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  • 16 Dec 2022 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    Day 33

    Question 1. Contacts between India and other cultures have led to the spread of Indian religions throughout the world, resulting in the extensive influence of Indian thought and practice on the world. Discuss (250 Words)

    Question 2. Discuss the contribution of Arabic and Chinese travellers in tracing the ancient history of India. (150 Words)

    Answer 1


    • Introduce that India's culture and religion that has spread abroad.
    • Discuss how Indian culture has reached abroad and the presence of these culture and religion.
    • Conclude suitably


    India has a vast influence of Indian culture abroad, although it never invaded any country in her past. Many small cultures were formed but they were confined to small regions. Indian culture can be known as the First global Culture.


    India has been in contact with the world through various travellers, merchants, missionaries and royal diplomatic mission. Like:

    • The Romas (wanderers) went abroad to Turkey and other far-flung places via Iran and Iraq. They also went to Europe where they came to known as Gypsies.
    • Trade activities started with Vietnam, Italy and China. In the pursuit of the same, many migrated to these countries carrying the legacy of our affluent culture.
    • Ashoka took the effort of sending his son and daughter to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism.
    • In 1st century BC, Indian traders travelled to countries like Indonesia and Cambodia in search of gold.
    • Kalinga dynasty established trade relations with Sri Lanka. Visits of various foreign travellers to India and other monks and missionaries abroad also led to cross culture exchange across the geographical territories.

    Hinduism Abroad:

    • In Thailand, Brahminical images and Hindu temples began to be constructed in third and 4th century AD. The earliest images found from Thailand are those of Lord Vishnu.
    • In Vietnam, the Cham people built a large number of Hindu temples. The Cham people worshipped Shiva, Ganesha, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati and Lokeswara.
    • In Cambodia, the famous kingdoms of Champa (Annam) and Kamhuja (Cambodia) were ruled by the Hindu kings of Indian origins.
    • In Malaysia, Evidence of Shaivism has been found in Kedah and in the province of Wellesly.
    • Female figurines with trident have been unearthed. The Head of a Nandi made of granite stone, a relief of Durga image, Ganesha and Shivalinga have also been excavated.
    • Recently due to effect of Indian diaspora and Indian culture as symbol of peace and harmony, a majestic new Hindu temple that blends Indian and Arabic architecture designs has been inaugurated here in Jebel Ali Village (UAE), with a powerful message of tolerance, peace and harmony.

    Buddhism Abroad:

    • The head of the Vikramashila University, Acharya Ateesha, went to Tibet in the 11th century and gave a strong foundation to Buddhism in Tibet.
      • Thonmi Sambhota, a Tibetan minister was a student at Nalanda, he preached Buddhism in Tibet. A large number of Tibetans embraced Buddhism. Even the king became a Buddhist and declared Buddhism as the State religion.
    • King Ashoka made great efforts to propagate Buddhism outside India. He sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka to spread the message of the Buddha. For around 200 years, the people of Sri Lanka preserved the recitation of Buddhist scriptures as transmitted by Mahendra.
      • The Dipvamsa and Mahavamsa are well known Sri Lankan Buddhist sources.
    • Many Chinese and Indian scholars travelled through ancient Silk routes to propagate the philosophy of Buddhism.
    • Buddhism went to Korea through China. Sundo was the first Buddhist Monk who entered Korea, carrying a Buddha image and sutras in AD 352. He was followed by Acharya Mallananda, who reached there in AD 384.
    • In Japan, Buddhism is given the status of State Religion. Thousands of Japanese became monks and nuns.

    Jainism Abroad:

    • Jain business families settled in East Africa several decades ago. After Indian independence, some Jains settled in Great Britain, with a great influx from East Africa during the expulsion of all South Asians from Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin.
    • In Kobe, Japan, Jains participate in the diamond trade. Jains began migrating to North America after the changes in immigration law in 1965, inspired by the Civil Rights movement.

    Other part of Indian Culture Abroad:

    • India (780 languages) has the world’s second highest number of languages, after Papua New Guinea (839). Sanskrit which originated from India is the mother of all European languages.
    • Thousands of Sanskrit books were translated into Chinese. Sanskrit was accepted as the sacred language in Japan. Even today, there is a keen desire among the Japanese scholars to learn Sanskrit.
    • Bengali Language is also the official language of Bangladesh.
    • Tamil Language is also the official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore. In Myanmar, people developed their own Pali language and translated both Buddhist and Hindu scriptures in their version of Pali.
    • In Tibet, Thonmi Sambhot wrote Sanskrit Grammar which is said to be based on the grammar written by Panini. Also, 9600 Sanskrit books were translated into Tibetan.
    • In Sri Lanka, Pali became their literary language. In Thailand, the Thai kingdoms were given Sanskrit names such as Dwaravati, Shrivijay, Sukhodaya and Ayutthiya.


    The culture and religion are a way of life which used to adopt by the people with their own comfort and prevailing local factors like geography and earlier way of life. Although the various religion and language of India has spread abroad but the local factors have influenced them a lot.

    Answer 2


    • Introduce the cultural interaction between India and travellers from the other nations.
    • Mention the prominent foreign travellers (specially focussing on Arab and Chinese travellers) to India in Ancient and Medieval Period with their contribution.
    • Conclude suitably


    The Indian universities were the most important centres of cultural interaction. The cultural interaction by the travellers from India and to India was a norm. Various Indian travellers like Shantarakshita, (who pioneered the propagation of Buddhism in Tibet) and foreign travellers in India like Hiuen Tsang (a Chinese Buddhist traveller, studied at Nalanda for two years).

    The contribution of Arabic and Chinese travellers in tracing the ancient history of India is immense in this regard.


    Prominent Foreign Travellers to India in Ancient and Medieval Period with their contribution:

    Travellers from Greece:

    • Megasthenes, (302–298 BC), was ambassador of Seleucus Nikator of Syria and visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya. He wrote a book Indica which explains the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. He was the first foreign envoy.
    • Deimachus (300–273 BC): Apparently wrote extensively on India and is quoted as a reference in geographical matters. He was Contemporary to Bindusara.

    Chinese Travellers:

    • Fa-hien (405–411 AD): First Chinese pilgrim to visit India. He compiled a travelogue “Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms”. He visited India during reign of Chandragupta II.
    • Hiuen Tsang (originally known as Xuanzang) (630–645 AD): He wrote his experiences in his book Si-Yu-Ki or the ‘Records of Western World. He was contemporary of Harshavardhana.

    Travellers from Arab:

    • Al-Masudi (957 AD): Explained about India in his book Muruj-ul-Zehab.
    • Al-Biruni Persia (1024– 1030 AD): He came to India along with Mahmud of Ghazni. His book was ‘Tahqiq-i-Hind’ which is an encyclopedic work on India and deals with various aspects of Indian life aspect of Indian life including religion, history, geography, geology, science and mathematics.
    • Ibn Batuta (Morocco; 1333– 1347 AD): He wrote the book ‘Rehla’. which explained the dynasty of Muhammad-bin Tughlaq and also the economical, social and geographical status of his time.
    • Abdur Razzaq (1443– 1444 AD): He was ambassador of Shahrukh of Timurid Dynasty, he stayed at the court of the Zamorin at Calicut. He gave a clear account of the Vijayanagara empire in his book regarding rule of Devaraya II of Vijayanagara empire.


    India had very diverse and affluent ancient society and history. The movement of the foreign travellers to India and Indian travellers to the foreign land bought not only the wide recognition to the Indian knowledge and culture but also developed a composite knowledge and culture which practices in various society and bring the development of all.

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