Early Contact of Southeast Asia and India as Mentioned in Epigraphs

U-Tain Wongsathit1, Sombat Mangmeesukhsiri2, Kangvol Khatshima1

1Department of Oriental Languages, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Thailand

2Sanskrit Studies Center, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Thailand

The toponym "Suvaṇṇabhūmi" first appears in the Pali Tipitaka of Theravada Buddhism from at least the third century BCE onwards, indicating early connectivity between India and Southeast Asia. The Pali text of Mahanidesa describes land as the most abundant resource for maritime commerce. Most epigraphists devote attention to inscriptions in Southeast Asia that contain lengthy writings dated after the 6th Century CE. However, there are a few epigraphs and seals from the Kra isthmus that precede the 6th Century CE. This study investigated epigraphs composed in Prakrit, Sanskrit, and Tamil prior to the 6th Century CE utilizing Paleography, philology and etymology as the primary interpretive methods. In an effort to recognize the actions of early Indians along the Southeast Asian shoreline, the data was then synthesized. The findings of this study shed light on the importance of maritime trade and religion in dating the early historical period in Southeast Asia.