The audio-video presentation by Dr. Jayanthi and Mr. Manohar on ‘Panoramic Journey through Indian Cultural Heritage’ was an enriching cultural sojourn of Indian heritage in the Far Eastern countries of Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia and Thailand. The students across campuses learnt about that Southeast Asia was under Indian influence starting around 200 BC until around the 15th century, when Hindu–Buddhist influence was absorbed by local politics.
India had established trade, cultural and political relations with Southeast Asian kingdoms in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Malay Peninsula, Cambodia and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam. In late 6th century CE, dynastic struggles caused the collapse of the Funan Empire, which was succeeded by another Hindu-Khmer state, Chen-la, which lasted until the 9th century. Then, a Khmer king, Jayavarman II (about 800-850) established a capital at Angkor in central Cambodia. He founded a cult which identified the king with the Hindu God Shiva – one of the triad of Hindu gods, Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Siva the God symbolising destruction and reproduction. The Angkor Empire flourishes from the 9th to the early 13th century. It reached the peak of its fame under Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century. Its most celebrated memorial is the great temple of Angkor Wat, built early in the 12th century. In early days these Indians were mostly from the ancient Dravidian Kingdom of Kalinga, on the south-eastern coast of India. We got to know that Indians in Indonesia are still known as "Klings", derived from Kalinga.
The audience also understood Thailand's relationship with India spanning over a thousand years and resulted in an adaptation of Indian culture to suit the Thai environment. Evidence of strong religious, cultural and linguistic links was discussed by the experts. They also highlighted that the single most significant cultural contribution of India, for which Thailand is greatly indebted to India, is Buddhism. Propagated in Thailand in the 3rd Century B.C. by Buddhist monks sent by King Asoka, it was adopted as the state religion of Thailand and has ruled the hearts and minds of Thais ever since. It is important for us to understand besides Buddhism, Thailand has also adopted other typically Indian religious and cultural traditions. The ceremonies and rites especially as regards the ‘Monarchy’ evidence a strong Hindu influence.
The Indians who moved into Thailand in the Sukhothai period (1275–1350) were either merchants who came to Siam or Thailand, for the purpose of trading or Brahmans who played an important role in the Siamese court as experts in astrology and in conducting ceremonies. The concepts of divine kingship and royal ceremonies are clear examples of the influence of Brahmanism. The Thai idea that the king is a reincarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu was adopted from Indian tradition. Though this belief no longer exists today, the tradition to call each Thai king of the present Chakri dynasty Rama (Rama is a reincarnation of Vishnu) with an ordinal number, such as Rama I, Rama II etc. is still in practice.In the Ayutthaya period (1350–1767), more Indian merchants entered the South of the country by boat as evidenced by the statues of Hindu gods excavated in the South.
The experts reiterated the fact that Thai literature and drama draws great inspiration from Indian arts and legend. The Hindu epic of Ramayana is as popular in Thailand as it is in India. Thailand has adapted the Ramayana to suit the Thai lifestyle in the past and has come up with its own version of the Ramayana, namely, the ‘Ramakien’.Two of the most popular classical dances the ‘Khon’, performed by men warning ferocious masks, and the ‘Lakhon’, performed by women who play both male and female roles draws inspiration primarily from the Ramakien. Thai language too bears close affinity with India. Several Thai ceremonies also have been adopted from Indian tradition.
There was an extensive description of Vedic Gods and Goddesses, Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Saraswathi, Indra, Varuna, Vasus, Rama, Hanuman and Yama in the art and architecture of the above mentioned countries. Also the speaker mentioned about visits by Dr. Radhakrishnan and Pandit Nehru to Cambodia towards the end of the voluminous session.
The presentation was loaded with information on Indian Culture in farther lands and the pictures were a feast for eyes for the entire audience. Dr. Prof. Rajani Jairam, Dean of Student Welfare, Jain (Deemed-to-be University), the initiator of such a glorious presentation graced the occasion. Dr. Prof. Vasu. B. A., Director, was the backbone of the event hosting the occasion on Knowledge Campus, Jayanagar, Bengaluru. Women Cell members of the campus Dr. Geetha Madhusudhan, Dr. Rajeshwari and Ms. Adeeba Ahmed were active organizers of the event. Women Cell co-ordinators across campuses Dr. Usha, Dr. Pushpa, Dr. Hemalatha, Dr. Sowrabha, Ms. Padma Priya and Ms. Varsha were participants of the event with the students from their respective campuses. Thanks to the Management of Jain (Deemed-to-be University), Heads of various Centers and Departments, Teaching and Support staff and students across campuses for making such a holistic programme a big success.