- For approximately 1,500 years the chain of islands today known as Indonesia were a part of what was known in the subcontinent as Farther India. Indian merchants began trading Indonesian spices with the West during the days of the Roman Empire. Indian-style royal courts were established on several of the Indonesian islands, with major courts in Java and Sumatra. Hinduism developed (and declined) differently on the islands of Bor-neo, BALI, Java, and Sumatra.As early as the fourth century C.E., both Bor-neo and Sarawak were centers of both Buddhist and Hindu worship, as evidenced by statues from this period created in the Tamil style. Unlike Java and Sumatra, Borneo never developed a signifi-cant dynasty, and most of the surviving cultures there have until recently retained their indigenous forms. Hinduism can be found only among the few Indians who live there.During the 14th century the Majapahit dynasty of Java occupied land outside its borders and extended the scope of Hindu influence to a south-ern portion of Borneo. On other islands, indig-enous populations remained virtually untouched. Papua-New Guinea/Irianjaya and the Philippines were untouched by the Indianization of Indonesia. True Brahminic Hinduism was to be found only among the aristocracy of Java, Sumatra, and Borneo. The common people either retained their indigenous folk religions or blended them with Hindu features. The result was a form of Hindu-ism quite different from that in India.The arrival of Islam caused the Hindu states to collapse. The royal courts of Java fled to Bali, leav-ing Bali as the only remaining Hindu state, even though pockets of Hindu belief and practice can still be found on Java and Sumatra.After the collapse of Hindu states, Javanese Hin-duism survived without a Brahminic tradition and became an amalgam of older indigenous religions, Shaivite Hinduism (see SHAIVISM), and Mahayana Buddhism. The result is a type of Hinduism that is similar in some ways to the folk religion found in Bali. However, Hinduism in Java has lacked a royal court and a Brahmin caste for centuries and has become primarily a folk religion in Hindu guise. All priests are laymen and not Brahmin.Javanese Hinduism includes ancestor worship and belief in nature spirits, both malevolent and benevolent. The latter are often associated with ancestors and tend to be the ancestor spirits of each immediate family. Shiva is associated with the god of the Bromo volcano. The various gods are not seen to dwell in the temples, but rather on the mountains; the gods are ritually called out of the mountains into the temples.Popular culture in Indonesia often includes puppet plays enacting scenes from the RAMAYANA and the MAHABHARATA. Recently a resurgence of Hinduism has appeared throughout Indonesia, resulting in the Pasek movement, the SAT YA SAI BABA movement, and the Forum Hindu Dharma Indonesia. These new movements are more con-sistent with forms of Hinduism found in India, including several types of yoga; the older tradi-tions with their emphasis on ancestor worship are considered backward by many.Further reading: George Coedes, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Edited by Walter F. Vella, (Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1968); Clifford Geertz, The Religion of Java (New York: Free Press, 1960); Robert W. Hefner, Hindu Javanese (Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.