Indian religious art and culture have exercised an extraordinary influence on South-East
Asia (earlier called Greater India or Further India). All across South-East Asia, Indian
religious world inspired the raising of astonishing monuments, some of which remained
unequalled even in the mother country.
The Sailendra (Lords of Mountains) rulers of Java (Indonesia) built the magnificient
ninth century Mahayana Buddhist stupa of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the
world and an invaluable heritage of mankind. At a short distance was built the great Hindu
complex of Prambanan. In central Myanmar, more than 2,000 red-brick temples and monuments
mark the city of Pagan, for 400 years the capital of people who also dedicated much of their
labour and wealth to the service of their faith. Angkor in Cambodia can boast of the world's
largest religious monument and most inspired and spectacular temple complex in the world,
which is dedicated to Vishnu. Ayutthaya, a vast and majestic city of Thailand, has 400
splendid temples. In Vietnam, three important groups of temples are My Son, Dong Duong and
Po Nagar, the second being Buddhist and the other two Saivite. The first royal Sivalinga in
south-East Asia was established at My Son and the oldest Sanskrit inscription was found in a
village called Vo Canh near Nha Trang in the southern part of Vietnam. Wat Phou is Laos' own
mini-Angkor. It preserves the glory of Hinduism far away from the land of its origin, the
To know Indian art in India alone, is to know but half its story. To apprehend it to
the full; one must watch it assuming new forms and breaking into new beauties as it spreads
over Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam; one must gaze in awe at the unexampled grandeur of its
creation in Cambodia and Java. In each of these countries, Indian art encounters a different
racial genius, a different local environment, and under their modifying influence it takes
on a different garb. Therefore the art of each and everyone of these countries is
complimentary to the rest and a knowledge of each, such as this book provides, is
indispensable to our understanding of the whole.
About the Author
Sri Amar Nath Khanna was born at Multan in West Punjab in 1936. He holds a Master's
degree in History and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Archaeology from, the School (New
Institute) of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi. Shri Khanna has had
the rare opportunity of visiting and studying monuments and pilgrim shrines scattered all
over the Indian subcontinent as well as in South-East Asia, China and Japan during the last
half a century. He retired as Senior Technical Officer, Indira Gandhi National Centre for
the Arts in 1996 while earlier he had been working as a Senior Officer with the President of
India. In 1998, he was invited again by Shri R. Venkataraman, former President of India, to
work with him even after retirement. He had been the Registering Officer for Antiquities in
Himachal Pradesh and was associated with Shri Rajeev Sethi, Padma Bhushan, in the Aditi
Exhibition curated by him in the Festival of India, U.S.A., the Basic Human Needs Pavilion
set up in Expo 2000, Hanover, Germany and Celebration of 150 years of the First War of
Independence, 1857, in 2007. He was associated with Smt. Pupul Jayakar, Adviser to Prime
Minister on Heritage and Cultural Resources, in the Festivals of India held in the U.S.A.
and Japan and the Year of India in France. He was a Member of the Presidential Delegations
to Japan in 1990 and China in 1992.
Shri Khanna's book Archaeology of India was published in 1981. Its revised and
enlarged edition which covered Pakistan and Bangladesh also was published in 1992 and was
highly appreciated among others by the President of India and Dr. Karl Khandalavala. His
book Pilgrim Shrines of India, published in 2003, has won appreciation of H.H. Jagadguru
Shri Shankaracharya, Dakshin Aamnaya, Sringeri. Shri Khanna has also edited four books, the
latest being The Diverse World of Indian Painting, Aryan Books International, New Delhi,
2008. Shri Khanna's research papers have been published in leading journals in India.
Currently, Shri Khanna is Secretary, Indo-Tibetan Art & Culture Study Group, New Delhi, and
Founder Member, Rasaja Foundation, New Delhi.
Sir John Marshall says, 'to know Indian Art in India alone, is to know half its history.
Certainly, as far as Buddhist Art is concerned, we must follow it in the wake of Buddhism
everywhere'. For, in each country where the doctrine of the 'enlightened one' traveled, it
carried over the vitality of its original hypothesis, for a thousand years and more, clothed
itself in the habiliments of the local genius in a manner which fills one with wonder and
admiration for its inspiring character and its abi9lity to meet the social and human needs
of different climes.
The first Sivalinga was established at My Son in the central region of Vietnam near
Da Nang and the oldest Sanskrit inscription was found in a village, Vo Conh, near Nha Trang
in the southern part of Vietnam. Hundreds of Sanskrit inscriptions discovered in Cambodia
are in flawless kavya style. All the common metres have been explored in these inscriptions.
They show an intimate knowledge of not only the grammatical words of Panini and Patanjali,
the four Vedas, the two epics and many kavyas but also with special branches of
knowledge-the Siddhantas (mathematics and astronomy), the Darshanas (systems of philosophy)
and Susruta's medical treatise. The engravers of these inscriptions were also
My Son, Java, Sumatra and Bali have to be judged in the broader context of the
Indianisation of South-East Asia as not only architecture but also spiritual and political
influences had reached the region.
The ancient kingdom of Champa (now part of Vietnam) incorporated the provinces of
Indrapur, Amaravati, Vijaya, Kauthara and Panduranga and lasted for about thirteen
centuries. The ancient site of Tra Kieu (Simhapura) with a large number of monuments,
statues and bas-reliefs attests to the richness of the culture that once flourished here.
Their contact with Indian traders in the fourth century had influenced them strongly and
they combined indigenous religions with elements of Hinduism and Indian culture. They used
the Indian alphabet which became the first written language of South-East Asia. In ninth
century, the Chams who are said to be of Indonesian origin also embraced Buddhism.
Indians are still referred to as Orang Kling, a survival of the name Kalinga, by
which the Oriyan were once known. The principal part of departure for Suvarnabhumi was
Guduru, modern Kodura, at the mouth of the Godavari, and thus on the Andhra Coast, and
giving access to the west. This agrees well with the fact that it is really the art and
culture of the Deccan, rather than those of South India, of which traces can be seen in the
earlier art of Cambodia, Campa and Java.
There were three phases of the evolution of classic Indonesian architecture: (i) AD
600-900, (ii) AD 900-1250, and (iii) AD 1250-1450. Several buildings of the Classical
Period, mostly concentrated in Java, are considered to be an invaluable part of the world's
cultural heritage, which binds human beings at a sensitive level. Several innovations and
divergences from Indian temples can also be noticed. Some great monuments of Java remained
unequalled even in the Indian subcontinent.
The religion of the kind and welcoming people of the enchanting island of Bali is
Agama Hindu Dharma that is an amalgamation of elements from Hinduism, Buddhism and the
pre-existing animist beliefs. What we presently see in Bali was prevalent before the coming
of Islam, throughout South-East Asia, called Indian Asia by Zimmer and Greater India or
Further India by other scholars. The Puranas refer to it as Dvipantara Bharat, India of the
Islands. An eminent writer has aptly written about the Indian expansion:
It was one of the most important civilizing movements of ancient times, worthy to
compare with light of her understanding over such distant lands, lands which without her
might have remained in darkness.
To quote Vice Admiral R.D. Katari:
So long as we had the command of the seas around us, we played an effective part in
the world affairs, but once we lost it, we lost our independence.
The book is intended for the readers interested in the art and architecture of India
and South-East Asia (earlier called Greater India), for the study of Indian art in the
Indian sub-continent alone means half its history while a study of both means a complete
understanding. It is also meant for the students of history of art and archaeology of India
and those interested in the cultural heritage of Asia.
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