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Indonesia’s Culture and Religion have a Major Indian Influence

India has imparted a great influence on Indonesia's culture and religion.

  • One of the largest Hindu complex Prambanan was built in Indonesia in the 8th and 9th century
  • Indonesian 20,000 Rupiah currency note has Lord Ganesha’s picture inscribed on it
  • The influence of India on Indonesia’s demography is immense

New Delhi, August 28, 2017: Indonesia’s culture and religion demography have a major Indian influence. According to the found pieces of evidence, the relationship between both the countries date back to 1st century.

HISTORICAL BONDS

Bali Wayang Kulit shadow puppet Ramayana Hanoman dramatic show in Indonesia
Bali Wayang Kulit shadow puppet Ramayana Hanoman dramatic show in Indonesia. Wikimedia.

The historical ties between Indian and Indonesia date back to the time of Ramayana. One can easily find the name Yawadvipa (Java) in this epic. It is clearly inscribed in the holy book that Sugriva, the chief of Rama’s army had sent his army to Yawadvipa, the island of Java, in search of Sita.

It was in the 1st century, that Bali Yatra has started. In ancient times, the traders from India used to sail to Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo for the expansion of trade and culture. The spices of Indonesia especially nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves first attracted the Indian traders in the 1st century.

The earliest evidence of this historical bond is in Ujung Kulon National Park, West Java. An earlier Hindi archeological relic of a Ganesha statue from the 1st century AD has been found on the summit of Mount Raksa in Panaotan Island. The traces of Indian influence is most evident in great numbers of Sanskrit loanwords in Indonesian languages. This is just a few pieces of evidence. There are several other pieces of evidence as well, mentioned eSamskriti report.

The process of acculturation had happened centuries ago when the localities of Indonesia had adopted the elements of Indian culture in their own way. The Indonesians were influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism. The existence of the world’s largest Buddhist complex Borobudur and the largest Hindu complex Prambanan near Yogyakarta in Central Java proves the acculturation.These two complexes were built during the 8th and 9th century.

Much later Arab traders brought Islam to Indonesia and today the majority of the population of Indonesia is Muslim. But still, Indonesians had preserved their culture. The ties with Hinduism and Buddhism hasn’t weakened.

CULTURAL TIES

When one visits Indonesia, one can easily feel the essences of Ramayana and Mahabharata in Indonesian culture. The enactment of Indonesian culture of Ramayan happens every evening in a hall opposite to the magnificent ancient Hindu temple complex of Pambanan at Yogyakarta.

In the entire Indonesian archipelago, the largest bastion of the Hindu religion resides in a fabulous picturesque Indonesia’s island state of Bali. Although Bali is a multi-religion territory consisting of Buddhist, Muslim, Christianity, the predominant religion is Hinduism. They have adopted Hinduism in their own way, and it is called as Agam Hindu Dharma. It was originated from Java and is a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. Their religion and culture is an intrinsic part of their life.

In this Hindu ritual dance, Balinese dancers in Indonesia is dancing on stories from Hindu epics and mythology.
In this Hindu ritual dance, Balinese dancers in Indonesia is dancing on stories from Hindu epics and mythology. Wikimedia.

Bali is perhaps known for its dance, drama, and sculpture. Here, artists are placed at the highest level of social hierarchy. Almost in all the towns and interior villages, art and craft is an inseparable part of people’s life.

Traditionally, Balinese in Indonesia use their talents in arts and crafts for religious purposes. Most of their splendid work seems to be inspired from the Hindu epics. Here, the statues of various Hindu gods, animals, human form, and mythical figures have a symbolic value. These statues deliver a message of religious ethics for the Hindu inhabitants in Bali. Mask is also considered as a sacred object in Balinese Hinduism in Indonesia.

The phenomenal Balinese dance forms are extremely expressive and dazzling. They are usually based on Hindu epics but pepped up with local influences, mentioned NewsRepublic report.

Among all the marvelous dance forms in Bali, the dazzling Kechal dance is held at a major temple complex in Bali. Barong dance involving lion or dragon(Barong) representing good taming the witch(Rangda) representing evil, is a must watch dance form.

While describing his enchanting experience in a NewsRepublic report, Uday K Chakraborty said that in Indonesia, the Balinese marriage rituals had many similarities with the traditional marriage ceremonies of Bengal.

ndonesia's 20,000 Rupiah currency note has Lord Ganesha's picture inscribed on it.
Indonesia’s 20,000 Rupiah currency note has Lord Ganesha’s picture inscribed on it. Wikimedia.

Lord Ganesha’s picture inscribed on Indonesian 20,000 Rupiah currency is a live example of the stunning influence of India on Indonesia.

Today also, Bali Yatra is celebrated as a festival on the day of Kartik Purnima in Orrisa, people float artificial boats made of paper, cork, colored paper and banana tree barks in the river and water tanks as a tribute to ancient sailors.

In Indonesia, particularly in Bali and Java, one can experience India’s incredible influence on Indonesia.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter  @cshivani31

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