How India has influenced Indonesia through ages

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By Shriya Katoch

The culture of Indonesia is highly influenced by India. In fact, the word Indonesia actually means “Indian island”.The entire country is diffused with a touch of India.


It has statues of Ramayana at road intersections, temples and folk performances of the Ramayana.Infact the island of Indonesia actually makes an appearance in the epic Ramayana, when Sugriva the chief of Rama’s army  dispatched his men to Yawadvipa, the ancient name for Indonesia , in search of Sita.


Indonesia also supports a large Indian diaspora amounting to the humongous count of 129,000. Most of these Indian Indonesians are concentrated in the region of Jakarta. Infact Indians have been living in Indonesia for centuries from the time of the Sri Vijaya and Majaphit Empire, both of which were Hindu and heavily influenced by the subcontinent. Later in the 19th century the Dutch brought the Indians as bonded labourers to work in the expanse of Medan in Sumatra , these were mostly South Indians. They have now been in Indonesia for around four generations and have acquired Indonesian passports. The second wave of Indian influx was in the 20th century with the arrival of the Sindhis in the Indonesian land. The Sindhi community is mainly involved in the arena of trade and commerce. The Indian community is highly regarded in Indonesia.perceived as being intellectually driven, they  hold important positions in different fields .


India’s cultural ties with Indonesia still continues, with Bollywood music having traces of the popular dangdut music, which originated from Indonesia. The largest ethnicity in Indonesia is Javanese. Javanese culture is humongously effected by Indian culture. Indonesian people, mostly Javanese, even name their children with Indian names like Aditya, Indira etc. They idolise Bollywood with all its colour and fervour. Indonesian cinematography is very similar to Indian cinematography as both of them borrow the power of music and dance to entrance their audience.

A lot of Indonesian mythology has been inspired by Hinduism featuring elements which the Indian culture can identify with. According to a survey 51%, Indonesians identify the Indian influences in their culture positively and only 21% view these influences as negative.


The Indian-Indonesian relationship stretch back for almost two millennia. In 1950, the first President of Indonesia-Sukarno called upon the peoples of Indonesia and India to “intensify the cordial relations” that had existed between the two countries “for more than 1000 years” before they had been “disrupted” by colonial powers.

To advance Indian culture Jawahar Lal Nehru Indian Cultural Centre was established in Jakarta in 1989. Historically the ties between India and Indonesia goes back to the age of Ramayana. The effect of India on Indonesia in the linguistic sense is the influence of Sanskrit in Indonesian languages . Throughout the history, India and Indonesia have enjoyed a peaceful history except the war in 1965 in which Indonesia aided Pakistan. With all its up and downs both India and Indonesia have continued to maintain a strong bond throughout the years.

Shriya Katoch multitasks as an Engineering student, an avid reader, a guitar player and a death note fan.