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Magazine Web Edition > January 1988 > Legacy of Hinduism's East Asian Empires

Legacy of Hinduism's East Asian Empires



In modern context, this map looks like the Asian air routes of Air India (or Aum Air). It really represents the fanning out, like an Indian peacock's tail, of Hinduism to eastern Asia over a period of thirteen centuries: from the 2nd century A.D. to the 15th century A.D.

Contrary to a misleading injunction (the Vedas and Agamas encouraged cosmopolitan and religious interchange) that a caste Hindu should not leave his country's shores, legions of enlightened monks, learned brahmins, merchants and sword-girt Hindu warriors, architects, engineers and artisans sailed across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea to introduce the Sanatana Dharma in foreign lands. Others, following in the footsteps of Buddhism's missionaries, traveled the great trade routes into Burma and China where Hindu monasteries and temples were erected in Fujian Province and the royal Chinese families for a time worshipped Hindu deities.

In some cases, Hinduism was planted just as a seed by way-faring priest scholars. Scriptures were left behind as a kind of watering of spirit. Almost miraculously, out of these simple transplantations great empires such as the Hindu Khmer in Cambodia arose. Their magnificent city temples are among the apex architectural achievements and wonders of Hinduism. The vast sailing fleets of the Chola Empire of South India loomed on the horizon of Sumatra one day, changing its destiny as the Hindu/Buddhist Sailendra Empire would grow out of those first peaceful contacts. In Java, where colonization continued from the 3rd to 16th century, the winds of the Prambanan plains whistle through a cluster of dilapidated Siva, Brahma and Vishnu temples, once the powerhouses of the Java Hindus. When Islam overran Java, displacing the Majapahit Kingdom, tens of thousands of Hindus migrated to the neighboring island of Ball, where isolated by steep cliffs, the last bastion of pure Hinduism in Indonesia still flourishes.

In all, eighteen Hindu kingdoms dotted the Asian history-scape. They ended sometimes in war, sometimes in economic ruin, cataclysmic earthquakes or as a casualty of Islamic or Buddhist expansion.

Empire Location Century A.D.

1.) Kadaram Kedah 2nd-11th

2.) Gangga Nagara Perak 5th-11th

3.) Tun-sun Isthmus of Kra 3rd-5th

4.) Srivijaya Sumatra, Java, 5th-12th

Malaysia, Thailand

5.) Mataram Java 10th-11th

6.) Majapahit Sumatra, Java, Borneo 13th-15th

7.) Funan Cambodia, Thailand 1st-6th

8.) Chen-la Cambodia, Laos 9th-12th

9.) Sukothai Northern Thailand 12th-14th

10.) Langkasuka Southern Thailand 2nd-11th

11.) Pan-pan Isthmus of Kra 3rd-5th

12.) Chihtu Kelantan 3rd-5th

13.) Sailendra Java 8th-12th

14.) Sailendra (late) Java, Sumatra 13th

15.) Temasik Singapore, Johor 13th-14th

16.) Khmer Cambodia, Thailand 6th-15th

17.) Champa Vietnam 2nd-12th

18.) Ayuthia Northern Thailand 14th

Article copyright Himalayan Academy.


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