Chapter 3


The Greater Indic Civilization


The influence of India on her neighbors, specifically those in Central, East, and Southeast Asia, has long been recognized, largely because peoples of these other nations went to great lengths to accurately translate and disseminate Indic knowledge into their own languages and cultural idioms. This resulted in an accurate transmission that maintained respect for the cultural source. Indians had immense trading networks that ran through Central Asia and Eastern Europe until as late as the 1700s. Why did this trading network collapse completely and what were its consequences?


The fact remains that for the vast majority of Indians, the history of how this Indianization of South East Asia came about, is largely a mystery. We will review the bare outlines of the spread of Indian civilization in South East Asia and to a lesser extent in Central and East Asia, because it is pertinent to our narrative. Prominent among historians of this region are R.C. Majumdar[1], K.A. Nilakanta Sastri[2] and G.Coedes[3]. In what follows we will draw heavily upon the account of G. Coedes.


Brief overview of Indian colonization of the Far East

By the time of the first 5 centuries of the common era Indian traders actively participated in trade with the far east and established trading colonies in the Siam, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malay peninsula. They were accompanied by several kshatriya and brAhmaNa immigrants who started establishing Indian-styled monarchies in the region. Most of the early brahminical colonies were localized to Takua Pa, Nakhon Sri and Dhammarat in the peninsula
-Before 400 AD the shrivijaya Kingdom was founded in the Island of Sumatra by kshatriyas.

-Before 500 AD the kshatriya pUrNavarman founded a kingdom in Western Java.
-By around 600-700AD kshatriya sanjaya founded a mighty kingdom in Central Java with matarAm.

-By around mid 700s the Shailendra empire arose in Java who started one of the most remarkable series of conquests of the Eastern Indic potentates. They annexed all the pre-existing Indic states in Malayasia, Java, Sumatra, Bali, Borneo and further islands of modern Indonesia. Subsequently they raided Vietnam and Cambodia and established control over these regions for some time. Their empire known as suvarNadvipa established diplomatic relationships with the cholas and pAlas in India and with the emperor of China. They also built a university modeled after nAlandA and kanchi in Java. The great tantric dipAmkarashriGYAna from Bengal studied there at some point.

-The Shailendra emperor mAravijayottungavarman, was a great ally of chola emperor rAjarAja, who helped him the construction of vihAra in jAva.
-The Shailendras fell out with the cholas after an apparent dispute over trade with China. This resulted in rAjendra launching a massive amphibious assault on the shailendras. It resulted in a total route of the shailendras with the cholas seizing the Malay peninsula, Java and Sumatra.


[1] R.C.Majumdar, “ Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East”, I & II

[2] K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, “History of Sri Vijaya”, Madras , 1949

[3] G.Coeddes, The Indianized States of SouthEast Asia”, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu,1964