Book of Liang records the story of the foundation of Funan by the foreigner Hùntián (混塡): "He came from the southern country Jiào (徼, an unidentified location, perhaps on the Malaysian Peninsula or in the Indonesian archipelago) after dreaming that his personal genie had delivered a divine bow to him and had directed him to embark on a large merchant junk. In the morning, he proceeded to the temple, where he found a bow at the foot of the genie's tree. He then boarded a ship, which the genie caused to land in Fúnán. The queen of the country, Liǔyè (柳葉, "Willow Leaf") wanted to pillage the ship and seize it, so Hùntián shot an arrow from his divine bow which pierced through Liǔyè's ship. Frightened, she gave herself up, and Hùntián took her for his wife. But unhappy to see her naked, he folded a piece of material to make a garment through which he made her pass her head. Then he governed the country and passed power on to his son, who was the founder of seven cities." Nearly the same story appeared in the Jìn shū 晉書 ("History of the Jìn Dynasty" or "Book of Jin"), compiled by Fáng Xuánlíng 房玄齡 (578-648) in AD 648; however, in the Book of Jin the names given to the foreign conqueror and his native wife are "Hùnhuì" 混湏 and "Yèliǔ" 葉柳.
Some scholars have identified the conqueror Hùntián of the Book of Liang with the brahmin Kauṇḍinya who married a nāga (snake) princess named Somā, as set forth in a Sanskrit inscription found at My Son and dated AD 658 (see below). Other scholars have rejected this identification, pointing out that the word "Hùntián" has only two syllables, while the word "Kauṇḍinya" has three, and arguing that Chinese scholars would not have used a two-syllable Chinese word to transcribe a three-syllable word from another language. However, the name "Kaundinya" appears in a number of independent sources and seems to point to a figure of some importance in the history of Funan.
Kaundinya in the Chinese sources
Even if the Chinese "Hùntián" is not the proper transcription of the Sanskrit "Kaundinya," the name "Kaundinya" [Kauṇḍinya, Koṇḍañña, Koṇḍinya, etc.] is nevertheless an important one in the history of Funan as written by the Chinese historians: however, they transcribed it not as "Hùntián," but as "Qiáochénrú" 僑陳如. A person of that name is mentioned in the Book of Liang in a story that appears somewhat after the story of Hùntián. According to this source, Qiáochénrú was one of the successors of the king Tiānzhú Zhāntán 天竺旃檀 (“Candana from India”), a ruler of Funan who in the year 357 AD sent tamed elephants as tribute to the Chinese emperor Sīmǎ Dān 司馬聃 (r. 344-361; memorial name: Mùdì 穆帝): “He [Qiáochénrú] was originally a Brahmin from India. There a voice told him: ʻyou must go reign over Fúnán,ʼ and he rejoiced in his heart. In the south, he arrived at Pánpán 盤盤. The people of Fúnán appeared to him; the whole kingdom rose up with joy, went before him, and chose him king. He changed all the laws to conform to the system of India.”
Kaundinya in the inscription of Mỹ Sơn
The story of Kaundinya is also set forth briefly in the Sanskrit inscription C. 96 of the Cham king Prakasadharma found at Mỹ Sơn. It is dated Sunday, 18 February, 658 AD (and thus belongs to the post-Funanese period) and states in relevant part (stanzas XVI-XVIII): "It was there [at the city of Bhavapura] that Kauṇḍinya, the foremost among brahmins, planted the spear which he had obtained from Droṇa's Son Aśvatthāman, the best of brahmins. There was a daughter of a king of serpents, called "Somā," who founded a family in this world. Having attained, through love, to a radically different element, she lived in the abode of man. She was taken as wife by the excellent brahmin Kauṇḍinya for the sake of (accomplishing) a certain task ...".
Kaundinya in the inscription of Tháp Mười
The Sanskrit inscription (K.5) of Tháp Mười (known as "Pràsàt Prằṃ Lovêṅ" in Khmer), which is now on display in the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City, refers to a Prince Guṇavarman, younger son (nṛpasunu—bālo pi) of a king Ja[yavarman] who was “the moon of the Kauṇḍinya line (… kauṇḍi[n]ya[vaṅ]śaśaśinā …) and chief “of a realm wrested from the mud”.
Kaundinya in Khmer folklore
The legend of Kaundinya is paralleled in modern Khmer folklore, where the foreign prince is known as "Preah Thaong" and the queen as "Neang Neak." In this version of the story, Preah Thaong arrives by sea to an island marked by a giant thlok tree, native to Cambodia. On the Island, he finds the home of the nāgas and meets Neang Neak, daughter of the nāga king. He marries her with blessings from her father and returns to the human world. The nāga king drinks the sea around the island and confers the name "Kampuchea Thipdei," which is derived from the Sanskrit (Kambujādhipati) and may be translated into English as "the lord of Cambodia." In another version, it is stated that Preah Thaong fights Neang Neak.
Other occurrences of the name "Kaundinya" in the history of Funan
The name "Kauṇḍinya" is well-known from South Indian inscriptions of the 1st millennium AD, and it seems that Funan was ruled up the 6th century AD by a clan of the same name. "Kaundinya" was also the name of an important Funanese bonze and diplomat of the 5th century. According to the Nán Qí shū 南齊書 (“Annals of the Southern Qí Dynasty”) of Xiāo Zīxiǎn 簫子顯 (485-537) the Fúnán king Qiáochénrú Shéyébámó 僑陳如闍耶跋摩 (Kauṇḍinya Jayavarman) “sent in the year 484 the Buddhist monk Nàjiāxiān 那伽仙 (Nāgasena) to offer presents to the Chinese emperor and to ask the emperor at the same time for help in conquering Línyí 臨沂 (north of Campā) … The emperor of China thanked Shéyébámó for his presents, but sent no troops against Línyí”.
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