Indian Influence in Indonesia

The islands of Sumatra and Java in Indonesia got their names from the original Indian names: Swarna-Dwipa ("gold island") and Yava-Dwipa ("rice island"; "yava" is barley in Sanskrit).

After the fall of Funan, a powerful Buddhist kingdom called Srivijaya rose to power on the southeastern coast of Sumatra Island in Indonesia. Srivijaya became a center of Buddhist learning and practice, as well as the main controller of naval trade with Indochina. They kept good trade relations with the Tang dynasty in China and the Islamic caliphates in the Middle East. They had competition from the Hindu Mataram kingdom in central and eastern Java. But another Buddhist kingdom, the Sailendras, arose in Java. In 775, the Saliendras overthrew the Hindu kings of Mataram. The then Buddhist kindgom of Mataram is known for building the gargantuan Borobudur temple in central Java.

But Buddhism was on the decline in Champa (Vietnam), Cambodia, and post-Gupta India. By 850, the Sailendra rulers of Mataram had converted to Hinduism and built Hindu temples to match Borobudur. Eventually Mataram was overthrown and Javanese pirates began raiding Srivijayan ships. The Srivijayans failed in getting help from China to fight the pirates. In the tenth century, both China and the Abbasid Caliphate crumpled, causing more economic problems for Srivijaya. In 1030, the Chola Empire of South India devastated Srivijaya and forced them to pay tribute until 1190. Srivijaya never recovered and the kingdoms of Sumatra and Java had limited power.

A new kingdom called Singosari arose in 1222 in Java. King Kertanagara extended his rule to nearby islands: Madura, Bali, the lesser Sundas, and southern Sumatra. But in 1289, he mistreated an envoy of Kublai Khan who was coming to demand submission to China, and the Mongols sent an army in response. Kertanagara was killed by a rival, Jayakatwang, of the Kediri kingdom, before the Mongols arrived. Kertanagara's son-in-law, Kertarajasa, used the Mongols to defeat Jayakatwang and then drove the Mongols back out of Indonesia. A new capital was established at Majapahit. During the reign of Kertarajasa's daughter (1329-1350), Majapahit became the center of what may have been the most powerful kingdom in Indonesian history, with the help of a skilled general named Gajah Mada. Gajah Mada continued to help the next ruler, Hayam Wuruk (1350-1389) rule the most glorious period of Javanese history. Java traded with everyone in Asia except for Sumatra, which rebelled briefly in 1377 to try to restore Srivijaya. The rebellion was crushed. But Java was in decline after Hayam Wuruk, who divided Java among his sons of concubines. Civil war broke out and in the early 1400s, a Chinese pirate captured Palembang (the capital of Srivijaya) and raided local ships until a Chinese fleet removed him and returned Palembang to Majapahit. Over the next century, Muslim influence increased in Indonesia, although it is known that a Hindu king named Ranavijaya ruled in Java as late as 1486. The rule of a non-Muslim ended around 1520 or 1530 according to Portuguese records, and the pre-Muslim era of Indonesia ended. Majapahit's culture has survived however: the island of Bali is now a haven for Indonesian Hinduism.

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