Influence of Indian Literature on Ceylon and Southeast Asia

The earliest records of Java, such as the inscriptions of King Purnavarman 5th century AD. of West Java and of the Sailendra rulers are all written in Sanskrit. No old Javanese texts are available prior to the 9th century. The earliest inscriptions in Old Javanese reveal the growing infiltration of Sanskrit words into the vocabulary of the former. The Indo-Javanese language took literary shape in the period between 650 to 850 AD, when Sanskrit-Old Javanese dictionaries and simple grammars appeared to have been written. The lexicon Amaramala belongs to a period prior to the 10th century to which the Old Javanese Ramayana is usually assigned.

Indo-Javanese literature began to flower in Central Java, but it developed its golden age in the courts of the east Javanese kings from about 925 to 1400 AD. The literary output of this period i.e. about five centuries may be reviewed under the following heads –  

Vedas and Puranas
The Vedas were studied in Java, as in Indo-China, in the ancient period but what today pass under this name are mantras and stutis meant for different deities of the Hindus and Buddhist pantheons. It is worth noting that no complete mantra, as given in these texts, has been found in India. What has been preserved in Bali are called Rk, Yajus and Samavedasiras, which are sung and not recited on the first day of the bright half of the month and on full-moon nights. Other mantras containing many subsidiary mantras are to be accompanied by various mudras and by pranayama, nyasa etc.

In fact no Vedic mantra has been found anywhere in Indonesia, except fragments of gayatri which also occur in the post-Vedic and post-epic Indian literature. Besides a number of Buddhist hymns, dedicated to Surya, Sri, vayu, Prithvi and others have been discovered in Bali. The spiritual tenor of these mantras is Indian, but no full text of the hymns have been traced in India.

Of the Puranas, only Brahmanda Purana has been discovered in Java. The subject matter of the prose recension has been borrowed, for the most part directly from a Sanskrit recension, though in certain aspects the text tallies with relevant portions of the Vayu, Matsya and Varaha Puranas. The versified recension, called Brahmanda Purana-kakavin was composed in 18 cantos probably in the 12th century.

Many works written in Puranic style and of a cosmological nature have been discovered in Bali. Most of the Old Javanese works contain anustubh stanzas in Sanskrit with Old Javanese elucidation. A work of a Puranic nature is Agastyaparva containing some Sanskrit stanzas and Agastya’s answers to the questions of his son Srdhasya. There were other works too.

Agamas and Dharma-Sastras
Among the works, which constitute the Agamas and Dharma-Sastras, Bhuvanakosa and Bhuvanasamksepa of the Saiva Tantric School contain some Sanskrit stanzas. Tattva Sang Hyang Mahajnana expounds the implications of linga worship and Vrhaspatitattva contains many Sanskrit verses, and discussed various doctrines of Saiva theology.

Among the works of the Niti class Kunjarakarna, an old Javanese text composed between the 12th and 14th centuries, recounts how the yaksa Kunjarakarna sought the advice of Vairocana for gaining birth as a higher being. Sara-samuccaya, another text of the Niti class, has about 517 slokhas, of which 321 have already been traced in the Mahabharata, Pancatantra and Hitopadesa. It was so important that an old Javanese text called Purvadhigama refers to it among the texts, which a judge must study.

On the books of statecraft and allied matters, mention should be made of the Rajapatigundala of King Bhatati, Raja Kapa Kapa. Ethical matters mixed with statecraft form the subject of Nitisastra-kakavin (9second half of the 15th century). In the old Javanese texts called Nitipraya, Sage Vyasa played a leading role. A large number of old Javanese texts such as Kutaramanava, Svarajambu and Adigama belonging to Smriti literature of Java and Bali, are based on the Manu Samhita.

Kanda Works
Adisvara, Krtavasa, Suksavasa are some of the works on grammar. The references to Panini and Katantra Vyakarana in Karaka-sangraha in the inscriptions of ancient Java seem to be indicative of the tradition of the study of Sanskrit grammatical literature in Java.

Of the works on prosody, the most outstanding is the Vrttasancaya, written by Mpu Tanakung, probably in the 12th century. It deals with more than 100 Sanskrit verses. The impact of Sanskrit rhetoric on the Old Javanese kakavins is considerable. These remind one of the Buddha-carita, Raghuvamsa etc. Some works dealing with medicine, astrology, astronomy has been found in Java, which contain may words of Sanskrit.

Epic Works
The oldest Javanese Ramayana was probably composed about the first quarter of the 10th century by Yogisvara, whose real name, according to Balinese tradition seemed to be Rajakusuma. The text contains 2,774 stanzas, divided into 26 cantos and written in Sanskrit metres. The story broadly follows Valmiki’s Ramayana, but ends with the return of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and their entourage to Ayodhya. The old Javanese Uttarakanda, is not part of Yogisvara’s Ramayana but constitutes an independent work. There are also later recensions like Rama Kling, Serat Kanda and many others of lesser importance. The Ramayana stories furnished the themes of local shadow plays, and were depicted on temple relief’s. There were numerous other stories based on the epic.

No less popular was the Old Javanese Mahabharata, of which the Adi, Virata, Udyoga and Bhisma parvans were composed under orders of King Dharmavamsa 991-1007, some other portions were composed as late as the 14th century. Bharta-yuddha-kakavin dealing with the middle section of the epic was completed by the Buddhist author Mpu Panuluh in 1157. The text has 52 cantos with 731 stanzas and is written in various Sanskrit metres.

The Old Javanese Bhagwad Gita, which contains many Sanskrit slokhas, is an abridged version of the original. There were many kakavins belonging to the Mahabharta cycle of stories, Arjuna-vivaha was composed in 36 cantos by Mpu Kanava between 1019-42 AD. There are numerous other works on individuals of the epic like Abhimanyu, Ghatotokach.

Smaradahana, written in the 12th century by Mpu Dhamaja in 40 cantos, describes the burning of Kama by Siva’s wrath. Sutasoma, narrates how Purusada, who had conquered all the kings of Bharatavarsha was ultimately subdued by Sutasoma, an incarnation of Bodhisattva. Krsna-vijaya deals with the fight between Krishna and Kamsa. Bhomakavya, written perhaps in the 14th century by Mpu Bradah, relates the fight between Krishna and Bhoma (Narakasura). The story supplied material for shadow plays of the entire Malayo-Indonesian world.

The Indian epics and Puranas supplied many themes for the shadow plays of Indonesia. These plays, which have kept alive the Indian epic and Puranic stories even in Muslim Indonesia, were popular as the beginning of the 11 century.

After the fall of the Hinduized state of Majapahit around 1500 AD., Javanese literature became divided into two streams. The main one in Bali laying there the matrix of the Middle Javanese literature as an offshoot of Old Javanese and distinct from Old Balinese. The other stream continued in Java under stagnant conditions. The preservation of the much of the Indian legacy was owing to the fact that when Majapahit was destroyed, the princes, elite and priestly community fled to Bali taking with them their earthly possessions including books.

The age which marked the end of the Middle Javanese literature and the beginning of the New Javanese literature may be taken as 1628 AD. Indonesian literature of the Middle and New periods has been greatly influenced by the penetration of Islamic theology and literary ideals and have been responsible for creating a hybrid composition of a very peculiar type.

It has been mentioned earlier that the order of the Devanagari alphabet was followed in the Sumatran and Celebes languages. The impact of Indian influence was also felt in the domain of loan words in these areas. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that in the pre-Islamic period there existed a rich Indian and Indianized literature in Sumatra.

The foregoing survey would convince any one of the appropriateness of the remarks of S. Levi, quoted by G. Coedes: Mother of wisdom, India gave her mythology to her neighbors who went to teach it to the whole world. Mother of law and philosophy, she gave to three quarters of Asia, a god, a religion, a doctrine, an art. She carried her sacred language, her literature, her institutions into Indonesia, to the limits of the known world, and from there they spread back to Madagascar and perhaps to the coast of Africa, where the present flow of Indian immigrants seems to follow the faint traces of the past”.

Globalization is the mantra of the nineties. Some say it is a tool to increase market access for multinational corporations while others think it is a means to export the Western way of life – values and Christianity. After reading this article am convinced that Indians were amongst the earliest proponents of Globalization.  

The beauty is that they exported their culture, language and literature without attempting to rule others or exercise political domination. Their influence enhanced the quality of local language and literature, sometimes even created it.

Post independence we are caught in the chains of Socialism such that interaction with the world was reduced to the minimum. Our share of world trade has been going down.

Swami Vivekananda said, "India must conquer the world and nothing less is my ideal. Our eternal foreign policy must be the preaching of the Shastras to the nations of the world. One of the reasons for India's downfall was that she narrowed herself, went into a shell, as the oyster does and refused to give her treasures and jewels to the other races of mankind, refused to give the life giving truths to thirsting nations outside the Aryan fold ".

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