Pre-history of Cambodia starts with the legendary Khambujaraja, a Brahman king of India, who had come to the region and faced adversity from a beautiful lady on the mountain. After a brief fight between them, a truce was drawn and the beautiful lady, Mero by name, married Khambuja. The country they jointly ruled was called Khambujadesa and their descendants were called the Khmer people. Khambujadesa later became Kampuchea and then Cambodia. The original language spoken was Mon-Khmer. Later in the 6th century the ‘Mon’ people moved further west to Thailand and the Khmer remained in current day Cambodia.
Indian influence in the region began in the first century C. E. They traded goods with Khmer by way of sea, when spice and silk trade had flourished. Both Indians and Chinese exerted their influences on the local people but Indian culture took a firm foothold, perhaps through the efforts of Brahmin priests. The rulers of the time had a suffix of ‘Varman’ to their names, similar to the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. Whilst the Cholas of Tanjavur in India eventually defeated the Pallava Varmans in the 8th century, the Khmer kingdoms flourished well into the 14th century. Though all the rulers of Cambodia bore the name ‘Varman,’ they did not necessarily belong to the same dynasty. At various periods in their history, the rulers and usurpers came from Siam (Thailand) or Champa (Vietnam) as well as Khambujadesa (Cambodia or Kampuchea).