The Sdok Kak Thom Inscription
By Chhany Sak-Humphry
With the assistance of Philip N. Jenner
Background: (from Wikipedia)
Sdok Kok Thom or Sdok Kak Thom, is an 11th Century Khmer temple in present-day Thailand, located about 34 kilometers northeast of the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet. The temple was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Constructed by a prominent priestly family, Sdok Kok Thom is best known as the original site of one of the most illuminating inscriptions left behind by the Khmer Empire, which ruled much of Southeast Asia from the end of the 9th century to the 15th century.
The inscription is a 340-line composition, in both Sanskrit and ancient Khmer, carved on a gray sandstone stele 1.51 meters high that stood in the northeast corner of the temple's court. Dating to 8th February 1053 A.D., it recounts two and a half centuries of service that members of the temple's founding family provided to the Khmer court, mainly as chief chaplains to kings. In laying out this long role, the text provides a remarkable and often poetically worded look at the faith, royal lineage, history and social structure of the times.
It is generally recognized in Southeast Asian studies that the Sdok Kak Thom inscription is a document of the first order of importance for Cambodian history. What has not been so widely acknowledged is that being the longest and most discursive specimen of Old Khmer recovered so far, it is no less important for Khmer linguistics, a discipline which dates at the earliest from the late 1950's. Our predecessors in the analysis of the inscription have all been distinguished historians and Sanskritists who have exploited the document for their special purposes. the facts of Old Khmer grammar have not hitherto received the attention they deserve.
Our purpose in all that follows is to reconsider the inscription with a view to developing an improved understanding of Khmer grammar as it stood in the first half of the Angkorian period. At the same time we have felt that the full treatment of the Khmer text of the inscription cannot exclude the Sanskrit test, to which we refer whenever doing so seems helpful. While we believe our analysis of the text throws new light on essential features of Old Khmer grammar, it is for the historians to say whether we have contributed to a fuller understanding of the inscription from their perspective. In pursuing our aim we have been at pains to avoid trespassing into their province, though we have not hesitated to touch upon the linguistic aspects of a few historical questions.
Phnom Penh 2005
The Buddhist Institute
Large size 185 x 275 mm
283 pages, 9 pp. illus. 1 map