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"Indianization" from the Indian Point of View: Trade and Cultural Contacts with Southeast Asia in the Early First Millennium C.E.

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The idea that Indian "influence" was responsible for the socio-political development of early Southeast Asia is now largely discredited, but the question of the actual impact of early trade between India and Southeast Asia remains. Prior to the fourth century C.E., Indian trade activities with Southeast Asia appear to have been relatively infrequent, when assessed through the number of items of Indian origin recovered, and the incentives for such trade from the Indian point of view. After the fourth century, the adoption of subcontinental traditions - religious iconography, Sanskrit terminology, coinage, and terms identifying leaders - is seen throughout the area of Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand as well as the larger Indonesian islands. Subcontinental traditions became attractive at this time because of the advent of strong political entities in the Indian subcontinent, notably the Guptas, which produced coherent models of political, social and religious organization. Although such models were also available from neighboring China, apprehension about Chinese expansion led the rulers of emergent chiefdoms in Southeast Asia to prefer the adoption of Indian political and religious iconography.


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