Indian Cultural Sphere
|Indian cultural extent
Dark orange: The Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan).
Light orange: Southeast Asia culturally linked to India, notably Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Champa (Southern Vietnam), Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Yellow: Regions with significant Indian cultural influence, notably Afghanistan, China's Yunnan, Tibet, the Philippines.
|Champa, Dvaravati, Funan, Gangga Negara, Chenla, Kalingga, Kutai, Majapahit, Langkasuka, Pagan, Pan Pan, Srivijaya, Tarumanagara
Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil
||Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka
||Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
|Buddhism transmitted to East Asia
||China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Tibet
||Central Asia (Afghanistan · Uzbekistan)
|Indosphere · Hindu texts · Buddhist texts · Folklore of India · Ramayana (Versions of Ramayana)
The term Greater India is most commonly used to encompass the historical and geographic extent of all political entities of the Indian subcontinent, and the regions which are culturally linked to India or received significant Indian cultural influence. It had to varying degrees been transformed by the acceptance and induction of cultural and institutional elements of India. Since around 500 BCE, Asia's expanding land and maritime trade had resulted in prolonged socio-economic and cultural stimulation and diffusion of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs into the region's cosmology, in particular in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. In Central Asia, transmission of ideas were predominantly of a religious nature.
By the early centuries of the common era most of the principalities of Southeast Asia had effectively absorbed defining aspects of Hindu culture, religion and administration. The notion of divine god-kingship was introduced by the concept of Harihara, Sanskrit and other Indian epigraphic systems were declared official, like those of the south Indian Pallava dynasty and Chalukya dynasty. These Indianized Kingdoms, a term coined by George Cœdès were characterized by surprising resilience, political integrity and administrative stability.
To the north, Indian religious ideas were accepted into the cosmology of Himalayan peoples, most profoundly in Tibet and Bhutan. Buddhist monasticism extended into Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia, and Buddhist texts and ideas were readily accepted in China and Japan in the east. To the west, Indian culture converged with Greater Persia via the Hindukush and the Pamir Mountains.
The concept of the Three Indias was in common circulation in pre-industrial Europe. Greater India was the southern part of South Asia, Lesser India was the northern part of South Asia, and Middle India was the region near the Middle East. The Portuguese form (Portuguese: India Maior) was used at least since the mid-15th century. The term, which seems to have been used with variable precision, sometimes meant only the Indian subcontinent; Europeans used a variety of terms related to South Asia to designate the South Asian peninsula, including High India, Greater India, Exterior India and India aquosa.
However, in some accounts of European nautical voyages, Greater India (or India Major) extended from the Malabar Coast (present-day Kerala) to India extra Gangem (lit. "India, beyond the Ganges," but usually the East Indies, i.e. present-day Malay Archipelago) and India Minor, from Malabar to Sind. Farther India was sometimes used to cover all of modern Southeast Asia. Until the fourteenth century, India could also mean areas along the Red Sea, including Somalia, South Arabia, and Ethiopia (e.g., Diodorus of Sicily of the first century BCE says that "the Nile rises in India" and Marco Polo of the fourteenth century says that "Lesser India ... contains ... Abash [Abyssinia]")
In late 19th-century geography, Greater India referred to British India, Hindustan (Northwestern Subcontinent) which included the Punjab, the Himalayas, and extended eastwards to Indochina (including Tibet and Burma), parts of Indonesia (namely, the Sunda Islands, Borneo and Celebes), and the Philippines." German atlases distinguished Vorder-Indien (Anterior India) as the South Asian peninsula and Hinter-Indien as Southeast Asia.
Greater India, or Greater India Basin signifies "the Indian Plate plus a postulated northern extension", the product of the Indian–Asia collision. Although its usage in geology pre-dates Plate tectonic theory, the term has seen increased usage since the 1970s.
It is unknown when and where the India–Asia (Indian and Eurasian Plate) convergence occurred, at or before 52 Million years ago. The plates have converged up to 3,600 km (2,200 mi) ± 35 km (22 mi). The upper crustal shortening is documented from geological record of Asia and the Himalaya as up to approximately 2,350 km (1,460 mi) less.
Here the use of Greater India refers to a popularization by a network of Bengali scholars in the 1920s who were all members of the Calcutta-based Greater India Society. The movement's early leaders included the historian R. C. Majumdar (1888–1980), the philologists Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1890–1977) and P. C. Bagchi (1898–1956), and the historians Phanindranath Bose and Kalidas Nag (1891–1966).
The term Greater India, whether aligned or separate from the notion of ancient Hindu expansion into Southeast Asia, was linked to both Indian nationalism and Hindu nationalism.
The concept of the Indianized kingdoms, a term coined by George Coedès, describes Southeast Asian principalities that flourished since the early common era as a result of centuries of socio-economic interaction having incorporated central aspects of Indian institutions, religion, statecraft, administration, culture, epigraphy, literature and architecture.
Iron Age trade expansion caused regional geostrategic remodeling. Southeast Asia was now situated in the central area of convergence of the Indian and the East Asian maritime trade routes, the basis for economic and cultural growth. The earliest Hindu kingdoms emerged in Sumatra and Java, followed by mainland polities such as Funan and Champa. Adoption of Indian civilization elements and individual adaptation stimulated the emergence of centralized states and the development of highly organized societies. Ambitious local leaders realized the benefits of Hinduism and Indian methods of administration, culture, literature, etc. Rule in accord with universal moral principles, represented in the concept of the devaraja, was more appealing than the Chinese concept of intermediaries.
The exact nature, process, and extent of Indian influence upon the civilizations of the region is still debated by contemporary scholars. Debated most is whether it was Indian merchants, Brahmins, nobles or Southeast Asian mariner-merchants who played a central role in bringing Indian concepts to Southeast Asia. Debated is the depth of the influence of traditions for the people. Whereas early 20th-century scholars emphasized the thorough Indianization of Southeast Asia, more recent authors have tried to argue that this influence was limited and affected only a small section of the elite.
The pre-Indic political and social systems in Southeast Asia were marked by a relative indifference towards lineage descent. Hindu God kingship enabled rulers to supersede loyalties, forge cosmopolitan polities and the worship of Shiva and Vishnu was combined with ancestor worship, so that Khmer, Javanese, and Cham rulers claimed semi-divine status as descendants of a God. Hindu traditions especially the relationship to the sacrality of the land and social structures inherent in Hinduism's transnational features. The epic traditions of the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa further legitimized a ruler identified with a God who battled the demonic forces that threaten the ethical order of the world.
Hinduism does not have a single historical founder, a centralized imperial authority in India proper nor a bureaucratic structure, thus ensuring relative religious independence for the individual ruler. It also allows for multiple forms of divinity, centered upon the Trimurti the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the deities responsible for the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe.
Champa, Dvaravati, Funan, Gangga Negara, Kadaram, Kalingga, Kutai, Langkasuka, Pagan, Pan Pan, Po-ni, and Tarumanagara had by the 1st to 4th centuries CE adopted Hinduism's cosmology and rituals, the devaraja concept of kingship, and Sanskrit as official writing. Despite the fundamental cultural integration, these kingdoms were given autonomy by the Indian mainland states to function independently.
Adaption and adoption
It is unknown how immigration, interaction, and settlement took place, whether by key figures from India or through Southeast Asians visiting India who took elements of Indian culture back home. It is likely that Hindu and Buddhist traders, priests, and princes traveled to Southeast Asia from India in the first few centuries of the Common Era and eventually settled there. Strong impulse most certainly came from the region’s ruling classes who invited Brahmans to serve at their courts as priests, astrologers and advisers. Divinity and royalty were closely connected in these polities as Hindu rituals validated the powers of the monarch. Brahmans and priests from India proper played a key role in supporting ruling dynasties through exact rituals. Dynastic consolidation was the basis for more centralized kingdoms that emerged in Java, Sumatra, Cambodia, Burma, and along the central and south coasts of Vietnam from the 4th to 8th centuries.
Art, architecture, rituals, and cultural elements such as the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata had been adopted and customized increasingly with a regional character. The caste system, although adopted, was never applied universally and reduced to serve for a selected group of nobles only.
States such as Srivijaya, Majapahit and the Khmer empire had territorial continuity, resilient population and surplus economies that rivaled those in India itself. Borobudur in Java and Angkor in Cambodia are, apart from their grandeur, examples of a distinctly developed regional culture, style, and expression.
Southeast Asia is called Suvarnabhumi or Sovannah Phoum - the golden land and Suvarnadvipa - the golden Islands in Sanskrit. It was frequented by traders from eastern India, particularly Kalinga. Cultural and trading relations between the powerful Chola dynasty of South India and the Southeast Asian Hindu kingdoms led the Bay of Bengal to be called "The Chola Lake", and the Chola attacks on Srivijaya in the 10th century CE are the sole example of military attacks by Indian rulers against Southeast Asia. The Pala dynasty of Bengal, which controlled the heartland of Buddhist India, maintained close economic, cultural and religious ties, particularly with Srivijaya.
in Cambodia is the largest Hindu temple in the world
- Funan: Funan was a polity that encompassed the southernmost part of the Indochinese peninsula during the 1st to 6th centuries. The name Funan is not found in any texts of local origin from the period, and so is considered an exonym based on the accounts of two Chinese diplomats, Kang Tai and Zhu Ying who sojourned there in the mid-3rd century CE.:24 It is not known what name the people of Funan gave to their polity. Some scholars believe ancient Chinese scholars transcribed the word Funan from a word related to the Khmer word bnaṃ or vnaṃ (modern: phnoṃ, meaning "mountain"); while others thought that Funan may not be a transcription at all, rather it meant what it says in Chinese, meaning something like "Pacified South". Centered at the lower Mekong, Funan is noted as the oldest Hindu culture in this region, which suggests prolonged socio-economic interaction with India and maritime trading partners of the Indosphere. Cultural and religious ideas had reached Funan via the Indian Ocean trade route. Trade with India had commenced well before 500 BC as Sanskrit hadn't yet replaced Pali. Funan's language has been determined as to have been an early form of Khmer and its written form was Sanskrit.
- Chenla was the successor polity of Funan that existed from around the late 6th century until the early 9th century in Indochina, preceding the Khmer Empire. Like its predecessor, Chenla occupied a strategic position where the maritime trade routes of the Indosphere and the East Asian cultural sphere converged, resulting in prolonged socio-economic and cultural influence, along with the adoption of the Sanskrit epigraphic system of the south Indian Pallava dynasty and Chalukya dynasty. Chenla's first ruler Vīravarman adopted the idea of divine kingship and deployed the concept of Harihara, the syncretistic Hindu "god that embodied multiple conceptions of power". His successors continued this tradition, thus obeying the code of conduct Manusmṛti, the Laws of Manu for the Kshatriya warrior caste and conveying the idea of political and religious authority.
- Langkasuka: Langkasuka (-langkha Sanskrit for "resplendent land" -sukkha of "bliss") was an ancient Hindu kingdom located in the Malay Peninsula. The kingdom, along with the Old Kedah settlement, are probably the earliest territorial footholds founded on the Malay Peninsula. According to tradition, the founding of the kingdom happened in the 2nd century; Malay legends claim that Langkasuka was founded at Kedah, and later moved to Pattani.
- Champa: The kingdom of Champa (or Lin-yi in Chinese) controlled what is now south and central Vietnam since approximately 192 CE. The dominant religion was Hinduism and the culture was heavily influenced by India. By the late fifteenth century, the Vietnamese — proponents of the Sinosphere — had eradicated the last remaining traces of the once powerful maritime kingdom of Champa. The last surviving Chams began their diaspora in 1471, many re-settling in Khmer territory.
- Kambuja: The Khmer Empire was established by the early 9th century in a mythical initiation and consecration ceremony by founder Jayavarman II at Mount Kulen (Mount Mahendra) in 802 CE A succession of powerful sovereigns, continuing the Hindu devaraja tradition, reigned over the classical era of Khmer civilization until the 11th century. Buddhism was then introduced temporarily into royal religious practice, with discontinuities and decentralisation resulting in subsequent removal. The royal chronology ended in the 14th century. During this period of the Khmer empire, societal functions of administration, agriculture, architecture, hydrology, logistics, urban planning, literature and the arts saw an unprecedented degree of development, refinement and accomplishment from the distinct expression of Hindu cosmology.
- Mon kingdoms: From the 9th century until the abrupt end of the Hanthawaddy Kingdom in 1539, the Mon kingdoms (Hariphunchai, Pegu, Pagan) were notable for facilitating Indianized cultural exchange in lower Burma, in particular by having strong ties with Sri Lanka.
- Sukhothai: The first Tai peoples to gain independence from the Khmer Empire and start their own kingdom in the 13th century. Sukhothai was a precursor for the Ayutthaya Kingdom and the Kingdom of Siam. Though ethnically Thai, the Sukhothai kingdom in many ways was a continuation of the Buddhist Mon-Dvaravati civilizations, as well as the neighboring Khmer Empire.
- Salakanagara: Salakanagara kingdom is the first historically recorded Indianized kingdom in Western Java, established by an Indian trader after marrying a local Sundanese princess. This Kingdom existed between 130-362 CE.
- Tarumanagara was an early Sundanese Indianized kingdom, located not far from modern Jakarta, and according to Tugu inscription ruler Purnavarman apparently built a canal that changed the course of the Cakung River, and drained a coastal area for agriculture and settlement. In his inscriptions, Purnavarman associated himself with Vishnu, and Brahmins ritually secured the hydraulic project.
- Kalingga: Kalingga (Javanese: Karajan Kalingga) was the 6th century Indianized kingdom on the north coast of Central Java, Indonesia. It was the earliest Hindu-Buddhist kingdom in Central Java, and together with Kutai and Tarumanagara are the oldest kingdoms in Indonesian history.
- Malayu was a classical Southeast Asian kingdom. The primary sources for much of the information on the kingdom are the New History of the Tang, and the memoirs of the Chinese Buddhist monk Yijing who visited in 671 CE, and states that it was "absorbed" by Srivijaya by 692 CE, but had "broken away" by the end of the eleventh century according to Chao Jukua. The exact location of the kingdom is the subject of studies among historians.
- Srivijaya: From the 7th to 13th centuries Srivijaya, a maritime empire centered on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, had adopted Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism under a line of rulers from Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa to the Sailendras. A stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism, Srivijaya attracted pilgrims and scholars from other parts of Asia. I Ching reports that the kingdom was home to more than a thousand Buddhist scholars. A notable Buddhist scholar of local origin, Dharmakirti, taught Buddhist philosophy in Srivijaya and Nalanda (in India), and was the teacher of Atisha. Most of the time, this Buddhist Malay empire enjoyed cordial relationship with China and the Pala Empire in Bengal, and the 860 CE Nalanda inscription records that Maharaja Balaputra dedicated a monastery at Nalanda university near Pala territory. The Srivijaya kingdom ceased to exist in the 13th century due to various factors, including the expansion of the Javanese, Singhasari, and Majapahit empires.
- Tambralinga was an ancient kingdom located on the Malay Peninsula that at one time came under the influence of Srivijaya. The name had been forgotten until scholars recognized Tambralinga as Nagara Sri Dharmaraja (Nakhon Si Thammarat). Early records are scarce but its duration is estimated to range from the seventh to the fourteenth century. Tambralinga first sent tribute to the emperor of the Tang dynasty in 616 CE. In Sanskrit, Tambra means "red" and linga means "symbol", typically representing the divine energy of Shiva.
- Medang Mataram: The Medang i Bhumi Mataram Kingdom flourished between the 8th and 11th centuries. It was first centered in central Java before moving later to east Java. This kingdom produced numbers of Hindu-Buddhist temples in Java, including Borobudur Buddhist mandala and the Prambanan Trimurti Hindu temple dedicated mainly to Shiva. The Sailendras were the ruling family of this kingdom at an earlier stage in central Java, before being replaced by the Isyana Dynasty.
- Kadiri: In the 10th century, Mataram challenged the supremacy of Srivijaya, resulting in the destruction of the Mataram capital by Srivijaya early in the 11th century. Restored by King Airlangga (c. 1020–1050), the kingdom split on his death; the new state of Kediri, in eastern Java, became the centre of Javanese culture for the next two centuries, spreading its influence to the eastern parts of Southeast Asia. The spice trade was now becoming increasingly important, as demand from European countries grew. Before they learned to keep sheep and cattle alive in the winter, they had to eat salted meat, made palatable by the addition of spices. One of the main sources was the Maluku Islands (or "Spice Islands") in Indonesia, and so Kediri became a strong trading nation.
- Singhasari: In the 13th century, however, the Kediri dynasty was overthrown by a revolution, and Singhasari arose in east Java. The domains of this new state expanded under the rule of its warrior-king Kertanegara. He was killed by a prince of the previous Kediri dynasty, who then established the last great Hindu-Javanese kingdom, Majapahit. By the middle of the 14th century Majapahit controlled most of Java, Sumatra and the Malay peninsula, part of Borneo, the southern Celebes and the Moluccas. It also exerted considerable influence on the mainland.
- Majapahit: The Majapahit empire, centered in East Java, succeeded the Singhasari empire and flourished in the Indonesian archipelago between the 13th and 15th centuries. Noted for their naval expansion, the Javanese spanned west-east from Lamuri in Aceh to Wanin in Papua. Majapahit was one of the last and greatest Hindu empires in Maritime Southeast Asia. Most of Balinese Hindu culture, traditions and civilisations were derived from Majapahit legacy. A large number of Majapahit nobles, priests, and artisans found their home in Bali after the decline of Majapahit to Demak Sultanate.
- Galuh was an ancient Hindu kingdom in the eastern Tatar Pasundan (now west Java province and Banyumasan region of central Java province), Indonesia. It was established following the collapse of the Tarumanagara kingdom around the 7th century. Traditionally the kingdom of Galuh was associated with the eastern Priangan cultural region, around the Citanduy and Cimanuk rivers, with its territory spanning from Citarum river on the west, to the Pamali (present-day Brebes river) and Serayu rivers on the east. Its capital was located in Kawali, near present-day Ciamis city.
- Sunda: The Kingdom of Sunda was a Hindu kingdom located in western Java from 669 CE to around 1579 CE, covering the area of present-day Banten, Jakarta, West Java, and the western part of Central Java. According to primary historical records, the Bujangga Manik manuscript, the eastern border of the Sunda Kingdom was the Pamali River (Ci Pamali, the present day Brebes River) and the Serayu River (Ci Sarayu) in Central Java.
Indian cultural sphere
Expansion of Hinduism in Southeast Asia.
The use of Greater India to refer to an Indian cultural sphere was popularised by a network of Bengali scholars in the 1920s who were all members of the Calcutta-based Greater India Society. The movement's early leaders included the historian R. C. Majumdar (1888–1980); the philologists Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1890–1977) and P. C. Bagchi (1898–1956), and the historians Phanindranath Bose and Kalidas Nag (1891–1966). Some of their formulations were inspired by concurrent excavations in Angkor by French archaeologists and by the writings of French Indologist Sylvain Lévi. The scholars of the society postulated a benevolent ancient Indian cultural colonisation of Southeast Asia, in stark contrast — in their view — to the Western colonialism of the early 20th century.
The term Greater India and the notion of an explicit Hindu expansion of ancient Southeast Asia have been linked to both Indian nationalism and Hindu nationalism. However, many Indian nationalists, like Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, although receptive to "an idealisation of India as a benign and uncoercive world civiliser and font of global enlightenment," stayed away from explicit "Greater India" formulations. In addition, some scholars have seen the Hindu/Buddhist acculturation in ancient Southeast Asia as "a single cultural process in which Southeast Asia was the matrix and South Asia the mediatrix." In the field of art history, especially in American writings, the term survived due to the influence of art theorist Ananda Coomaraswamy. Coomaraswamy's view of pan-Indian art history was influenced by the "Calcutta cultural nationalists."
By some accounts Greater India consists of "lands including Burma, Java, Cambodia, Bali, and the former Champa and Funan polities of present-day Vietnam," in which Indian and Hindu culture left an "imprint in the form of monuments, inscriptions and other traces of the historic "Indianizing" process." By some other accounts, many Pacific societies and "most of the Buddhist world including Ceylon, Tibet, Central Asia, and even Japan were held to fall within this web of Indianizing culture colonies" This particular usage — implying cultural "sphere of influence" of India — was promoted by the Greater India Society, formed by a group of Bengali men of letters, and is not found before the 1920s. The term Greater India was used in historical writing in India into the 1970s 
Culture spread via the trade routes that linked India with southern Burma, central and southern Siam, the Malay peninsula and Sumatra to Java, lower Cambodia and Champa. The Pali and Sanskrit languages and the Indian script, together with Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Brahmanism and Hinduism, were transmitted from direct contact as well as through sacred texts and Indian literature. Southeast Asia had developed some prosperous and very powerful colonial empires that contributed to Hindu-Buddhist artistic creations and architectural developments. Art and architectural creations that rivaled those built in India, especially in its sheer size, design and aesthetic achievements. The notable examples are Borobudur in Java and Angkor monuments in Cambodia. The Srivijaya Empire to the south and the Khmer Empire to the north competed for influence in the region.
A defining characteristic of the cultural link between Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent was the adoption of ancient Indian Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist culture and philosophy into Myanmar, Tibet, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaya, Laos and Cambodia. Indian scripts are found in Southeast Asian islands ranging from Sumatra, Java, Bali, South Sulawesi and part of the Philippines. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have had a large impact on South Asia and Southeast Asia. One of the most tangible evidence of dharmic Hindu traditions is the widespread use of the Añjali Mudrā gesture of greeting and respect. It is seen in the Indian namasté and similar gestures known throughout Southeast Asia; its cognates include the Cambodian sampeah, the Indonesian sembah, the Japanese gassho and Thai wai.
Religion, mythology and folklore
- Hinduism is practised by the majority of Bali's population. The Cham people of Vietnam still practices Hinduism as well. Though officially Buddhist, many Thai, Khmer, and Burmese people also worship Hindu gods in a form of syncretism. This echoes the beliefs of the past Hindu civilizations such as the Khmer Empire.
- Brahmins have had a large role in spreading Hinduism in Southeast Asia. Even today many monarchies such as the royal court of Thailand still have Hindu rituals performed for the King by Hindu Brahmins.
- Garuda, a Hindu mythological figure, is present in the coats of arms of Indonesia, Thailand and Ulaanbaatar.
- Muay Thai, a fighting art that is the Thai version of the Hindu Musti-yuddha style of martial art.
- Kaharingan, an indigenous religion followed by the Dayak people of Borneo, is categorised as a form of Hinduism in Indonesia.
- Philippine mythology includes the supreme god Bathala and the concept of Diwata and the still-current belief in Karma—all derived from Hindu-Buddhist concepts.
- Malay folklore contains a rich number of Indian-influenced mythological characters, such as Bidadari, Jentayu, Garuda and Naga.
- Wayang shadow puppets and classical dance-dramas of Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand took stories from episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Architecture and monuments
- The same style of Hindu temple architecture was used in several ancient temples in South East Asia including Angkor Wat, which was dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu and is shown on the flag of Cambodia, also Prambanan in Central Java, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, is dedicated to Trimurti — Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
- Borobudur in Central Java, Indonesia, is the world's largest Buddhist monument. It took shape of a giant stone mandala crowned with stupas and believed to be the combination of Indian-origin Buddhist ideas with the previous megalithic tradition of native Austronesian step pyramid.
- The minarets of 15th- to 16th-century mosques in Indonesia, such as the Great Mosque of Demak and Kudus mosque resemble those of Majapahit Hindu temples.
- The Batu Caves in Malaysia are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. It is the focal point of the annual Thaipusam festival in Malaysia and attracts over 1.5 million pilgrims, making it one of the largest religious gatherings in history.
- Erawan Shrine, dedicated to Brahma, is one of the most popular religious shrines in Thailand.
A map of East, South and Southeast Asia. Red
signifies current and historical (China, Vietnam) distribution of Chinese characters
signifies current and historical (Greater India) distribution of Indic scripts
signifies the current use of non-Sinitic or Indic scripts.
Scholars like Sheldon Pollock have used the term Sanskrit Cosmopolis to describe the region and argued for millennium-long cultural exchanges without necessarily involving migration of peoples or colonisation. Pollock's 2006 book The Language of the Gods in the World of Men makes a case for studying the region as comparable with Latin Europe and argues that the Sanskrit language was its unifying element.
Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Tibeto-Burman-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhist texts in translation. The spread of Buddhism to Tibet allowed many Sanskrit texts to survive only in Tibetan translation (in the Tanjur). Buddhism was similarly introduced to China by Mahayanist missionaries sent by the Indian Emperor Ashoka mostly through translations of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit texts, and many terms were transliterated directly and added to the Chinese vocabulary.
In Southeast Asia, languages such as Thai and Lao contain many loan words from Sanskrit, as does Khmer to a lesser extent. For example, in Thai, Rāvaṇa, the legendary emperor of Sri Lanka, is called 'Thosakanth' which is derived from his Sanskrit name 'Daśakaṇṭha' ("having ten necks").
Many Sanskrit loanwords are also found in Austronesian languages, such as Javanese particularly the old form from which nearly half the vocabulary is derived from the language.  Other Austronesian languages, such as traditional Malay, modern Indonesian, also derive much of their vocabulary from Sanskrit, albeit to a lesser extent, with a large proportion of words being derived from Arabic. Similarly, Philippine languages such as Tagalog have many Sanskrit loanwords.
A Sanskrit loanword encountered in many Southeast Asian languages is the word bhāṣā, or spoken language, which is used to mean language in general, for example bahasa in Malay, Indonesian and Tausug, basa in Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese, phasa in Thai and Lao, bhasa in Burmese, and phiesa in Khmer.
- In the Malay Archipelago: Indonesian, Javanese and Malay have absorbed a large amount of Sanskrit loanwords into their respective lexicons (see: Sanskrit loan words in Indonesian). Many languages of native lowland Filipinos such as Tagalog, Ilocano and Visayan contain numerous Sanskrit loanwords.
- In Mainland Southeast Asia:Thai, Lao, Burmese, and Khmer language has absorbed a significant amount of Sanskrit as well as Pali.
- Many Indonesian names have Sanskrit origin (e.g. Dewi Sartika, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Teuku Wisnu).
- Southeast Asian languages are traditionally written with Indic alphabets and therefor have extra letters not pronounced in the local language, so that original Sanskrit spelling can be preserved. An example is how the name of the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is spelled in Sanskrit as "Bhumibol"ภูมิพล, yet is pronounced in Thai as "Phumipon" พูมิพน using Thai-Sanskrit pronunciation rules since the original Sanskrit sounds do not exist in Thai. 
- Suvarnabhumi is a toponym that has been historically associated with Southeast Asia. In Sanskrit, it means "The Land of Gold". Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport is named after this toponym, signifying its intent to be a major transport hub of Southeast Asia.
- Several of Indonesian toponyms has Indian parallel or origin, such as Madura with Mathura, Serayu and Sarayu river, Semeru with Sumeru mountain, Kalingga from Kalinga Kingdom, and Ngayogyakarta from Ayodhya.
- Siamese ancient city of Ayutthaya also derived from Ramayana's Ayodhya.
- Names of places could simply renders their Sanskrit origin, such as Singapore, from Singapura (Singha-pura the "lion city"), Jakarta from Jaya and kreta ("complete victory").
- Some of the Indonesian regencies such as Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir derived from Indragiri River, Indragiri itself means "mountain of Indra".
- Some Thai toponyms also often have Indian parallels or Sanskrit origin, although the spellings are adapted to the Siamese tongue, such as Ratchaburi from Raja-puri ("king's city"), and Nakhon Si Thammarat from Nagara Sri Dharmaraja.
- The tendency to use Sanskrit for modern neologism also continued to modern day. In 1962 Indonesia changed the colonial name of New Guinean city of Hollandia to Jayapura ("glorious city"), Orange mountain range to Jayawijaya Mountains.
- Malaysia named their new government seat as Putrajaya ("prince of glory") in 1999.
- ^ Kenneth R. Hal (1985). Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-8248-0843-3.
- ^ "History of India and Greater India". Collège de France. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- ^ a b "As in Heaven, So on Earth: The Politics of Visnu Siva and Harihara Images in Preangkorian Khmer Civilisation". academia edu. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
- ^ "Results of the 1995–1996 Archaeological Field Investigations at Angkor Borei, Cambodia" (PDF). University of Hawai'i-Manoa. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
- ^ Pierre-Yves Manguin, “From Funan to Sriwijaya: Cultural continuities and discontinuities in the Early Historical maritime states of Southeast Asia”, in 25 tahun kerjasama Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi dan Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, Jakarta, Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi / EFEO, 2002, p. 59-82.
- ^ "Buddhism in China: A Historical Overview" (PDF). The Saylor Foundation 1. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- ^ "SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS everyone knows well the so-called "Buddhist conquest of China" or "Indianized China"" (PDF). sino-platonic. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
- ^ a b Phillips, J. R. S. (1998). The Medieval Expansion of Europe. Clarendon Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-19-820740-5.
- ^ a b (Azurara 1446)
- ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Wigen, Kären (1997). The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. University of California Press. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-520-20742-4.
- ^ Pedro Machado, José (1992). "Terras de Além: no Relato da Viagem de Vasco da Gama". Journal of the University of Coimbra. 37: 333–.
- ^ (Beazley 1910, p. 708) Quote: "Azurara's hyperbole, indeed, which celebrates the Navigator Prince as joining Orient and Occident by continual voyaging, as transporting to the extremities of the East the creations of Western industry, does not scruple to picture the people of the Greater and the Lesser India"
- ^ (Beazley 1910, p. 708) Quote: "Among all the confusion of the various Indies in Mediaeval nomenclature, "Greater India" can usually be recognized as restricted to the "India proper" of the modern [c. 1910] world."
- ^ a b c Lewis, Martin W.; Wigen, Kären (1997). The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. University of California Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-520-20742-4.
- ^ (Wheatley 1982, p. 13) Quote: "Subsequently the whole area came to be identified with one of the "Three Indies," though whether India Major or Minor, Greater or Lesser, Superior or Inferior, seems often to have been a personal preference of the author concerned. When Europeans began to penetrate into Southeast Asia in earnest, they continued this tradition, attaching to various of the constituent territories such labels as Further India or Hinterindien, the East Indies, the Indian Archipelago, Insulinde, and, in acknowledgment of the presence of a competing culture, Indochina."
- ^ (Caverhill 1767)
- ^ Uhlig, Siegbert (2003). Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N. Isd. p. 145. ISBN 978-3-447-05607-6.
- ^ "Review: New Maps," (1912) Bulletin of the American Geographical Society 44(3): 235–240.
- ^ (Ali & Aitchison 2005, p. 170)
- ^ Argand, E., 1924. La tectonique de l' Asie. Proc. 13th Int. Geol. Cong. 7 (1924), 171–372.
- ^ "The Greater India Basin hypothesis" (PDF). University of Oslo. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- ^ a b (Bayley 2004, p. 710)
- ^ (Keenleyside 1982, pp. 213–214) Quote: "Starting in the 1920s under the leadership of Kalidas Nag - and continuing even after independence - a number of Indian scholars wrote extensively and rapturously about the ancient Hindu cultural expansion into and colonisation of South and Southeast Asia. They called this vast region "Greater India" – for a region which had been influenced by Indian religion, art, architecture, literature and administrative customs. Indeed, Congress leaders made occasional references to Greater India while the organisation's abiding interest in the problems of overseas Indians lent indirect support to the Indian hope of restoring the cultural and spiritual unity of South and Southeast Asia."
- ^ (Thapar 1968, pp. 326–330) Quote: "At another level, it was believed that the dynamics of many Asian cultures, particularly those of Southeast Asia, arose from Hindu culture, and the theory of Greater India derived sustenance from Pan-Hinduism. A curious pride was taken in the supposed imperialist past of India, as expressed in sentiments such as these: "The art of Java and Kambuja was no doubt derived from India and fostered by the Indian rulers of these colonies." (Majumdar, R. C. et al. (1950), An Advanced History of India, London: Macmillan, p. 221) "
- ^ National Library of Australia. Asia's French Connection : George Coedes and the Coedes Collection Archived 21 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
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- ^ a b "Hinduism in Southeast Asia". Oxford Press. 28 May 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- ^ Carlos Ramirez-Faria (1 January 2007). Concise Encyclopedia Of World History The "King of the mountain". Atlantic Publishers & Dist. pp. 106–. ISBN 978-81-269-0775-5.
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- ^ Higham, C., 2001, The Civilization of Angkor, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 9781842125847
- ^ Stark, Miriam T. (2006). "Pre-Angkorian Settlement Trends In Cambodia's Mekong Delta and the Lower Mekong Archaeological Project" (PDF). Indo-Pacific Pre-History Association Bulletin. University of Hawai’i-Manoa. 26. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
The Mekong delta played a central role in the development of Cambodia’s earliest complex polities from approximately 500 BC to AD 600.
- ^ a b Stark, Miriam T.; Griffin, Bion; Phoeurn, Chuch; Ledgerwood, Judy; et al. (1999). "Results of the 1995–1996 Archaeological Field Investigations at Angkor Borei, Cambodia" (PDF). Asian Perspectives. University of Hawai’i-Manoa. 38 (1). Retrieved 5 July 2015.
The development of maritime commerce and Hindu influence stimulated early state formation in polities along the coasts of mainland Southeast Asia, where passive indigenous populations embraced notions of statecraft and ideology introduced by outsiders...
- ^ Rooney, Dawn (1984). Khmer Ceramics (PDF). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
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- ^ Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h (January 2002). The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk-Road (100 BC-1300 AD). Victoria Hobson (translator). Brill. pp. 162–163. ISBN 9789004119734.
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- ^ พระราชพงษาวดาร ฉบับพระราชหัดถเลขา ภาค 1 [Royal Chronicle: Royal Autograph Version, Volume 1]. Bangkok: Wachirayan Royal Library. 1912. p. 278.
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- ^ Ram Gopal and K. V. Paliwal, Hindu renaissance, page 83, Hindu Writers Forum, 2005 Quote: "Colonial and Cultural Expansion (of Ancient India)", written by R. C. Majumdar, concluded with: "We may conclude with a broad survey of the Indian colonies in the Far East. For nearly fifteen hundred years, and down to a period when the Hindus had lost their independence in their own home, Hindu kings were ruling over Indo-China and the numerous islands of the Indian Archipelago, from Sumatra to New Guinea. Indian religion, Indian culture, Indian laws and Indian government moulded the lives of the primitive races all over this wide region, and they imbibed a more elevated moral spirit and a higher intellectual taste through the religion, art, and literature of India. In short, the people were lifted to a higher plane of civilisation."
- ^ (Bayley 2004, p. 712)
- ^ Review by 'SKV' of The Hindu Colony of Cambodia by Phanindranath Bose [Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House 1927] in The Vedic Magazine and Gurukula Samachar 26: 1927, pp. 620–1.
- ^ Lyne Bansat-Boudon, Roland Lardinois, and Isabelle Ratié, Sylvain Lévi (1863-1935), page 196, Brepols, 2007, ISBN 9782503524474 Quote: "The ancient Hindus of yore were not simply a spiritual people, always busy with mystical problems and never troubling themselves with the questions of 'this world'... India also has its Napoleons and Charlemagnes, its Bismarcks and Machiavellis. But the real charm of Indian history does not consist in these aspirants after universal power, but in its peaceful and benevolent Imperialism — a unique thing in the history of mankind. The colonisers of India did not go with sword and fire in their hands; they used... the weapons of their superior culture and religion... The Buddhist age has attracted special attention, and the French savants have taken much pains to investigate the splendid monuments of the Indian cultural empire in the Far East."
- ^ (Keenleyside 1982, pp. 213–214) Quote: "Starting in the 1920s under the leadership of Kalidas Nag - and continuing even after independence - a number of Indian scholars wrote extensively and rapturously about the ancient Hindu cultural expansion into and colonisation of South and Southeast Asia. They called this vast region "Greater India" – a dubious appellation for a region which to a limited degree, but with little permanence, had been influenced by Indian religion, art, architecture, literature and administrative customs. As a consequence of this renewed and extensive interest in Greater India, many Indians came to believe that the entire South and Southeast Asian region formed the cultural progeny of India; now that the sub-continent was reawakening, they felt, India would once again assert its non-political ascendancy over the area.... While the idea of reviving the ancient Greater India was never officially endorsed by the Indian National Congress, it enjoyed considerable popularity in nationalist Indian circles. Indeed, Congress leaders made occasional references to Greater India while the organisation's abiding interest in the problems of overseas Indians lent indirect support to the Indian hope of restoring the alleged cultural and spiritual unity of South and Southeast Asia."
- ^ (Thapar 1968, pp. 326–330) Quote: "At another level, it was believed that the dynamics of many Asian cultures, particularly those of Southeast Asia, arose from Hindu culture, and the theory of Greater India derived sustenance from Pan-Hinduism. A curious pride was taken in the supposed imperialist past of India, as expressed in sentiments such as these: "The art of Java and Kambuja was no doubt derived from India and fostered by the Indian rulers of these colonies." (Majumdar, R. C. et al. (1950), An Advanced History of India, London: Macmillan, p. 221) This form of historical interpretation, which can perhaps best be described as being inspired by Hindu nationalism, remains an influential school of thinking in present historical writings."
- ^ (Bayley 2004, pp. 735–736) Quote:"The Greater India visions which Calcutta thinkers derived from French and other sources are still known to educated anglophone Indians, especially but not exclusively Bengalis from the generation brought up in the traditions of post-Independence Nehruvian secular nationalism. One key source of this knowledge is a warm tribute paid to Sylvain Lévi and his ideas of an expansive, civilising India by Jawaharlal Nehru himself, in his celebrated book, The Discovery of India, which was written during one of Nehru’s periods of imprisonment by the British authorities, first published in 1946, and reprinted many times since.... The ideas of both Lévi and the Greater India scholars were known to Nehru through his close intellectual links with Tagore. Thus Lévi’s notion of ancient Indian voyagers leaving their invisible ‘imprints’ throughout east and southeast Asia was for Nehru a recapitulation of Tagore’s vision of nationhood, that is an idealisation of India as a benign and uncoercive world civiliser and font of global enlightenment. This was clearly a perspective which defined the Greater India phenomenon as a process of religious and spiritual tutelage, but it was not a Hindu supremacist idea of India’s mission to the lands of the trans-gangetic Sarvabhumi or Bharat Varsha."
- ^ (Narasimhaiah 1986) Quote: "To him (Nehru), the so-called practical approach meant, in practice, shameless expediency, and so he would say, "the sooner we are not practical, the better". He rebuked a Member of Indian Parliament who sought to revive the concept of Greater India by saying that ‘the honorable Member lived in the days of Bismarck; Bismarck is dead, and his politics more dead!' He would consistently plead for an idealistic approach and such power as the language wields is the creation of idealism—politics’ arch enemy—which, however, liberates the leader of a national movement from narrow nationalism, thus igniting in the process a dead fact of history, in the sneer, "For him the Bastille has not fallen!" Though Nehru was not to the language born, his utterances show a remarkable capacity for introspection and sense of moral responsibility in commenting on political processes."
- ^ (Wheatley 1982, pp. 27–28) Quote: "The tide of revisionism that is currently sweeping through Southeast Asian historiography has in effect taken us back almost to the point where we have to consider reevaluating almost every text bearing on the protohistoric period and many from later times. Although this may seem a daunting proposition, it is nonetheless supremely worth attempting, for the process by which the peoples of western Southeast Asia came to think of themselves as part of Bharatavarsa (even though they had no conception of "India" as we know it) represents one of the most impressive instances of large-scale acculturation in the history of the world. Sylvain Levi was perhaps overenthusiastic when he claimed that India produced her definitive masterpieces — he was thinking of Angkor and the Borobudur — through the efforts of foreigners or on foreign soil. Those masterpieces were not strictly Indian achievements: rather were they the outcome of a Eutychian fusion of natures so melded together as to constitute a single cultural process in which Southeast Asia was the matrix and South Asia the mediatrix."
- ^ (Guha-Thakurta 1992, pp. 159–167)
- ^ a b c (Bayley 2004, p. 713)
- ^ (Handy 1930, p. 364) Quote: "An equally significant movement is one that brought about among the Indian intelligentsia of Calcutta a few years ago the formation of what is known as the "Greater India Society," whose membership is open "to all serious students of the Indian cultural expansion and to all sympathizers of such studies and activities." Though still in its infancy, this organisation has already a large membership, due perhaps as much as anything else to the enthusiasm of its Secretary and Convener, Dr. Kalidas Nag, whose scholarly affiliations with the Orientalists in the University of Paris and studies in Indochina, Insulindia and beyond, have equipped him in an unusual way for the work he has chosen, namely stimulating interest in and spreading knowledge of Greater Indian culture of the past, present and future. The Society's President is Professor Jadunath Sarkar, Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, and its Council is made up largely of professors on the faculty of the University and members of the staff of the Calcutta Museum, as well as of Indian authors and journalists. Its activities have included illustrated lecture series at the various universities throughout India by Dr. Nag, the assembling of a research library, and the publication of monographs of which four very excellent examples have already been printed: 1)Greater India, by Kalidas Nag, M.A., D.Litt(Paris), 2) India and China, by Prabodh Chandra Bagchi, M.A., D.Litt., 3) Indian Culture in Java and Sumatra, by Bijan Raj Chatterjee, D.Litt. (Punjab), Ph.D. (London), and 4) India and Central Asia, by Niranjan Prasad Chakravarti, M.A., Ph.D.(Cantab.)."
- ^ (Majumdar 1960, pp. 222–223)
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... they are now wholly substantiated by the other inscriptions.... They are all Indian, with the exception of one written in Persian... dated in the same year as the Hindu tablet over it... if actual Gabrs (i.e. Zoroastrians, or Parsis) were among the number of worshipers at the shrine, they must have kept in the background, crowded out by Hindus, because the typical features Hanway mentions are distinctly Indian, not Zoroastrian... met two Hindu Fakirs who announced themselves as 'on a pilgrimage to this Baku Jawala Ji'....
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