Map of the route of entrance and spread of Hindu Buddhist religion and culture in Indonesia

The people of Nusantara had accepted new cultures from India. However, they did not abandon the culture and traditions they had for hundreds of years. They did not completely absorb the influences of Hindu-Buddhis cultures because. Nusantara people had local genius, that is the ability of a society to screen and process incoming foreign cultures to be adapted to the local cultures and traditions.

Here ate ten elements of foreign cultures adopted by Nusantara people, as indicated by Dr. J.L.A. Brandes.

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  1. Ability tocultivate ricefields
  2. Ability in navigation
  3. Knowing the basic principles of puppet shows
  4. Ability in the arts of gamelan orchestra
  5. Skills in batik making
  6. Producing metal goods
  7. Using the metricx system
  8. Using coins as a means of exchange
  9. Understanding astronomy
  10. Development of well-structured society

Before Hinduism-Buddhism came to Nusantara, our ancestors had believed in the existence of supreme power outside themselves. They believed that when one died only his/her body was destroyed, but the spirit kept alive.

The spirit lived in a sacred place. Our ancestors then made contact with such spirits, resulting in a custom to burn incense, have ritual meals, and give offerings. Besides, they believed that there was supernatural power residing in certain things.

Then they made certain objects sacred, such as weapons, rings, bracelets, big trees, and large stones. Such beliefs are known as animism and dynamism. Animism is belief in the spirits of ancestors, whereas dynamism is belief in objects having supernatural power a magic power.

Buddhist culture and religion were estimated to have influenced Nusantara between the 2nd and 5 the centuries whereas the effect of Hinduism started at the beginning of the 5th century. The following are scientists’ opinions about the people who brought Hinduism to Nusantara.

1. The Brahmana hypothesis

The Brahmana hypothesis says that it was the Brahmanas who played the role in propagating Hinduism in Indonesia. The Brahmanas were invited by rulers of Nusantara to crown kings, lead religious ceremonies, and teach science. The supporter of this hypothesis was J.C. Van Leur.

2. The Kshatriya hypothesis

The Kshatriya hypothesis says that Hindu culture and religions came into Indonesia because of the role of the Kshatriya who were tired of the wars in their country. So they migrated to Nusantara and spread Hindu culture and religion. One of the supporters of this hypothesis was C.C. Berg.

3. The vaisya hypothesis

The vaisya hypothesis says taht it was the vaisya (merchants) who played the role in spreading Hindu culture and religion in Nusantara. One of the supporters of this hypothesis was N.J. Krom.

4. The backflow theory

The backflow theory says that it was the people in Nusantara themselves who spread the Hindu religion and culture. They were those who had studied in India, and upon returning to Indonesia they propagated the culture and religion. The scientist who proposed this opinion was F.D.K. Bosch.

Hindu-Buddhist culture and religion were brought to Nusantara via sea and land routes

1. Sea route

They went with groups of merchants ships that often sailed to South Asia and East Asia. The route of the Hinduism-Buddhism propagators was as follows:

India – Myanmar – Thailand – Malay Peninsula – Nusantara – Cambodia – Vietnam – China – Korea – Japan.

Some of them even went to Nusantara directly when the westerly monsoon wind was blowing.

2. Land route

Some of the propagators of Hindu-Buddhist culture and religion by land route went along with the caravans by taking the silk road from India to Tibet and went northward to China. The route was as follows: India – Tibet – China – Korea – Japan.

Besides, some of them also took this route: North India – Bangladesh – Myanmar – Thailand – Malay Peninsula – Nusantara.

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