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How the Maharaja of Zabag invaded Cambodia

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  Quote Sander Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: How the Maharaja of Zabag invaded Cambodia
    Posted: 11-May-2017 at 16:19


The Arabic name "Zabag" or "Isles of Zabag"  (related to the name Java) was the generic name for the Malay archipelago : Java, Sumatra , Borneo etc. The ruler(s) was known as the Maharaja of Zabag or the Maharaja of the Isles.  

In 852 the Arab traveller Sulayman recorded a thrilling account of how the Maharaja of Zabag had invaded Cambodia (a.k.a the Khmer country) in the 8th century, to avenge an insult. 

This is the account (largely based on Lawrence Palmer Briggs' The ancient Khmer empire p.67):


Khmer is situated on the same longitude as the kingdom of the Maharaja. Between Khmer [Cambodia] and Zabag [Java] the distance is ten to twenty days by sea, depending on the weather.   

They say that formerly there was a Khmer king who was young and rash. One day he was sitting in his palace which overlooked a river resembling the Tigris (from the palace to the sea was a day's journey), and his minister was with him. He was discussing with his minister the grandeur of the kingdom of the Maharaja of Zabag, of its immense population, and of the large number of islands which it comprised.  

 "I have a desire', said the King, "that I should like to satisfy."

The minister who was sincerely devoted to his sovereign, and who knew with what rashness he often made up his mind, replied: 

"What is your Majesty's desire?" 

The latter answered: 

"I wish to see the head of the Maharaja, King of Zabag, before me on a plate." 

The minister understood that it was jealousy that had suggested this to his sovereign, and said:

"I do not like, your Majesty, to hear my sovereign express such a desire. The peoples of Cambodia and Zabag have as yet shown each other no hatred, and Zabag has done us no harm. It is a distant land, and its king has shown no wish to attack us. No-one must hear about this desire, and it must never be repeated." 

The Khmer king was angry with his minister and, ignoring the advice of his wise and loyal counsellor, repeated the proposal before the generals and courtiers who were present.

The idea spread from mouth to mouth, until it reached the knowledge of the Maharaja of Zabag himself. The latter was an energetic and experienced monarch, who had then reached a mature age. He called his minister and informed him of what he had heard, adding:

"After the proposal that this foolish Khmer king has made in public concerning a desire which is born of his youth, I must take steps in the matter. To take no notice of these insults would be to humble myself before him."

The King ordered his minister to keep this conversation secret, and to go and prepare a thousand ships of moderate size, to equip them, and to put on board arms and as many valiant troops as possible. To explain the situation it was given out that the Maharaja intended to make a tour among the islands of his kingdom; and he wrote to the governors to warn them of the tour that he was going to make. The news spread everywhere, and the governor of each island prepared to receive the Maharaja. 

When the King's orders had been executed and the preparations were finished he embarked, and with his fleet set sail for Cambodia. The Khmer king had no suspicion of what was going on until the Maharaja had arrived at the river which led to the capital and had landed his troops. These invested the capital by surprise, surrounded the palace, and seized the King. The people fled before the invaders. But the Maharaja proclaimed by public criers that he guaranteed the safety of everybody; and then he seated himself on the Khmer king's throne and ordered the captive monarch to be brought before him. He said to the Khmer king: 

"Why did you formulate a desire which was not in your power to satisfy, which could not have done you any good if it had been satisfied, and which would not even have been justified if it had been possible ?"

The Khmer king did not reply and the Maharaja continued:

"You wished to see my head before you on a plate. If you had similarly desired to seize my kingdom or to ravage part of it I should have done the same to Cambodia, but as you only wished to see my head cut off I shall confine myself to subjecting you to the same treatment, and then I shall return to my own country without taking anything from Cambodia of value great or small. My victory will serve as a lesson to your successors, so that no-one will be tempted in future to undertake a task beyond his powers, or to desire more than fate has in store for him."

He then had the Khmer king beheaded, and, addressing the Khmer minister, said:

"I am going to recompense you for the good that you tried to do as minister, since I know well that you had wisely advised your master. What a pity for him that he did not listen. Now seek somebody who can be a good king after this madman and put him on the throne instead".

The Maharaja left at once for his own country, and neither he nor any of his followers took anything away from the Khmer country. When he had returned to his own kingdom he seated  himself on his throne, which looked over a lake, and he had the Khmer king's head placed before him on a plate. Then he called together the dignitaries of his kingdom, and told them what had happened and why he had undertaken this expedition against the Khmer king. On learning this the people of Zabag prayed for blessings to be bestowed upon their ruler. The Maharaja then had the Khmer king's head washed and embalmed, and, placing it in a vase, had it sent to the new Khmer king, together with a letter to the following effect:

"I was obliged to act as I did because of the hatred that the former king manifested against me, and we have chastised him to serve as a lesson to those who might wish to imitate him." 

When the news of these events reached the kings of India and China the Maharaja rose in their estimation. Since that time the kings of Cambodia every morning turn their faces towards Zabag and bow to the earth to do homage to the Maharaja.


In this account Zabag was ruled from Java island, which from approximately mid 8th century till mid 9th century housed the most powerful and prosperous kingdom of the archipelago (the socalled Sailendra or Mataram kingdom). The main points in the story, a Javanese invasion and a period of Cambodian vassalage to Java in the late 8th century), are confirmed by Khmer inscriptions and a Javanese chronicle.


Anyhow, do you think the Maharaja over-reacted ? 


Star


References:

Lawrence Palmer Briggs. 1991. The ancient Khmer Empire.




Edited by Sander - 11-May-2017 at 17:05
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-May-2017 at 23:18
It brings new life to the expression "don't lose your head".
"Arguing with someone who hates you or your ideas, is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter what move you make, your opponent will walk all over the board and scramble the pieces".
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