Greater India, or Indian cultural sphere is an area composed of many countries and regions in South and Southeast Asia that were historically influenced by Indian culture and languages. The term Greater India is used to encompass the historical and geographic extent of all political entities of the Indian subcontinent, and the regions which are culturally linked to India or received significant Sanskritisation and Indian cultural influence. These countries have been transformed to varying degrees by the acceptance and induction of cultural and institutional elements of India. Since around 500 BCE, Asia's expanding land and maritime trade had resulted in prolonged socio-economic and cultural stimulation and diffusion of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs into the region's cosmology, in particular in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. In Central Asia, transmission of ideas were predominantly of a religious nature.
By the early centuries of the common era most of the principalities of Southeast Asia had effectively absorbed defining aspects of Hindu culture, religion and administration. The notion of divine god-kingship was introduced by the concept of Harihara, Sanskrit and other Indian epigraphic systems were declared official, like those of the south Indian Pallava dynasty and Chalukya dynasty. These Indianized Kingdoms, a term coined by George Cœdès in his work Histoire ancienne des états hindouisés d'Extrême-Orient, were characterized by surprising resilience, political integrity and administrative stability.
To the north, Indian religious ideas were accepted into the cosmology of Himalayan peoples, most profoundly in Tibet and Bhutan. Buddhist monasticism extended into Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia, and Buddhist texts and ideas were readily accepted in China and Japan in the east. To the west, Indian culture converged with Greater Persia via the Hindukush and the Pamir Mountains.
Evolution of the concept
The concept of the Three Indias was in common circulation in pre-industrial Europe. Greater India was the southern part of South Asia, Lesser India was the northern part of South Asia, and Middle India was the region near the Middle East. The Portuguese form (Portuguese: India Maior) was used at least since the mid-15th century. The term, which seems to have been used with variable precision, sometimes meant only the Indian subcontinent; Europeans used a variety of terms related to South Asia to designate the South Asian peninsula, including High India, Greater India, Exterior India and India aquosa.
However, in some accounts of European nautical voyages, Greater India (or India Major) extended from the Malabar Coast (present-day Kerala) to India extra Gangem (lit. "India, beyond the Ganges," but usually the East Indies, i.e. present-day Malay Archipelago) and India Minor, from Malabar to Sind. Farther India was sometimes used to cover all of modern Southeast Asia. Until the fourteenth century, India could also mean areas along the Red Sea, including Somalia, South Arabia, and Ethiopia (e.g., Diodorus of Sicily of the first century BC says that "the Nile rises in India" and Marco Polo of the fourteenth century says that "Lesser India ... contains ... Abash [Abyssinia]")
In late 19th-century geography, Greater India referred to British India, Hindustan (Northwestern Subcontinent) which included the Punjab, the Himalayas, and extended eastwards to Indochina (including Tibet and Burma), parts of Indonesia (namely, the Sunda Islands, Borneo and Celebes), and the Philippines." German atlases distinguished Vorder-Indien (Anterior India) as the South Asian peninsula and Hinter-Indien as Southeast Asia.
Greater India, or Greater India Basin also signifies "the Indian Plate plus a postulated northern extension", the product of the Indian–Asia collision. Although its usage in geology pre-dates Plate tectonic theory, the term has seen increased usage since the 1970s. It is unknown when and where the India–Asia (Indian and Eurasian Plate) convergence occurred, at or before 52 Million years ago. The plates have converged up to 3,600 km (2,200 mi) ± 35 km (22 mi). The upper crustal shortening is documented from geological record of Asia and the Himalaya as up to approximately 2,350 km (1,460 mi) less.
Indianization is different from direct colonialism in that these Indianized lands were not inhabited by organizations from the Indian subcontinent, with exceptions such as the Chola invasions of medieval times. Instead, Indian cultural influence from trade routes and language use slowly permeated through Southeast Asia, making the traditions a part of the region. The interactions between India and Southeast Asia were marked by waves of influence and dominance. At some points, the Indian culture solely found its way into the region, and at other points, the influence was used to take over. Indianization was seen as the total influence of all aspects of Southeast Asian history. Before the take over of the influence of Indian culture, Southeast Asia was seen as a place with no history. The beginning of Indianization marked the start of the cultural commencement in Southeast Asia.
The concept of the Indianized kingdoms, a term coined by George Coedès, describes Southeast Asian principalities that flourished from the early common era as a result of centuries of socio-economic interaction having incorporated central aspects of Indian institutions, religion, statecraft, administration, culture, epigraphy, literature and architecture.
Iron Age trade expansion caused regional geostrategic remodeling. Southeast Asia was now situated in the central area of convergence of the Indian and the East Asian maritime trade routes, the basis for economic and cultural growth. The earliest Hindu kingdoms emerged in Sumatra and Java, followed by mainland polities such as Funan and Champa. Adoption of Indian civilization elements and individual adaptation stimulated the emergence of centralized states and the development of highly organized societies. Ambitious local leaders realized the benefits of Hinduism and Indian methods of administration, culture, literature, etc. Rule in accord with universal moral principles, represented in the concept of the devaraja, was more appealing than the Chinese concept of intermediaries.
Theories of Indianization
As conclusive evidence is missing, numerous Indianization theories of Southeast Asia have emerged since the early 20th century. The central question usually revolves around the main propagator of Indian institutional and cultural ideas in Southeast Asia.
One theory of the spread of Indianization that focuses on the caste of Vaishya traders and their role for spreading Indian culture and language into Southeast Asia through trade. There were many trade incentives that brought Vaishya traders to Southeast Asia, the most important of which was gold. During the 4th century C.E., when the first evidence of Indian trader in Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent was at a deficiency for gold due to extensive control of overland trade routes by the Roman Empire. This made many Vaishya traders look to the seas to acquire new gold, of which Southeast Asia was abundant. However, the conclusion that Indianization was just spread through trade is insufficient, as Indianization permeated through all classes of Southeast Asian society, not just the merchant classes.
Another theory states that Indianization spread through the warrior class of Kshatriya. This hypothesis effectively explains state formation in Southeast Asia, as these warriors came with the intention of conquering the local peoples and establishing their own political power in the region. However, this theory hasn't attracted much interest from historians as there is very little literary evidence to support it.
The most widely accepted theory for the spread of Indianization into Southeast Asia is through the class of Brahman scholars. These Brahmans brought with them many of the Hindu religious and philosophical traditions and spread them to the elite classes of Southeast Asian polities. Once these traditions were adopted into the elite classes, it disseminated throughout all the lower classes, thus explaining the Indianization present in all classes of Southeast Asian society. Brahmans were also experts in art and architecture, and political affairs, thus explaining the adoption of many Indian style law codes and architecture into Southeast Asian society
Adaption and adoption
It is unknown how immigration, interaction, and settlement took place, whether by key figures from India or through Southeast Asians visiting India who took elements of Indian culture back home. It is likely that Hindu and Buddhist traders, priests, and princes traveled to Southeast Asia from India in the first few centuries of the Common Era and eventually settled there. Strong impulse most certainly came from the region's ruling classes who invited Brahmans to serve at their courts as priests, astrologers and advisers. Divinity and royalty were closely connected in these polities as Hindu rituals validated the powers of the monarch. Brahmans and priests from India proper played a key role in supporting ruling dynasties through exact rituals. Dynastic consolidation was the basis for more centralized kingdoms that emerged in Java, Sumatra, Cambodia, Burma, and along the central and south coasts of Vietnam from the 4th to 8th centuries.
Art, architecture, rituals, and cultural elements such as the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata had been adopted and customized increasingly with a regional character. The caste system, although adopted, was never applied universally and reduced to serve for a selected group of nobles only. Many struggle to date and determine when Indianizaton in Southeast Asia occurred because of the structures and ruins found that were similar to those in India.
States such as Srivijaya, Majapahit and the Khmer empire had territorial continuity, resilient population and surplus economies that rivaled those in India itself. Borobudur in Java and Angkor in Cambodia are, apart from their grandeur, examples of a distinctly developed regional culture, style, and expression.
Southeast Asia is called Suvarnabhumi or Sovannah Phoum - the golden land and Suvarnadvipa - the golden Islands in Sanskrit. It was frequented by traders from eastern India, particularly Kalinga. Cultural and trading relations between the powerful Chola dynasty of South India and the Southeast Asian Hindu kingdoms led the Bay of Bengal to be called "The Chola Lake", and the Chola attacks on Srivijaya in the 10th century CE are the sole example of military attacks by Indian rulers against Southeast Asia. The Pala dynasty of Bengal, which controlled the heartland of Buddhist India, maintained close economic, cultural and religious ties, particularly with Srivijaya.
The pre-Indic political and social systems in Southeast Asia were marked by a relative indifference towards lineage descent. Hindu God kingship enabled rulers to supersede loyalties, forge cosmopolitan polities and the worship of Shiva and Vishnu was combined with ancestor worship, so that Khmer, Javanese, and Cham rulers claimed semi-divine status as descendants of a God. Hindu traditions, especially the relationship to the sacrality of the land and social structures, are inherent in Hinduism's transnational features. The epic traditions of the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa further legitimized a ruler identified with a God who battled and defeated the wrong doers that threaten the ethical order of the world.
Hinduism does not have a single historical founder, a centralized imperial authority in India proper nor a bureaucratic structure, thus ensuring relative religious independence for the individual ruler. It also allows for multiple forms of divinity, centered upon the Trimurti the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the deities responsible for the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe.
The effects of Hinduism and Buddhism applied a tremendous impact on the many civilizations inhabiting Southeast Asia which significantly provided some structure to the composition of written traditions. An essential factor for the spread and adaptation of these religions originated from trading systems of the third and fourth century. In order to spread the message of these religions Buddhist monks and Hindu priests joined mercantile classes in the quest to share their religious and cultural values and beliefs. Along the Mekong delta, evidence of Indianized religious models can be observed in communities labeled Funan. There can be found the earliest records engraved on a rock in Vocanh. The engravings consist of Buddhist archives and a south Indian scripts are written in Sanskrit that have been dated to belong to the early half of the third century. Indian religion was profoundly absorbed by local cultures that formed their own distinctive variations of these structures in order to reflect their own ideals.
Champa, Dvaravati, Funan, Gangga Negara, Kadaram, Kalingga, Kutai, Langkasuka, Pagan, Pan Pan, Po-ni, and Tarumanagara had by the 1st to 4th centuries CE adopted Hinduism's cosmology and rituals, the devaraja concept of kingship, and Sanskrit as official writing. Despite the fundamental cultural integration, these kingdoms were autonomous in their own right and functioned independently.
- Funan: Funan was a polity that encompassed the southernmost part of the Indochinese peninsula during the 1st to 6th centuries. The name Funan is not found in any texts of local origin from the period, and so is considered an exonym based on the accounts of two Chinese diplomats, Kang Tai and Zhu Ying who sojourned there in the mid-3rd century CE.:24 It is not known what name the people of Funan gave to their polity. Some scholars believe ancient Chinese scholars transcribed the word Funan from a word related to the Khmer word bnaṃ or vnaṃ (modern: phnoṃ, meaning "mountain"); while others thought that Funan may not be a transcription at all, rather it meant what it says in Chinese, meaning something like "Pacified South". Centered at the lower Mekong, Funan is noted as the oldest Hindu culture in this region, which suggests prolonged socio-economic interaction with India and maritime trading partners of the Indosphere. Cultural and religious ideas had reached Funan via the Indian Ocean trade route. Trade with India had commenced well before 500 BC as Sanskrit hadn't yet replaced Pali. Funan's language has been determined as to have been an early form of Khmer and its written form was Sanskrit.
- Chenla was the successor polity of Funan that existed from around the late 6th century until the early 9th century in Indochina, preceding the Khmer Empire. Like its predecessor, Chenla occupied a strategic position where the maritime trade routes of the Indosphere and the East Asian cultural sphere converged, resulting in prolonged socio-economic and cultural influence, along with the adoption of the Sanskrit epigraphic system of the south Indian Pallava dynasty and Chalukya dynasty. Chenla's first ruler Vīravarman adopted the idea of divine kingship and deployed the concept of Harihara, the syncretistic Hindu "god that embodied multiple conceptions of power". His successors continued this tradition, thus obeying the code of conduct Manusmṛti, the Laws of Manu for the Kshatriya warrior caste and conveying the idea of political and religious authority.
- Langkasuka: Langkasuka (-langkha Sanskrit for "resplendent land" -sukkha of "bliss") was an ancient Hindu kingdom located in the Malay Peninsula. The kingdom, along with the Old Kedah settlement, are probably the earliest territorial footholds founded on the Malay Peninsula. According to tradition, the founding of the kingdom happened in the 2nd century; Malay legends claim that Langkasuka was founded at Kedah, and later moved to Pattani.
- Champa: The kingdom of Champa (or Lin-yi in Chinese) controlled what is now south and central Vietnam since approximately 192 CE. The dominant religion was Hinduism and the culture was heavily influenced by India. By the late fifteenth century, the Vietnamese — proponents of the Sinosphere — had eradicated the last remaining traces of the once powerful maritime kingdom of Champa. The last surviving Chams began their diaspora in 1471, many re-settling in Khmer territory.
- Kambuja: The Khmer Empire was established by the early 9th century in a mythical initiation and consecration ceremony by founder Jayavarman II at Mount Kulen (Mount Mahendra) in 802 CE A succession of powerful sovereigns, continuing the Hindu devaraja tradition, reigned over the classical era of Khmer civilization until the 11th century. Buddhism was then introduced temporarily into royal religious practice, with discontinuities and decentralisation resulting in subsequent removal. The royal chronology ended in the 14th century. During this period of the Khmer empire, societal functions of administration, agriculture, architecture, hydrology, logistics, urban planning, literature and the arts saw an unprecedented degree of development, refinement and accomplishment from the distinct expression of Hindu cosmology.
- Mon kingdoms: From the 9th century until the abrupt end of the Hanthawaddy Kingdom in 1539, the Mon kingdoms (Hariphunchai, Pegu) were notable for facilitating Indianized cultural exchange in lower Burma, in particular by having strong ties with Sri Lanka.
- Sukhothai: The first Tai peoples to gain independence from the Khmer Empire and start their own kingdom in the 13th century. Sukhothai was a precursor for the Ayutthaya Kingdom and the Kingdom of Siam. Though ethnically Thai, the Sukhothai kingdom in many ways was a continuation of the Buddhist Mon-Dvaravati civilizations, as well as the neighboring Khmer Empire.
- Salakanagara: Salakanagara kingdom is the first historically recorded Indianized kingdom in Western Java, established by an Indian trader after marrying a local Sundanese princess. This Kingdom existed between 130-362 CE.
- Tarumanagara was an early Sundanese Indianized kingdom, located not far from modern Jakarta, and according to Tugu inscription ruler Purnavarman apparently built a canal that changed the course of the Cakung River, and drained a coastal area for agriculture and settlement. In his inscriptions, Purnavarman associated himself with Vishnu, and Brahmins ritually secured the hydraulic project.
- Kalingga: Kalingga (Javanese: Karajan Kalingga) was the 6th century Indianized kingdom on the north coast of Central Java, Indonesia. It was the earliest Hindu-Buddhist kingdom in Central Java, and together with Kutai and Tarumanagara are the oldest kingdoms in Indonesian history.
- Malayu was a classical Southeast Asian kingdom. The primary sources for much of the information on the kingdom are the New History of the Tang, and the memoirs of the Chinese Buddhist monk Yijing who visited in 671 CE, and states that it was "absorbed" by Srivijaya by 692 CE, but had "broken away" by the end of the eleventh century according to Chao Jukua. The exact location of the kingdom is the subject of studies among historians.
- Srivijaya: From the 7th to 13th centuries Srivijaya, a maritime empire centered on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, had adopted Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism under a line of rulers from Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa to the Sailendras. A stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism, Srivijaya attracted pilgrims and scholars from other parts of Asia. I Ching reports that the kingdom was home to more than a thousand Buddhist scholars. A notable Buddhist scholar of local origin, Dharmakirti, taught Buddhist philosophy in Srivijaya and Nalanda (in India), and was the teacher of Atisha. Most of the time, this Buddhist Malay empire enjoyed cordial relationship with China and the Pala Empire in Bengal, and the 860 CE Nalanda inscription records that Maharaja Balaputra dedicated a monastery at Nalanda university near Pala territory. The Srivijaya kingdom ceased to exist in the 13th century due to various factors, including the expansion of the Javanese, Singhasari, and Majapahit empires.
- Tambralinga was an ancient kingdom located on the Malay Peninsula that at one time came under the influence of Srivijaya. The name had been forgotten until scholars recognized Tambralinga as Nagara Sri Dharmaraja (Nakhon Si Thammarat). Early records are scarce but its duration is estimated to range from the seventh to the fourteenth century. Tambralinga first sent tribute to the emperor of the Tang dynasty in 616 CE. In Sanskrit, Tambra means "red" and linga means "symbol", typically representing the divine energy of Shiva.
- Medang Mataram: The Medang-i-Bhumi Mataram Kingdom flourished between the 8th and 11th centuries. It was first centered in central Java before moving later to east Java. This kingdom produced numbers of Hindu-Buddhist temples in Java, including Borobudur Buddhist mandala and the Prambanan Trimurti Hindu temple dedicated mainly to Shiva. The Sailendras were the ruling family of this kingdom at an earlier stage in central Java, before being replaced by the Isyana Dynasty.
- Kadiri: In the 10th century, Mataram challenged the supremacy of Srivijaya, resulting in the destruction of the Mataram capital by Srivijaya early in the 11th century. Restored by King Airlangga (c. 1020–1050), the kingdom split on his death; the new state of Kediri, in eastern Java, became the centre of Javanese culture for the next two centuries, spreading its influence to the eastern parts of Southeast Asia. The spice trade was now becoming increasingly important, as demand from European countries grew. Before they learned to keep sheep and cattle alive in the winter, they had to eat salted meat, made palatable by the addition of spices. One of the main sources was the Maluku Islands (or "Spice Islands") in Indonesia, and so Kediri became a strong trading nation.
- Singhasari: In the 13th century, however, the Kediri dynasty was overthrown by a revolution, and Singhasari arose in east Java. The domains of this new state expanded under the rule of its warrior-king Kertanegara. He was killed by a prince of the previous Kediri dynasty, who then established the last great Hindu-Javanese kingdom, Majapahit. By the middle of the 14th century Majapahit controlled most of Java, Sumatra and the Malay peninsula, part of Borneo, the southern Celebes and the Moluccas. It also exerted considerable influence on the mainland.
- Majapahit: The Majapahit empire, centered in East Java, succeeded the Singhasari empire and flourished in the Indonesian archipelago between the 13th and 15th centuries. Noted for their naval expansion, the Javanese spanned west–east from Lamuri in Aceh to Wanin in Papua. Majapahit was one of the last and greatest Hindu empires in Maritime Southeast Asia. Most of Balinese Hindu culture, traditions and civilisations were derived from Majapahit legacy. A large number of Majapahit nobles, priests, and artisans found their home in Bali after the decline of Majapahit to Demak Sultanate.
- Galuh was an ancient Hindu kingdom in the eastern Tatar Pasundan (now west Java province and Banyumasan region of central Java province), Indonesia. It was established following the collapse of the Tarumanagara kingdom around the 7th century. Traditionally the kingdom of Galuh was associated with the eastern Priangan cultural region, around the Citanduy and Cimanuk rivers, with its territory spanning from Citarum river on the west, to the Pamali (present-day Brebes river) and Serayu rivers on the east. Its capital was located in Kawali, near present-day Ciamis city.
- Sunda: The Kingdom of Sunda was a Hindu kingdom located in western Java from 669 CE to around 1579 CE, covering the area of present-day Banten, Jakarta, West Java, and the western part of Central Java. According to primary historical records, the Bujangga Manik manuscript, the eastern border of the Sunda Kingdom was the Pamali River (Ci Pamali, the present day Brebes River) and the Serayu River (Ci Sarayu) in Central Java.
Waning of Indianization
Beginning shortly after the 12th century, the Khmer kingdom, one of the first kingdoms that began the dissipation of Indianization started after Jayavarman VII in which expanded a substantial amount of territory, thus going into war with Champa. Leading into the fall of the Khmer Kingdom, the Khmer political and cultural zones were taken, overthrown, and fallen as well. Not only did Indianization change many cultural and political aspects, but it also changed the spiritual realm as well, creating a type of Northern Culture which began in the early 14th century, prevalent for its rapid decline in the Indian kingdoms. The decline of Hinduism kingdoms and spark of Buddhist kingdoms led to the formation of orthodox Sinhalese Buddhism and is a key factor leading to the decline of Indianization. Sukhothai and Ceylon are the prominent characters who formulated the center of Buddhism and this became more popularized over Hinduism.
Rise of Islam
Not only was the spark of Buddhism the driving force for Indianization coming to an end, but Islamic control took over as well in the midst of the thirteenth century to trump the Hinduist kingdoms. In the process of Islam coming to the traditional Hinduism kingdoms, trade was heavily practiced and the now Islamic Indians started becoming merchants all over Southeast Asia. Moreover, as trade became more saturated in the Southeast Asian regions wherein Indianization once persisted, the regions had become more Muslim populated. This so-called Islamic control has spanned to many of the trading centers across the regions of Southeast Asia, including one of the most dominant centers, Malacca, and has therefore stressed a widespread rise of Islamization.
Indian cultural sphere
The use of Greater India to refer to an Indian cultural sphere was popularised by a network of Bengali scholars in the 1920s who were all members of the Calcutta-based Greater India Society. The movement's early leaders included the historian R. C. Majumdar (1888–1980); the philologists Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1890–1977) and P. C. Bagchi (1898–1956), and the historians Phanindranath Bose and Kalidas Nag (1891–1966). Some of their formulations were inspired by concurrent excavations in Angkor by French archaeologists and by the writings of French Indologist Sylvain Lévi. The scholars of the society postulated a benevolent ancient Indian cultural colonisation of Southeast Asia, in stark contrast — in their view — to the Western colonialism of the early 20th century.
The term Greater India and the notion of an explicit Hindu expansion of ancient Southeast Asia have been linked to both Indian nationalism and Hindu nationalism. However, many Indian nationalists, like Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, although receptive to "an idealisation of India as a benign and uncoercive world civiliser and font of global enlightenment," stayed away from explicit "Greater India" formulations. In addition, some scholars have seen the Hindu/Buddhist acculturation in ancient Southeast Asia as "a single cultural process in which Southeast Asia was the matrix and South Asia the mediatrix." In the field of art history, especially in American writings, the term survived due to the influence of art theorist Ananda Coomaraswamy. Coomaraswamy's view of pan-Indian art history was influenced by the "Calcutta cultural nationalists."
By some accounts Greater India consists of "lands including Burma, Java, Cambodia, Bali, and the former Champa and Funan polities of present-day Vietnam," in which Indian and Hindu culture left an "imprint in the form of monuments, inscriptions and other traces of the historic "Indianizing" process." By some other accounts, many Pacific societies and "most of the Buddhist world including Ceylon, Tibet, Central Asia, and even Japan were held to fall within this web of Indianizing culture colonies" This particular usage — implying cultural "sphere of influence" of India — was promoted by the Greater India Society, formed by a group of Bengali men of letters, and is not found before the 1920s. The term Greater India was used in historical writing in India into the 1970s.
Culture spread via the trade routes that linked India with southern Burma, central and southern Siam, the Malay peninsula and Sumatra to Java, lower Cambodia and Champa. The Pali and Sanskrit languages and the Indian script, together with Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Brahmanism and Hinduism, were transmitted from direct contact as well as through sacred texts and Indian literature. Southeast Asia had developed some prosperous and very powerful colonial empires that contributed to Hindu-Buddhist artistic creations and architectural developments. Art and architectural creations that rivaled those built in India, especially in its sheer size, design and aesthetic achievements. The notable examples are Borobudur in Java and Angkor monuments in Cambodia. The Srivijaya Empire to the south and the Khmer Empire to the north competed for influence in the region.
A defining characteristic of the cultural link between Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent was the adoption of ancient Indian Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist culture and philosophy into Myanmar, Tibet, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaya, Laos and Cambodia. Indian scripts are found in Southeast Asian islands ranging from Sumatra, Java, Bali, South Sulawesi and part of the Philippines. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have had a large impact on South Asia and Southeast Asia. One of the most tangible evidence of dharmic Hindu traditions is the widespread use of the Añjali Mudrā gesture of greeting and respect. It is seen in the Indian namasté and similar gestures known throughout Southeast Asia; its cognates include the Cambodian sampeah, the Indonesian sembah, the Japanese gassho and Thai wai.
Beyond the Himalaya and Hindukush mountains in the north, along the Silk Route Indian influence was linked with Buddhism. Tibet and Khotan was direct heirs of Gangetic Buddhism, despite the difference in languages. Many Tibetan monks even used to know Sanskrit very well. In Khotan the Ramayana was well cicrulated in Khotanese language, though the narrative is slightly different from the Gangetic version. In Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan many Buddhist monasteries were established. These countries were used as a kind of springboard for the monks who brought Indian Buddhist texts and images to China. Further north, in the Gobi Desert, statues of Ganesha and Kartikeya was found alongside Buddhist imagery in Mogao Caves.
Religion, mythology and folklore
- Hinduism is practised by the majority of Bali's population. The Cham people of Vietnam still practice Hinduism as well. Though officially Buddhist, many Thai, Khmer, and Burmese people also worship Hindu gods in a form of syncretism.
- Brahmins have had a large role in spreading Hinduism in Southeast Asia. Even today many monarchies such as the royal court of Thailand still have Hindu rituals performed for the King by Hindu Brahmins.
- Garuda, a Hindu mythological figure, is present in the coats of arms of Indonesia, Thailand and Ulaanbaatar.
- Muay Thai, a fighting art that is the Thai version of the Hindu Musti-yuddha style of martial art.
- Kaharingan, an indigenous religion followed by the Dayak people of Borneo, is categorised as a form of Hinduism in Indonesia.
- Philippine mythology includes the supreme god Bathala and the concept of Diwata and the still-current belief in Karma—all derived from Hindu-Buddhist concepts.
- Malay folklore contains a rich number of Indian-influenced mythological characters, such as Bidadari, Jentayu, Garuda and Naga.
- Wayang shadow puppets and classical dance-dramas of Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand took stories from episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Indians spread their religion to Southeast Asia, beginning the Hindu and Buddhist cultures there. They introduced the caste system to the region, especially to Java, Bali, Madura, and Sumatra. The adopted caste system was not as strict as in India, tempered to the local context. There are multiple similarities between the two caste systems such that both state that no one is equal within society and that everyone has his own place. It also promoted the upbringing of highly organized central states. Indians were still able to implement their religion, political ideas, literature, mythology, and art.
Architecture and monuments
- The same style of Hindu temple architecture was used in several ancient temples in South East Asia including Angkor Wat, which was dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu and is shown on the flag of Cambodia, also Prambanan in Central Java, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, is dedicated to Trimurti — Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
- Borobudur in Central Java, Indonesia, is the world's largest Buddhist monument. It took shape of a giant stone mandala crowned with stupas and believed to be the combination of Indian-origin Buddhist ideas with the previous megalithic tradition of native Austronesian step pyramid.
- The minarets of 15th- to 16th-century mosques in Indonesia, such as the Great Mosque of Demak and Kudus mosque resemble those of Majapahit Hindu temples.
- The Batu Caves in Malaysia are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. It is the focal point of the annual Thaipusam festival in Malaysia and attracts over 1.5 million pilgrims, making it one of the largest religious gatherings in history.
- Erawan Shrine, dedicated to Brahma, is one of the most popular religious shrines in Thailand.
Scholars like Sheldon Pollock have used the term Sanskrit Cosmopolis to describe the region and argued for millennium-long cultural exchanges without necessarily involving migration of peoples or colonisation. Pollock's 2006 book The Language of the Gods in the World of Men makes a case for studying the region as comparable with Latin Europe and argues that the Sanskrit language was its unifying element.
Scripts in Sanskrit discovered during the early centuries of the Common Era are the earliest known forms of writing to have extended all the way to Southeast Asia. Its gradual impact ultimately resulted in its widespread domain as a means of dialect which evident in regions, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand and additionally a few of the larger Indonesian islands. In addition, alphabets from languages spoken in Burmese, Thai, Laos, and Cambodia are variations formed off of Indian ideals that have localized the language.
Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Tibeto-Burman-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhist texts in translation. The spread of Buddhism to Tibet allowed many Sanskrit texts to survive only in Tibetan translation (in the Tanjur). Buddhism was similarly introduced to China by Mahayanist missionaries sent by the Indian Emperor Ashoka mostly through translations of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit texts, and many terms were transliterated directly and added to the Chinese vocabulary.
In Southeast Asia, languages such as Thai and Lao contain many loan words from Sanskrit, as does Khmer to a lesser extent. For example, in Thai, Rāvaṇa, the legendary emperor of Sri Lanka, is called 'Thosakanth' which is derived from his Sanskrit name 'Daśakaṇṭha' ("having ten necks").
Many Sanskrit loanwords are also found in Austronesian languages, such as Javanese particularly the old form from which nearly half the vocabulary is derived from the language. Other Austronesian languages, such as traditional Malay, modern Indonesian, also derive much of their vocabulary from Sanskrit, albeit to a lesser extent, with a large proportion of words being derived from Arabic. Similarly, Philippine languages such as Tagalog have many Sanskrit loanwords.
A Sanskrit loanword encountered in many Southeast Asian languages is the word bhāṣā, or spoken language, which is used to mean language in general, for example bahasa in Malay, Indonesian and Tausug, basa in Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese, phasa in Thai and Lao, bhasa in Burmese, and phiesa in Khmer.
The utilization of Sanskrit has been prevalent in all aspects of life including legal purposes. Sanskrit terminology and vernacular appears in ancient courts to establish procedures that have been structured by Indian models such as a system composed of a code of laws. The concept of legislation demonstrated through codes of law and organizations particularly the idea of "God King" was embraced by numerous rulers of Southeast Asia. The rulers amid this time, for example, the Lin-I Dynasty of Vietnam once embraced the Sanskrit dialect and devoted sanctuaries to the Indian divinity Shiva. Many rulers following even viewed themselves as "reincarnations or descendants" of the Hindu gods. However once Buddhism began entering the nations, this practiced view was eventually altered.
Scripts in Sanskrit discovered during the early centuries of the Common Era are the earliest known forms of writing to have extended all the way to Southeast Asia. Its gradual impact ultimately resulted in its widespread domain as a means of dialect which evident in regions, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand and additionally a few of the larger Indonesian islands. In addition, alphabets from languages spoken in Burmese, Thai, Laos, and Cambodia are variations formed off of Indian ideals that have localized the language.
The utilization of Sanskrit has been prevalent in all aspects of life including legal purposes. Sanskrit terminology and vernacular appears in ancient courts to establish procedures that have been structured by Indian models such as a system composed of a code of laws. The concept of legislation demonstrated through codes of law and organizations particularly the idea of "God King" was embraced by numerous rulers of Southeast Asia. The rulers amid this time, for example, the Lin-I Dynasty of Vietnam once embraced the Sanskrit dialect and devoted sanctuaries to the Indian divinity, Shiva. Many rulers following even viewed themselves as "reincarnations or descendants" of the Hindu Gods. However, once Buddhism began entering the nations, this practiced view was eventually altered.
- In the Malay Archipelago: Indonesian, Javanese and Malay have absorbed a large amount of Sanskrit loanwords into their respective lexicons (see: Sanskrit loan words in Indonesian). Many languages of native lowland Filipinos such as Tagalog, Ilocano and Visayan contain numerous Sanskrit loanwords.
- In Mainland Southeast Asia: Thai, Lao, Burmese, and Khmer language have absorbed a significant amount of Sanskrit as well as Pali words.
- Many Indonesian names have Sanskrit origin (e.g. Dewi Sartika, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Teuku Wisnu).
- Southeast Asian languages are traditionally written with Indic alphabets and therefore have extra letters not pronounced in the local language, so that original Sanskrit spelling can be preserved. An example is how the name of the late King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is spelled in Sanskrit as "Bhumibol"ภูมิพล, yet is pronounced in Thai as "Phumipon" พูมิพน using Thai-Sanskrit pronunciation rules since the original Sanskrit sounds do not exist in Thai. 
- Suvarnabhumi is a toponym that has been historically associated with Southeast Asia. In Sanskrit, it means "The Land of Gold". Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport is named after this toponym, signifying its intent to be a major transport hub of Southeast Asia.
- Several of Indonesian toponyms have Indian parallel or origin, such as Madura with Mathura, Serayu and Sarayu river, Semeru with Sumeru mountain, Kalingga from Kalinga Kingdom, and Ngayogyakarta from Ayodhya.
- Siamese ancient city of Ayutthaya also derived from Ramayana's Ayodhya.
- Names of places could simply render their Sanskrit origin, such as Singapore, from Singapura (Singha-pura the "lion city"), Jakarta from Jaya and kreta ("complete victory").
- Some of the Indonesian regencies such as Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir derived from Indragiri River, Indragiri itself means "mountain of Indra".
- Some Thai toponyms also often have Indian parallels or Sanskrit origin, although the spellings are adapted to the Siamese tongue, such as Ratchaburi from Raja-puri ("king's city"), and Nakhon Si Thammarat from Nagara Sri Dharmaraja.
- The tendency to use Sanskrit for modern neologism also continued to modern day. In 1962 Indonesia changed the colonial name of New Guinean city of Hollandia to Jayapura ("glorious city"), Orange mountain range to Jayawijaya Mountains.
- Malaysia named their new government seat as Putrajaya ("prince of glory") in 1999.
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We may conclude with a broad survey of the Indian colonies in the Far East. For nearly fifteen hundred years, and down to a period when the Hindus had lost their independence in their own home, Hindu kings were ruling over Indo-China and the numerous islands of the Indian Archipelago, from Sumatra to New Guinea. Indian religion, Indian culture, Indian laws, and Indian government moulded the lives of the primitive races all over this wide region, and they imbibed a more elevated moral spirit and a higher intellectual taste through the religion, art, and literature of India. In short, the people were lifted to a higher plane of civilisation.
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- Lyne Bansat-Boudon, Roland Lardinois, and Isabelle Ratié, Sylvain Lévi (1863-1935), page 196, Brepols, 2007, ISBN 9782503524474 Quote: "The ancient Hindus of yore were not simply a spiritual people, always busy with mystical problems and never trouble themselves with the questions of 'this world'... India also has its Napoleons and Charlemagnes, its Bismarcks and Machiavellis. But the real charm of Indian history does not consist in these aspirants after universal power, but in its peaceful and benevolent Imperialism — a unique thing in the history of mankind. The colonisers of India did not go with sword and fire in their hands; they used... the weapons of their superior culture and religion... The Buddhist age has attracted special attention, and the French savants have taken much pains to investigate the splendid monuments of the Indian cultural empire in the Far East."
- Keenleyside (1982, pp. 213–214) Quote: "Starting in the 1920s under the leadership of Kalidas Nag - and continuing even after independence - a number of Indian scholars wrote extensively and rapturously about the ancient Hindu cultural expansion into and colonisation of South and Southeast Asia. They called this vast region "Greater India" – a dubious appellation for a region which to a limited degree, but with little permanence, had been influenced by Indian religion, art, architecture, literature and administrative customs. As a consequence of this renewed and extensive interest in Greater India, many Indians came to believe that the entire South and Southeast Asian region formed the cultural progeny of India; now that the sub-continent was reawakening, they felt, India would once again assert its non-political ascendancy over the area... While the idea of reviving the ancient Greater India was never officially endorsed by the Indian National Congress, it enjoyed considerable popularity in nationalist Indian circles. Indeed, Congress leaders made occasional references to Greater India while the organisation's abiding interest in the problems of overseas Indians lent indirect support to the Indian hope of restoring the alleged cultural and spiritual unity of South and Southeast Asia."
- Thapar (1968, pp. 326–330) Quote: "At another level, it was believed that the dynamics of many Asian cultures, particularly those of Southeast Asia, arose from Hindu culture, and the theory of Greater India derived sustenance from Pan-Hinduism. A curious pride was taken in the supposed imperialist past of India, as expressed in sentiments such as these: "The art of Java and Kambuja was no doubt derived from India and fostered by the Indian rulers of these colonies." (Majumdar, R. C. et al. (1950), An Advanced History of India, London: Macmillan, p. 221) This form of historical interpretation, which can perhaps best be described as being inspired by Hindu nationalism, remains an influential school of thinking in present historical writings."
- Bayley (2004, pp. 735–736) Quote:"The Greater India visions which Calcutta thinkers derived from French and other sources are still known to educated anglophone Indians, especially but not exclusively Bengalis from the generation brought up in the traditions of post-Independence Nehruvian secular nationalism. One key source of this knowledge is a warm tribute paid to Sylvain Lévi and his ideas of an expansive, civilising India by Jawaharlal Nehru himself, in his celebrated book, The Discovery of India, which was written during one of Nehru's periods of imprisonment by the British authorities, first published in 1946, and reprinted many times since.... The ideas of both Lévi and the Greater India scholars were known to Nehru through his close intellectual links with Tagore. Thus Lévi's notion of ancient Indian voyagers leaving their invisible 'imprints' throughout east and southeast Asia was for Nehru a recapitulation of Tagore's vision of nationhood, that is an idealisation of India as a benign and uncoercive world civiliser and font of global enlightenment. This was clearly a perspective which defined the Greater India phenomenon as a process of religious and spiritual tutelage, but it was not a Hindu supremacist idea of India's mission to the lands of the Trans-Gangetic Sarvabhumi or Bharat Varsha."
- Narasimhaiah (1986) Quote: "To him (Nehru), the so-called practical approach meant, in practice, shameless expediency, and so he would say, "the sooner we are not practical, the better". He rebuked a Member of Indian Parliament who sought to revive the concept of Greater India by saying that 'the honorable Member lived in the days of Bismarck; Bismarck is dead, and his politics more dead!' He would consistently plead for an idealistic approach and such power as the language wields is the creation of idealism—politics' arch enemy—which, however, liberates the leader of a national movement from narrow nationalism, thus igniting in the process a dead fact of history, in the sneer, "For him the Bastille has not fallen!" Though Nehru was not to the language born, his utterances show a remarkable capacity for introspection and sense of moral responsibility in commenting on political processes."
- Wheatley (1982, pp. 27–28) Quote: "The tide of revisionism that is currently sweeping through Southeast Asian historiography has in effect taken us back almost to the point where we have to consider reevaluating almost every text bearing on the protohistoric period and many from later times. Although this may seem a daunting proposition, it is nonetheless supremely worth attempting, for the process by which the peoples of western Southeast Asia came to think of themselves as part of Bharatavarsa (even though they had no conception of "India" as we know it) represents one of the most impressive instances of large-scale acculturation in the history of the world. Sylvain Levi was perhaps overenthusiastic when he claimed that India produced her definitive masterpieces — he was thinking of Angkor and the Borobudur — through the efforts of foreigners or on foreign soil. Those masterpieces were not strictly Indian achievements: rather were they the outcome of a Eutychian fusion of natures so melded together as to constitute a single cultural process in which Southeast Asia was the matrix and South Asia the mediatrix."
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- (Bayley 2004, p. 713)
- Handy (1930, p. 364) Quote: "An equally significant movement is one that brought about among the Indian intelligentsia of Calcutta a few years ago the formation of what is known as the "Greater India Society," whose membership is open "to all serious students of the Indian cultural expansion and to all sympathizers of such studies and activities." Though still in its infancy, this organisation has already a large membership, due perhaps as much as anything else to the enthusiasm of its Secretary and Convener, Dr. Kalidas Nag, whose scholarly affiliations with the Orientalists in the University of Paris and studies in Indochina, Insulindia and beyond, have equipped him in an unusual way for the work he has chosen, namely stimulating interest in and spreading knowledge of Greater Indian culture of the past, present and future. The Society's President is Professor Jadunath Sarkar, Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, and its Council is made up largely of professors on the faculty of the University and members of the staff of the Calcutta Museum, as well as of Indian authors and journalists. Its activities have included illustrated lecture series at the various universities throughout India by Dr. Nag, the assembling of a research library, and the publication of monographs of which four very excellent examples have already been printed: 1) Greater India, by Kalidas Nag, M.A., D.Litt. (Paris), 2) India and China, by Prabodh Chandra Bagchi, M.A., D.Litt., 3) Indian Culture in Java and Sumatra, by Bijan Raj Chatterjee, D.Litt. (Punjab), Ph.D. (London), and 4) India and Central Asia, by Niranjan Prasad Chakravarti, M.A., Ph.D.(Cantab.)."
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... they are now wholly substantiated by the other inscriptions.... They are all Indian, with the exception of one written in Persian... dated in the same year as the Hindu tablet over it... if actual Gabrs (i.e. Zoroastrians, or Parsis) were among the number of worshipers at the shrine, they must have kept in the background, crowded out by Hindus, because the typical features Hanway mentions are distinctly Indian, not Zoroastrian... met two Hindu Fakirs who announced themselves as 'on a pilgrimage to this Baku Jawala Ji'....
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