India Relations with Southeast Asia

Relations between 1000 to 1300 A.D.      

Decline of the Sailendra Empire
At the beginning of the eleventh century the empire was ruled by Sri Chudamani-varmadeva. There existed friendly relations between Sailendra Kings and the Cholas, Palas of Bengal. It is therefore suprising that a war broke out between the Cholas and the Sailendras. The war between Rajendra Chola and the Sailendra king ended in the Chola king taking control parts of Sumatra and the Malay peninsula. The war happened around 1017 a.d. One of the main reasons for the war must have been the desire to control the rich volume of trade between India and modern day Indonesia, Malaysia. Given the geographical distance between the two kingdoms the Cholas found it difficult to retain control of their conquests. The Sailendras continued to rule and became powerful with time. Their names ended with the name varma-deva. One of their kings Chandrabhanu invaded Sri Lanka twice but was defeated both the times. Around this time two powerful kingdoms grew ie Thais and the kingdom of Malayu backed by Java. The Sailendras lost their eminent position with the conquest by Java about 1377 a.d. The annals of Keddah talks of seven rulers the last of who adopted Islam in 1474 a.d. 

Decline of the Kambuja Empire
The death of Jaya-varman V in 1001 a.d. was followed by a war amongst various candidates till Suryavarman II came to the throne in 1010 a.d. The king adopted Buddhism along with worshipping Shiva. He died in 1049 a.d. The empire went through a rough patch till 1082 a.d. when Suryavarman II brought the whole kingdom under his authority in 1113 a.d. Inspite of a disastrous war with Champa the empire grew in power. Suryavarman II constructed the world famous temple known as Angkor Vat which is regarded as one of the wonders of the world. 

After some confusion the next great ruler was Jayavarman II. He defeated Champa. The religious foundations and public works undertaken by him are worth recalling. There is the temple of Ta Prohm where the king set up the image of his mother employing 66,235 persons in service of the deities. There were 798 temples and 102 hospitals constructed. Of the  102 the site of 15 can be determined by means of inscriptions. Jayavarman II is the last of the great emperors of Kambuja in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Kambuja remained a powerful kingdom till the end of the thirteenth century. When Kublai Khan the Mongol King conquered Champa and asked Kambuja demanding allegiance she had the courage to resist. The capital city was full of splendor and pomp but full of palace conspiracies too. The growing power of the Thais who had conquered Siam under their king Ram Kamheng carried victorious to Lower Burma and to Kambuja. The Annamites conquered Champa in the fifteenth century. Caught between two strong powers the kingdom lost its prestige till it came under French protection in 1854 a.d.

Fall of Champa
The period 1000 a.d. to 1250 a.d is marked by wars with Annam, Kambuja. In 1256 a.d. the kingdom came under the rule of Indra-varman XI. His reign is memorable for the Mongol invasion. When Kublai Khan invited the king of Champa to pay homage he agreed and offered submission. Although the king submitted, his son Harijit refused to yield. The Mongol sent an army under Sagatu who inflicted great losses on the enemy but refused to yield. Reinforcements sent by the Mongol king did not result in victory. The Mongol troops declared war against Annam too but were decisively defeated by the Annamite emperor.  Harijit became king under the name Jaya Simha-varman IV. The king cleared his kingdom of the marks of Mongol invasion. Being infatuated with the daughter of the King of Annam he offerred two provinces as the price for marriage. After the king's death, there were frequent rebels by the people of the ceded provinces compelling the Annamite king to invade Champa and gain an easy victory. The kingdom, now became a part of Annam. Various kings did try and break the Annam stronghold over Champa but met with no success. I n 1522 one of them tried to free himself of Annamites control only to be caged. The last king of Champa unable to bear the compression took refuge in Kambuja in1822. Thus ended the glorious history of the Hindu kingdom of Champa. It became a part of Annam.

The kingdom was hit by a great unknown catastrophe around 1000 a.d. to be saved by son-in-law of the king called Airlangga. By 1035 he had established his authority over the whole of Java. The king set about restoring the kingdom devastated earlier. After becoming an ascetic in 1042 he divided his kingdom between his two sons. The western kingdom became the more powerful with its capital at Kadiri. Amongst the rulers Jayavarsha, Kamesvara have been immortalized by great poets who flourished during the period. The kadiri period laid the foundations of the Javanese empire with a high degree of development of literature and art. The Kadiri dynasty ended around 1225 a.d. The end of the Kadiri dynasty led to the fading away of Hindu culture and purely Javanese elements came into prominence.

Amongst the new kings, Kritangara was the most powerful. He established rule over Bali, Pahang (Malay Peninsula), Malayu(Central Sumatra), Sunda(W.Java). Marco Polo describes Java as a prosperous kingdom in 1292 a.d. While the king was on a expedition to Sumatra the governor of Kadiri marched towards the capital and captured it. In 1281 a.d. when Kublai Khan invited the king to pay homage to him, the king refused after which Khan sent a big military expedition to defeat him.He was supported by a king Vijaya. The king died after which Vijaya became the king of Java around 1293 a.d.with Majapahit as his capital. This became the nucleus of a mighty Hindu empire which continued till the late sixteenth century a.d.

The island of Bali has the unique distinction of being the only colony in the East that follows Hindu religion. From various inscriptions, it is known that the earliest king was Ugrasena in 915 a.d. Bali was conquered by Java towards the end of the tenth century a.d., probably regained independence in the twelfth century. The king in 1204 was Bhatara Paramwesvara ie before the island was recaptured by Java. The growing power of Majapahit referred to above tried to conquer Bali and succeeded in 1343. Towards the close of the fifteenth century the king of Majapahit unable to stem the flow of Islam took refuge in Bali. He was followed by many Javanese who wanted to retain their culture. In 1911 the island fell into the hands of the Dutch. It is the last stronghold of the Indo-Javanese culture.

Popular tradition derives Burma from the Sanskritised word Brahma which probably is the Sanskritised form of the tribal name Mramma. The Mrammas form the principal element in the population of Burma which is a mixture of many people and tribes. They came from the their original homeland in Tibet and have ethnically connected with the Nagas, Kukis, Abors of Eastern India. It is possible that they came into contact with Hindu culture on their way from Tibet to Burma.  The Burmese national era starts around 638 a.d. and is believed to commemorate the foundation of the Mramma empire in Pagan. It is only in the eleventh century that the outline of their history is known eg the inscriptions tell us that the king was Aniruddha in 1044 a.d. and the classical name for Pagan was Arimardanapura. Aniruddha adopted the Mon form of Hindu religion and united the whole of Burma. During the reign of Alaungsithu, Ceylonese Buddhism was introduced in Pagan in 1192 a.d.  In 1273 a.d, the Mongol Kublai Khan's forces defeated the Burmese army after which Burma broke up into petty principalities. 

The beginnings of the Hindu colonization of Siam may be traced to 200 b.c.The northern part came under the influence of the Mons while the southern part was part of the Kambujan empire. It is only after the decline of the Kambujan empire in the thirteenth century that Siam became an independent political unit. Around this time there was a new wave of immigration from the North known as the Thais.  The Thais are perhaps a Mongolian tribe ethnically related to the Chinese and probably lived in Southern China. They migrated around the beginning of the Christian era and set up various principalities, the major ones being Yunnan and Tonkin( Annamites). The former came under Hindu influence from an early period. Their country was known as Gandhara in India and Nan-chao by the Chinese. One part of the state had its capital at Mithila. Buddhism was brought from India around the eighth century.

The Thai kingdom repeatedly invaded China and defeated them in the middle of the seventh century. Peace was established in 884 a.d after the Gandhara king married a daughter of the Chinese emperor.  The Hinduised kingdom of Gandhara flourished till 1253 a.d when it was conquered by Mongol Kublai Khan. The Thias immigrated around the invasion. One branch, the Ahoms conquered Assam while the Shaans (Thais in Burma) conquered upper Burma, the last branch gradually conquered Laos and Siam.

The first Thai kingdom was that of Sukhodaya(Indraditya) around the thirteenth century. The kingdom reached its zenith during the reign of his son Ram Kamheng- 1283 a.d. He conquered a number of  Thai states in Siam, Hamsavati in lower Burma. His record gives a long list of public utility works that he undertook- temples, lakes, parks,monastries etc. He introduced writing amongst his people. While he did not introduce the Thai script but it is derived from a form of the Khmer script of Kambuja. After various kings, in 1350 a.d. the king transferred his capital to a new city called Ayodhya (Ayuthia). The kingdom of Ayodhya was destroyed in 1767 a.d. when the capital was moved to Bangkok where a representative still occupies the throne. Siam is the anglicized name for the name Shyam.

Culture & Civilization 

Saivism maintained the dominant position but Buddhism made headway in Kambuja. However, a degraded form of Mahayana known as Tantrayana took root in Java and Sumatra. As in Bengal tantrik ideas permeated Saivism here too. In modern Balinese theology Buddha is regarded as a younger brother of Siva and a similar Buddha-Siva cult existed in Java. It would appear that Buddhism was growing at the cost of Saivism around the thirteenth century till Burma, Cambodia, Siam became wholly Buddhists.   The caste system formed the basis of society, however, Brahman girls married Kshatriyas. Astronomy was very popular with women and men alike. With the weakening of the Indian link local elements began to assert themselves.


The study of Indian literature was widely prevalent but nowhere was it more popular than in Java. The Indo-Javanese literature passed through three distinct phases. Phase one was from 1000 a.d. to 1500 a.d. Its poetry follows rules of Sanskrit metre. The earliest specimen is a version of a Sanskrit work Amaramala. The most famous is Ramayana which was composed by Yogisvara in 1094 a.d. It is not a translation of the original text but shows the reunion of Ram with Sita in Ceylon. Next was the Mahabharata which follows the original epic but is a condensed version was written towards the beginning of the thirteenth century under the patronage of Airlangga. Amongst the various books written the greatest is Bharata-Yuddha in 1157 a.d.written during the reign of Jayabhaya, king of Kadiri. Some works resembling the Puranas were also written although they cannot be traced to their Sanskrit original. 

In the domain of art, Kambuja stood above the rest. The Angkor Vat, built by Surya-Varman II between 1100 to 1145 a.d, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is regarded as one of the wonders of the world. Another great monumental grandeur was the capital city Angkor Thom, built by Jaya-Varman II.  It is not neccessary to discuss the city layout in great detail.  In Java, great temples were built in eastern parts known as Chandi Kidal, Chandi Jago all built in the thirteenth century. Many temples were built in Champa but none of them merit attention. In Burma many temples were built but the greatest of them is the Ananda temple of Pagan built by Kyanzithha and is regarded as a masterpiece of Burmese architecture. In Siam the Indian influence is visible.  I have tried to give you a flavor of Indian influence in South-East Asia.Its quite possible that I have missed out some facts or misunderstood others.

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