Friday, June 24, 2011
Essay on Cambodia
Among all the cultural and social changes ever to shape Cambodian lives, only Hinduism, which arrived in Cambodia during the early part of its history, appeared to be met with better success—at least for a thousand years or so. As a religious concept vis-à-vis culture, Hinduism seemed to fit and intertwine very well with the Cambodian system of belief in the supernatural being, namely the Neak Ta. In all likelihood, it was probably the marriages between Hinduism and the belief in supernatural beings that propelled the Cambodians to achieve and build one of the most admirable civilizations at Angkor. Though, artistically, we don’t precisely know as to how much Indian influences upon the Cambodian creativity when their civilization at Angkor was founded, most experts agreed that Angkor was mainly the creation of Cambodians with the assistance of Indian concepts.
After the honeymoon at Angkor, the marriages between Indian and Cambodian cultures turned sour when another religion, Buddhism, entered into the relationship. The arrival of Buddhism coincided with the decline of Cambodia as an empire and a dominant kingdom. The devaraja monarchy, as an institution which had driven the placid Cambodians to conquer and build their empire for hundreds of years, began to fall apart. After being exposed to the teaching of Buddhism which emphasizes compassion and pacifism, the once assertive and, maybe, aggressive Cambodians, who, for many years, had been spurred on by the concepts of conquest and nation building, mellowed down and returned to a life of simplicity.
From the closing of the 14th century onward, the Cambodian rendezvous with destiny has been an arduous journey. The once mighty Cambodian Empire has now been reduced to a feeble and pariah state where palace intrigues and royal feuds were the regular features of the affairs of the kingdom. The internal conflicts amongst its rulers for the next four centuries, or so, were so pervasive that the Cambodian political, social, cultural, and economic infrastructures were in tatters. The kingdom grew weaker by the day. There were no able leaders to revitalize the kingdom and stop it from falling further into a state of disarray. Furthermore, the Cambodian population appeared to be utterly alienated with the reality of their lives. They seemed to be withdrawn from any ambition to rebuild their kingdom beyond that of their own basic domains. As a result, Angkor, as a city and center of the Cambodian political and cultural organizations, was abandoned and neglected. In addition, invasions and encroachments from rivaling states such as Thailand and Vietnam dealt even further blows to the weakening Cambodian kingdom. At times, the survival of the kingdom itself was in question when the once mighty Cambodia became an alternate vassal state of its neighbors, namely Vietnam and Thailand.