Musings on ‘Indic civilisation’ and Indianness

News: Contemporary international politics has rendered less significant to cultural influence. The modern indices of strategic thinking, economic interests, and geopolitical affinities have gained more prominence than the cultural aspects. But India must treat Indic civilisation as a matter of pride.

How Indic Civilization is different from geographical and geopolitical India?

Geographical idea of India: This includes the subcontinent bordered by the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Himalayan mountains.

Geopolitical idea of India: This include the Republic of India; at its biggest extent, the British Raj as it was in 1914, or more pragmatically, the British India of 1947.

Indic Civilization: Civilisational idea of India is much broader than Geographic and Geopolitical ones. These are countries that are ‘culturally as much Indian. For instance, in Asia countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Java, Bali, or Sumatra are part of the Indic Civilization.

What is the composition of Indic Civillization?

The idea of Indian civilisation is not solely comprised of Hindu dharma but also consists of multiple non-Hindu influences(Such as Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, and also British colonial area) that have shaped contemporary Indian civilisation.

How impactful is Indic civilization in South East Asia?

To this day, a) The kings of Thailand are crowned in the presence of Brahmin priests; b) the Muslims of Java still bear Sanskritised names, despite their conversion to Islam; c) Garuda is Indonesia’s national airline, and Ramayana its best-selling brand of clove cigars; d) Even the Philippines has produced a pop-dance ballet about Rama’s quest for his kidnapped queen.

e) Many Southeast Asian countries also mirror the idea of a ‘sacred geography’: the old Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya derived its name from the Indian Ayodhya, f) Since 1782, Thai kings are still named Rama in continuation of the Ramayana tradition; the current monarch, Vajiralongkorn, is styled Rama X. (The Javanese city of Yogyakarta in Indonesia is also a transliteration of Ayodhya).

Indic Civilization in Cambodia

Hinduism was brought to Cambodia by merchants and travellers more than a millennium ago. It has long since disappeared, supplanted by Buddhism. But at its peak, Hinduism profoundly influenced the culture, music, dance, and mythology of the Cambodian people. The 16th century saw Hindus and Buddhists worship side by side in adjoining shrines within the same temple complex.

Cambodia is indeed the last outpost of Indic civilisation in a world increasingly overrun by the forces of Chinese culture.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia has exquisite sculptures from Ramayana and the Mahabharata tales.

What should be done to preserve Indic Civilization?

Indians should treat Indic’s civilisational heritage as a matter of pride, and not of parochialism; as a heritage that unites, rather than divides one Indian from another.

Source: The post is based on an article “Musings on ‘Indic civilisation’ and Indianness” published in the “The Hindu” on 13th June 2022.

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