India Relations with Southeast Asia

A couple of months ago, Indonesia's leader of the Opposition Megawati Sukarnoputri visited Bombay to collect an award from the Priyadarshan Academy at Cuffe Parade. Her name had the word Putri which is an Aryan word. While I was still trying to figure out how Indonesians had Aryan names, I read that the T.V. Serial Ramayana was very popular in Indonesia. There was a recent article in the papers that said the Muslims of Indonesia keep the Holy Gita in their homes. I kept on wondering about the reasons for Indian influence in Indonesia till I discovered Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan's books on Indian history.

As I started reading, I realized that most of South-East Asia was under Indian influence starting around 200 B.C.till around the fifteenth century. India's had trade, cultural and political relations with Burma, Thailand (Siam), Indonesia, Malay Peninsula and Cambodia. The essay is split into four periods namely -

1. 200 B.C. TO 400 A.D.
2. 400 A.D. TO 750 A.D.
3. 750 A.D. TO 1000 A.D.

During each period I have written about the political situation in each state. Wherever required contributions made by Kings have been mentioned. Lastly India’s influence on the region's culture, art, literature has been described.

Early Trade and the beginning of Colonization                   

To the ancient Indians, the Indo-Chinese peninsula was known as Suvarna-bhumi or Suvarna-dvipa, the land or island of gold. Indians traveled to the Far-East through the land or sea routes. The land route was through Bengal, Manipur, Assam, and Burma. Regarding the sea-routes, one could start from Tamluk in Midnapore, Bengal and proceed along the coasts of Bengal, Burma, Malay Peninsula, Java etc or start from Gopalpur ( Orissa ), Masulipatnam ( Madras ) and sail across the Bay of Bengal to the Far East. Trades induced by the mineral, metals wealth were the primary reasons for this intercourse between India and the Far East. Over time trade led to political and cultural relations. Trade relations may have begun around 200-300 B.C. if not earlier.

Early Colonies

Local traditions refer to the establishment of political authority by Indians over most of South-East Asia. According to Burmese chronicles, a prince of the Kapilavastu ( in Nepal ) marched into upper Burma and set himself King. The founding of Ligor in the Malaya Peninsula was supposed to be a descendant of Asoka. According to Cambodian annals an exiled prince of Indraprastha founded the kingdom of Cambodia. In A.D. 132 the King of Java, Devavarman sent an embassy to China. Around the first century A.D. Kaudinya founded a kingdom in Cambodia. Around 200 A.D. the kingdom passed on to his general Fan-che-man who conquered Thailand, parts of Malaysia. Sri-mara, ruler of Champa or Annan was first king about the second century A.D. The Hindu kings are known from Chinese sources, to have their names begin with Fan( Varman ). Fan Hiong, king of Champa around 270 A.D. continued the policy of extending his kingdom at the cost of the Chinese.

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