THE ROLE OF HINDUISM AND BUDDHISM IN PROMOTING INDIANNESS OUTSIDE INDIA: SCENARIOS OF SOUTHEAST ASIA
Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is considered to be the oldest religion in the world (Fowler 1997, p1). This religion originated in India. Similarly, India is also the birthplace of Buddhism. Apart from trade, religion was one of the means of inter-state communication and proximity in ancient times. It is through religion, ancient Indian civilization developed good relations and closeness with different parts of the world, one of which was Southeast Asia. Though Marx opined “Die Religion……ist das opium des volkes” or “religion…..is the opium of people”, but the positive role of religion cannot be denied in this case. Hinduism and Buddhism were the main driving force behind the Indianization or Sanskritization of Southeast Asian States. Buddhism and Hinduism are still among the most prevalent religions in this region, despite the subsequent large-scale conversion to Christianity and Islam. The influence of Indianness is evident in all the areas of this region, including ancient architecture, sculpture, art, painting, literature, language, script, lifestyle etc. These religions have never been limited to personal sphere of inhabitants of this region but have also flourished in the political and social spheres. These religions have sometimes been instrumental in unravelling colonial chains and sometimes in nation-building efforts. At present, the Government of India is very keen on finding the roots of ancient historical ties in establishing close bilateral relations with various countries, from that point of view, this following article will be considered very relevant.
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