About the Book
India and Thailand both have age-old histories of ancient civilization and reciprocal socio political and cultural relations. The book deals with Indo-Thai relations through ages. It shows how as a meeting point of various cultural flows, the region of Thailand carried forward several Indian legacies from the ancient past to the present day. From the days of colonial encroachment till the age of globalization and connectivity, India-Thailand relations have several facets which are social, political and economic. The book also throws light on aspects of inter-regional interactions leading to emergence of constructive fall outs like diasprotic identities, colonial expansion and post-cold war links and contacts.
This book is a collection of essays written by historians and sociologists of India and Thailand. A Foreword to this book has been contributed by Her Rdyal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand these essays were read at the international seminar on Inter-Asian Connections: Facets of Indo-Thai History, Relations and Contacts, organized by the Asiatic Society, Kolkata on November 19-20, 2007. Study of the histories and societies of the countries of South-east Asia is a tradition of the Asiatic Society, and the said seminar was an affirmation of the tradition. Each of the twelve articles collected in this Volume is based on impeccable research, and the editorial introduction of Dr. Lipi Ghosh is characterized by excellence. The twelve essays present a scenario in which acculturation or assimilation of a number of cultural and anthropological patterns forms the basic point. I consider this book indispensable for students of the History of South-east Asia, and particularly the History of Indo-Thai Relations from ancient times to modem age.
I am happy to know that a seminar on Inter-Asian Connections-Facets of Indo-Thai History, Relations & Contacts was organized by the prestigious Asiatic Society, Kolkata, and as a result of the seminar a book entitled Connectivity and Beyond: Indo-Thai Relations through Ages is to be published. I am pleased to contribute a foreword to the publication following the request of Dr. Lipi Ghosh. It is an undeniable fact that Asia was one of the oldest bases of ancient civilizations. The seminar is one step forwards academically towards making this era the era of Asia. The Thai people who were known in Southeast Asia in Sanskrit name as Syam (from Syiima) since II the century CE, absorbed, from the distant past, the Indian culture in their own culture to such an extent that they, until recently, are not aware of the source of their culture.
As evidenced by the inscriptions and iconographical artifacts, Buddhism appeared in the central part of Thailand as early as 5th century CE whereas Shaivism and Vaishnavism existed in the northeastern Thailand almost at the same time. The contact between India and Suvartiabhiimi often referred to is the account given in the Mahavamsa, the Chronicle of Sri Lanka (cir. beginning of the 6th century CE), that King Ashoka sent two missionaries, SOIJCI Thera and Uttara Thera, to Suvannabhiimi, which is generally identified with 'Southeast Asia. Nevertheless the earliest artifacts found in the region so far cannot date back to Ashokan period. The Mahiiniddesa of the Buddhist Canon which dates at the latest to the very first centuries enumerates a number of Sanskrit or Sanskritized places that may be identified with those situated in Southeast Asia. Some of these place-names might be located in present day Thailand.
The ancient Thai law, known as the Kot Mai Trasamduang or the Three Seal Law, as well as the ancient law of the northern Thai, known as the Dharmashastra Prakarana, followed closely the Mon Dharmashastra which was, in turn, adapted from Indian traditional law by means of Buddhistization. The ancient Thai polity also has a bearing on the Indian polity. The Thai ideal kings are supposed to follow the code of conduct known in Pali as Dasavidhariijadhamma or the Ten Duties of the king which is comparable with Riijadharma of the Manusmni. In ancient times the Brahmanic rites were observed by the Thai kings and their subjects, some of which are still observed even today. Those are just a few examples of Indian culture being deeply rooted in various aspects of Thai life.
The seminar such as this one is commendable and worthy of support as it would bring about excellent scholarship especially in the academic circle of both The Kingdom of Thailand and The Republic of India. It is sincerely hope that the continuous endeavor of this sort would bring to light more and more evidence of the mutual contacts between the two countries and thus better understanding between the two peoples would be achieved.
Inter-Asian linkage, relations and connectivity are fascinating subjects of modem day discussion. The history of Indo-Thai relationship is a history of an ancient civilization taking roots in an alien country through trade, culture and religion. The civilisational impact of Buddhism, the Hindu way of life and the Sanskrit language on the Thai people has been phenomena1. Colonisation of India by the British and cold war power alignment had tended to weaken that link but there never was any wavering of the feeling of a shared cultural identity. The present book on Beyond Connectivity: Indo-Thai Relations through Ages aims to take a look at historical and contemporary linkages between India and Thailand-two culturally rich countries within two diverse regions of Asia.
India and Thailand both have age-old histories of ancient civilization and reciprocal contacts. Indian contacts with Thailand according to historians began in the third century B.C in the course of propagation of Buddhism by King Asoka. The influence of Buddhism was quite conspicuous in Thai life. Theravada Buddhism has been the predominant religion in Thailand since early recorded history. The inscription of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1292) mentions that there was a monk from the southern province of Nakorn Sri Thammanrat - who had studied the Pali Buddhist Canon (or Tipitaka) from beginning to end - lived at the Forest Temple in the kingdom of Sukhothai and was the Supreme Patriarch ( Pali Sangharaja) of the monkhood. This statement is one of the earliest statements used by a king to "legitimize" his right to rule in accordance with Buddhist righteousness. In later stage Buddhism got the royal patronage and became the state religion.
The book begins with the history of Indo-Thai relations. The history of the successive waves of Indian arrivals with traits of Hinduism in Siam can be identified since the pre-Sukhothai period, i.e. pre-1238 Dvaravati period. It was the time when Indians carried trade to Suvamabhumi, which is present day Thailand. In the 5th and 6th centuries the first group of Brahmin priests went to Pegu and then to Siam and they became the first Brahmin settlers in Thailand. Tamil inscriptions of eighth and ninth centuries describe the life of Indians in Siam, who were engaged in extensive trade and commerce. Ayuthia period followed Sukhothai period in Thai history. Ayuthian kings continually strengthened Thailand's relations with India. Brahmin influence was so much strengthened that gradually different regions of Thailand came to be named after Sanskrit names. It was in this period that Ramayana, better known to the Thais as Ramakien had its development in Siam. Ayuthia period was followed by Bangkok period with the emergence of the Chakri dynasty. The Chakri kings have always called themselves as Rama - after the great hero-kings of the Indian epic Ramayana. The basic questions which this section aims to analyse are to what extent Brahmanic Hinduism as well Buddhism left their marks on Thai society and culture.
Suchandra Ghosh's article Early India Linkage with Siam Understanding Trade as an Agent of Shared Culture situates trade as one of the agents which facilitated the understanding and recognition of the shared culture when interaction took place between different areas of India and Southeast Asia. In earlier historiography this linkage was understood from the point of view of Indianization of Southeast Asia. Many theories were postulated to explain the process of Indianization and the Vaishya (merchant) theory was one among them. But the Vaishya theory is favoured for the simple reason that there could be multiple sources through and wide in epigraphy of both the regions. It is quite likely that the knowledge of India reached Southeast Asia first through indigenous sailors and traders. It has been argued that Indian culture spread from large permanent Indian trading settlements. In this paper the author uses archaeological data like inscriptions, coins and excavated remains as tools for investigation. Her overt argument is that it is not correct to give credit to one agency only. One must admit that evidence of trade looms large in multiple archaeological findings.
As a meeting point of various culture flows, the region of Thailand carried forward several Indian legacies from the ancient past to the present day. Buddhism being the dominant system of faith in Thailand today was preceded by Hinduism in the pre-Christian era. Today, the impact of the Indian culture there is best reflected in the institutions originating from Hinduism and the presence of Brahmanism in the Thai life.
Thai perception on the Brahmanas and the Hindus has been depicted by Dulyapak Preecharushh in his article named-Brahman and Hindu Communities in Bangkok: A Comparative Study of Indian Migrants in Thai History. To Dulyapak, there are two kinds of Indians inhabiting Thailand. The first one is Thai Brahmans who respect both Brahmanism (Hinduism) and Buddhism as their own religion. They migrated from India to Thailand more than 1,000 years ago and received a legal status as Thai citizens. Another group is the Hindus who respect only Hinduism as their own religion and migrated to Thailand about 100 years ago. Some of them are recognized as Thai citizens but some are only 'regarded as foreigners. The majority of Brahman usually lives in Bangkok near Wat Suthat (temple) and the Giant Swing which is recognized as the centre of the capital according to Brahman cosmology while most Hindus also reside in Bangkok because of its economic and commercial prosperity. His paper examines Brahman and Hindu communities in Bangkok by selecting Botpram (Brahmin monastery) community near Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing as the case study of Thai Brahman communities and also selecting Wat Vishnu in Yannava district (Hindu Dharma Sabha Association) and Thep Montien in Bharatawitthayalai School (Hindu Smash Association) as the case study of Hindu communities in Bangkok.
His article talked about the history, characteristics, social role and relations between Brahman and Hindu settlements by using a historical approach and the concepts of cultural geography and international migration. The study found that both the Brahman and the Hindu communities have played an important role in spiritual encouragement, holy ceremonies, cultural preservation and social development. Historically, Brahman settlements emerges in Thai society since Dvaravati, Sukothai, Ayutthaya to Bangkok periods while the majority of Hindus migrated to Thailand during the time of western colonialism or British India. As a result, Brahmin priests have played a significant role in royal ceremonies rather than Hindus and have continuously functioned as the main pillar for Thai monarchical institution of Chakri dynasty while most Hindus have a major role in business, investment and foreign relations with India rather than Brahmans. In Dulyapak's opinion the adjustment of the Hindus however is more flexible and effective than the Thai Brahmans, because most Hindus are traders and businessmen who are familiar with modem society while Brahmin priests still stick on traditional society. Lastly, the author suggests that according to Thai perspectives Brahman communities are recognized as native communities because they migrated to Thailand a long time ago and have been assimilated into Thai society. On the other hand, Hindu communities are foreign communities from the Thai perspectives. They have not been assimilated into Thai society and have kept a strong ethnic identity. However, both Brahman and Hindu communities in Bangkok are significantly considered as the main organs of Thai-Indian relations and they play a dominant role in the historical reflection of Indian migrations in Thailand.
Chirapat Prapandvidya's Buddhism and Brahmanism: The Everlasting Cultural Bond between India and Thailand brings to light some of the major events with regard to Brahmanism and Buddhism that took place in Thailand in the past and in the present with special reference to a few newly discovered archaeological evidences. From the evidence of inscriptions discovered so far, Brahmanism existed in Thailand as early as the 6th century. The ideology of both religions has become part and parcel of the people inhabited the region which forms present-day Thailand. To Chirapat, the Thai people who appeared in Southeast Asia as early as 11th century must have absorbed the ideology from the people who lived there before them. The Brahmanic and Buddhist ideology which was, to some extent, adapted in course of time persists among the Thais until modem times. Thus the bond between India and Thailand has been continuously kept unbroken through ages by means of both the religions.
Chotima Chaturawong's paper on Indo-Thai Cultural Interaction: Buddha Images in Pralambapadasana is another important contribution revealing India-Thailand cultural interaction. She compares Buddha images of both the countries. To Chotima Buddha image is one of the best instances to prove this. Buddha images seated in pralambapadasana position were found in several sites of Dvaravati, Thailand. These images are seated with the feet hanging down in the western manner. They were likely imitated those of Gupta and post-Gupta art of India, such as Buddha images at Buddhist cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora. This paper very skillfully made comparison between Buddha images seated in pralambapadasana position of Dvaravati, Thailand and those of India during Kusana, Amaravati, and Gupta periods. Buddha images in pralambapadasana of India represented Dharmaraja, Bodhisattva, Cakravartin, and Maitreya. They were influenced by Mahayana Buddhism. The Buddha in pralambapadasana of Dvaravati was associated with Dharmaraja, teaching of the Buddha.
Sunait Chutintaranond's article is named Indian-Thai Relationship in Cultural Dimension: The Issue of Indianisation VS. Localisation. Indian religions as also art and culture seem to have exercised an extraordinary influence over the indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia since the second and third centuries A.D. Early states of Southeast Asia-Funan in Cambodia, Dvaravati in the Menam Basin, the Pyu of Srikshetra in Burma, Srivijaya and Java in the present day Indonesian archipelago had absorbed both Buddhism and Hinduism from Indian sub-continent in the process of formulating their cultural identity and statehood. We can, without doubt, conclude that the growth and development of Southeast Asian civilization inevitably have Indian cultural elements as a significant component and foundation stone. In Sunait's opinion scholars and economists alike have showed no concern in reinvestigating the status and function of Indian culture in Southeast Asia and Thailand. The government and private sectors of India, on the contrary, have failed to develop any effective mechanism in establishing a linkage between their fertile and splendid culture with the business plans and investment in promoting the country and their products in the Southeast Asian world.
A significant extent of Indian diasporas live in Thailand. Tamilians, both Hindus as well as Muslims, were the first group of Indians to come to Thailand sometime in the 19th century. They were engaged in various occupations. Tamils worked as labourers to construct a railway line between Penang and Bangkok. There was another group of Muslims who also migrated to Bangkok almost at the same time (19th century) from Surat and Bombay. These people were known as Bohras and they engaged themselves in the textile business. Punjabis started migrating to Thailand in 1884 A.D. Gorakhpuris also started migrating to Thailand around the late 19th century. This section specifically takes into account the role of this Indian diaspora in Thailand and also throws light on the Tais in India. Question of influence of Sanskrit Language on Thailand and Tai cultural traits on Indian. Society have also been considered. The significant question of people to people relations in both the countries as well as to the process of Indian diasporic community's adjustment in the alien land of Thailand has also been g911e into. It is interesting to see what cultural traits of the host country have been adopted by the immigrants and whether the traits have been internalized or not. Whether the immigrants have been assimilated or have emerged a double identity have also been looked into.
Radhamadhab Dash's article named Influence of Sanskrit in the Lives of the Thais is a significant piece of work to understand Indian cultural trends in Thailand. Referring to the history of Sanskrit in Thailand, the author showed how Sanskrit contents have been sustained in this land over centuries by receiving royal patronage in respect to palace language, court ceremonies, religious festivals, legal administration etc. Influence of Sanskrit is remarkably visible in royal vocabulary, in the official language, in the language of literature, in naming people, places, events, houses, roads, business organizations and so on. The literary theories and technical vocabulary of Sanskrit are also found in their Thai counterparts. More importantly, the day-to-day coinages of new words for use in different branches of knowledge and other areas of social communication by the Rajabandityasathan is highly Sanskrit-based but on many occasions they have changed the original Sanskrit meaning.
The Sikhs and the Gorakhpuris in Thailand: An Experiment with Sandwich Culture is the article by Surendra Kumar Gupta. The concept of "sandwich" culture has been used in this article to discern the adaptation pattern of the Sikhs and the Gorakhpuris in Thailand. Though both the groups migrated to Thailand almost at the same time, they are at the different levels of adaptation process. Sikhs who migrated to Thailand with the intention of settling permanently there created more apertures and are more prone to adapt cultural traits of Thai culture. On the other hand the Gorakhpuris had no intention to settle permanently in Thailand but migrated to make fortune or at least eke out a living. They insulated themselves from the Thai culture and society and did not make any attempt to assimilate. In fact cultural, contextual and situational conditions played significant role in the adaptation process of both these groups. Since Sikhs hail from a region which is a melting pot of various cultures, indigenous and foreign which gradually were incorporated in what is known as Punjabi culture, they are more open to new influences. Gorakhpuris hail from a region which is insulated and has not been exposed to other cultures; they are more rigid and traditional.
The other facet of cultural identity is the issue of Tai culture in India. There in India exist six Tai communities of people named the Ahoms, the Phakes, the Aitons, the Khamtis, the Khamyangs and the Noras. Girin Phukon writes on Tai-Ahom Culture in the rahmaputra Valley and Thai Culture in the Chao-Phraa Valley: A Comparative Study. The Ahoms are an offshoot of the Shan Branch of the Tai family of Southeast Asia. Originally they migrated from Yunnan of China through upper Burma (now called Myanmar) where they established a group of small kingdoms. Sukapha, the founder of the Ahom dynasty crossed the Patkai hills among 1228 A.D. and established his new Kingdom in the Brahmaputra valley of present Assam. Eventually they acquired the local name Ahom, for which in course of time, the Brahmaputra valley came to be known as Assam. More importantly in due course, the Ahoms have even identified themselves with the Assamese as they made formidable contribution in the consolidation of composite Assamese society and were virtually absorbed into Hindu social structure. Therefore some scholars call the 'Ahoms' the 'Assamese Tai'. Girin Phukon talks about the different cultural traits of the Ahoms and shows the extents of heritage of Tai culture in Assam society.
The second waves of Indian migration to Thailand started in the 19th century when the British were granted permission to trade at Thailand's port in 1855. Since then the Indians who were British subjects, also started their migration to Thailand. The signing of the Bowering Treaty in 1855 and fourteen more treaties in the next fifteen years with other trading nations of Europe converted the self-sufficient economy of Thailand into a dual economy. One major impact of the Bowering Treaty was the substantial increase in volume and value of exports as well as the growth in total imports. Under the Bowering Treaty, the foreigners were granted extra-territoriality and British subjects were given the right to trade freely in all seaports and to reside permanently in Bangkok. This encouraged the British protected subjects like the Burmese, and the Indians to migrate to Thailand. The declaration that Indians in any part of the British Empire had equal rights to those of any other of Her Majesty's subjects (Queen of England) helped them to establish trading and commercial centres in Thailand. The complete abolition of slavery in 1905 in Thailand resulted in an acute shortage of labour supply. The permission to hire immigrant labour accorded by King Mongkut helped to solve the problem of labour shortage. Since the local Thais were not prepared to work as hired labourers in plantations (rubber and teak) and in mining activities, Indian and Chinese immigrants filled the gap.
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