The Indian influence into the Malay Peninsula

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An opinion piece in the Malaysian Insider about the influence of Indian culture into the Malayan peninsula during the early centuries CE.

Bujang Valley Museum

When Malays were Hindus and Buddhists were Indians
The Malaysian Insider, 09 January 2016

We often compress these vast-ranging influences into “cultures” or “traditions”, but this broad terminology certainly does not do justice to the deep influences of the Indians in Malaya.

The Hindu-Buddhist heritage of the Malay world, brought by the Indians, is in stark contrast with the rigidly defined notion of ethnicity and religion today.

The fluidity of movement no longer exists. Legal and societal barriers are constructed to eradicate remnants of fluid identity, which confuses and blurs the “fixed” identies of ethnicity and religion. Now, we cannot entertain the idea of a Malay being anything other than a Muslim.

The present disowns and refuses to come to terms with its past, as if their Indianised history, or the Indian era of Malaya, is impure.

The past is something to be buried, not celebrated. To be avoided and a lesson not to repeat.

Full story here.

Angkor's temples are uniquely Khmer

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The Indianization of Southeast Asia was one of the early theories developed in the last century to explain the pervasive presence of Hindu religious sites, sculptures and languages in this region, but the mechanisms of Indianization have always been subject to debate. In the early years of this theory, it almost seemed as if Southeast Asia was a passive recipient for Indian ideas and religion, but today the general consensus is that local rulers used the religious teachings from India as a way to further validate their royal power, leading to many similarities in the ways rulers exerted control over their subjects here (think the traditional Mandala structures of kingdoms), but also to regional distinctiveness. This article shows how the buildings of Angkor reflect that Indian influence, but are also fundamentally Khmer in construction.

photo credit: jin_soo

Researchers Look Closer at Ancient Angkor
23 June, VOA News
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Categories: Angkor Cambodia


Documentary tracing Indian influences through SEA to get a second series

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Indian Imprints, a documentary series tracing the influence of Indian culture and religion in Southeast Asia is set to receive a second series after the success of its first run. You can read about the filmmakers’ reflection of the Ramayana n Southeast Asia here. The first series looked at Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia. The proposed second series hopes to extend the focus to more Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar. Makes me wonder if they’ll touch on Malaysia (and all the baggage that encompasses).

New documentary tracks Indian footprints in southeast Asia
The Hindu, 18 April 2009
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The Indianization of Southeast Asia

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PDQ Submission
If you’re in the area, KaalaChakra: The Wheel of Time is a current exhibition at the National Library of Singapore showcasing the influence of Indian culture into ancient Southeast Asia. With the kind permission of the National Library Board, SEAArch brings you highlights from this fascinating exhibition.

The term ‘Indianization’ was coined in the early 20th century and was seen as a cultural colonization of Southeast Asia – the idea was that Indian princes and merchants would set up colonies and trading posts in Southeast Asia (notably, Suvarnabhumi and Suvarnadvipa) in their desire to build trade with China. In doing so “converted” local populations into their Indian way of life and religion. Yes, the theory sounds awfully colonial in its thinking, and it fed to another underlying assumption that Southeast Asia was an archaeological backwater compared to the great civilisations of India and China.
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Public Lecture: KaalaChakra 'Wheel of Time’: An Archaeological Trail of Early Indian Influence in Southeast Asia

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From the National Library of Singapore:
By: Associate Professor (A/P) John Miksic from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Southeast Asian Studies]

Date/Time : 29 Feb 2008, 7pm
Venue: National Library of Singapore, 100 Victoria Street, Visitors’ briefing room

If a person desires to relive the memories from ancient history, it will be impossible to ignore the importance of evidence based on archaeological research. The KaalaChakra exhibition at Level 10 of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library showcases some artefacts, archaeological and inscriptional evidences which embark us on backward journey into time.
Come and be amazed by Associate Professor (A/P) John Miksic from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Southeast Asian Studies as he takes us through an explorative journey of archaeological traces in Southeast Asia that early Indians left behind in the region! In his talk, A/P Miksic will also touch on architectural influence in some of Southeast Asian temples, such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which evidence the ancient Indian touch in this part of Asia.

A/P John Miksic first arrived in Singapore in 1968 while in the Peace Corps in Kedah, Malaysia He has spent most of his life in Southeast Asia, namely Malaysia Indonesia and Singapore. A/P Miksic has had two types of careers: the first being a rural development adviser, the other as an archaeologist and lecturer.
His main activity over the past 20 years has been archaeological research in Singapore. He also continues research projects in Indonesia, particularly Java and Sumatra. In recent years, A/P Miksic also become deeply involved in Cambodia, especially the period leading to the foundation of Angkor, coupled with some work with graduate students on Myanmar.

A/P Miksic’s academic qualifications encompass a Ph.D. in Anthropology (Cornell University), M.A. Anthropology (Cornell University), an M.A. International Affairs (Ohio University) and B.A. Anthropology (Dartmouth College)

Public lecture: Pan-regional Responses to Indian Inputs in Early Southeast Asia by Prof Pierre-Yves Manguin

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Registration details here. The talk is on Tuesday!

Date: 22/01/2008
Time: 16:00 – 17:30
Venue: Asia Research Institute, 469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, National University of Singapore

A/P John Miksic, Southeast Asian Studies Programme, NUS

The term ‘Indianization of Southeast Asia’ has caused more trouble than most in the Southeast Asian history business. Used in a colonial era, particularly by the Greater India school of Majumdar and Nilakanta Shastri, to imply colonial types of colonization, political domination and cultural transfer, it was reinterpreted in a nationalist era to imply selective adaptation and localization of some Indian ideas found useful to Southeast Asian rulers. Now that Southeast Asianists and South Asianists are at last resuming their interrupted conversation on a more equal basis, how can we best understand this process of cultural change? Professor Manguin will use the recent archeological finds in various corners of Southeast Asia to suggest an even-handed approach to one of the greatest turning-points in Southeast Asia’s evolution.

Pierre-Yves Manguin joined in 1970 the research staff of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO, French School of Asian Studies), where he now holds a position of “directeur d’études” (professor). He also teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris). He obtained his PhD in History from Sorbonne University. He lived and worked in Indonesia for extended periods, and headed the Research Centre of the EFEO in Jakarta. His research focuses on history and archaeology of the coastal states and trade networks of Southeast Asia. He has lead archaeological programmes in Indonesia and Vietnam, on the archaeology of Srivijaya (South Sumatra), of Tarumanagara (West Java), and of Funan (Vietnam). He has published on themes related to maritime history and archaeology of Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

Philippines and India: Politics and ancient history


06 October 2007 (The Inquirer) – It’s not so much and archaeological story as it is a political one. The Philippine president attempts to revive ancient “ties” with India by citing Indian cultural influence by way of Srivijaya and Majapahit. I find it quite funny that the basis for reviving ties is not so much because of any historic ties with India per se (whatever “India” was in the past), but by the fact that Indian “culture” was transmitted to the Philippines. Which doesn’t really say anything, does it?

Arroyo cites ancient Philippines-India ties
By Michael Lim Ubac

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday sought to revive the Philippines’ ancient ties with India even as she called on the two countries’ leaders to “move the integration of our economies forward.”

The President was accorded full military honors when she arrived here on the second day of a three-day state visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.

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Tamil-Brahmi inscription on pottery found in Thailand

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16 July 2006 (The Hindu) – Inscriptions on a 2nd-century pottery find in Thailand indicate origins in Tamil Nadu in India, indicating a new extent of Tamil influence in the ancient world.

The Hindu, 16 July 2006

Tamil-Brahmi inscription on pottery found in Thailand

A unique Tamil-Brahmi Inscription on pottery of the second century AD has recently been excavated in Thailand.

A Thai-French team of archaeologists, led by Dr. Bérénice Bellina of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France, and Praon Silpanth, Lecturer, Silpakorn University, Thailand, has discovered a sherd of inscribed pottery during their current excavations at Phu Khao Thong in Thailand.

At the request of the archaeologists, Iravatham Mahadevan, an expert in Tamil Epigraphy, has examined the inscription. He has confirmed that the pottery inscription is in Tamil and written in Tamil-Brahmi characters of about the second century AD. Only three letters have survived on the pottery fragment. They read tu Ra o… , possibly part of the Tamil word turavon meaning `monk.’

Related Books:
Temple Art Icons and Culture of India and South East Asia by K. V. Raman
Art of India and Southeast Asia
Temple Consecration Rituals in Ancient India: Text and Archaeology (Brill’s Indological Library) by A. A. Slaczka