Kauṇḍinya, Preah Thaong, and the "Nāgī Somā": Some Aspects of a Cambodian Legend

by Rudiger Gaudes

Publication: Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 52, No. 2 (1993), pp. 333-358 | Nanzan University via jstor

Published: 1993

Pages: 25

Language : English

The love story between a foreign (or not so foreign) prince and the daughter of the King of the Nagas, set on the legendary (or not so imaginary? was the country really under water then? is it the Cambodian version of an universal myth, the Flood that created life on earth? island of Kouk Thlok -- the island of the Thlok trees --, symbolical origin of the Srok ស្រុក Khmer (Khmer Land), has been told and interpreted in many different ways.

Here, the author compares several versions through history (and historiography) to reach his conclusion: "If we can regard Preah Thaong [Kaundinya] as a symbol or personification of the immigrating ethnos, then the serpent lady was the symbol or personification of the people already living there, that is, "the nagas.""

Chinese sources refer to the marriage of Kaundinya and Neang Neak, also called Queen Soma: "Tenth century Chinese encyclopaedia Tai Ping Lu Yuan says Kaundinya (Hun Tian) was a devotee of a Hindu god and dreamt of his god giving him a divine bow and asking him to take to sea in a vessel. The Chinese text that was translated by historian and academician Ramesh Chandra Majumdar said Kaundinya went to a temple of his god and found a bow the morning after the dream. “Then he embarked on a trading vessel, and the god changed the course of the wind in such a manner that he came to Funan,” the Chinese encyclopaedia said. “Liu Ye (Soma) came in a boat to plunder the vessel. Hun Tian raised his bow and shot an arrow, which pierced through the queen’s boat from one side to the other. The queen was overtaken by fear and submitted to him. Thereupon Hun Tian ruled over the country.”" (notation by Ajay Kamalakaran in his 2021 online essay)

Photo: a modern vision of Queen Soma (Mirror Studio & Photography, 2020)

Tags: Indianization, Khmer culture, Phnom Kulen, Angkor Borei, naga, matrilineal

About the Author

Rudiger Gaudes

Rüdiger Gaudes is a German linguist and Khmerologist who published a monumental (1330 pages) Worterbuch Khmer Deutsch (Khmer-German Dictionary) in 1985.