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Early Hindu-Buddhist Kingdoms of Indonesia

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Item Code: HAO367
Author: Pramod Agrawal
Publisher: Story Mirror Infotech Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789392661884
Pages: 202
Other Details 8.5x5.5 inch
Weight 256 gm
Book Description
About The Book

Indonesia, with over 17,000 islands, has historically been a center for maritime trade, culture and religions; and has amazingly managed to unite the archipelago of unsurpassed natural beauty and diverse cultures. It is a melting pot of one of the most diverse arrays of societies and cultures in the world. Since ancient times, the region has faced successive waves of cultural and religious influence, first from India; and later from further west and north China; through trade, commerce, scholars, priests and monks. From the beginning of the 4th century, several Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms emerged in different parts of the Archipelago, some lasted for only a short period, while others for several centuries. Some of these Indianized Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms prospered, riding on robust maritime trade, while others excelled in building grand monuments.

The book describes how the influence of the Indianized kingdoms have left a rich legacy of unique Javanese culture, and how with a fusion of Hindu-Buddhist beliefs with indigenous animist cultural practices it has laid the foundation for a united Indonesia with its belief in the principle of 'Panca-Sila' (the official, foundational philosophical theory of Indonesia) and 'unity in diversity'. This has made the country resilient to withstand the rising political and religious challenges and risks it faces today.

About the Author

Pramod, born and educated in India, and abroad, has been living in Southeast Asia since 1973. He has an undergraduate degree in Architecture and graduate degrees in Social Science and Urban Planning and Housing. Pramod has lived and worked as a resettlement and social development specialist in many parts of Indonesia for almost 13 years until 1995; and thereafter has been visiting Indonesia frequently in a similar professional capacity, working for the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. He speaks Bahasa Indonesia fluently. He has a passion for travelling and studying historical buildings. He lives in Singapore with his wife.


The Indonesian Archipelago with more than 17,000 islands has been a major centre for Eastern trade and navigation for the past almost two thousand years. The main islands of the Archipelago are centrally located along the ancient maritime trade routes between China, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The central geographic location has been of immense significance to the economy and prosperity of the Archipelago.

Indonesia has a glorious past in terms of trade and as a centre for culture and religions. It has managed amazingly to unite this Archipelago of unsurpassed natural beauty and diverse cultures. It is a melting pot of one of the most diverse arrays of societies and cultures in the world, overlapping traditional beliefs and cultural practices. This was achieved by centuries of intermingling of travellers, traders and merchants, and scholars from India, China, the Arab countries, and Europe, with its local people.

Since ancient times, the region has faced successive waves of cultural and religious influence from India, further west, and much later from the north - China, through trade, commerce, priests and monks. Due to this interaction, its diverse cultural practices are strongly influenced by different religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and Islam. Indonesians have embraced and adapted all the world's great religions that have come to these islands and syncretised them with its indigenous beliefs, making them even more complex; often almost unrecognizable. All over Indonesia, people strongly believe in the forces of the unknown, and are influenced by the spirits of rice, rivers, trees, mountains, and other natural phenomena.

Many of Indonesia's ethnic pockets remain isolated because of the Archipelago's size, vast jungles, its swamps, highlands, and complex customs and way of life, some of which are centuries apart. However, there is a sense of local identity for one's community/tribe, fostering an amazing tolerance of other cultures. This attitude can be summed up in the Indonesian expression, "Lain Desa, Lain Adat' or 'other village, other custom' (Boyce, 1986). All these diverse cultures and vast spread of geographic locations are united with a notion of Indonesian identity under the concept of 'Nusantara' (United Federation of Islands), and by their common belief and practice in the national slogan of 'Bhinneka Tunggal Ika' (Unity in diversity) and 'Panca-Sila' principles. It is what makes Indonesia a fascinating country.

My experience with this amazing country began almost forty years ago when, during 1981-1995, I lived and worked as a resettlement and social development specialist in North Sumatra, Riau, East Kalimantan and Sulawesi; and thereafter intermittently visiting Aceh, South Sumatra, East Java, Bali and Flores in the same professional capacity. During 1986-1988, in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, I came across David Boyce, who was working with GTZ, the German Development Agency. David Boyce's excellent compilation of history and events in Indonesia and Kalimantan in general, and Kutai regency and Dayaks in particular, has been a great source of inspiration. This, combined with my several decades of living and working in different parts of Indonesia, prompted me to write something on the topic close to my heart, and cultural background.

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