Cultural, Religious and Civilisational Influence of Hindutva on Southeast Asia (Part -2)

The Nathlaung Kyaung Temple

Hinduism in Indonesia

Today in Indonesia, Hinduism is practised by 3% of the total population, they constitute 92.29% of the population of Bali and 15.75% of the population of Central Kalimantan, as of the 2000 census. However, between the 4th century to 15th century, Hinduism and Buddhism was adhered by the majority of the population, along with native indigenous animism and dynamism beliefs that venerated natural and ancestral spirits. By 15th to 16th century Islam had supplanted Hinduism and Buddhism as the majority religion in Indonesian archipelago. The influence of Hinduism has profoundly left its marks on the culture of Bali, Java and Sumatra. Bali has become the last remnant of once Hindu dominated region.

Hindu influences reached the Indonesian Archipelago as early as the first century. In 4th-century, the kingdom of Kutai in East Kalimantan, Tarumanagara in West Java, and Holing (Kalingga) in Central Java, were among the early Hindu states established in the region. Several notable ancient Indonesian Hindu kingdoms are Mdang i Bhumi Mataram, famous for the construction of the majestic 9th-century Trimurti Prambanan temple, followed by Kediri, Singosari, and reached the peak of its influence in the 14th-century Majapahit, the last and largest among Hindu-Buddhist Javanese empires. The Hindu civilisations have left its marks in Indonesian culture. The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, became enduring traditions among Indonesian art forms, expressed in Wayang shadow puppet and dance performances. Many Indonesian names are Sanskrit-based, and Bahasa Indonesia contains loads of loan words of Sanskrit origin. The vehicle of Vishnu, Garuda, was adopted as both national emblem Garuda Pancasila and flag carrier national airline named Garuda Indonesia. Today, the Indonesian government has recognised Hinduism as one of the country’s six officially sanctioned religions, along with Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

The new Hindu communities in Java tend to be concentrated around recently built temples (pura) or around archaeological temple sites (candi) which are being reclaimed as places of Hindu worship. An important new Hindu temple in eastern Java is Pura Mandaragiri Sumeru Agung, located on the slope of Mt Semeru, Java’s highest mountain. Mass conversions have also occurred in the region around Pura Agung Blambangan, another new temple, built on a site with minor archaeological remnants attributed to the Kingdom of Blambangan, the last Hindu polity on Java, and Pura Loka Moksa Jayabaya (in the village of Menang near Kediri), where the Hindu king and prophet Jayabaya is said to have achieved spiritual liberation (moksa). Another site is the new Pura Pucak Raung in East Java, which is mentioned in Balinese literature as the place from where Maharishi Markandeya took Hinduism to Bali in the 5th century.

An example of resurgence around major archaeological remains of ancient Hindu temple sites was observed in Trowulan near Mojokerto, the capital of the legendary Hindu empire Majapahit. A local Hindu movement is struggling to gain control of a newly excavated temple building which they wish to see restored as a site of active Hindu worship. The temple is to be dedicated to Gajah Mada, the man attributed with transforming the small Hindu kingdom of Majapahit into an empire. Although there has been a more pronounced history of resistance to Islamization in East Java, Hindu communities are also expanding in Central Java near the ancient Hindu monuments of Prambanan. The current estimates of Hinduism in Indonesia range from 4 to 8 percent.

Hinduism in Laos

Hinduism make less than 0.1% of the population of Laos. Approximately 7,000 People of Laos are Hindus.In Ancient Time Laos used to be a part of Ancient Hindu Empire Khmer Empire. The Wat Phou is one of the last influences of that period. The Laotian adaptation of the Ramayana is called Phra Lak Phra Lam.

Hinduism in Malaysia

Hinduism is the fourth largest religion in Malaysia. About 1.78 million Malaysian residents (6.3% of the total population) are Hindus, according to 2010 Census of Malaysia. Most Malaysian Hindus are settled in western parts of Peninsular Malaysia. Indian Hindus and Buddhists began arriving in Malaysia during ancient and medieval era. A large number of Hindus from South India were brought to Malaysia by British colonial empire during the 19th and 20th century, as indentured labourers to work on coffee and sugarcane plantations and tin mining; later they were deployed in large numbers, along with Chinese Buddhists, on rubber plantations. The British kanganisystem of recruitment, designed to reduce labour turnover and enhance labour stability, encouraged Hindu workers to recruit friends and family from India to work in British operations in Malaysia. The kangani system brought numerous Tamil Hindus into Malaysia by early 1900s.[20] By 1950s, about 12.8% of Malaysian population professed to be a Hindu.

After Malaysia gained its independence from British colonial empire in 1957, it declared its official state religion as Islam, and adopted a discriminatory constitution as well as the Sedition Act of 1971 which limited public debate on Malaysia’s treatment of religion, language and citizenship policies. In recent decades, there have been increasing reports of religious persecution of Hindus, along with other minority religions, by various state governments of Malaysia and its Sharia courts. Hindu temples built on private property, and built long before Malaysian independence, have been demolished by Malaysian government officials in recent years.[25] Since the 1970s, there has been large scale emigration of Hindus (along with Buddhists and Christians) from Malaysia.Malaysian Hindus celebrate Deepavali (festival of lights), Thaipusam (Lord Murugan festival), Pongal (harvest festival) and Navaratri (Durga festival).

Hinduism in Myanmar

Hinduism in Burma is practised by about 840,000 people. Since a reliable census has not been taken in Burma since colonial times, estimates are approximate. Most Hindus in Myanmar are Burmese Indians. In modern Myanmar, most Hindus are found in the urban centres of Yangon and Mandalay. Ancient Hindu temples are present in other parts of Burma, such as the 11th century Nathlaung Kyaung Temple dedicated to Vishnu in Bagan. Hinduism in Myanmar has also been influenced by Buddhism with many Hindu temples in Myanmar housing statues of the Buddha.


Aspects of Hinduism continue in Burma today, even in the majority Buddhist culture. For example, Thagyamin is worshipped whose origins are in the Hindu god Indra. Burmese literature has also been enriched by Hinduism, including the Burmese adaptation of the Ramayana, called Yama Zatdaw. Many Hindu gods are likewise worshipped by many Burmese people, such as Saraswati (known as Thuyathadi in Burmese), the goddess of knowledge, who is often worshipped before examinations; Shiva is called Paramizwa; Vishnu is called Withano, and others. Many of these ideas are part of thirty seven Nat or deities found in Burmese culture.

Hinduism in the Philippines

Before the arrival of an Arab trader to Sulu Island in 1450 and Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed in behalf of Spain in 1521, the chiefs of many Philippine islands were called Rajas, and the script was derived from Brahmi. Karma, a Hindu concept is understood as part of the traditional view of the universe by many Philippine peoples, and have counterparts such as kalma in the Pampangan language, and Gabâin Visayan languages. The vocabulary in all Philippine languages reflect Hindu influences.There are smaller number of followers of Hinduism today at 0.1% of the Philippine population.

Today, there is a “Hindu Temple” (attended mostly by Sindhīs) on Mahatma Gandhi Street and a “Khalsa Diwan Indian Sikh Temple” (attended mostly by Sikhs) on United Nations Avenue. Both are in Manila city’s Paco-Pandacan area, the traditional Indian enclave, and are about 15 minutes walk away from each other.[34] As per estimate there are 22 gurudwāras all over the Philippines today, although most of the adherents are Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese. There are various Hare Krishna groups in the country that are gaining in popularity.

-Colonel Manoj Joe Purakel (Rtd)

(The writer is a veteran of the Regiment of Artillery. An alumnus of OTA and Defence Services Staff College, he is a veteran of Operation Pawan (Sri Lanka) , Punjab and J&K Insurgencies. He was also a Commando Instructor in the Black Cat Commando Training Centre)

Courtesy : Organiser