Sanskrit on the Maritime Route by Shashibala

Sanskrit on the Maritime Route

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Sanskrit on the Maritime Route
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Languages are not the only link between countries and regions; there could be, and indeed there are, other links as well; the links of ethnicity, history, religion and mythology and so on. But everything said and done, it is the linguistic link which is the strongest one, for it is the most basic and done to the thought, ideas and felling of a person. He gives vent to his ideas through an expression. That Sanskrit could make such deep in-road into these languages provides the evidence, if at all that would be needed, of the close links between India and the countries of the region from the point view of language.

About the Book

Sanskrit on the Maritime Route explores cultural linkages of India with Southeast Asian countries from historical, linguistic, epigraphically, archeological, literary, political traditional, philosophical and even legal perspectives. It comprises of research papers by national and international scholars highlighting the result of the contributions of researches, archeologists, explorers and scholars working on this area over past 150 years. Shashibala explores the contribution of Sanskritic culture through paper on ‘Sanskrit as Shared Heritage of Southeast Asia’.

Lokesh Chandra’s paper on “Economic Expansion on the Maritime Route” opens with a reference to Emperor Ashoka who sent the first gifts for cultural and civilizational development of Shri Lanka. He elucidates the presence of India on the maritime route, military mission of the China of Champa, multidisciplinary approach of India and several other important points. Other papers are on Sanskritic Continuity in Southeast Asia, the Sadatatayi and Astacore in Javanese Law, the Old Javanese Sabhaparva-A summary and Reconstruction of its Manuscript, Vedic Tradition and Rituals in Bali, Ayurveda in Inscriptions of Arogyasala found in indo-Chinese region “Samudra” In Cambodian Epigraphy: A Socio-Linguistic Study, Sanskritization of local place names and khmer terms in Sanskrit Inscriptions in Thailand and Cambodia, Impact of Sanskrit on the Religious Terms of Sacred Sculpture and Architecture in Thailand, Impact of Classical Hindu Law on Kotmai Tra Samduang : and Ancient Thai Traditional Law, Sanskrti in Malay Language and Literature, Malaysia on Maritime Route and Sanskrit.

About the Author

Prof. Dr. Shashibala, an alumni of Himachal Pradesh University, specializes in Buddhist iconography and cross cultural connection among Asian countries. As a Research Professor at the International Academy of Indian Culture, New Delhi, founded by Prof. Raghu Vira she has authored nine books published by different publishers in India. 60 research papers presented at International conferences and seminars, have been published by organization in India and abroad. She taught ‘History of Japanese Art’ for fifteen years at the National Museum Institute, a deemed University, New Delhi. As a researcher and explorer she has travelled to China, japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Nepal, Bhutan, UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Bulgaria and Russia several times.

Her exhibitions, illustrated lectures and radio broadcastings are highly acclaimed. As a Consultant at Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts she organized international conferences combined with exhibitions on Kumarajiva and Atisa. International seminars on Sanskrit on the Silk Route and Sanskrit in Southeast Asia were coordinated by her for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Her well researched exhibitions on Sanskrit as Shared Heritage of Asia, Atisa, Kumarajiva, Sanskrit and Indian Culture: Voyages and India-Japan: Echoes of Cultural friendships are travelling in India and abroad. Catalogues of exhibitions and proceeding of all the seminars and conferences and add up to her research credentials. Recently she went on a teaching assignment at Ural Federal University and lectures in the US.


These invocatory verses are from two of the Sanskrit inscriptions of Thailand. This itself should a be proof enough of the impact of Sanskrit in Thailand and the other countries on the maritime route. I have recently published a book, Sanskrit Inscriptions of Thailand that enabled me to acquaint myself with the big corpus of Sanskrit inscriptions that lies scattered all through the kingdom. In one of the inscriptions, there is reference to a king having studied the Mahabhasya of Patanjali and mastered the Abhijnanasakuntala of Kalidasa. As a lover of Sanskrit it fills my heart with a great joy to notice the wide presence of Sanskrit in the vast stretches of the land, going by the name Southeast Asia with the varieties of languages, sub-languages and dialects, a standing testimony to close cultural links between India and Southeast Asia. The absorption of so much of Sanskrit must have been a gradual process spanning several centuries of acculturation. It may well be argued that languages are not the only link between countries and regions; there could be, and indeed there are, other links as well; the links of ethnicity, history, religion and mythology and so on. But everything said and done, it is the linguistic link which is the strongest, for it is the most basic one pertaining as it does to the thoughts, ideas and feelings of a person.

He gives vent to his ideas through an expression. That Sanskrit could make such deep in-roads into these languages provides the evidence, if at all that would be needed, of the close links between India and the countries of the region from the point view of language. A close look at the words of Sanskrit origin of Southeast Asia reveals that some of them have more of expressiveness in them than their counterparts in use in India. There is a word like prejudice in English. Now, for this the Hindi equivalent, which is now in vogue is purvagraha but in Malay language, Bhasa Malaya- the word Bhasa itself is of Sanskrit and is in vogue in all the countries of the region, Bhasa Thai, Bhasa Lao, Bhasa Malaya, Bhasa Indonesia- the word is purvasanka which is much more expressive than the purvagraha of Hindi. Similarly, there is the word, multi-purpose. For multi-purpose, the word in vogue in Hindi is bahuddesiya, but in Thai and Lao the word that is in use is anekaprasanga pronounced as anekaprasong which is too easy. I had been based in Thailand where I have spent long years. I have close and deep association with Southeast Asia and before I come to recount one of the most inspiring incidents in my life, I would like to say something about the word Southeast Asia itself which is called there Asia-Akhane- asia is Asia and akhane is agneya. Agneya is an old Sanskrit word for Southeast. People in India are not familiar with this. If somebody were to say, agneya asia probably most of us may not be able to understand as to what it conveys but that is the word in vogue in Thai and I have deliberately used this in one of my poems, the Thaidesavilasam composed during my stay in Thailand. It so happened that shortly after my arrival in Bangkok I went to the National Library, Hongsamud; samud, that is samudra of books. That is the National Library there. I met there the Head of the Department of Manuscripts Prof. choosak. In the course of conversation I asked him if there is any book in Sanskrit, whether published or unpublished, on Thailand. He said there is none and then with a smile he said; Professor, why don't you write one. That was afternoon. I came back from the National Library. The same evening I composed five stanzas that were to form the basis of a Kavya of mine later. The following day Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Thailand was to attend my class. After the class I told her that I have composed five stanzas on Thailand and if she does not to feel tired and she has time. I would like to recite them to her. She was very happy. She said, yes recite. And then I recited them.


Sanskrit as shared heritage of Asia has been the medium for attaining the highest levels of beauty and nobility in Asia over the past two millennia. One of the great European scholars, have acknowledged the contribution of India to its neighbouring countries by giving them philosophy, arts, architecture, language and literature. Research is being done by archaeologists, linguists, explorers and scholars over past 150 years. Poets and thinkers, historians and grammarians, philosophers and men of science have acknowledged profound impact of insightful wisdom of Sanskrit on all the cultural spheres of human advancement, especially in Asia.

Centre for Indology, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Delhi Kendra organized an international seminar on 'Sanskrit on the Maritime Route' on 26th & 27 February 2015. Scholars of eminence from India and abroad like Prof. Dr. Lokesh chandra, Prof. Dr. Satya Vrat Shastri, Prof. Chirapat Prapandvidya, presented their keynote and valedictory addresses, and research papers opening up intense academic discussions.

Prof. Lokesh Chandra said in the keynote address that when Emperor Ashoka's son and daughter went to Srilanka to spread the teachings of the Buddha they carried a replica of a six storey palace as a symbol of grandeur, power and structure which is called Nandyavarta, From 1st to 10th centuries India controlled the seas from Kanchi to Canton. We had a multidisciplinary approach. Sanskritic culture gave sophistications of administration. Centers for studying Sanskrit were established in Java. Champa (present southern Vietnam) was so famous for its cultural richness that a Chinese emperor once sent a military mission that carried back more than 1300 Sanskrit texts as war booty. An Indian teacher Bodhisena was invited from there by the Japanese Emperor for the eye opening ceremony of the giant Buddhas called Daibutsu that was venerated as a symbol of consolidation of state. Sanskrit tradition is still alive all along the Maritime Route.

Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of Sanskrit inscriptions- the earliest historical chronicles when SEA countries received the concept of state, systems of agriculture and irrigation, built water reservoirs, temples and stupas, and decorated the interiors and exteriors with Hindu-Buddhist narratives. Moreover they developed their scripts on the basis of Indian scripts to record their heroic deeds and a literary culture. Prof. Shashi Bala contributed an article as a background paper skimming over the history of enrichment of languages in Southeast Asian countries through international cultural linkages. Prof. Dr. Chirapat Prapandvidya from Thailand presented a paper on 'The Impact of Hindu Law on Ancient Thai Law, The Tra Sam Duang'. Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayodhya had inherited the legal system followed by the Khmers and Mon States. Dr. Sombat Mangmeesukhsiri also from Thailand, presented his research on Ayurveda in inscriptions of Arogya found in Indo-China. The paper presented systems of Ayurveda and medicines with insightful explanations of the ways how Ayurveda became a part of the Khmer knowledge system.

Sanskrit became the language of cultural refinement in Asia when hundreds of texts on sacred and secular sciences reached these island countries. They contributed towards advancement of performing and visual arts. Dr. Amara Srisuchat from Thailand, highlighted "The Impact of Sanskrit on Religious Sculpture and Architecture in Thailand".

The first encounter in SEA is the names in Sanskrit of countries and towns, roads and universities, people and organizations. It became the language of the elite. According to the available lithic records in Cambodia, study of Panini's grammar was highly placed. Monks were invited from Funan to provide assistance to translation projects. Vedic yajnas and ceremonies performed by the kings in SEA indicate their will to strive and sacrifice to attain divine empowerment. Dr. Ramchandran Nagaswamy from Chennai presented a comparative study of Vedic Roots of Cambodian and Tamil Culture. Dr. Subhash Chandra Dash's paper on 'Ritual Traditions in Bali Island' is based on his research and documentation.

Names of cities, towns, institutions and places in Sanskrit were discussed by Mr. Kongvon Khatshima in his presentation on Sanskritization of Local place Names and Khmer Forms in Sanskrit Inscriptions in Thailand and Cambodia. Their references can be traced in inscriptions in Pallava script and Sanskrit language. Inscriptions from later periods are bilingual and in local languages like old Javanese, Malay, Cham, Khmer and Mon etc.

Thousands of Sanskrit words are found in their dictionaries. In a Thai lexicon one may find Sanskrit words like ksatriya, kavi, ksira, satru, etc. But change in pronunciation has to be studied in the words like- bida for father, mada for mother. Janani is pronounced as chonani and vadhu as pathu. Three papers in the seminar were presented on enrichment of languages of SEA by Sanskrit. Prof. Hari Dutt Sharma focused on 'Sanskrit Nomenclature in Thai Culture'. The Malay language is spoken in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, Australia, Southern philippines. A few examples from the Malay language mat be cited as: bhumi, duhkha/duka, guru, kapala/kepala, maha, sama, uttara. The Institute of Language and Literature in Malaysia is called Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.Mr. Satya Deva Misra and Dr. Madhu Sharma shared their researches on 'Sanskrit in Malay Language and Literature' and 'Malaysia on the Maritime Route and Sanskrit'. Sanskrit terms have permeated immensely in inscriptions in these countries. The term 'Samudra' was takes as case study by Ms. Chhom Kunthea, Thailand in her paper on "Samudra" in Cambodian epigraphy: a Socio-linguistic Study.

Mason C. Hoadley has addressed the impact and persistence of foreign Legal concepts in his paper 'Sanskritic Continuity in Southeast Asia, the Sadatatayi and Astacora in Javanese Law'. The Sanskritic concepts continued to play a key role in the Javanese legal procedure which appears as early as the ninth century.

Old Javanese prose renderings of Mahabharata in eight parvas are well known - Adi, Wirata, Bhisma, Udyoga, Asramawasa, Mosala, Prasthanika and Swargarohana. S, Supomo in his paper focussed on the old Javanese Sabhaparva presenting a summary and Reconstruction of its manuscripts discovered from Central Java.

Prof. Satya Vrat Shastri gave the valedictory keynote address. He emphasised that linguistic linkages remain the strongest between India and other Asian countries though there are historical, ethnic and religious connections also. Sanskrit is strongly present in the languages of all these countries.

I am thankful to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Delhi Kendra and especially its Director, sh. Ashok Pradhan for taking an initiative for organising this international seminar and inviting scholars from India and abroad to share their researches, fresh interpretations and explorations and to the ICCR for providing financial support to the seminar. I express my gratefulness to Prof. Lokesh Chandra who gave his consent to publish the two papers by Mason C. Hoadley and S. Supomo in this volume.


  Prelude - Ashok Pradhan v
  Director, Bhavan's Delhi Kendra  
  Foreword - Satya Vrat Shastri vi
  Preface - Shashibala x
1 Sanskrit as Shared Heritage of Souheast Asia - Shashibala 1
2 Economic Expansion on the Maritime Route - Lokesh Chandra 15
3 Ayurveda in Inscriptions of Arogyasala found in the Indo-Chandra region - Sombta Mangmeesukhsiri 27
4 "Sumudra" In Cambodian Epigraphy : A Socio-Linguistic Study - Chhom Katshima 37
5 Sanskritization of Local Place Names and Khmer Trems in Samskrit Inscriptions in Thailand and Cambodia- Kangvol Khstshima 48
6 Impact of Sanskrit ont the Religious Terms of Sacred Sculpture and Architecture in Thailand - Amara Srisuchat 54
7 Impect of Classical Hindu Law on Kotmai Tra Samduang : an Ancient Thai Tradiotional Law - Chirapat Prapanvidya 77
8 Sanskrit in Malay Language and Literature - Satya Deva Misra 84
9 Malaysia on Maritime Route and Sanskrit - Mashu Sharma 116
10 Vedic Tradition and Ritual in Bali -Subash Chandra Dash 145
11 Sankritic Continuity in Southeast Asia, the Sadatatayi and Astacora in Javanese Law - Mason C. Hoaldly 153
12 The Old javanese Sabhaparva - A Summary and Reconstruction of its Manusript - S. Supomo 166
13 Index 181

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