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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.

The world's largest Buddhist complex Borobudur in Indonesia.
The world's largest Buddhist complex Borobudur in Indonesia. Pixabay.
  • 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.


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.


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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Censorship in India: Protection or Supression?

The power of films was recognized long ago and they have been controlled ever since

Censorship in India, the power to stay in power
Censorship in India, a suppression of the free speech or a motive to protect the vulnerable? Pixabay

New Delhi, November 6, 2017: Film, as one understands, is the basis of all motion pictures and both the most persuasive and pervasive form of communication in the contemporary world. Following the development of technology, films have become much more ubiquitous and accessible. It is quite apparent that films have a lot more to them than just the purpose of entertainment. Not just a communicator of ideas, a film is also a crucial pedagogical tool that facilitates learning, spreads awareness, and motivates participation from the audiences. It is an efficient medium to help audience rethink their place in the world and to encourage them to do something for good.

Noting how influential films are as a medium of communication, the topic that
always remains hot is Censorship.

Censorship is not something that can easily be placed in the category of good or bad, in fact, both its supporters and those against it, have broken their necks to justify their arguments.

Films can change attitudes, inspire people and influence them in the deepest of ways. This was recognized long ago when the 1925 Russian film, Battleship Potemkin, was banned across the world as its story and visualization were deemed so powerful that it had the potential to arouse social outrage.

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) takes charge of Censorship in India. The board commands directors to remove everything it deems as offensive, on a regular basis. The CBFC has failed to convince a large audience with the reasons that it provided for the ban of certain films in India. One of these films is “Lipstick under my Burkha” which is the most recent film to become extremely popular for its ban in India. The reason that CBFC gave for the denial of certification to the film was that it is “Lady oriented”, which apparently, none can consider to be valid. If stifling the voices of women can be justified under the name of censorship, the very idea of it is threatening and must not be entertained.

Also readFacebook quietly develops Censorship Tool to re-enter World’s Second Largest Economy China after 7-Year Ban. 

Udta Punjab was also in limelight for the 94 cuts that CBFC demanded in the film, some of which included removal of the names of Punjab cities, the name of the state itself and the name of a dog which was called Jacky chain. There are many other films where the grounds on which the Censor board asked the filmmakers to cut scenes are unacceptable and sometimes plain hilarious. “Phillauri” makers were asked to mute Hanuman Chalisa as it failed to shoo the ghosts off.

The argument that the supporters of censorship usually give is that it is only in a perfect world, where children wouldn’t be exposed to films inappropriate for their age, where every person recognizes the boundary between film and reality, would censorship not be necessary; but the fact is that we don’t live in a perfect world. Censorship, as they call it, is just the step to protect the vulnerable in the society.

The people against censorship, however, shrug this idea off, and do not hesitate to call censorship in India, an incentive for the people in power to stay in power.

In principle, government holds a responsibility to make the art accessible to whoever is interested. However, with a country as diverse as ours, both absolute freedom and strict censorship could be problematic. The heterogeneity of citizens suggests the varying needs, sensibilities, attitudes and therefore, one needs to strike a balance.

-Prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter: goel_samiksha