In the beginning of the first century A.D. a Hindu community existed in Funan. The oldest Hindu kingdom established in the lower valley of the Mekong, the area now included in the Indo-China peninsula was known as the funan with its capital at Vyadhapura, probably near Ba Phnom. According to the tradition recorded in inscriptions, it was founded in the 1st century B.C. by a Brahamana and Kaundinya from India who defeated and married the Naga prnices soma of that place. The second Kaundinya – again a Brahmana from India was elected king by the people, thus marking the next stage of Indian colonisation, Hinduism too deep root in that country, and the rulers bore Indian names and followed Indian religion. The brahminical hierarchy was a notable feature in the social order.
Chinese records mentions the year as 191 A.D. when Kaundinya, a Brahmin, “planted his javelin and married a local naked princes”. This was confirmed by the inscriptions relating to King Srimara of the third century A.D. History of Thais also confirms this evidence.
One of the kings, Ashvanarman performed otrthodox Aryan sacrifices. For certain, another Kaundinya who ruled over Funan in the fourth century A.D. appears to have reorganized the state and society. The successor of Kaundinya II, Gu navarman, built temples in honour of Vishnu. In the fifth century A.D. there was a war between funan and the newly emerging champa. At this time Jayavarma of Funan sent an emissary to China seeking its help.
This kingdom established by Kaundinya flourished for a few centuries. Chinese annals refer to some of the vasslas of Funan in the seventh century A.D.
Funan lost its importance and was merged in the famous kingdom of Kambuja (Cambodia) named after Kambu-Svayambhuva. By abo to the 6th century A.D, King Bhavavarman founded a new royal family. Consolidating his hold over kingdom of Kambuja and Funan. His successors ruled for a very long time. The later story is that of the empire of Kambuja extending over a period of more than five centuries.
Three important kingdosm existed at the opening of the sixth century – Kambuja (Cambodia), Champa (Thailand) and Srivijaya, a great maritime empire which included the Malaya peninsula and Simatra.
Kambuja began as a vassal state of Funan but by the middle of the sixth century ir became an independent State of Funan. The founder was Stiravarman. The early inscriptions are in classical Sanskrit, Full of references to ancient India. The kings were Hindus, mainly Saivite. More interesting is the fact that the prasati of Bhavaarman was written in the Kavya style closely imitating the Rabhuvansa of Kalidasa.
Buddhism appeared ni Kambuja by the middle of the seventh century, and two religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, co-existed as in India.
From the homeland it was the Pallava influence that dominated. It was the Pallava doctrine of Saivism that the official cult of Kambuja also. Kambuja’s architecture bears the influence of the Pallava tradition.
Champa or Thailand was also an anceitn kingdom. It too broke away from Funan. Chmapa covered Vietna, Laos and Cambodia at one time.
Founded by the turn of the first century A.d. with its capital at Indrapura, Its nucleus was modern Thailand. Probably might have been the first historical king, if not the founder of the Hindu dynasty. The first known-important king was Rudravarman. One king Indravarman III mastered the six systems of Hindu Philosophy, the Buddhist philosophy system, the grammer of Panini, and the sacred texts of the saivitis. The Vedas and the Dramasastras were studied and one king Sri Jaya Idnravarma VII had mastery of the Dharmasastras. Even the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were videly known. The architecture of Champa was of the southern type. Champa disappeared in the 14th century from History after many centuries of fight with the kingdom of Annam which was the advanced post of Chiense culture.
Probably, the sailendras were merged with the Srivijaya kingdom of Sumatra in the fourth century A.D. By the end of the eighth century, the empire spread to Malaya peninsula, One of the kings sent an expedition to Java. I-Tsing visited one king, Sri Jayanasa. Inscriptions talek of Sailendra rule over Sumatra, java and the Malay peninsula by theend of the thirteenth century A.D. As a naval power the Sailendras continued till the 12th century.
The third kingdom of Srivijaya had the glory of guarding the sea routes. The kingdom was first established in Sumatra. Soon the king conquered the other island groups and established their hegemony over the Malaca straits by the beginning of the seventh century. In the eighth century they extended their power to the Malay peninsula. “Thus withone foot on the continent and the other on the great island of Sumatra they bestrode the straits and retained the mastery of both seas for over 500 years.”
It was this authority of Srivijaya kingdom that was challenged by the Chols in the eleventh century. It was Rajendra Chola who began the 100 years war with the Sailendras. At the end of the war the Sailednras remained masters of the sea. Thus for full 700 years they did had held sovereignty over the seas surrounding the islands and upheld Indian culture in the archipelago.
They maintained friendly relations with the Palas of Bengal. Balaputradeva of the Sailendras built a monastery at Nalanda. Another ruler built a monastery at Nagapatnam.
The Sailendras were Mahayana Buddhist. Sumatra and Java attracted foreign scholars. Atisadipankara of the Vikramsila university styed for ten years in Sumatra. Their greatest stupa is the Buddha temple at Baraboudour largest in the world – 2000 relief scultupres on the life of the Buddha – built in the from of terraces – the top-most terrace crowned with a bell-shaped stupa.
Arab travelers by compliments to the wealth and grandeur of the empire in the 8th century. But Camobida as Java broke away in the 9th century.
The Indian, immigrants in South-East Asia, while setting up their kingdoms, tried to build a social structure on the orthodox Indian model with the traditional four castes (caturvarna) and the supremacy of the brahmins and the ksatriyas. The distinction between brahmins and the Kastriyas was more apparent than real. Intermarriage between the two was not unknown. But the caste system in these regioins was not as rigid as in India. The aristocracy and the common people had a sharp line of distinction, specially noticed in their dress, which was scanty in the case of ordinary people but gorgeous and ornamented for the aristocrats. Caste did not interfere in the Choice of the avocation. A Kambuja record refers to the members of a Brahmin family being elephant drivers. Artisans and priests.
The Indian dhoti wsa very commonly used. It is mentioned by Chinese historians. A sculpture at Bayon depicts the king dressed in dhoti with a hara – jeweled gold garland – round his neck. The history of the Sui Dynasti mentions that the kings was dressed in purple silk clothes which were embroidered. Inscriptios and sculptures bring out the use of Indian ornaments.
The food habit of the people was the same, tandula (rice) was the staple food with pulses like tila and mudga. Likewise gharta, dadhi and guda (ghee, curd anomolasses) are mentioned in inscription s.
It is astonishing that the greatest Buddhist temple is found not in India but in Baraboudur in Indonasia. Considered to be the largest Buddhist temple in the whoel world, It was constructed in the eighth century A.D. and 436 images of Buddha were engraved onit. The temple of Angkorvat in Kampuchea to medieval times of Baraboudur. Although this temple belongs to medieval times in can be compared to the best artistic achievements of the Egyptians and Greeks. The stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata are written in relief on the walls of the temple. The story of the Ramayana is so popular in Indonasia that many folk plays are performed on its basis. The Indonesian language called BHASHA INDONESIA contains numerous Sanskrit words. In respect of sculptures the head of the Buddha from Thailand, the head from Kambuja and the Magnificent bronze images from Java are regarded as the best examples of the blending of Indian art with local art traditions of South-East Asia. Similarly beautifull examples of painting comparable to those of Ajanta have been found not only in Sri Lanka but in the Tun Huang Caves on the Chinese border.
It was a two-way traffic. Indians acquired the craft of minting gold coins from the greeks and Romans. They larnt theart of growing silk from Cinha. That of growing betel leaves from Indonasia, and several other products from the neighbouring countries. Similarly the method of growing cotton spread from India to China and central Asia. However, Indian contribution seems to be more important in art, religion and language.