Indian historians have conducted a heated debate for many decades about the relative marits of different regions with regard to the spread of Indian influenced in southeast Asia. Now a days there seems to be a consensus that, at least as far as the early centuries AD are concerned, South India and specially Tamil Nadu-deserves the gerates credit for this achievement. In subsequent periods, however, several regional shifts as well as parallel influences emanaging from various centers can be noticed. The influence of Tamil Nadu was very strong as far as the earliest inscriptions in Southeast Asia are concerned, showing as they do the influence ofteh script prevalent in the Pallava kingdom. The oldest Buddhist sculputure in Southeast Asia- the famous Buddha of Celebes - shows the marks of the Buddhist sculptures of Amarvati (Coastal Andhra) of the third to the fifth centuries AD. Early Hindu sculptures of Western Java and of the Isthmus of Siam seem to have been guided by the Pallava style of the seventh and eighth centuries AD. Early southeast Asian temple architecture similarly shows the influence of the Pallavas and Chola styles, especially on Java and in Kampuchea.
The influence of the North Indian Gupta style also made itself felt from the fifth century AD onwards. The center of this school was Sarnath, near Baranasi (Banaras), where Buddha preached his first sermon. Sarnath produced the classical Buddha image which influenced the art of Burma and Thailand, as well as that of Funan at the mouth of the Mekong. The art of the Shailendra dynastry of Java in the eighth and ninth centuries AD - of which the Borobudur is the most famous monument - was obviously influenced by what is termed the Late Gupta style of western central Java of about (c.800 AD) explicitly refers to the canstant flow of the people from Gurjardesha (Gujarat and adjacent regions) due to which this temple had been built. Indeed, the temple's sculptures show a striking similarity with those of the late Buddhist caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
In later centuries Southeast Asia was more and more influenced by the scholars of the University of Nalanda and the style of the Pala dynasty, the last of the great Indian dynasties which bestowed royal patronage on Buddhism. The influence of Mahayana Buddhism prevailing in Bihar and Bengal under the Palas was so strong at the court of the Shailendras of Java that a Buddhist monk from 'Gaudi' (Bengal) with the typical Bengali name of Kumara Ghose, became rajguru of the Shailendra king and in this capacity consecrated a statue of Manjushri in the royal temple of the Shailenras in 782 AD. Bengal eastern Bihar and Orissa were at that time centers of cultural influence. These regions were in constant contact with Southeast Asia, whose painters and sculptors reflected the style of Eastern Indian in their works. Typical of this aesthetic was the special arrangement of figures surrounding the central figure. This types of arrangement can be found both in Indonasia sculptures and in the temple paintanings of Pagan (Burma) during this period.
In the same era south Indian influence emerged once more under the chola dynasty. Maritime trade was of major importance to the choals, who thereby also increased their cultural influences. The occasional military interventions of the Cholas did not detract from the peaceful cultural intercourse. At the northern coast of Sumatra the old port of Dilli, near Medan, had great Buddha sculptures evincing a local variation of the Chola style, indeed a magnificent status of the Hindu God Ganesha, in the pure Chola style, have recently been found at the same place, Close to the famous temple of Padang Lawas, central Sumatra, small but very impressive chola-style bronze sculptures of a four armed Lokanath and of Tara have been found. These sculptures are now in the museum of Jakarta. They are dated at 1039 AD, and a brief inscription containing Old Malay words in addition to Sanskrit words- but Tamil words-proves that the figures were not imported from India but were produced locally.
Nevertheless, Chola relations with southeast Asia were by no means a one-way street. It is presumed that the imperial cult of the Choals, centred on their enormous temples, was directly influenced by the grantd style of Angkor. The great tank at Gangaikondacholapuram was perhaps conceived by the Chola ruerl in the same spirit as that which moved the Combodian rulers who ordered the construction of the famous Barays (tanks) of Angkor, which are considered to be a special Indication of royal merit.
In the late thirteenth century Ad Pagan (Burma) was once more exposed to a strong current of difect Indian influence emanating from Bengal at that time conquered by Islamic rulers Nalanda had been destroyed by the end of the twelth century and large groups of monks in search of a new hoem flocked to Pagan and also to the Buddhist centers of Tibet. The beautiful paintings in the temples of Minnanthu in the eastern part of the city of Pagan may have due to them.
Islamic conquest cut off the holy places of Buddhism. A millennium of intensive contacts between India and southeast Asia have come to an end. But there was anther factor which must be mentioned in this contact. In 1190 AD Chapata, a Buddhist monk from Pagan, returned to that city after having spent ten years in Sri Lanka. In Burma he founded a branch of the Theravada school of Buddhism, established on the strict rules of the mahavihara monastery of the Sri Lanka. This led to a schism in the Burmese Buddhist order which had been established at Pagan by Shin Arahan about 150 years earlier. Shin Arahan was a follower of the South Indian school of Buddhism, which had its center at Kanchipuram. Chapata's reform prevailed and by the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries AD. Burma, Thailand and Combodia had adopted Theravada Buddhism of the Sri Lanka school. In Combodia this shift from Mahayana to Theravada Buddhism seesm to have been part of a socio-cultural revolution. Under the last great Knig of Angkor, Jayavarman VII (1181-1218) royan Mahayana Buddhism had become associated in the eyes of the people with the enormous buden which the king imposed upon them in order to build the enormous Buddhist temples of Angkor Thom (e.g. the gigantic Beyon).
Even in Indonesia, however, where Tantrist Buddhism with an ad-mixture of Shaivism prevailed at the courts of rulers all the way from Sumatra down to Bali, direct Indian influence rapidly receded in the thirteenth century. This was only partly due to the intervantion of Islam in India, its other cause being an upsurge of Javanese art which confined the influence of Indian art to the statues of defied. Kings erected after the death of the ruler. The outer walls of the temples were covered with Javanese reliefs which evince a great similarity to the Javanese shadowplay (Wayang kulit). The chandi Jago (thirteenth century AD) and the temples of Panantaran (fourthenth century AD) show this new Jvanese style very well. It has remained the dominant style of Bali art upto the present time. A similar trend towards the assertion of indigenous styles can also be found in the Theravads Buddhist countries. The content of the scence depicted is still derived from Hindnu mythology of Buddhist legends but the presentation clearly incorporates the respective national style.