Greater India

The Indian cultural sphere or Indosphere is an area that is composed of the many countries and regions in South and Southeast Asia that were historically influenced by Indian culture and the Sanskrit language. The term Greater India is 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 Sanskritization and Indian cultural influence. These countries have 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.[1] In Central Asia, transmission of ideas were predominantly of a religious nature.[2]

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.[3][4] These Indianized Kingdoms, a term coined by George Cœdès in his work Histoire ancienne des états hindouisés d'Extrême-Orient,[5] were characterized by surprising resilience, political integrity and administrative stability.[6]

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.[7] To the west, Indian culture converged with Greater Persia via the Hindukush and the Pamir Mountains.[8]

In the 20th century history, art history, linguistics, and allied fields: consisted of "all the Asian lands including Burma, Java, Cambodia, Bali, and the former Champa and Funan polities of present-day Vietnam,"[9] in which Indian culture left an "imprint in the form of monuments, inscriptions and other traces of the historic 'Indianising' process."[9] In some 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 Indianising "culture colonies".[9] This particular usage (implying cultural "sphere of influence" of India) does not go back to before the 1920s, and lasted well into the 1970s in history and later in other fields.[9]

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.[10] The Portuguese form (Portuguese: India Maior[10][11][12][13]) was used at least since the mid-15th century.[11] The term, which seems to have been used with variable precision,[14] sometimes meant only the Indian subcontinent;[15] 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.[16]

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[17] (lit. "India, beyond the Ganges," but usually the East Indies, i.e. present-day Malay Archipelago) and India Minor, from Malabar to Sind.[18] Farther India was sometimes used to cover all of modern Southeast Asia.[16] 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]")[19]

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."[20] German atlases distinguished Vorder-Indien (Anterior India) as the South Asian peninsula and Hinter-Indien as Southeast Asia.[16]

Here the use of Greater India refers to 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).[21]

The term Greater India, whether aligned or separate from the notion of ancient Hindu expansion into Southeast Asia, was linked to both Indian nationalism[22] and Hindu nationalism.[23]

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.[24][25]

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.[26][27][28]

Indianization is different from direct colonialism in that these Indianized lands were not inhabited by organizations from the Indian subcontinent, with exceptions such as the Chola invasions of medieval times. Instead, Indian cultural influence from trade routes and language use slowly permeated through Southeast Asia, making the traditions a part of the region. The interactions between India and Southeast Asia were marked by waves of influence and dominance. At some points, the Indian culture solely found its way into the region, and at other points, the influence was used to take over. Indianization was seen as the total influence of all aspects of Southeast Asian history. Before the take over of the influence of Indian culture, Southeast Asia was seen as a place with no history. The beginning of Indianization marked the start of the cultural commencement in Southeast Asia.[29][self-published source?]

As conclusive evidence is missing numerous Indianization theories of Southeast Asia have emerged since the early 20th century. The central argument usually revolves around the question, who was the main propagator exporting Indian institutional and cultural ideas to Southeast Asia.

One theory of the spread of Indianization that focuses on the caste of Vaishya traders and their role for spreading Indian culture and language into Southeast Asia through trade. There were many trade incentives that brought Vaishya traders to Southeast Asia, the most important of which was gold. During the 4th century C.E., when the first evidence of Indian trader in Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent was at a deficiency for gold due to extensive control of overland trade routes by the Roman Empire. This made many Vaishya traders look to the seas to acquire new gold, of which Southeast Asia was abundant. However, the conclusion that Indianization was just spread through trade is insufficient, as Indianization permeated through all classes of Southeast Asian society, not just the merchant classes.[30]

Another theory states that Indianization spread through the warrior class of Kshatriya. This hypothesis effectively explains state formation in Southeast Asia, as these warriors came with the intention of conquering the local peoples and establishing their own political power in the region. However, this theory hasn't attracted much interest from historians as there is very little literary evidence to support it.[30]

The most widely accepted theory for the spread of Indianization into Southeast Asia is through the class of Brahman scholars. These Brahmans brought with them many of the Hindu religious and philosophical traditions and spread them to the elite classes of Southeast Asian polities. Once these traditions were adopted into the elite classes, it disseminated throughout all the lower classes, thus explaining the Indianization present in all classes of Southeast Asian society. Brahmans were also experts in art and architecture, and political affairs, thus explaining the adoption of many Indian style law codes and architecture into Southeast Asian society[30]

Scripts in Sanskrit discovered during the early centuries of the Common Era are the earliest known forms of writing to have extended all the way to Southeast Asia. Its gradual impact ultimately resulted in its widespread domain as a means of dialect which evident in regions, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand and additionally a few of the larger Indonesian islands. In addition, alphabets from languages spoken in Burmese, Thai, Laos, and Cambodia are variations formed off of Indian ideals that have localized the language.[31]

The utilization of Sanskrit has been prevalent in all aspects of life including legal purposes. Sanskrit terminology and vernacular appears in ancient courts to establish procedures that have been structured by Indian models such as a system composed of a code of laws. The concept of legislation demonstrated through codes of law and organizations particularly the idea of "God King" was embraced by numerous rulers of Southeast Asia.[32] The rulers amid this time, for example, the Lin-I Dynasty of Vietnam once embraced the Sanskrit dialect and devoted sanctuaries to the Indian divinity, Shiva. Many rulers following even viewed themselves as "reincarnations or descendants" of the Hindu Gods. However, once Buddhism began entering the nations, this practiced view was eventually altered.

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, are 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 and defeated the wrong doers that threaten the ethical order of the world.[33]

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.[34]

The effects of Hinduism and Buddhism applied a tremendous impact on the many civilizations inhabiting Southeast Asia which significantly provided some structure to the composition of written traditions. An essential factor for the spread and adaptation of these religions originated from trading systems of the third and fourth century.[31] In order to spread the message of these religions Buddhist monks and Hindu priests joined mercantile classes in the quest to share their religious and cultural values and beliefs. Along the Mekong delta, evidence of Indianized religious models can be observed in communities labeled Funan. There can be found the earliest records engraved on a rock in Vocanh.[35] The engravings consist of Buddhist archives and a south Indian scripts are written in Sanskrit that have been dated to belong to the early half of the third century. Indian religion was profoundly absorbed by local cultures that formed their own distinctive variations of these structures in order to reflect their own ideals.

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 autonomous in their own right and functioned independently.[36]

Indians spread their religion to Southeast Asia, beginning the Hindu and Buddhist cultures there. They introduced the caste system to the region, especially to Java, Bali, Madura, and Sumatra. The adopted caste system was not as strict as in India, tempered to the local context.[32] There are multiple similarities between the two caste systems such that both state that no one is equal within society and that everyone has their own place. It also promoted the upbringing of highly organized central states. Indians were still able to implement their religion, political ideas, literature, mythology, and art.[32]

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.[37] 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.[38]

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.[39]

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.[40][41]

Southeast Asia is called Suvarnabhumi or Sovannah Phoum - the golden land and Suvarnadvipa - the golden Islands in Sanskrit.[42] 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.[43]

One of the major issues with Indianization is the common debate about whether or not Indianization is the reason for the development in South East Asia. Many struggle to date and determine when colonization in Southeast Asia occurred because of the structures and ruins found that were similar to those in India.[60] Several books and anthropologists believe that India is seen as the superior culture that influenced a lot of Southeast Asian countries. However, throughout this time that many began to debate, other anthropologists suggested that Southeast Asia had indigenous civilization and the idea of indianization was just seen as a 'national motivation. These debates continued for some time, until the Pacific War, which led to legitimately ending the debates and reviewing Southeast Asia's response to Indianzation.

Another main concern for Indianization was the understanding and development of caste systems. The debate was often whether or not the caste systems were seen as an elite process or just the process of picking up the Indian culture and calling it their own in each region. This had shown that the Southeast Asian countries were civilized and able to flourish their own interests. For example, Cambodia's caste system is based on people in society. However, in India, the caste system was based on which class they belonged to when they were born. Based on the evidence of the caste system in Southeast Asia, shows that they were applying Indian culture to their own, also known/seen as indianization[61] Similar to the caste systems, the cultures were a huge part of determining the legitimacy of Indianization. Many argue that only writing could really date the culture and prove Indianization. The lives of rulers, daily lives of people, rituals of funeral, weddings and specific customs were a few that helped anthropologists date the Indianization of countries. The religions found in India and Southeast Asian countries was another piece of evidence that led anthropologists to understand where the cultures and customs were adopted from.[32]

Beginning shortly after the 12th century, the Khmer kingdom, one of the first kingdoms that began the dissipation of Indianization started after Jayavarman VII in which expanded a substantial amount of territory, thus going into war with Champa. Leading into the fall of the Khmer Kingdom, the Khmer political and cultural zones were taken, overthrown, and fallen as well.[62] Not only did Indianization change many cultural and political aspects, but it also changed the spiritual realm as well, creating a type of Northern Culture which began in the early 14th century, prevalent for its rapid decline in the Indian kingdoms. The decline of Hinduism kingdoms and spark of Buddhist kingdoms led to the formation of orthodox Sinhalese Buddhism and is a key factor leading to the decline of Indianization. Sukhothai and Ceylon are the prominent characters who formulated the center of Buddhism and this became more popularized over Hinduism.[32]

Not only was the spark of Buddhism the driving force for Indianization coming to an end, but Islamic control took over as well in the midst of the thirteenth century to trump the Hinduist kingdoms. In the process of Islam coming to the traditional Hinduism kingdoms, trade was heavily practiced and the now Islamic Indians started becoming merchants all over Southeast Asia.[32] Moreover, as trade became more saturated in the Southeast Asian regions wherein Indianization once persisted, the regions had become more Muslim populated. This so-called Islamic control has spanned to many of the trading centers across the regions of Southeast Asia, including one of the most dominant centers, Malacca, and has therefore stressed a widespread rise of Islamization.[32]

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).[21][63] 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.[64][65][66]

The term Greater India and the notion of an explicit Hindu expansion of ancient Southeast Asia have been linked to both Indian nationalism[67] and Hindu nationalism.[68] 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,"[69] stayed away from explicit "Greater India" formulations.[70] 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."[71] 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."[72]

By some accounts Greater India consists of "lands including Burma, Java, Cambodia, Bali, and the former Champa and Funan polities of present-day Vietnam,"[73] in which Indian and Hindu culture left an "imprint in the form of monuments, inscriptions and other traces of the historic "Indianizing" process."[73] 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"[73] 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,[74] and is not found before the 1920s. The term Greater India was used in historical writing in India into the 1970s.[75]

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.[78] 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.

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.

Scripts in Sanskrit discovered during the early centuries of the Common Era are the earliest known forms of writing to have extended all the way to Southeast Asia. Its gradual impact ultimately resulted in its widespread domain as a means of dialect which evident in regions, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand and additionally a few of the larger Indonesian islands. In addition, alphabets from languages spoken in Burmese, Thai, Laos, and Cambodia are variations formed off of Indian ideals that have localized the language.

Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Tibeto-Burman-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhist texts in translation.[84] 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.[85][86] 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.

The utilization of Sanskrit has been prevalent in all aspects of life including legal purposes. Sanskrit terminology and vernacular appears in ancient courts to establish procedures that have been structured by Indian models such as a system composed of a code of laws. The concept of legislation demonstrated through codes of law and organizations particularly the idea of "God King" was embraced by numerous rulers of Southeast Asia.[87] The rulers amid this time, for example, the Lin-I Dynasty of Vietnam once embraced the Sanskrit dialect and devoted sanctuaries to the Indian divinity Shiva. Many rulers following even viewed themselves as "reincarnations or descendants" of the Hindu gods. However once Buddhism began entering the nations, this practiced view was eventually altered.

The history of South East Asia was mostly always written from the perspective of external civilizations that influenced the region. The prevalent interpretation caused because of the ontological differences, the fundamentally dichotomous histories of Europe and pre-colonial Asia and the conclusion from it was that the despotism, obscurantism, servile equality of Asian societies had caused innovation to become prey to tyranny and had rendered the history of the region cyclical, immobile and non-linear.

The belief in the idea that South East Asia had never engendered its own civilization, and of indigenous incapacity or external benefaction gained additional support, such as the tremendous evidence of Indian architectural and religious influence in South East Asia and we're fundamentally identified as being derivative and thus Indianization was perceived as occurring more so due to the Indian initiatives rather than the indigenous initiatives of South East Asia.[91]

Another main concern for Indianization was the understanding and development of caste systems. The debate was often whether or not the caste systems were seen as an elite process or just the process of picking up the Indian culture and calling it their own in each region. This had showed that the Southeast Asian countries were civilized and able to flourish their own interests. For example, Cambodia's caste system is based on people in society. However, in India, the caste system was based on which class they belonged to when they were born. Based on the evidence of the caste system in Southeast Asia, shows that they were applying Indian culture to their own, also known/seen as Indianization[92]