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The Spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Dec 30, 2023

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The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia is an illustrative example in the Cultural Consequences of Connectivity topic of Unit 2 of AP World History. Read more about the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia below!


Hindu Temple in Bangkok
Hindu Temple in Bangkok 2275580423/Shutterstock


The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia represents a profound chapter in the region’s history, shaping its cultural, religious, and artistic identity. Originating in the Indian subcontinent, these two religions found receptive soil in Southeast Asia, where they not only coexisted but also blended with indigenous beliefs. This passage explores the key periods and aspects of the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia, tracing the transformation of the region’s societies through the lens of spiritual and cultural influences.


Early Maritime Trade

The early spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia was closely linked to maritime trade routes. Indian traders, sailors, and Brahmin priests established early contacts with coastal societies, introducing religious ideas, Sanskrit literature, and architectural styles. Funan, an early Southeast Asian state, was among the first to adopt Indian-influenced statecraft and Hindu-Buddhist cosmology.


Khmer Empire

The Khmer Empire, centered at Angkor in present-day Cambodia, stands as a testament to the profound influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Initially, Hinduism played a dominant role, with rulers like Suryavarman II constructing the iconic Angkor Wat temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Subsequent rulers, such as Jayavarman VII, embraced Mahayana Buddhism, leading to the construction of the Bayon Temple with its iconic smiling faces, symbolizing a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist principles.


Srivijaya and Majapahit Empires

The Srivijaya Empire, based on the island of Sumatra, and the Majapahit Empire in Java, played crucial roles in the spread of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Srivijaya became a center for Buddhist scholarship and maritime trade, fostering cultural exchanges with China and India. The Majapahit Empire, under King Hayam Wuruk, continued this legacy, emphasizing Hindu-Buddhist statecraft, monumental architecture, and literary traditions.


Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms

In what is now Thailand, the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms embraced Theravada Buddhism, which had spread from Sri Lanka. King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai is credited with promoting Theravada Buddhism and developing a system of writing. Ayutthaya, following Sukhothai’s legacy, became a vibrant center for Theravada Buddhism, leaving an enduring impact on Thai culture and society.


The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia left an enduring cultural legacy. Temples, sculptures, and artifacts bear witness to the syncretism and adaptation of Indian religious ideas to local beliefs. Today, countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam reflect this rich heritage, with Hindu and Buddhist practices coexisting alongside indigenous traditions.


The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia marks a dynamic interplay between religious, cultural, and economic influences. From early maritime trade routes to the grandeur of Khmer temples and the maritime Buddhist kingdoms, the region’s history is a testament to the transformative power of these Indian religions.



Free Printable Reading Passage on the Spread of Hinduism and Buddhism

The Spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia Free Reading Passage



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The Effects of Cross-Cultural Interactions


Unit 2: Networks of Exchange


AP World History






The Spread of Hinduism and Buddhism

#Hinduism #SouthandSoutheastAsia #APWorldHistory #Buddhism #CulturalConsequencesofConnectivity

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Dec 30, 2023

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0

0

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