Jayavarman V succeeded his father, Rajendravarman, when he was only ten years old. During his early years, the court officials dominated the royal politics. He studied under a very knowledgeable teacher Yajnavaraha, a grandson of King Harshavarman I
Harshavarman I was an Angkorian king who reigned in 910–923 CE.Following his death, Yasovarman I was succeeded by his two sons, the eldar of which was Harshavarman. The reigns of Harshavarman and subsequently his younger brother, Ishanavarman II, marked a period of instability for the Khmer Empire...
. Yajnavaraha was a distinguished scholar as he was "first in the knowledge of the doctrines of the Buddha, medicine and astronomy," and in 967 he constructed Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey is a 10th century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor in Cambodia. It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom...
, considered the jewel of Khmer art for its very beautiful display of bas-reliefs. When Jayavarman turned seventeen years old, he began the construction of his own state shrine, Ta Keo. However, an unfortunate event occurred as the edifice was hit by a thunder bolt during its construction. This was taken as an evil omen and the priests of the court performed a ritual to dispel the demons; afterward, stones and elephants were brought in to finish the job, but without success. The construction was left unfinished.
The Ruling Elites
The aristocratic families dominated Jayavarman V's court. Briggs write, "There is probably no reign in the history of ancient Khmers in which more distinguished ministers, scholars, and dignitaries are mentioned in the inscriptions." Atmashiva, who served under the two previous kings, was his purohita
, chaplain. And Narayana, who had also served under King Rajendravarman, was his hotar
, high priest. However, the most influential and powerful ruling family of all was the house of Saptadevakula who dominated most of the royal affairs. Interestingly, this clan also helped King Suryavarman I come to power in 1002.
Rise of Mahayana Buddhism: Rise of Women Power
Even though Jayavarman V was a Shaivite, he was very tolerant of Buddhism. And under his reign Buddhism flourished. Kirtipandita, his Buddhist minister, brought ancient texts from foreign lands to Cambodia, though none survived. He even suggested that priests used Buddhist prayers as well as Hindu during a ritual.
Buddha teaches tolerance toward all beings, and the rise of Buddhism during Jayavarman V's reign also ushered women in many high positions. Jahavi, younger sister of Yajnavaraha, helped raise money for the construction of Banteay Srei as this temple was not funded by the king. Prana of the Saptadevakula family was the king's trusted advisor. "Chinese writers praise the women of Cambodia for their knowledge of astrology and government and say the women of the royal family sometimes held high political posts, including that of judge."
Jayavarman V's reign lasted for about 30 years and his kingdom was peaceful and prosperous. He died in 1001 and received the posthumous name of Paramashivaloka.