In India and China large countries which high civilization. Since the beginning of the Christianity period, the two countries had developed close relationships through economic cooperation which was conducted by land and sea routes.
When the two nations conducted trade cooperation by sea route, they had to pass Nusantara. Because of the strategic location, the people of Nusantara were then involved in international trade and navigation. Of all the countries that established relationships with Nusantara, India was the first country that greatly influenced the pattern of life of the people with Hinduism and Buddhism.
Indian people came to Nusantara in large numbers, then they built residential areas. Along with merchants, there were also monks coming to Nusantara. Both Hindu and Buddhist monks actively propagated their religions in Nusantara. As a result, several kingdoms in Nusantara, later on, invited monks to conduct official royal ceremonies.
The relation between Nusantara and India was also known from the information in Jataka and Ramayana books. The Jataka book container stories of the life of Buddha that mentioned Suwarnabhumi as a country that was difficult to reach.
Suvarnabhumi means a country of gold, and Sumatra was also known as a country of gold. Therefore, it was stated that Indian people had established contacts with Sumatra in Indonesia. The book of Ramayana mentioned Javadvipa. It was told that the troops of monkeys that were assigned to find Shinta in eastern countries had examined Javadvipa which was decorated with seven kingdoms.
The island was an island of gold and silver. The book also mentioned Svarnadvipa which means island of gold. The description indicated that there was a relation between India and Nusantara and Indian influence had also been present especially in Java and Sumatra.
Later on, there were many people from Nusantara who wanted to go to India to deepen their religious knowledge. Generally, they were interested in learning holy literature and religious arts. The travelers from Nusantara (especially young men) learned architecture and sculpture. Knowledge about techniques of building holy places and sculpture was written in “Silpa Sastra” book.
More and more people from Nusantara went to India to study. This encouraged two Sriwijaya kings to build a dormitory for Indonesian students in India. The kings of Sriwijaya asked for help from Indian kings to build a vihara.
As a result, a vihara for Nusantara students was built in Nalanda (850 AD) and another in Nagatnam (1030 AD). The religious facilities gave positive effects. They made Nusantara students study harder and more diligently in India. No wonder, they brought deep religious knowledge when they came back to Nusantara. They processed the Indian culture they had learned in such a way that resulted in a combination of two cultures.
Contacts between Nusantara and China were estimated to have developed in the 5th and 6th centuries. Some of the evidence was the travel of two Buddhist priests. Fa Hien and Gunawarman. In approximately 413 AD, Fa Hien traveled from Srilanka to Ye-po-ti (Java) and returned to China by land.
In the same year, Gunawarman set off from She-PO (Java) to China. On the voyage, the captain of the ship first planned to stop by in a small kingdom. However, because the wind was favorable, they decided to sail directly to China.
Another piece of evidence told that in 449, Emperor Wen Ti of China sent a messenger to She-po (Java), and he also sent a ship to pick up Gunawarman in She-po. Based on the pieces of evidence, it can be concluded that at that time a direct voyage from Nusantara to China and vice-versa was already common.
Voyages to China were not merely voyages but also meant international maritime trade relations. News from Chi Dynasty (479 – 502 AD) explained that there was silk trade between the country and merchants coming by ships. (Kunlun was the term used to refer to people from the southern seas)
IN addition, there was news stating that in 490 AD there was a messenger from Ho-lo-tan coming to She-po carrying clothing materials from India and Gandhara. The messenger from Ho-lo-tan carried a letter containing a request to the Emperor of China to protect Ho-lo-tan from the neighboring countries.
It also requested Chinese officials to treat Ho-lo-tan ships properly and not to pirate or wreck them. The request from Ho-lo-tan king Indicated that there was good navigation relation between the two countries.
The trade relations with India and China had placed Nusantara international trade and navigation community in the past. Trade relations with India had brought about extensive changes in the life of Indonesian people, for instance in state administration, social system, architecture and literature, and the effects of the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Read also: Migration of peoples to Indonesia