CHAPTER-30 : Cultural Interaction with Asian Countries

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

India’s Historical Trade and Cultural Links

Trade Contacts (Early Centuries):

  • Indian traders reached Mesopotamia (3rd millennium BC) – seals found as evidence.
  • Active trade with China, Southeast Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, Roman Empire (from 1st century CE).

Spread of Buddhism (3rd century BC onwards):

  • Sri Lanka:
    • Missionaries sent by Ashoka.
    • Theravada Buddhism flourished.
    • Pali texts compiled and commented upon.
  • Myanmar (Burma):
    • Adopted Theravada Buddhism.
    • Built temples and statues for Buddha.
  • China:
    • Became a major Buddhist center.
    • 162 Chinese monk visits documented (5th-8th century CE).
    • Bodhidharma, a famous Indian scholar, visited China.
    • Buddhism spread to Korea and Japan from China.
    • Fa-hsien and Hsuan Tsang (Chinese pilgrims) visited India for Buddhist texts.
  • Cultural Exchange:
    • Silk production knowledge from China to India.
    • Buddhist painting techniques from India to China.
  • Afghanistan and Central Asia:
    • Buddhist statues and monasteries discovered.
    • Begram (famous for ivory work) and Bamiyan (tallest Buddha statue – destroyed recently) are key sites.
    • Buddhism declined in 7th century CE due to rise of Islam.

India’s Cultural Links Beyond Buddhism: West Asia & Southeast Asia

Christianity and West Asia (6th Century CE):

  • Thriving Christian communities in India and Sri Lanka.
  • Bishop appointed from Persia served Christians in Kalyan (near Mumbai).

Indian Influence in Southeast Asia:

  • Trade & Early Settlements:
    • Trade with Burma (Suvarnabhumi).
    • Indian settlements in Java (Suvarnadvipa) by 56 CE.
    • Early settlements by Pallavas in Sumatra.
  • Cultural Transmission:
    • Sanskrit as language of learning.
    • Powerful Hindu kingdoms in Cambodia (Kamboja) and Champa.
    • Grand temples like Borobudur (Indonesia) and Angkor Wat (Cambodia).
    • Ramayana and Mahabharata stories adopted in local art and literature.
    • Sanskrit influence on Bahasa Indonesia.
  • Artistic Fusion:
    • Sculptures and paintings blending Indian and Southeast Asian styles.
  • Exchange of Knowledge:
    • India adopted coin minting, silk production, and betel leaf cultivation.
    • Cotton cultivation spread from India to China and Central Asia.

Overall Impact:

  • Indian influence significant in art, religion, script, and language.
  • Southeast Asian cultures not mere replicas of Indian culture.

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