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🚀  Thematic Guides

✈️  Unit 9: Globalization

👉  Introduction to AP World

1.3 South and Southeast Asia from 1200-1450

#castesystem

#delhisultanate

#hinduism

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⏱️  3 min read

written by

william dramby

October 20, 2020


South Asia

South Asia is the region below the Hindu Kush mountains and Himalayas. This region, dominated by the modern-state of India, claims one of the world’s oldest faiths and a tradition of regional trade.

🎥Watch: WHAP - Continuities in South Asia Post 1200-CE

Post-Classical South Asia 

SocialThe Hindu caste system created a hierarchy of power that was both religious and inherited. Hindus, born into a caste, typically had to remain in that caste until their death and hopeful reincarnation.  This promoted stability, though it also allowed for the stagnation that emerges when there is no competition for power. Generally, a woman within the Hindu caste system had more in common with men of her caste than women in other castes. As Islam spread to the region, social roles became more gendered.
PoliticalSince the fall of the Mauryan and Gupta Empires, South Asia has broken into various kingdoms.  Various Hindu Rajput Kingdoms emerged in northern India, keeping a centralized power from emerging for hundreds of years. They competed with each other, allowing for Islamic armies to start to expand into Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Delhi Sultanate emerged from this expansion as a powerful kingdom for nearly 300 years.  United by Islam and funded by the Silk Road, the Delhi Sultans were able to hold back the Mongol expansion into South Asia.
CulturalThough still predominantly Hindu, South Asia’s development was largely impacted by Buddhism and Islam. Hinduism is a polytheistic faith that is probably best known because of its belief in samsara, or reincarnation. The vast majority of Indians are Hindu. However, unlike many polytheistic faiths, Hinduism is very decentralized. Islam, spreading from the Middle East, is a monotheistic faith that is more cohesive since it blended political leadership with religion. By 1450, Islam has spread to northern India and helped the Delhi Sultanate create a stable regional empire. South Asia has seen many world religions because of positioning on both land and water-based trade routes.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia consists of modern nations like Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. This region has developed within a mountainous and jungle environment, making a large empire impossible. The people of Southeast Asia have been heavily influenced by China to the north and the trade with the west within the Indian Ocean Trade Network.

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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Before the modern-states of Southeast Asia, there were various empires, both land-based and sea-based, that helped unite the people politically, economically, and religiously.

The Khmer Empire was a powerful state in Southeast Asia, formed by people of the same name, lasting from 802 CE to 1431 CE. At its peak, the land-based empire covered much of what today is Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam. Its capital, Angkor Wat, was originally a Hindu temple, developed over time into a vast Buddhist temple.   

The Srivijaya Empire was a Indonesian Hindu empire based on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, which influenced much of Southeast Asia. Srivijaya was an important center for trade between China and India as well as for the expansion of Buddhism from the 8th to the 12th century.  

The Majapahit Kingdom was a smaller Javan Buddhist kingdom that controlled the shipping lane leading to and from the Strait of Malacca.

Southeast Asia benefited economically from the Indian Ocean Trade Network, while it also became very diverse.  Islamic merchants and Sufi (mystical sect of Sunni Muslims) missionaries brought their faith to Indonesia, making it the most populated Islamic nation in the world today.  This trade network and the missionaries traveling with it is one of the most important factors in the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia.

🎥Watch: WHAP - Southeast Asia in the Global Middle Ages

key questions

  • What makes Southeast Asia a distinct region?
  • What were the key factors shaping Southeast Asia
  • How did world religions spread in Southeast Asian societies?
  • How did Southeast Asian states develop and maintain power?
  • How was Southeast Asia a part of "Global Middle Ages?"

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