In the Shadows of Angkor
We are into fun and frivolous documentaries for December and I will continue the exploration of Asia’s Monarchies. Monarchy is good fun and frivolous topic to talk about in December! Today’s documentary will feature the kings of Cambodia.
Cambodia had a royal family, and the monarchy lasted over 1,000 years. Cambodian monarchs are elected by a National Assembly. The splendor of Angkor Wat looms over Cambodia. Both the King and Angkor Wat are the symbol of the nation. The people also depend on the monarchy. King Sihanouk has had an interesting life. He was king, he was prince, he was prime minister, he was a film director and eventually became king again.
Tradition has it that Cambodia was formed by the marriage between an Indian Brahman and a Cambodian Princess. The Brahman drained Cambodia and gave it to her as a wedding present. Cambodians trace their roots to this couple. This enforced the idea that they were descended from gods. The King is the god on earth. They were the fathers of the nation, providing security and prosperity. The devotion to the king the people gave their lives to building Angkor Wat. This devotion continued into the 20th Century.
When Cambodia declared its independence, the king declared himself the father of the nation. However, the King was overthrown in the 1970s, and Cambodia was ruled by a communist dictator. The Khmer Rouge ruled the country with brutality. That shifted when the military took power in the 1980s. Eventually, Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy.
Corruption in the military remained a problem and the prime minister promised to tackle that issue. Cambodia is ranked at the bottom of the corruption index. There is no transparency in the country. The Politicians hope for a better future to put behind the nightmare of the Khmer Rouge.
In 2004, Cambodia’s king abdicated and the prime minister moved to fill the void left behind by the king. Sihaomi, the king’s son became king and shows the connection between the past. Even the flag has Angkor Wat on it. Cambodians have worshiped their kings as gods for thousands of years. The King represented the god and was considered sacred. This was rooted in teachings that were imported from India. The sacred rites that were brought over were the only ones that the King could perform.
In 802 the fusion of Indian and Cambodian cultures came together in one king: Jayavarman II. This king would unite the nation and created the city of Mahendra. It was built on one of the highest points in Cambodia. Every king after him would build bigger and they wanted to honor Javararman. They also wanted to prove they could control nature as well. The monarch in Cambodia would-be authoritarian. The people worked for the king to honor him and the gods. The view was you worked for the nation and you worked for the gods.
This view-built Angkor Wat. It took over 40 years to complete. The temple was a document of the gods and the battles they fought. Buddhism took hold of Cambodia. This shifted the belief that the kings were representatives of Buddha. The first Buddhist king was Javararam VII and he went on a building spree. It was during this time, that Cambodian civilization was at its most majestic. How long would this civilization last? To learn more about his building program continue to watch this documentary.
The start of the documentary was a little bit choppy but then eventually came together when the narrator talked about Angkor Wat. This documentary then turned out to be a fantastic watch and would be an excellent one to show in a history or geography class.
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The reviews are my opinions and should be treated as such. I just want to provide a tool for teachers to select documentaries for their classrooms.