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Pet Sins January 2009 Issue
The International Influence of Ancient India

We took a glimpse at interethnic prejudices between the peoples of Asia in our May 2005 Issue. East Asian and Southeast Asian prejudice against South Asians were among the issues mentioned.

In our March 2007 Issue, we explored the more positive side of relations between individuals from different Asian nations - cross-ethnic friendship and love as depicted in Asian film. In an Israeli film, India's Bollywood casts its influence on a non-Indian community at the Western end of Asia.

This issue's focus is on ancient India's direct influence on other parts of Asia, distinct cultures that absorbed aspects of Indian culture introduced by Indian travellers to their lands or brought home by indigenes who had visited India. Indian culture in ancient times was no less admired and imitated by 'outsiders' than Western culture is today.

Despite the scorn that some modern West Asians, East Asians and Southeast Asians hold against South Asians, it can be seen from history that there is nothing 'natural' or 'destined' about alleged South Asian 'racial' or 'cultural' inferiority. Chinese, Thais, Malays, Arabs all gained from the culture and knowledge of ancient India. We are NOT at all claiming that Indian culture is ncessarily 'superior' to other cultures, or that neighboring non-Indians people would have had 'no culture' without India - that is simply not true. Any society at any level of civilization had 'culture', which, simply put, is a way of life. The aforementioned peoples had rich ancient cultures of their own that were further enriched by international exchange with South Asia. We only propose that the modern scorn that some individuals have for South Asians isn't justified when we look at the larger picture of the history of relations between our peoples.

The religious and cultural impact of the countries of the Indian subcontinent on Southeast Asia and East Asia is a broad topic beyond the scope of this site. Instead of trying to extensively cover an already well-documented topic, we will highlight a few brief examples and anecdotes in this issue in the hope that they may inspire interested readers to explore the topic in greater depth.