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RAMAYANA TO BOLLYWOOD, INDONESIA LOVES INDIA
The ties between Indonesia and India date back to the times of the Ramayana, writes Somvir a visiting lecturer of Indian culture and Vedic philosophy at the Faculty of Letters, Udayana University, Bali
The visit of the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, opened a new chapter in the relations between Indonesia and India. The president's name is of Sanskrit origin. India's success in technology, sustainable economy and education has impressed Indonesia. An Indian cultural centre has been set up in the resort island of Bali. Similarly, Balinese Hindus are building a Hindu temple in native architectural style on the banks of the Ganges at Rishikesh. The relationship between India and Indonesia is deep-rooted. Since centuries, the people of Java and Sumatra have welcomed Indians who came to the islands for trade.
Indonesia is an idyllic getaway that gives visitors a peep into a synthesis of many religions
Prambanan Hindu temple compound in Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia. Constructed in the 9th century it was dedicated to Trimurti, the highest three gods in Hinduism. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, currently it is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, and is one of the largest Hindu temples in south-east Asia.
The Borobudur Temple Compounds in Yogyakarta, Central Java in Indonesia, is a ninth century Buddhist temple complex. It was built on several levels around a natural hill. Borobudur is built as a single large stupa, and when viewed from above takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. The foundation is a square. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures.The site was rediscovered in the 19th century, and restored in the early 20th. In 1973 a major renovation took place that was funded by UNESCO.
Kecak dance, a form of Balinese music drama, originated in the 1930s and is performed primarily by men in Bali Island. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece, performed by a circle of 100 or more performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting "cak", and throwing up their arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana where monkeys help Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. However, Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance.
Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman is a large mosque located in the center of the city of Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia. This magnificent mosque was designed by an Italian architect and built by the Dutch colonial administration as a token of reconciliation following their destruction of an older mosque during the Aceh wars. Construction of the mosque commenced in 1879 and was completed in 1881. The mosque survived the massive 2004 tsunami which destroyed much of the rest of the city of Banda Aceh. This magnificent mosque was designed by an Italian architect and built by the Dutch colonial administration as a token of reconciliation following their destruction of an older mosque during the Aceh wars. Construction of the mosque commenced in 1879 and was completed in 1881. The mosque survived the massive 2004 tsunami which destroyed much of the rest of the city of Banda Aceh. The design of the mosque combines colonial and Moghul Indian influences
The stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata integrate both the countries. The epics have also played a pivotal role in the history of Indonesia and besides being a part of its unique culture, they have also achieved great popularity in the socio-political life of Indonesia. Even today, in the open theatre of the Prambanan in Java, Muslims perform the Ramayana during full moon nights. This should serve as a reminder strength of its own religious and cultural roots. During the rule of King Sriwijaya, many Indonesians went to Nalanda University in India. Roughly 1,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era, Indian contacts had been established. Swarnabhumi (Sumatra) finds mention in Jataka stories while there is reference to 'Yava Dwipa' or Java in the Ramayana. The cult of sage Agastya was well developed in Java and we find his statue at the famed Prambanan temple. The wave of Hinduism was predominant throughout Java and it was not just exclusively Saivism. The Mahayana of Buddhism, as a separate and integral cult, belongs mainly to the period of Sumatran rule in Central Java. Even at that time, it was a Tantric form which later became increasingly so in Nepal, Cambodia and Bali. In Bali, Buddhism and Saivism were inseparably combined. After Agastya's visit to Java, Sage Markandeya followed and laid the foundation of the mother temple in Besakih, Bali. Majapahit the last kingdom of Hindus established their suzerainty over Palembang and Pahang in Sumatra, and over Malay from Singapore to Kedah and Trenggan. But we do not find any documented history between India and Indonesia after 1400. The two countries also show a similar pattern in architecture.
Earliest Sanskrit inscription found in Annam is dated to 200 A.D. It seems that before the 5th century, contacts began with India. Indian immigrants in the Malay Archipelago are still called Kaling in Medan, Indonesia. It is a survival of the name Kalinga, by which the inhabitants of Orissa were once known. In old Javanese language, we find roughly around 30 per cent Sanskrit words, which shows the close connection between India and Indonesia. When Arab and Chinese trade flourished, Bali began to form close links with Java. Javanese culture had developed based on old Indian traditions that were Indonesian in essence. The old Javanese language became a vehicle of the classic epics. All ancient inscriptions found in Indonesia up to 5th century are in Sanskrit and the Pallava script has been used. It is interesting that Indonesia absorbed the three main religions of India: Hinduism from ancient times; Buddhism in the medieval period; and Islam from the 12th century onwards. Indian traders, mainly from Gujarat, introduced Islam into Sumatra. By the 15th century, Islam had spread all over Java. It is to be noted that the transition and absorption of diverse religions was effected without any bloodshed. When Islam came to Indonesia from Gujarat, India herself was under Mughal rule and the philosophy of Sufism practiced in India had a similar impact on Indonesia. The cultural influence of Islam in India is in evidence in the prevalence of Sufi mysticism and folk art and poetry where Hindu and Muslim traditions blend. Similarly in Indonesia, there is a confluence of Islam and Javanese culture.
The relations between India and Indonesia underwent a bleak phase from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Rabindranath Tagore visited Java and Bali in 1927. Tagore stayed for two weeks in Bali and was all praise for Balinese Hinduism. It is just not religion and culture that have brought Indonesia and India together. Even today, one can find people humming "Kuch kuch hota hai". Bollywood films and songs are part of the young modern Indonesians' entertainment fare.
(The writer is a visiting lecturer of Indian culture and Vedic philosophy at the Faculty of Letters, Udayana University, Bali)
Courtesy with thanks to Pak Somvir, Udayana University, Bali & The Jawaharlal Nehru Indian Cultural Centre (JNICC), Jakarta, Indonesia.m
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First time in india – a reputed and well established indonesian boutique tour company has started its own tour & events marketing operations in india, through it’s own indian subsidiary company to provide that unforgettable and authentic experience of touring the exotic bali island and across the indonesian archipalego. Discerning indian travelers! Experience the bali & indonesia with us, you will love that unforgettable island life-experience, its rich cultural, artistic and colourful traditions, breath-taking sceneries of the indonesian archipelago, including it’s smoking volcanoes; and its warm, loving and ever-smiling local people, to name a few.
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