Hindu Influence in South East Asia
Hindus in 10,000 years have never colonized any country. They have never looted, plundered or enslaved any country economically. They have never condemned other religions as false religions and converted them to Hinduism. They have never destroyed temples of other religions. They have never called people from other religions as Sinners, heathens or kafirs and condemned them to eternal hell. They have never crucified or burhant alive any one whose ideas have been different from their own and yet Bharat has influenced the eastern countries of Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma and Sri Lanka, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, not to mention Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangla Desh for the last two millennium years. This is one of the miracles of human history.
Influence In China
Hu Shih, the Chinese ambassador to America has said, India conquered China for 1,000 years without sending a single soldier. This was mainly due to the contributions of saints like Bodhi Dharma of Kanchipuram in the 6th century and Chinese traveler and scholar Huang Tsuang who visited many parts of Bharat in the 7th century.
Chinese forms of exercises, martial arts and meditative Chan or Zen Buddhism owe their origin to Bodhi Dharma. Chinese version of Ramayana is currently shown on their TV channels and as usual Hanuman, the monkey God is the most alluring character in the serial.
Influence In Japan
The history of Japan is no different. In 736 AD a Hindu Brahmin Bharadwaj once again, from Kanchipuram reached Japan. He was popular in Japan as “Baramon”. He taught them Buddhism, Ramayana, Sanskrit, Dharma, Hindu Philosophy, and gave them culture, art and music in the then capital of Japan. Today everything with which Japanese rightly feel proud of as their ancient heritage and culture was given to them by this monk. The Japanese have three scripts one of them based on Tamil and Sanskrit was given by “Baramon Bharadwaj”. This is enough to show, how Buddhism which is the dynamic form of Hinduism, has influenced one-third of the entire world.
Hindu Influence in South East Asia
The first chapter of Kampuchia or Cambodia starts with a Brahmin King Kaundinya arriving on their shores with gifts of Indian dresses, ornaments and eatables. The ruins of Wat Angkor and Prembanan temple in Central Java stand testimony to the great Hindu influence in the last fifteen centuries. Most of these countries were ruled by Hindu empires.
Hinduism in South East Asia influenced the Champa kingdom in Vietnam from 192 A.D through 1697 A.D; influenced the Srivijayan Kingdom in Sumatra from 200 AD to 1400 A.D; the Singhasari kingdom and the Majapahit Empire in Java, Bali and a number of the islands of the Philippines archipelago. The civilization of Bharat influenced the languages, scripts, calendars and artistic and culinary aspects of these people. Ramayana and Hindu culture has been the source of inspiration throughout the history of South East Asian countries.
In most of South East Asian countries, people do not give any thing with their left hands, they do not walk between two persons, passengers will stand up and offer their seats to saffron-clad monks, people feed the monks with freshly cooked food at early hours of the dawn. Cities bear names like Ayodhya, Lavapuri, Kanchanapuri, Chandrapuri, Vishnulok, Singapore the city of lions, Jayakarta, the city of victory (Capitol of Indonesia), Bandar Sri Bhagwan (capitol of Brunei) and so on. Laos is named after Lav, the son of Ram and Burma after Lord Brahma, the God of Creation.
Influence in Thailand
A leading Buddhist monk in Thailand told his followers that all aspects of Thai Culture beginning from the birth of a child to his death are a gift from Mother Bharat. Oriental Hotel in Bangkok is for many years, the award winning best hotel of the world. The hotel staff, very proudly wear, the Indian attire of dhoti and kurta Indian-like. The kings of Thailand are called Rama and the present king is Bhumipal Atulya Tej, Rama IX. Both he and Princess Mahachakri compose poems in Sanskrit.
Ramakeerti, the Thai Ramayana composed in 17th century is taught in schools. World’s largest Ramayana painting can be seen on the walls of Emerald Buddha temple in Bangkok Royal Palace. Thai boxing which has now entered the Olympics is based on the fighting skills of Hanuman, Angad, Vali, Sugreev as the Thais claim.
Many streets and prestigious buildings in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia bear Sanskrit names. All rivers are reverently addressed as Mae which is Maa or Mother. Thus the river flowing through Bangkok, the capital of Thailand is Mae Chaophraya. The river that flows from the Himalayas through Burma, China, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia is called Maa Ganga pronounced incorrectly by the French rulers as Mae Kong.
In spite of 20 military coups and another 20 democratically elected governments in the past 70 years, there have been no death punishments, blood spilling or political vendettas. For all these amazing cultural traits they thank Mother India. The country itself is called Siam Desh in the local language, which means the land of Lord Vishnu.
Influence in Malaysia
In Malaysia the Prime Minster and his cabinet ministers take oath of office by pronouncing the words “URUSAN SERI PADUKA BEGINDA” which means by the orders of Lord Ram’s Paduka (as was done by Bharata in Ramayana). All government orders are issued in the name of Sri Paduka. The name plate at a mosque in Penang translated into English reads “This mosque has been built by the orders of Seri Paduka in 1974.”
In Malaysia there are nine sultans. One of them is installed as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or President of the country. He takes oath office in the name of “URUSAN SERI PADUKA DHULI BEGINDA” which means by the orders of the Dust of Lord Ram’s Paduka. Like us Indians, they too consider the dust of the Paduka to be holier than the Paduka itself.
The Malay version of Ramayan, “Hikayat Seri Rama” composed in the 13th century is among the earliest Malay literatures and is studied in the universities as a piece of classical literature. Ramayana shadow plays and dance drama are still a craze in north and eastern provinces. Malay language too has many words of Sanskrit and Tamil origin. Sanskrit words like bhakti, Shakti, sodara, sodari, kadai, guru, siswa, surya, swami, bhasa, jiva, vamsa, varta etc are in common usage. Prestigious newly constructed buildings bear Sanskrit names like Chhaya Surya, Wishwa Putra, Anatara and Vishwa Duta.
The Sultan is entitled as Raja Parameswara and the queen is addressed as Raja Parameswari. Their second son is addressed with respect as Lakshmana. “Vanita Pushpavalli” is the name of the organization floated by the wives of cabinet ministers and they do social work for the poor and the needy.
Western dress code has been replaced with Malay dress code during University graduation ceremonies. The dress code includes Hindu items like kurta, angavastra around the waist and a black cap.
Ramli Ibrahim and Chandra Bhanu are accomplished Bharat Natyam dancers of Malay descent. They perform before distinguished audiences in five star hotels and International conferences. In spite of threats from their Muslim Malay brothers, Ramli and Chandra perform pujas for Lord Natraj and prostrate before the idol in full view of the audience.
Influence in Indonesia
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. But their names contain names of Hindu gods and goddesses. Thus names like Winawati (Veenavati) Husman, Sudarshan Rehman (customs officer at the airport), Savitri Yani are very common. Some of their Presidents and vice-Presidents were Sukarno, Sukarno-Putri Megawati, Veera Hari Mohammed and so on. Buildings, hotels and other places bear names like Citra Graha (Art Gallery), Swargi (Heaven) Plaza and Arya Duta. They have islands like Sumatra, Bali, Madura, Irian Jaya, Kalimantan and towns like Jayakarta, and Yogyakarta. University campuses have idols of Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesha at the entrance. ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandun) is ranked number one technology institute in Indonesia and their logo is “Sri Ganesh”
A massive sculpture of Lord Krishna driving an eight horse drawn chariot is seen right in front of the Parliament of the “largest Islamic country in the world.” One of their currencies depicts the pictures of Lord Ganesha and Garuda. In fact Garuda is their national symbol and Air Garuda the name of their national aircraft carrier.
The real name of the capital of Indonesia is Jayakarta, the city of victory but wrongly pronounced as Djakarta by the Dutch rulers. Indonesia was ruled by ancient Hindu Majapahit rulers. The history is taught to the children in schools. Sanskrit, Ramayana, Mahabharata and meditation have enriched Indonesian culture. Bali is entirely a Hindu island with a population of 30 lakhs. Bali Hindus are the most friendly and loving people any where in the world. In their 150 years of regime, the Dutch rulers have not recorded any theft, loot, arson or mischief among Bali Hindus.
While in Indonesia, I was told of an incident. Once, Indonesia invited Pakistan President Gen. Zia-ul Haq to preside over the passing out parade of their military officer trainees. Gen. Zia was visibly angry that all the officers were parading in front of a tall statue of Hanuman ji in their military academy premises and also took oath of office in front of the same statue. When questioned the officials proudly proclaimed, “We have changed our religion but not our culture or our fore fathers.” The same answer was given by Indonesian vice-President Wira Hari Mohammed when he was questioned in an international conference of the organization of Islamic countries as to why many customs and practices in Indonesia are on lines of the Hindus.
When Indonesia organized an International Ramayan festival and invited all Asian countries to send their Ramayana dance troupes, many Buddhist and Muslim countries sent their Ramayana artistes. Indian (Nehru) government refused to send any troupe saying that India is a secular country. (Same Indian government under Smt Indira Gandhi sent a delegation under Union Minister Fakruddin Ali Ahmed to Rabat in an International summit of Islamic nations even though no invitation was sent. This time the government explanation was that India has a bigger Muslim population than Pakistan, Bangladesh or most Islamic countries).
Hindus of Bali
Once I went to Bali for a National Hindu conference. Indonesian Hindu delegates from Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Madura and other islands had assembled at the Bali Hindu University campus for the 2 day conference. When the morning bell rang, I closed my room door and went for breakfast. One of the delegates introduced himself and told me in an assertive tone, “I am sure you are visiting Bali for the first time”. I asked him how he could say so emphatically. He said that ‘I had closed my room’. I closed my room because I was carrying passport, US dollars, camera and tape recorder. He said all the delegates who have come from different parts of Indonesia also carried valuables and he asked me to see if anyone else had closed his room. To my great surprise all the other doors were open. At that point, the Indonesian delegate told me, ‘this is Bali where theft is unheard of’. All this is due to the influence of karma Siddhartha of the Vedic heritage. We in Bharat have forgotten our priceless legacy and the people of South East Asia have preserved them in spite of many years of separation.
In Bali I noticed one more astonishing fact. I was staying at the residence of a local Hindu leader Prof. Dr Ida Bagus Oka Punyatmadja. He said he is a Brahmin but his elder brother who was Brahmin till last year has become a vaishya this year. I was utterly confused. In Bharat one could change his religion but not his caste. Prof. Punyatmadja clarified that among Bali Hindus the caste goes with ones profession. His elder brother was Brahmin as long as he was in the teaching profession. But as soon as he started a hotel business he became a vaishya. The mother temple of the Bali Hindus is called Besaki temple and here I saw that while the Bali Hindu priest goes inside the temple precincts for doing pujas, he cannot enter the innermost garba griha. Only a shudra is allowed to enter the garbha griha. I also found a big list of aspirant devotees who wanted to change their caste to shudra caste to serve the Lord once the post becomes vacant.
In fact this is exactly the message of Bhagwad Gita “Chaturvarnyam Maya Shrishtam Guna Karma vibhagashaha.” (The four varnas created by me are according to Guna and Karma). I was delighted to see it being practiced to its spirit in Bali Island.
Lessons to learn from South East Asia
Ramayan, Sanskrit, Ayurveda, Hindu values, meditation, Hindu festivals, Hindu almanac, our puranas, dance, music, sculpture and arts remain the bedrock of the culture and existence of South East and Far East Asian countries for the past two thousand years. At times it appears that they are more proud of this culture and value systems than we Indian Hindus. Here in South East Asia Hinduism is not a religion it’s their daily routine (culture). I am sure one day every Indian will realize the value of Hinduism as a Way of living. This will enable them to contribute more effectively to their adopted countries.
I appreciate the efforts of Hindu Council of New Zealand to promote Universal values of Hinduism for the peace and prosperity of New Zealand. It is a feather in the cap of the organisers that the Prime Minister of New Zealand Hon. Helen Clerk inaugurated this 1st Hindu Conference of New Zealand.