India Relations with Southeast Asia

Relations around 400 A.D.                                                    

The Chinese piligrim  Fa-hien reached Java-dipa (Java) in 414 A.D. Starting from Bengal they reached Ceylon in fourteen days. The details of his journey to Java are most exciting. 200 men left Ceylon in two boats. Their boat developed a leak and water started coming in. There was no knowing if it was East or West. Only the stars, sun, moon were their guides. In the night they knew not where they were going. After more than ninty days of uncertainty they reached Java. Inspite of such risks the Hindu kingdoms continued to grow and prosper.

Kambuja (Cambodia)

The kingdom of Fu-nan went through great political instability in the first half of the fourth century. Towards the end of the century, an Indian king Kaundinya, was elected king. He was a Brahmin and totally Brahmanised the country. Chinese annals talk of another great King, Jayavarman who sent a number of embassies to China. There are Sanskrit inscriptions to prove the family' s existence. It was subsequently conquered by the rulers of Kambuja.

The kingdom of Kamboja was situated in North-Eastern Cambodia. According to legend it was founded by Kambu Svayambhuva, the King of Aryadesa (India). Near Laos was their family temple dedicated to Lord Shiva called Bhadresvara Siva. The last ruler of this family ruled till around 681 A.D.

Kambuja became a powerful kingdom that comprised of the whole of Cambodia,Cochin-China and parts of Laos. It continued its glorious career for nearly seven hundred years.


Fan Wen, a general became ruler in 336 A.D. In an attempt to expand his kingdom he was continuously at war with the Chinese but died in the process. His son, grandson carried the war forward with both sides claiming success. His grandson, Bhadra-varman was a scholar who studied
the Vedas. War with the Chinese continued who sacked the city of Champa in 446 A.D. and secured 1 lac pounds of pure gold. Subsequent kings paid a tribute to the Chinese, the last known king to have done so was around 757 A.D.

Burma & Siam (Thailand)

Although a continuous history of the kingdom is not available, there existed several Hinduised kingdoms according to Hiuen Tsang ie Srikshetra ( Lower Burma ), Dvaravati ( most of Siam ), Isanpura ( Kambuja ), Maha-Champa ( Champa ). Dvaravati was inhabited by Mons who adopted Hindu culture. They also lived in lower Burma called Ramannedesa. Also Hindu colonists settled in North Burma. There is a record of a Hindu dynasty called Sri-Dharmarajanuja-vamsa ruling Arakan between 600 to 1000 A.D. The famous Buddha image Mahamuni was the deity of Arakan.

Malay   Peninsula

The geographical position of Malay peninsula made it the center of trade between India and the Far East. Takkola, modern day Takua Pa, was the first landing point for Indian traders. Ruins of shrines, images, Sanskrit inscriptions are found at Takua Pa. These prove that Hindu colonies existed all over the peninsula about the fourth or fifth century A.D. Details of Hindu colonists have been preserved in Chinese chronicles. The colonies were large in number and situated in places likeChumpon, Yala (near Patani), Malacca, the most imp being that of Nakhon Sri Dhannnarat ( Ligor). It was a great Buddhists colony which probably built the the great stupa of Nakon Sri Dhammarat. Available evidence suggests that the Bay of Bandon was the cradle of Further Eastern culture, where colonies of Brahmans survive who trace their descent from India.


The earliest Hindu kingdom known in Sumatra is Sri-Vijaya (Palembang), founded on or around the 4th century A.D. and rose to great prominence towards the close of the seventh century. In 684 A.D it was ruled by a Buddhist king Sri-Jayanaga. Sri-Vijaya fast grew into a naval and commercial power. The neighboring states made obeisance to him. The king had extended his supremacy over the Malaya peninsula as far as the Bay of Bandon, before 775 A.D. Several embassies were sent to China during the late seventh century too. All in all, it appeared to be a powerful kingdom.


There were several Hindu kingdoms in Java. Two of these, called Cho-po and Ho-lo-tan by the Chinese sent regular embassies to China in the fifth century a.d.  According to Chinese chronicles there were ten kingdoms in Java, the most imp one being Ho-Ling ( period 618-906). Ho-Ling is generally recognized as the Chinese form of Kalinga. The leading kingdom was named after the eastern kingdom of Kalinga. It may be inferred that this was due to a stream of immigration from Kalinga. This indicates close relations between Java and the Kalinga country. The pre-dominance of Indian civilization in Western Java is proved by the Sanskrit inscriptions of Purna-Varman.


The Hindu colonization in Eastern Borneo is proved by seven Sanskrit inscriptions found at Muara Kaman on the Mahakam River, an important sea-port in those days. These kingdoms were established at the end of the fourth century a.d. if not before. The King Mula-varman performed a
sacrifice called Bahusuvarnaka ( large qty of gold ). A number of Brahamanical and Buddhists images were found along the Mahakam river.


The Hindus had colonized the island of Bali before the sixth century A.D. The King family's name was Kaundinya. He sent an envoy to China in A.D. 518. The Chinese give a detailed account of the splendors of the Court and there is hardly any doubt that in the sixth century, Bali was a rich & civilized Hindu Kingdom professing Buddhism.

Hindu Colonization of South East Asia

The most important remains of Hindu colonists are the Sanskrit inscriptions found all over Burma, Siam, Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatara, Borneo etc. A perusal of these scripts shows that the
language, literature, political, social institutions were greatly affected by India. The local people must have belonged to a primitive civilization and it was to the Indians to introduce a higher culture
amongst them.

These inscriptions written in flawless Sanskrit, show that the language was used in Court and society. We have reference to the Vedas, Puranas, and the prominent Brahmanical and Buddhists ideas associated along with them. This reached a climax in Burma where an attempt to create a New India was made. Outside Burma, we have important names like Amaravati, Gandhara, Kalinga, Kamboja, Gomati and probably Ganga.

The Chinese chronicles testify to the Indian influence in the region. In the city of Sri-Vijaya there were 1000 Buddhists monks. This was the earliest seat of the Mahamaya sect that was later to play an imp role in the whole of Suvarnadipa. There was evidence of these colonists maintaining links with India. Much to the ignorance and suprise of most Indians a New India was taking shape.

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