Epigraphical Texts and Sculptural Steles Produced under the Vīrabhadravarmadevas of 15th-Century Campā

Inscriptions reflect a unified and diverse Kingdom of Champa in the 15th century, before its collapse.

Griffiths 2019 Corpus Inscriptions Campa Inscription C60 Thanh Son

Publication: Études du corpus des inscriptions du Campā, VI | Digital verion: HAL halshs-03325518

Published: 2019

Pages: 67

Language : English

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The sixth publication of the findings of the Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā project focuses on the inscriptions of the 15th century. The author notes that analysis and translations — notably of the entire set of accessible inscriptions engraved on the back-slabs of sculptural steles — reveal the previously unknown name of a king — Śrī Viṣṇujāti Vīrabhadravarmadeva, son of Śrī Jayasiṁhavarmadeva — who reigned through the century’s first four decades. The distribution of 15th-century royal inscriptions from Quảng Nam to Đồng Nai serves to refute revisionist claims that Campā was never a unified kingdom. The epigraphical evidence suggests that, on the contrary, Campā in this period was a land of significant territorial extent ruled by a rather powerful king.”

The epigraphic studies a 15th century Champa kingdom anxious to ascert itself as the land of Brah Kanda’ against the cultural and military pressures of the Viet forces to the North, and the Khmer ones to the west. Jem̃ nagara kvīra jem̃ nagara campa sadākāla”, concludes for instance the inscription C1, on the back of a Vishnu statue at Buu San Pagoda (near Bien Hoa, modern Vietnam): Let the Khmer land never succeed in ruling it, but [let] the Campa land [rule it] forever”, according to the author’s translation.

This inscription, opening with honorific titles that have still to be interpreted, praises the son of Śrī Jayasiṁhavarmadeva, man of Ṅauk Glauṅ Vijaya, the protector of the realm. He had obtained victory in the land of the Viet, went out [and] returned to take this land of Braḥ Kānda [through] many battles. He has succeeded to create again (?) a Campa land in Śaka worlds, half-of-eight, fires, king (i.e. in 1343 Śaka). He had this Tribhuvanākrānta (i.e. Viṣṇu) made with ri jittasatrāsi he obtained victory in Cambodia and succeeded to give property and means of existence per deity for various liṅgas.”

Interestingly, the author notes the ethnic diversity of the Champa kingdom: We need not rely only on iconography to establish the connection between Campā, Java and India during this period: it is confirmed in one of the 15th-century inscriptions, the recently published stele of Drang Lai (C. 43). Like many other inscriptions, this one too gives a list of slaves of various ethnic origins offered to the service of a temple of Śiva. Indeed, this list is the most elaborate that I know in all of Campā epigraphy (face B, lines 22 – 23), and it includes a mention of Bengalis that must be among the earliest attestations of this specific ethnonym found in Southeast Asia: And [men of] Campā whom he ordered to reside here in the highlands, with Laos, Viets, Khmers, Siamese, Javanese, Bengalis: all of them 170.’” [vaṅgalā being the transcription of the Old Cham term]


EFEO Estampage [Stamping] (n. 2313) for the inscription C. 1, Bửu Sơn Pagoda, Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai.

Main photo: The site of inscription C. 60, Thạnh Sơn (Hồ Hố Giang), Bình Định (photo by Thành Phần).

Tags: Champa, epigraphy, Cham Kings, epigraphy, Vietnam, Cambodia, 15th century, Bengalis, India, Java