Story of Queen Soma and Kaundinya I of Funan, Cambodia

Story of Queen Soma and Kaundinya I is one of the best love stories in the world. Their love led them to establish a peaceful and organised kingdom that lasted until the sixth century. Kaundinya I and Queen Soma are popularly known as Preah Thong and Neang Neak in Cambodia.

Statue of Preah Thong and Neang Neak
Statue of Preah Thong and Neang Neak

Who was Queen Soma?

Queen Soma was the ruler of the Kingdom of Funan and she is widely regarded as the first monarch of Cambodia. In the early first century, Queen Soma ruled Funan. Soma’s other popular name was Neang Neak. She was also Cambodia’s first female leader.

Queen Soma was a daughter of the chieftain of the local Nāga clan in Southeast Asian region and wife of Kaundinya I. She believed in Khmer Animism and Hinduism.

Names of Queen Soma

Queen Soma were known differently in different languages. Some of her names are written below—

Hindi and Sanskrit (Indian)Soma
KhmerNeang Neak
Chinese or MandarinLiyè (Chinese)
VietnameseLiu Dip

Who was Kaundinya I?

Kaundinya I was the founder and second monarch of the Funan Kingdom, which encompassed much of Cambodia, which is located on the mainland of Southeast Asia and is centered on the Mekong Delta.

Kaundinya I was born in Kalinga in India to a Brahmin family. As he was a Brahmin, he had trained himself in arms. He was fired from Kalinga for alleged involvement in anti-social activities. This exile became a blessing for him and he managed to found a state called Funan in Southeast Asia. Kaundinya I was consort of Queen Soma.  He believed in Hinduism in Khmer Animism religions.

Names of Kaundinya I

Kaundinya I was also known differently in different languages. His names are mentioned below— 

Hindi, SanskritKaundinya
Chinese or MandarinHùntián
KhmerPreah Thong

Story of Soma and Kaundinya I that led to the establishment of the House of Kaundinya

Kaundinya I, an Indian Brahmin merchant from Kalinga, founded the state of Funan. By virtue of being born a Brahmin, Kaundinya was trained since his childhood to be a versatile scholar and he also had trained himself in arms during his anti-social career. Kaundinya was exiled from his mother for his Brahmin-like behaviour. As he was banished from his mother land, he was looking for a new place. He tied up boats with some of his followers, after several months of his banishment and set up for somewhere, he reached the Place where modern Cambodia is located. He successfully founded a state called Funan there.

Statue of Preah Thong and Neang Neak, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Statue of Preah Thong and Neang Neak, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

One day, a merchants’ ship led by Kaundinya was attacked by pirates led by Soma. The marchants fought back the pirates and fended off the attackers. Although the marchants led by Kaundinya fought back strongly m but the ship had been damaged and was beached for repairs.

The pirates attacked the marchants again and the Indians were fearful of a second attack. Indian marchants experienced how princess Soma was a dangerous warrior. Dramatically, Soma was impressed by Kaundinya’s bravery and fighting skills. Princess Soma fell in love with Kaundinya and proposed to marry her; Kaundinya accepted Soma’s proposal of marrying her.

The union of Funan founder Kaundinya I and the serpent girl Soma resulted in the formation of the House of Kaundinya that would become the Funan royal dynasty, which would rule the region for many generations, and royal legitimacy was also acquired through the female line in the kingdom. Soma or Neang Neak became the first monarch of Funan.

You might have known that serpent or Nāga is an important part of Khmer iconography, and the story between Preah Thong and Neang Neak (Kaundinya I and Soma) tells why the serpent became such an important part of Khmer iconography.

Soma and Kaundinya I in Cambodian culture

As a result of the love of Kaundinya I and Queen Soma, the people of Southeast Asia got the wonderful kingdom called Funan. In Cambodia, Kaundinya and Soma (Preah Thong and Neang Neak) are still considered symbols of love and marriage. In almost every wedding in Cambodia, the bride and groom are seen dressing up as Kaundinya and Soma.

Click here to read about Funan

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