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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: Musings on ‘Indic civilisation’ and Indianness


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Indian culture, Angkor Wat temple, Ramayana and the Mahabharata, qawwali etc
  • Mains GS Paper I: Salient features of art form and spread of Indian culture to SE Asian countries.



  • Angkor Wat, the greatest Hindu temple ever built anywhere in the world in Cambodia, not in India.
  • To walk past in Cambodia, exquisite sculptures recounting tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, tell us about the significance of the symbols protecting the shrine — the naga,the simha, and the garuda.
  • Today’s navy, army, and air force —and to marvel at the epic scale of a Hindu temple as impressive as the finest cathedral or mosque anywhere in the world, was also to marvel at the extraordinary reach of a major strand of our culture beyond our own shores


Current Affairs





  • Indian culture is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies that originated in or are associated with the ethno-linguistically diverse Republic of India.
  • India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and other religions. They are collectively known as Indian religions. Indian religions are a major form of world religions along with Abrahamic religions.
  • Today, Hinduism and Buddhism are the world’s third and fourth-largest religions respectively, with over 2 billion followers altogether, and possibly as many as 2.5 or 2.6 billion followers.


Features of Indian Culture:

  • Demography: India is still in the third stage of demographic transition with a relatively young population cohort. This presents the situation of demographic dividend.
  • Caste System: Predominantly observed in Hindu Society but has affected other religions as well. Such societal division is rooted in the varna system of ancient times, but has gone transition resulting in numerous jatis and subdivision today.
  • Family and Kinship is a central social institution and generally governed by patriarchal norms, exceptions exist like the matrilineal system in Kerala and Meghalaya.
  • Commerce has been closely linked with caste and community setup like Baniyas, Banjaras.
  • Cultural Diversity: Religion, Lingual, Racial, Tribal etc. have been ethos and cherished values.


Indian Culture in SouthEast Asia:

  • Indian culture had extended its mighty influence in the South East Asian region consisting of the Malay Archipelago and Indo-China.
  • Being fertile and rich in minerals, these lands attracted the attention of the Indians.
  • Moreover, the east coast of India is studded with numerous ports and Indians undertook frequent voyages to these lands.
  • The ancient traditions refer to traders’ voyages to Suvarnabhumi(the land of gold) , a name generally given to all the countries of East Asia.
  • Indians began to colonize East Asia in the Gupta period. It was further encouraged by the Pallavas.
  • The Indian colonists established great kingdoms and some of them lasted for more than a thousand years.
  • A number of dynasties with Indian names ruled in various parts. Till the arrival of Islam in the fifteenth century, Indian culture dominated this region.


Spread of Indian culture to Cambodia:

  • Cambodia was colonized by Indians in the first century A.D.
  • They influenced the native people called the Khemers.
  • Under the early rulers Saivism and Vaishnavism made steady progress.
  • The Kamboja empire at its greatest extent included Laos, Siam, part of Burma and the Malay peninsula.
  • Numerous Sanskrit inscriptions give us a detailed history of its kings.
  • A number of Hindu literary works like the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, Panini’s grammar, Hindu philosophical treatises were all known to the people of Cambodia.
  • Like the Pallava kings, they were called Varmans. Yasovarman and Suryavarman II were two well-known rulers.
  • Temples were built in South Indian style. There are plenty of Sanskrit inscriptions. The most famous of these temples was the temple (wat) of Vishnu built by Suryavarman II in his capital city Angkor. It was popularly called the Angkorwat Temple.
  • The Kambhoja kingdom declined only in the fifteenth century.


Angkor Wat Temple:


Current Affairs


  • Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and one of the largest religious monuments in the world.
  • It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.
  • It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum.
  • The temple is constructed in the Dravidian style and the sculptures depict episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.


Significance of Cambodia for India:

  • India- Cambodia relations go back to the 1st century AD when Hindu and Buddhist religious and cultural influences emanated out of India to various parts of Southeast Asia.
  • Cambodia is a representative of Indian cultural outreach to the Asian region because of the biggest Hindu temples like Angkor Wat in Cambodia which has recognition of UNESCO world heritage site.
  • India is involved in the restoration and preservation of Angkor Wat which is an honour for India. It is part of the joint cultural heritage of Cambodia and India.
  • The cultural ties with Cambodia and other ASEAN nations is a factor of India’s soft power.
  • This can be strengthened to further India’s foreign policy goal.
  • From cultural diplomacy we need to move towards people to people contact, commercial ties, scientific, digital, and defense cooperation.


China’s Influence in the Region:

  • India is seeking to deepen bonds with Southeast Asia amid wariness over China’s growing influence in the region.
  • The Chinese have tried their best to continue their interest in the Indo-China region especially with Cambodia and Vietnam. But these countries do not want their hard won freedom to be bargained for with money from china.
  • Not all ASEAN nations are on the same line when dealing with China.
  • The Indian Ocean has so far been an ocean of peace, whereas in the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea (SCS) we see a lot of conflicts.
  • China’s building activities for bases and unilateral control over SCS islands despite decisions taken by UNCLOS.


ASEAN’s Importance for China:

  • ASEAN plays a key role in Chinese economic and strategic interests.
  • The region straddles vital sea lanes of communication that represent China’s access to the global market, including vital imports of Middle Eastern oil.
  • Economically entwined with China, the relatively small nations of the region also offer ample opportunities for China to advance its influence and weaken what Chinese strategists perceive as a US (Presence of US) engineered chain of encirclement around the Chinese mainland.


ASEAN and India:

  • Traditionally the basis of India-ASEAN ties has been trade and people-to-people ties due to shared historical and cultural roots, a more recent and urgent area of convergence has been balancing China’s rise.
  • Both India and ASEAN aim to establish a rules-based security architecture for peaceful development in the region, in contrast to China’s aggressive policies.
  • Like India, several ASEAN members such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have territorial disputes with China, the China factor does form an important component of the relationship.
  • India in 2014 reinvigorated the Look East policy into Act East, with a more strategic outlook than its previous incarnation, focusing on engagement not just with Southeast Asian countries but also those in the Pacific.
  • The main focus of the Act East policy is on enhancing connectivity between India and South East Asia.


Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN)

Current Affairs

●    It is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation.

●    It was established in August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

●    Its chairmanship rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.

●    ASEAN countries have a total population of 650 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 2.8 trillion. It is India’s 4th largest trading partner with about USD 86.9 billion in trade.

●    Members:
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.



●    Ramayana was written by Sage Valmiki, who was a contemporary of Lord Rama.

●    Ramayana was written in the Sanskrit Language.

●    Ramayana was written in Treta Yuga.

●    Ramayana is composed of seven chapters – Balakandam, Ayodhya Kandam, Aranyakandam, Kishkinda kandam, Sundara kandam, Yuddha kandam and Uttara kandam.

●    Slokas format was used to write Ramayana.

●    As per Ramayana, Lord Hanuman was a Human who belonged to the Vanara Tribe.



●    The Mahabharata is attributed to Maharishi Vyas and the tale known as Bharta is a shorter version of 24,000 verses, while the Mahabharata contains 1 Lakh verses and 1.8 million words which make it 10 times longer than “Iliad and Odyssey combined” and 4 times of Ramayana.

●    It is divided into a total 18 parvas (chapters) plus the Harivamsa supplement.

●    Bhagavad Gita is part of Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata.

●    The largest chapter in Mahabharata is Shanti Parva.



Way Forward

  • Indian Hindus voted a few years ago, in a cynical and contrived competition on the Internet, to select the ‘new seven wonders’ of the modern world,they voted for the Taj Mahal constructed by a Mughal king, not forAngkor Wat, the most magnificent architectural product of their religion which signifies Indianness today composed of elements influenced by various civilisations that have made their homes on Indian soil subsume the classical Indic civilisation.
  • Civilisational heritage should be treated as a matter of pride, and not of parochialism; as a heritage that unites,rather than divides one Indian from another.
  • Indian diaspora is not just a part of India’s soft power, but a fully transferable political vote bank as well. Many people of Indian origin hold top political positions in many countries, in the US itself they are now a significant part of Republicans and Democrats, as well as the government.
  • However, regionalism used to serve vested interests and threaten the syncretic fabric of indian society, in the name of voicing regional concerns, needs to be checked, as it undermines the unity and strength of nation in the longer run, defying the constitutional and national spirit of ‘unity in diversity’.



India’s civilisational heritage must be treated as a matter of pride. Critically analyse.

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)