Hinduism in Southeast Asia

Hinduism in Southeast Asia influenced the former Champa civilization in southern parts of Central Vietnam, Funan in Cambodia, the Khmer Empire in Indochina, the Srivijayan kingdom on Sumatra, the Singhasari kingdom and the Majapahit Empire based in Java, Bali, and the Philippine archipelago. The civilization of India influenced the languages, scripts, calendars, and artistic aspects of these peoples and nations. To quote from the Wikipedia article on India, the civilizing influence of "abstract qualities such as hospitality, family values, acceptance and toleration of differences, resilience and co-existence" somewhat moderates other aspects of the human condition.

Prominent Hindus (e.g., Swami Sadananda Maharaj [ P. 333 "The Modern Review" By Ramananda Chatterjee ] ) from India have visited South East Asia for the purpose of exploring the Hinduism of these places.

Hinduism and Southeast Asian mythology

Some scholars have pointed out that the legends of Ikshvaku and Sumati may have their origin in the Southeast-Asian myth of the birth of humanity from a bitter gourd. The word Ikshvaku means "bitter gourd". The legend of Sumati, the wife of King Sagar, tells that she produced offspring with the aid of a bitter gourd. [cite book | first=Koenraad | last=Elst | authorlink=Koenraad Elst|title=Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate | publisher=Aditya Prakashan | year=1999 | id=ISBN 81-86471-77-4; Sergent, Bernard: Genèse de l'Inde, 1997.]

Earliest known times

Indian scholars wrote about the Dvipantara or Jawa Dwipa Hindu kingdom in Java and Sumatra around 200 BC. Southeast Asia was frequented by traders from eastern India, particularly Magadha, as well as from the Tamil kingdoms of South India.

The Taruma kingdom occupied West Java around 400. There was a marked Buddhist influence starting about 425.

Dvaravati period

Other Indic influences, such as Theravada Buddhism, held sway during the Dvaravati period (6th to 11th century), which survive in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cambodia, and Thailand.

eafaring Peoples

These peoples engaged in extensive trade, which attracted the attention of the Mongols, Chinese and Japanese, as well as Islamic traders, who reached the Aceh area of Sumatra in the 1100s.


Cambodia was first influenced by Hinduism during the beginning of the Funan kingdom. Hinduism was one of the Khmer Empire's official religions. Cambodia is the home to one of the only two temples dedicated to Brahma in the world. Angkor Wat of Cambodia is the largest Hindu temple of the world.


The Singhasari kingdom fell to Kediri. The last Singhasari king's son-in-law, Raden Wijaya took over the kingdom by allying himself with the Mongols in 1293 and created the Majapahit kingdom. The Majapahit then turned on Kublai Khan's forces and drove them out. This established Majapahit hegemony over Java. Today there are a few remaining Hindu communities in Java. The Tenggerese, some Osings, and to some extent the Baduis are still Hindus.


Laos used to part of Khmer Empire. The Wat Phou is one of the last influences of that period. The Laotion adaptation of the Ramayana is called Phra Lak Phra Lam.


Hinduism in Burma is practised by less than 2% of the population (approximately 240,000), with most practitioners being Burmese Indians. Because a reliable census has not been taken in Burma since colonial times, the given figures are rough estimates. Despite its minority designation today, Hinduism has been greatly influential in Burmese history and literature. Hinduism, along with Buddhism, greatly influenced the royal court of Burmese kings in pre-colonial times, as seen in the architecture of cities such as Bagan. Likewise, the Burmese language contains many loanwords from Sanskrit and Pali, many of which relate to religion. Several aspects of Hinduism can be found in Burma today. In nat worship, which is practised by the dominant Bamar ethnic group, Burmese adaptations of Hindu gods are worshipped. For example, the king of the nats, Thagyamin, is identified with the Hindu god Indra. Burmese literature has also been enriched by Hinduism, including the Burmese adaptation of the Ramayana, called Yama Zatdaw. Many Hindu gods are likewise worshipped by Burmese Buddhists, including Saraswati (known as Thuyathadi in Burmese), the goddess of knowledge, who is often worshipped before examinations.


A number of Hindus remain in Thailand. They are mostly located in the cities. In the past, the nation came under the influence of the Khmer Empire, which had strong Hindu roots. The epic, Ramakien, is based on the Ramayana. The city, Ayutthaya, is named after Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama. Numerous rituals derived from Brahminism are preserved in rituals, such as use of holy strings and pouring of lustral water from conch shells. Furthermore, Hindu deities are worshipped by many Thais alongside Buddhism, such as the famous Erawan shrine, and statues of Ganesh, Indra, and Shiva, as well as numerous symbols relating to Hindu deities are found, e.g., Garuda, a symbol of the monarchy. The famous Hindu rituals of The Giant Swing and the Triyampavai-Tripavai ceremony depict a legend about how the god created the world.

The élite, and the royal household, often employ Brahmans to mark funerals and state ceremonies such as the ploughing ceremony to ensure a good harvest. The importance of Hinduism cannot be denied, even though much of the rituals has been syncretised with Buddhism [ [http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/2003/7-9/18-27_thailand.shtml Hinduism Today | Thailand | July/August/September, 2003 ] ] .

Pandit Vidyadharji was born in 1929 at Sri Vishnu Temple, Yannawa, Bangkok, Kingdom of Thailand. Inspired by the grace of God, he took a vow to fast for one full year and was even honored for this righteous act by His Majesty King Rama IX. [ [http://www.p-g-a.org/pandit.html Pandit Vidyadhar Sukul Brahman] ]


The Champa civilization was located in the more southern part of what is today Central Vietnam, and was a highly indianized Hindu Kingdom. Mỹ Sơn, a Hindu temple complex built by the Champa is still standing in Quang Nam province, in Vietnam. They were conquered by the Vietnamese and today are one of the many ethnic minorities of Vietnam.

Approximately 50,000 ethnic Cham in the south-central coastal area practice a devotional form of Hinduism. Another 4,000 Hindus (mostly Tamils) live in Ho Chi Minh city; some are ethnic Cham but most are Indian or of mixed Indian-Vietnamese descent. The Mariamman Temple, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most notable Hindu temples here.

The Balamon Hindu Cham people of Vietnam consist of 70% Kshatriyas (pronounced in Vietnamese as "Satrias"). Although Balamon make up only 25% of the overall Cham population (the other 75% are Muslims or Cham Bani). These Balamon Kshatriyas claim to be the descendants of the Champa Empire. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35433.htm Vietnam ] ]

umatra and Malaya

The last prince of the Srivijayan kingdom of Sumatra, after the loss to the Majapahit, founded the Sultanate of Malacca on the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. He later converted to Islam in 1414. As the Portuguese came to trade for spices, they began to ally with the Islamic powers, which did not help the Majapahit. One third of the Bataks, particularly the Toba and Karo Bataks.

Hinduism was deeply ingrained into the customs of local people in the form of local "adat", or norms of customary law and conflict resolution.


Bali is the only area in South-East Asia where Hinduism is the dominant religion. The last Hindu court eventually retreated from Java to Bali about 1500. The original Hinduism in Bali itself is still prevailant in Trunyan village. The resurgence of Hinduism in Indonesia is led by Balinese Hindus.

Borneo and Sulawesi

The Dayaks, the original inhabitants of Borneo, follow the religion of Kaharingan, which the Indonesian government has classified as a form of Hinduism. The Dayak Hinduism is allied to the Balinese Hinduism.

The Philippines

Until the arrival of an Arab trader to Sulu 1450 and Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed in behalf of Spain 1521, the chiefs of many Philippine islands were called "Rajas", and the script was derived from Brahmi. Karma, a Hindu concept, has a counterpart in the Cebuano language: Gabâ. The vocabulary in all Philippine languages reflect strong Hindu influences. In the archipelago that was to become the Philippines, the statues of the Hindu gods were hidden to prevent their destruction by a religion which destroyed all cult images. One statue, a "Golden Tara", a 4-pound gold statue of an Hindu-Malayan goddess, was found in Mindanao in 1917. The statue, denoted the "Agusan Image", is now in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, is dated from the period 1200s to early 1300s.The image is that of a Hindu-Malayan female deity, seated cross-legged. It is made of "twenty-one carat gold and weighs nearly four pounds." It has a richly ornamented headdress and many ornaments in the arms and other parts of the body. Scholars date it to the late 13th or early 14th century. It was made by local artists, perhaps copying from an imported Javanese model. The gold was used from this area, since Javanese miners were known to have been engaged in gold mining in Butuan at this time. The existence of these gold mines, this artifact and the presence of "foreigners" permit us to surmise on the existence of some foreign trade, gold as element in the barter economy, and of cultural and social contact between the natives and "foreigners." As previously stated, his statue is not housed in The Philippines. Prof. Beyer in 1918 tried to get the government to buy it for the National Museum, but as the bullion exceeded 4,000 pesos (at the old rate), funds were not available. [*citation needed*] Mrs. Leonard Wood (whose husband was military-governor of the Moro Province in 1903-1906 and governor general in 1921-1927) raised funds for its purchase by the Chicago Museum of Natural History. It is now on display in that museum's Gold Room. According to Prof. Beyer, considered the "Father of Philippine Anthropology and Archaeology", a woman in 1917 found it on the left bank of the Wawa River near Esperanza, Agusan, projecting from the silt in a ravine after a storm and flood. From her hands it passed into those of Bias Baklagon, a local government official. Shortly after, ownership passed to the Agusan Coconut Company, to whom Baklagon owed a considerable debt. Mrs. Leonard Wood bought it from the coconut company..." Another gold artifact of Garuda, the phoenix who is the mount of Vishnu was found on Palawan.

Today, there is a Hindu temple at Mahatma Gandhi Street on U N avenue in Paco area, Manila, Metro Manila and about 15 minutes away, there is a Sikh temple at U.N. Avenue and as per estimate there is 22 gurudwaras in all over Philippines today. Although most of the adherents are Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese. There are various Hare Krishna groups that are gaining in popularity. Indians have been in the Philippines even before the Spaniards but blend into society and tend to maintain a low profile.

Hinduism was deterred by the spread of Christianity by the Spaniards and the spread of Islam by Malay and Javanese missionaries before the Spaniards.

Hinduism in modern-day Southeast Asia

Vibrant Hindu communities remain in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia (as in Java, Bali, Sulawesi and Kalimantan) (for details, see Agama Hindu Dharma), and the Philippines mainly due to presence of Indians. One notably Southeast Asian aspect of Hinduism is the festival of Thaipusam.

The resurgence of Hinduism in Indonesia is occurring in all parts of the country. In the early seventies, the Toraja people of Sulawesi were the first to be identified under the umbrella of 'Hinduism', followed by the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977 and the Ngaju Dayak of Kalimantan in 1980. In an unpublished report in 1999, the National Indonesian Bureau of Statistics admitted that around 100,000 Javanese had officially converted or 'reconverted' from Islam to Hinduism over the previous two decades. [http://www.swaveda.com/articles.php?action=show&id=49] .The Ministry of Relgious Affairs, as of 2007 estimates there to be at least 10 million Hindus in Indonesia [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90137.htm]

The growth of Hinduism has been driven also by the famous Javanese prophesies of Sabdapalon and Jayabaya.

Many recent converts to Hinduism had been members of the families of Sukarno's PNI, and now support Megawati Sukarnoputri. This return to the 'religion of Majapahit' (Hinduism) is a matter of nationalist pride.

The new Hindu communities in Java tend to be concentrated around recently built temples ("pura") or around archaeological temple sites ("candi") which are being reclaimed as places of Hindu worship. An important new Hindu temple in eastern Java is Pura Mandaragiri Sumeru Agung, located on the slope of Mt. Semeru, Java's highest mountain. Mass conversions have also occurred in the region around Pura Agung Blambangan, another new temple, built on a site with minor archaeological remnants attributed to the kingdom of Blambangan, the last Hindu polity on Java, and Pura Loka Moksa Jayabaya (in the village of Menang near Kediri), where the Hindu king and prophet Jayabaya is said to have achieved spiritual liberation ("moksa"). Another site is the new Pura Pucak Raung in East Java, which is mentioned in Balinese literature as the place from where Maharishi Markandeya took Hinduism to Bali in the fifth century AD.

An example of resurgence around major archaeological remains of ancient Hindu temple sites was observed in Trowulan near Mojokerto, the capital of the legendary Hindu empire Majapahit. A local Hindu movement is struggling to gain control of a newly excavated temple building which they wish to see restored as a site of active Hindu worship. The temple is to be dedicated to Gajah Mada, the man attributed with transforming the small Hindu kingdom of Majapahit into an empire. Although there has been a more pronounced history of resistance to Islamization in East Java, Hindu communities are also expanding in Central Java near the ancient Hindu monuments of Prambanan.

The current estimates of Hinduism in Indonesia range from 4 to 8 percent


See also

* Hindu Revival in Indonesia
* Hinduism in Singapore
* Indianized kingdom

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6945574.stm Map of Khmer Empire art reveals ancient urban sprawl]
* [http://www.thaindian.com/about-thailand/thailand-hinduism-4053.html Thailand Hinduism] - A report on Hinduism in Thailand
* [http://www.borobudur.tv/ Hindu-Buddhist Java and Southeast Asia]
* [http://www.petra.ac.id/english/kti/cent_kal/tiwah/ Hindu-Kaharingan Tiwah ceremony in Borneo]
* [http://www.swaveda.com/articles.php?action=show&id=49 Hindu revival in Java]
* [http://www.atributetohinduism.com/Suvarnabhumi.htm A tribute to hinduism]
* [http://www.niu.edu/cseas/outreach/ArtsofSEAsiaSyllabus.pdf Hindu influence in Southeast Asia]
* [http://www.siddha.com.my/ Siddha Yoga Tradition in Malaysia]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7277928.stm Heritage bid unites border rivals]

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