IIAS Lunch Lecture

Sanskrit elements in Old Khmer language: a case study of benedictions and imprecations in epigraphy from Ancient Cambodia

Lunch Lecture by Kunthea Chhom, J. Gonda fellow at IIAS, teacher at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and Director of the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ancient Cambodia (6th – 14th century CE) is relatively rich in stone inscriptions. Sanskrit and Old Khmer are the main languages of those inscribed texts. Sanskrit elements appear densely clustered in various domains in the Khmer inscriptions. Boons and curses constitute a context which suggests an imbrication of Old Khmer and Sanskrit. They represent one of the earliest elements of Sanskritic culture picked up not only by Khmer people but also by Malay, Javanese and Cam peoples.

My presentation is divided into two parts. Firstly, I will argue that there is no division of role of Sanskrit and Khmer in the formulas of benedictions and imprecations. Yet, there are plenty of Sanskrit elements in Khmer expressions which show that Sanskrit has impacted not only on Khmer vocabulary but also on its syntax. Secondly, I will examine the connection between the practice of cursing-blessing and the making of a “pious act/foundation (dharma)” in Old Khmer inscriptions. Examples from inscriptions in Old Malay, Old Javanese and Old Cam will also be discussed.  

CHHOM Kunthea earned her Master’s degree in Sanskrit from Magadh University – Bodh Gaya (India) in 2008 and her Doctoral degree from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes – Paris in 2016. While working as director of Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum in Siem Reap (Cambodia) and teaching Sanskrit at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, Ms. Chhom continues her epigraphical research and publications. An article on boons and curses in Cambodian inscriptions will be published as a result of her three-month Gonda Foundation fellowship.



Registration (required)

Please register via the webform provided below if you would like to attend this lecture (by Monday 21 May 12:00  if you would like IIAS to provide lunch).

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, one of the IIAS affiliated fellows will give an informal presentation about his/her work-in-progress for colleagues and others interested. Lunch lectures are sometimes also organised for visiting scholars.

IIAS organises these lectures to provide the research community with an opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas. Anyone with an interest in the subject matter at hand is welcome to attend and join the discussion.