Model Question and Answers for APSC | The civilizational idea of India is much bigger than the territorial idea of India. Elaborate.
The civilizational idea of India is much bigger than the territorial idea of India. Elaborate.
The long reach of culture:
- The greatest Hindu temple ever built anywhere in the world — and in Cambodia, not in India. It is having tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata depicted in sculpture.
- Hinduism was brought to Cambodia by merchants and travellers more than a millennium It has long since disappeared, supplanted by Buddhism, also an Indian export. But at its peak, Hinduism profoundly influenced the culture, music, dance, and mythology of the Cambodian people.
- At a time when the north of India was reeling under waves of conquest and cultural stagnation, our forefathers in the South and East were exporting aspects of Indianness to Southeast Asia.
- It was an anonymous task carried out by individuals who had come in peace, to trade, teach, and Their impact was profound.
- To this day, the kings of Thailand are crowned in the presence of Brahmin priests; the Muslims of Java still bear Sanskritised names, despite their conversion to Islam; Garuda is Indonesia’s national airline, and Ramayana its best-selling brand of clove cigars.
- Many Southeast Asian countries also mirror the idea of a ‘sacred geography’: the old Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya derived its name from the Indian Ayodhya, and places in Thailand are associated with events in the Ramayana epic, such as a hill where Hanuman was sent to find the Sanjeevani. The Javanese city of Yogyakarta in Indonesia is also a transliteration of Ayodhya.
- Since 1782, Thai kings are still named Rama in continuation of the Ramayana tradition; the current monarch, Vajiralongkorn, is styled, Rama X.
The civilisational idea of India: ‘Greater India’, or ‘the Sanskrit cosmopolis’
- Indeed the pioneering French Indologist, Sylvain Lévi, spoke and wrote of ‘le monde Indien’ or ‘greater India’, a concept echoed in the American Sanskrit scholar, Sheldon Pollock’s ‘the Sanskrit cosmopolis’.
- Both terms refer to countries whose cultures were Indic in the sense of having been strongly influenced by the Sanskrit language and literature.
- For such scholars, the geographical idea of India (the subcontinent bordered by the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Himalayan mountains) and the geopolitical idea of India (today the Republic of India; at its biggest extent, the British Raj as it was in 1914, or more pragmatically, the British India of 1947) are inadequate—for the civilisational idea of India is much broader.
Contemporary influence dominating civilizational heritage:
- But contemporary international politics has rendered all this much less significant than the modern indices of strategic thinking, economic interests, and geopolitical affinities.
- India is far less important to the countries that still bear such ‘Indic’ influence than, say, China, whose significance is contemporary, rather than civilisational.