India Relations with Southeast Asia

Relations between 750 to 1000 a.d.

The outstanding fact of the history of South-East Asia in the eight century A.D.  was the rise of the Sailendra Empire which comprised of Sumatra, Java, Malaya Peninsula and most of the other islands of the Indian archipelago. They put an end to the Sri-Vijaya kingdom in Malaya peninsula and occupied a large part of it. There is inadequate data to know the lineage of the Sailendras. One of the early kings is Rajadhiraja Vishnu.

More information is available about the wealth and grandeur of the empire. This is mainly derived from Arab writers. According to Ibn Khordadbah, the daily revenue was 200 mans of gold. According to Masudi, the kingdom produces all type of spices and aromatics and no other sovereign gets as much wealth from the soil. Al-Biruni said the islands were abundant in gold which is why they were called Suvarna-dvipa.

Their Naval Supremacy enabled them to control the sea-borne trade between China and the West. Control over maritime trade contributed to the immense wealth of the King. The Chinese called the Sailendra empire as San-fo-tsi. The empire achieved the political unity of Malaysia for the first time.

The Sailendras were followers of the Mahayana form of Buddhism. Around the ninth century the king Balapurtadeva built a monastery at Nalanda. The Sailendras made memorials some of which like Barabudur have earned admiration of the world.

  The mighty and exclusive kingdom of Bhava-varman split into a number of states in the 8th century a.d. namely Kambuja of the land and Kambuja of the water. The latter had a number of capitals like Sambhupura ( modern day Sambor), Aninditapura. Rulers of Aninditapura regarded themselves as
descendants of Kaundinya, the founder of the Hindu kingdom of Fu-nan. King Sanjaya of Java conquered Kambuja around 750 a.d.

But Kambuja revolted against foreign rule in the early ninth century under Jaya-varman II. The king spent his early days in Java and became ruler of Kambuja in 802 a.d. Not much is known about his background. He however, played an imp role in the history of Kambuja. He united it, put it on the road to recovery and gave it stability. Even now he is regarded as one of its divine heroes. He is represented as the son of Lord Indra. The sacred sword of Kambuja which is used by its  kings at the time of coronation is believed to be a relic of Jaya-varman II. The cult of Devaraja, instituted by him was the state religion for many centuries. He died in 854 a.d. The Arab writers bestow high praise on the Khmers as the kingdom was called.

According to Ibn Khordadbah " The Kings and peoples of India abstain from drinking wine but they do not consider adultery as an illegal act, with the sole exception of the Khmer King who forbids drinking and adultery." It is interesting to note that Khmer is included in India.

King Indra-varman succeeded Jaya-varman III  and founded a new royal line. Indra-varman was a great builder and was succeeded by Yaso-varman who occupies a pride of place in the country's history. He founded a new capital city called Kambupuri, was a follower of Saivism, patronized
Buddhism, an ideal king whose border extended upto the frontier of China. He died about 900 a.d. There were various kings, the last being Jaya-varman being 1001

The Dynasty of Panduranga ( 757 to 869 a.d )
On the death of Rudra-varman II the throne was occupied by Prithvindra-varman to be succeeded by Satya-varman during whose reign Javan raiders burnt a temple and carried away an image of Lord Shiva. There were various kings who ruled subsequently upto 860 A.D.

The Bhrigu Dynasty ( 860 to 985 A.D.)

The first notable king was Indra-varman II. The name Bhrigu comes since according mythological account Bhrigu was sent to Champa by Lord Shiva himself. The king was a follower of Saivism but had leanings towards Buddhism also. During this period Champa was invaded by the King of Kambuja. There were no major events during the period under rule.

A powerful kingdom was founded in Central Java by King Sannaha in the first half of the eighth century A.D. His successor, Sanjaya, a great ruler founded the kingdom of Mataram which after a career of glory flourished in the sixteenth century as an imp principality under a Muslim sultan. Amongst the last kings was Dakshottama around 915 A.D the kingdom coming to an end about 928 A.D. 

End of Hindu Civilization in Central Java

There have been many reasons given for the end of Hindu influence but the most probable one seems- Since the king of Mataram was forced to shift his capital to the east on a/c of the conquest of Central Java by the Sailendras the centre of glory & culture shifted to the east. It’s quite possible that volcanic eruptions, epidemics got people moving east. There is no doubt that Hindu civilization lost its hold on Central Java about the middle of the tenth century. Eastern Java, however, continued to be under Indian influence for the next five hundred years.

The Hinduised Piyu kingdom with its capital at Srikshetra (Prome) was the most powerful in Burma during the following period.  Buddhism was very popular with hundreds of monasteries existing. The rise of the powerful Thai kingdom known as Nan-chao or Mithila-Rashtra made the king invade and dominate Piyu ie upper Burma.

Little is known about its history after the ninth century. Soon a new tribe called Mrammas (Burmans) came into existence. They ruled as the dominant power in Burma from the eleventh century onwards with Pagan as their capital.

Effect of the Hindu civilization
The caste system was introduced but existed in a form that is not as rigid as it is in India. The castes did not tie people down to specific occupations. It is interesting to know that Kshatriyas were placed superior to Brahmans. The position of women was better than it was in India. The Puranic religion had a strong hold on almost all people. Although the trio of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva were worshipped Shiva was the most popular. Trimurthi images were found in Java and Kambuja.

The study of Indian religious literature was a special feature of life. Vedas, Buddhists scriptures were referred to. Arrangements were made for daily recitation of the Mahabharat, Ramayana, and Puranas.

Buddhism was very popular esp in modern day Indonesia. Buddhists teachers from Bengal exerted considerable influence in Java and there existed close relations with the Pala kings of Bengal and Nalanda. The Sanskrit inscriptions of Kambuja throw great light on religious development. They prove the extent of Indian influence not only on living styles but spiritually too. There are several instances of Brahamanas being invited to Kambuja & recd with special honors eg Sarvajnamini. A large number of asramas existed all over Kambuja. They remind us of the ancient hermitages in India.

The earliest temples in Java are on the Dieng plateau. These are Brahamanical temples and are named after the heroes of the Mahabharata and are probably around the eight century A.D. The Prambanan valley consists of a large number of temples built around 775 A.D., the complex   of temples being called Chandi Sevu. Also there is the Lara-Jongrang group of temples. The most magnificent temple in Java is Barabudur. It must have been constructed the eighth century a.d.

Sanskrit inscriptions discovered in Kambuja, Champa, Java, Malay peninsula leave no doubt about the influence & impact of Sanskrit  literature. The use of Sanskrit literature reached its zenith in Kambuja around the eighth, ninth centuries a.d. The form and content of inscriptions indicate a mastery over Sanskrit Kavya.

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