India and Burma

   The civilization of India has profoundly influenced the development of the cultures and societies of Southeast Asia, the region's "Indianization" having begun more than two millennia ago. The Indian impact was especially strong in lowland areas, where an agricultural economy based on rice emerged, and where such powerful, organized states as Angkor in Cambodia; Ayuthaya in Siam (Thailand); and Pagan (Bagan), Hanthawaddy, and Arakan (Rakhine) in Burma were established. Although Theravada Buddhism was the most important element in Indian civilization adopted by early Burmese states, they also adopted classical Indian political ideas, law, sciences, medicine, literature, writing systems, architecture, and visual and performing arts, in order to enhance their power and prestige. Although there are no indigenous Burmese Hindus (as distinguished from Hindus of Indian ancestry), and Burma did not adopt the Indian caste system, Hindu influences on Burmese Buddhism have been significant. Many of Burma's most important nats are Hindu gods, such as Thagya Min, the divine protector of the Buddhist religion, and Thurathadi (Saraswati), goddess of learning. Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism, is an Indian language and has had a deep impact on the Burmese (Myanmar) language. The Arakan (Rakhine) Yoma poses a formidable barrier to land communication between central Burma and the Indian Subcontinent, but seaborne trade and migration from South Asia helped bring Buddhism and Indian civilization to Burmese shores. The Mons, who established organized states in Lower Burma in the early centuries CE, played an indispensable role in transmitting Indian civilization to the Burmans. A key player in this process was the founder of the Pagan (Bagan) Dynasty, King Anawrahta (r. 1044-1077), who brought Mon monks, scholars, and artisans from Lower Burma to his capital at Pagan.
   In later centuries, kingdoms in Sri Lanka, sharing with Burma a strong adherence to Theravada Buddhism, probably had a greater impact on Burma than the Subcontinent. Following the Third AngloBurmese War, however, Lower and Upper Burma became a province of the British Indian empire, governed by the Viceroy in Calcutta. The struggle for home rule and independence of the Indian National Congress had a major influence on nationalist movements in Burma, which was less modernized socially and politically than India in the early twentieth century, but Mahatma Gandhi's principle of nonviolent struggle (satyagraha) was not popular with members of the Dobama Asiayone, the most important prewar nationalist group.
   See also India, Relations with.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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