Hinduism in Southeast Asia

Hinduism's Influence in Southeast Asia

Hinduism is one of the world's oldest religions, and it has affected not only Indians but also many Southeast Asian countries. Hindu civilization distorted people's and countries' calendars, artistic elements, scripts, and languages. Hinduism predates Buddhism and other religions in Southeast Asia, having been brought by Indian traders in the 6th century BC (Gottowik 31). When a businessman married a Sundanese princess and founded his kingdom, Hinduism spread throughout the area. Hinduism's rituals and practices spread as trade between modern-day Southeast Asia and the Indian mainland increased, and its uptake expanded. Hinduism strongly manipulated several great civilizations of SE Asia including the Vietnam, Cambodia, and Funan. Different from the Indian Hinduism that favored deities such as Shiva and Vishnu, the Southeast Asia Hinduism established Nagas who secured temples from wickedness spirits (Gosling 38). Even if Hinduism is not regarded as the international religion on the scale similar to Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, it had a lot of influence in the SE Asia from the ancient kingdoms in the current day Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Influence of Hinduism

Hinduism has been considered as the force of combining distinctly disparate religions for thousands of years in SE Asia to the extent that often Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, animism, and Taoism simply fuse. During the mid-1st millennium several empires in Southeast Asia adapted and adopted particular Hindu texts, rituals, theologies, types of social structure and architectural styles that suited their public and historical conditions (Gosling 41). When compared to other religions such as Buddhism and Islam which are the most prominent religions in this region, Hinduism in SE Asia gave birth to the ancient civilization of Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippine, Majapahit Empire, Sumatra, and Peninsula. The early kingdoms in Southeast Asia practiced Hinduism with the introduction of Buddhism and its spread between the 12th and 8th century in the SriVijayan Empire (Gottowik 53).

The Adoption and Dilution of Hinduism

The adoption of religious practices of India assisted ambitious leaders to counterfeit cosmopolitan polities founded on the claim that they governed in line with the international moral principles. The Naga, which is a sacred serpent, is common in both the Hindu and Buddhist cultures while the wedding dress and rituals in most of SE Asia are founded on the Hindu rites (Gosling 77). Despite the strong onslaught of Islam in the 15th century, Buddhism between the 5th and 1st century, as well as Christianity in the 16th era, Hinduism influences have endured and remain observable and mixed as they are incorporated in Islam and Buddhism practiced in Southeast Asian nations. By the start of the Christian period, Hindus had systematically colonized Asia from Burma to Java and Annam in the southeast. The evidence of Hinduism spread is manifested by the discovery of Amravati image method of Buddha in Celebes, Java, and Sumatra as well as in Annam and Siam (Gosling 102).

The Hinduism practices have prevailed even if they have been diluted by time due to interaction with other religions in the area. The caste system was introduced to some nations of SE Asia, but it is not rigorous as in India. The term caturvana exists in the records on the Indonesian islands as well as frequent references to other four castes in the inscriptions and literature (Gottowik 167). There are various inscriptions in the southeast nation in addition to the Vedas which leads to speculations that Brahmins played a significant duty in the religious lives of individuals from the starting of Hinduism influence. The 6th-century inscription in Thailand was once regarded as Brahmin who established the gift of Purana, Ramayana and Mahabharata texts to the temples that would be recited daily. The practice of reciting verses every day was known in Hinduism which must have assisted in influencing the spiritual living of the citizens (Gottowik 193).


Based on the 2005 census, Hinduism is practiced by 0.09 percent of the countrywide population. Hinduism has remained in Thailand because of the Khmer kingdom influence that had powerful Hindu roots (Gottowik 132). A Buddhist monk in Thailand disclosed to his followers that different cultures of Thailand are the gift from Bharat, which is the belief in Hinduism. The influence of Hinduism in Thailand is profound than Buddhism, which is prevalent in the country. For instance, the Oriental hotel in Bangkok that has been awarded as the best restaurant in the globe has Hindu practices as it can be witnessed by the staff wearing the attire of kurta and dhoti (Gosling 212). Besides, the leaders of Thailand are regarded as Rama while the present king is Bhumipal rama six. The Ramakeeti, which was composed in the 17th century, is taught in learning institutions while the largest Ramayana painting in the world is on the wall of a Buddhist temple in Bangkok (Gottowik 139).


Hinduism is practiced by 1.7 percent of Indonesians who live in Bali because the Islamic forces were not able to break the cultural barriers on the island. Even though Indonesia is the biggest Muslim nation in the globe, their names contain terms of Hindu goddesses and gods (Gosling 97). In comparison with Islam, Hinduism has much impact on the Indonesian culture, which is practiced even in the current days. Some of the names that have Hinduism influence include Winawati Husman, Savitri Yani, and Sudarshan Rehman. Hotels, buildings, and various places have names such as Swargi, Arya Duta, and Citra Graham which resemble the Hindu culture (Gosling 164). Moreover, universities have idols of Lord Ganesha and goddess Saraswati at the entrance. The biggest sculpture of Krishna riding the eight-horse chariot is situated in front of the parliament despite the nation being the largest Islamic state (Gosling 109). Indonesia demonstrates its traditions that are deeply manipulated by Hinduism followed by Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.


About one percent of the Philippine population practice Hinduism. The Hindu religion has extended historical influence in the Philippines, especially in the scattered islands where economic, cultural, and political influence was high. Furthermore, the Hinduism influences in the Philippines can be illustrated in myths, folklore, customs, and language (Gottowik 152). Archeological and study evidence has suggested that Hinduism had some religious, political, economic, and cultural influence in the archipelago. For instance, the Laguna Copperplate Inscription that was discovered in 1989 was decoded to be the Kavi script with Sanskrit terms (Gottowik 149). In addition, the golden Agusan scripture was discovered which was linked with Hinduism.


Conclusively, Hinduism had various influences in Southeast Asia from the early empires to the current Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand cultures than Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. Hinduism influenced the languages, scripts, calendars, and artistic aspects of Southeast Asia, given that different kingdoms adopted the religion for the sake of ruling in accordance with the universal moral standards. Furthermore, Hinduism has combined different religions in this region such as Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism to look the same despite having distinct roots of origin.

Works Cited

Gosling, David L. Religion and Ecology in India and Southeast Asia. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Gottowik, Volker. Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia: Magic and Modernity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014.

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