The spread of Indian culture and civilization to the other parts of Asia constitutes an important chapter in the history of India. India had established commercial contacts with other countries from the earliest times. It had inevitably resulted in the spread of Indian languages, religions, art and architecture, philosophy, beliefs, customs and manners. Indian political adventurers even established Hindu kingdoms in some parts of South East Asia. However, this did not lead to any kind of colonialism or imperialism in the modern sense. On the other hand these colonies in the new lands were free from the control of the mother country. But they were brought under her cultural influence.
Central Asia was a great centre of Indian culture in the early centuries of the Christian era. Several monuments have been unearthed in the eastern part of Afghanistan. Khotan and Kashkar remained the most important centres of Indian culture. Several Sanskrit texts and Buddhist monasteries were found in these places. Indian cultural influence continued in this region till eighth century. Indian culture had also spread to Tibet and China through Central Asia.
China was influenced both by land route passing through Central Asia and the sea route through Burma. Buddhism reached China in the beginning of the first century A.D. A number of Chinese pilgrims like Fahien and Hiuen Tsang visited India. On the other side, hundreds of Buddhist monks like Gunabhadra, Vajrabothi, Dharmadeva and Dharmagupta visited China. Indian scholars translated many Sanskrit works at the request of Chinese emperors. This contact with China continued even in the thirteenth century when the Mongols established their empire in China. Chinese art had also been influenced by Indian art.
Tibet was influenced by India from the seventh century. The famous Buddhist king Gampo founded the city of Lhasa and introduced Buddhism. The Tibetan alphabet was devised with the help of Indian scholars. Later, the Indian scholars helped for the establishment of Lamaism in Tibet. In the eleventh century the Pala dynasty of Bengal had close contacts with Tibet. When Bengal was attacked by the Muslim rulers, many Buddhist monks sought shelter in Tibet.
Despite having different political history, Sri Lanka experienced a great cultural influence from India. Buddhist missionaries had spread not only the religious faith but also cultural traditions. The art of stone carving went to Sri Lanka from India. In the fifth century, Buddha Ghosha visited Sri Lanka and consolidated there the Hinayana Buddhism. The famous paintings of Sigiriya were modeled on the Ajantha paintings.
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