Nr. 237 (2018)

Hindi Transliteration and Translation of Sanskrit-Old Javanese Texts:
An attempt to introduce Indian cultural influences abroad to native India1

Nr. 237 (2018)

Von Ida Bagus Putu Suamba

Strong imprints of Indian culture in various forms or modes of expressions are significantly found in Java. Sanskrit-Old Javanese texts, amongst those texts and traditions, were produced in the island in the periods between 9th to 15th cen. A.D. It covers various genres and subjects enriching indigenous culture in the archipelago. Tutur or tattva texts were one genre of them recorded the dynamic of Javanese intellectuals or poet-sages in pursuing the truth; they reveal metaphysical or theological aspects of Brahmanism, Saivism, Buddhism, Tantrism, Samkhya, Yoga, etc. This paper attempts to study ideas behind the Hindi transliteration and translation of those texts. This is a library reserach, the data were collected from Hindi translation of those texts. This attempt is of high scientific and cultural values as Indian scholars paid attention to Indian culture spreading in foreign lands. With this attempt Indian intellectuals/scholars/students got acquainted with their own culture flourished outside India in different forms, since the works were written and produced in Devanagari script and Hindi language. It creates nuances of being Indian. It can widen their understanding on philosophical point of view, religious elements, and culture of Java, that unity in diversity does not only exist in native land but also abroad.

  1. Introduction

Cultural contact between Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asian region since the beginning of the first millennium has left us strong imprints of Indian culture in various forms or modes of expressions. Affinity of the regions of both countries and traditional trades are significantly helpful in communicating or transmitting culture. Sometimes we are not aware that some cultural expressions have their seeds in some traditions or places within Indian continent; and yet we feel that those things are no longer Indian but indigenous. It is expressed in local ways without losing the spirit of advancements on thoughts or values. Of a long cultural contact, ultimately we have a harmonious blend or taste between Indian and local culture as testified by so many evidences both physical and non-physical forms. Inscriptions, for example, issued by so many rulers in this region inform us such blends written in various languages and scripts. No doubt it enriches the indigenous culture over vast Southeast Asian region; and for some extents they have reached their heights, which could not happen in India. The best example of this is Borobudur Buddhist temple in Central Java, which is considered as the climax of Buddhist art2 in the world. The blend happened was due to the ability of local culture to establish positive cultural dialogue with foreign culture; and the same time indulging or promoting knowledge and arts of local culture. As positive attitude shown, some of Indian cultural heritages are preserved or developed well out Indian sub-continent. This kind of thing should be ideally taken up as important cultural issues which can be communicated to native India.

Amongst those Indian cultures worth to mention are Hinduism and Buddhism along with their various schools and culture that had contributed significantly to some extents enriching the indigenous culture of this region. Java and some other islands in the archipelago in present-day Indonesia are not an exception in this regard. The evidences can be found in Java as well as in some other islands which made them rich on textual traditions. Not only using or borrowing Sanskrit loan words, the texts are also written in local languages like Old Javanese in Central and East Java, Sundanese in West Java, Balinese in Bali, and Sasaknese in Lombok Island. The scripts used are Javanese, aksara gunung/aksara Buddha which was prevalent in Merapi-Merbabu textual tradition, Sundanese, and Balinese. Most of the medium used are palm-leaf which is in Balinese tradition known as lontar, nipah leaf, bronze, and in modern time using paper.

  1. Sanskrit-Old Javanese Texts

Hinduism and Buddhism during medieval times in Java, Bali, Sumatera, Borneo, and some other islands in the archipelago, have left us intellectual heritage and grandeur tangible as well as intangible things, which contain somehow spirit or values of these two religions. In a long history of development, this religious/spiritual tradition is supported or rather enhanced by strong textual traditions leaving us bulks of Sanskrit-Old Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese literatures. In such tradition, role of intellectual persons like sage, acarya, priest, hermit, and rulers cannot be put aside. They indulged in deep learning and the results are various forms of literary works of various subjects. Sang Hyang Kamahayanikan is a great Mahayanic text, which is written in Sanskrit-Old Javanese elucidating basic teaching of Vajrayana Buddhism, Bhuana-Kosa is another tutur text elucidating Saivism; these are just a few example of texts inherited by us. Most of them are unexplored since less interest is paid by scholars to this heritage.

The role of Sanskrit in this regard is very important as it conveys subtle ideas of Indian culture. Suamba states that Sanskrit is sometimes identified as the language of Veda, and so Vedic or Brahmanical tradition was mediated to be spread through Sanskrit despite the fact later systems of thoughts and religions as well as spiritual traditions also used Sanskrit to convey the message. Sutra literature e.g. was written in Sanskrit. Interestingly almost all inscriptions and/or literature found in the archipelago used Sanskrit either in grammar or in vocabulary. There are written purely in Sanskrit and in later period some combinations of Sanskrit loan words and local languages came into existence3. Scholar like Dr. R.C. Majumdar observed that the study of Sanskrit was probably as intense and as popular among the elite of Indonesia as those of Indo-China. But the local dialects in this region were sufficiently advanced to become the vehicle of literature much earlier and in a far greater degree than in Indo-China. As a consequence of this, while in both these regions, Sanskrit was the court-language and used in official record in the beginning, the number of Sanskrit inscriptions in Indonesia was much less and its place was taken by local dialects much earlier. But the influence of Sanskrit continued and is clearly evidenced by the extensive use of Sanskrit loan-words, rhetoric, prosody, and almost exclusive use of themes furnished by Sanskrit literature. This process led to the growth of the vast Indo-Javanese literature to which there is no parallel in Indo-China4. Unfortunately the Sanskrit learning tradition was faded away perhaps started in the beginning of 16th century when political and social changes happened in Sumatra and Java. The decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in these islands perhaps was followed by less or even no contact again with Indian sub-continent.

On this account, the influence of Sanskrit language to our present-day bahasa Indonesia5 and local languages cannot be ruled out. Many words of Sanskrit origin are available in some local languages, like Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese irrespective there are naturally some changes in pronouncing even spelling of the words. For a Sanskrit lover who is travelling in Indonesia, s/he will easily be able to identify Sanskrit words or compound words in which part of it is in Sanskrit. Sutjaja mentioned that the scripts of Javanese and Balinese were derived their present forms from Brahmi scripts, the ancestors of all South Asian writing systems6. As remarked by H.B. Sarkar that apart from introducing India, this art of writing also enabled the people of Southeast Asia to get equipped with Indian linguistics materials to develop their own vernacular and compose many beautiful original works. There is hardly any doubt that much of the cultural heritage of Southeast Asia would have been lost forever if its people had not adopted at an early stage the India art of writing7. Upendra Thakur states that unfortunately, the Indian records have nothing to say about the activities of those noble sons of India. It is from the epigraphic and literary records of those lands that we know how their selfless work had built up a common civilization for nearly quarters of Asiatic continent8. A lot data on the influences of Indian culture in this region are available within this region.

Since Hindi and some other modern Indian languages were not introduced at that period to this region, hence we do not find any Hindi influence over textual traditions. However some are found in modern bahasa Indonesia (which was a later development of Old Malay language) and perhaps in some local dialects. We can find now some Hindi words in Indonesian language, e.g. putra, putri, deva, devi, etc. but they actually have their origin from Sanskrit with some variation in writing or pronunciation. The question whether loan words available in bahasa Indonesia were derived from Sanskrit or they arrived in this archipelago at the same time, is worth to consider. Since textual tradition including inscription was very much influenced by Sanskrit, which is considered as the language for expressing subtle or deep ideas like philosophy or religion, we hardly find Hindi loan words in textual tradition, at least in Old Javanese literatures. Nowadays, there are some Hindi and other language loan words of Indian origin in bahasa Indonesia, perhaps, transmitted in oral communication amongst the merchants who practiced their business in medieval times in a long span of time. Or, perhaps Indian travellers or merchants used Hindi or some other Indian local dialects when they communicated with indigenous people within the archipelago. It is also perhaps due to the geography of Hindi language is mostly in North India, whereas traders or intellectual persons come from South India, the spreading of Hindi is likely impossible when comparing with South Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, etc.

Table 1: Some of Hindi words are found in bahasa Indonesia9.

Hindi words used in bahasa Indonesia Meaning Hindi words used in bahasa Indonesia Meaning
cap Stamp kapas Cotton
cium Kiss kuli Labour
curi Steal kunci Key
ganja Ganja roti Bread

Despite the fact Hinduism and Buddhism declined in Java due to strong influences of Islam in 14th century A.D. that these traditions had been preserved well in adjacent islands of Bali and Lombok. No doubt these two great religions had given layers of thoughts and tradition for development of the Javanese culture in later period despite of the fact that Javanese were neither Hindus nor Buddhist. They were very subtle which shaped human mind set. Old Javanese tradition is still alive in the beautiful island of Bali while in Java was totally disappeared as Javanese had been converted either into Muslim or Christianity. However, culturally they are still integral part of Javanese. On this account there are improvements even new creations available in these regions, the ones which are not found again in its mother land. In the course of time, some traditions may be lost in India, but it has been preserved or developed well in Southeast Asian region. Vipasana technique of meditation, e.g., was preserved well in Myanmar Buddhist tradition before, which was later studied and brought back to India and to the world. Borobudur Buddhist temple in Java and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, to mention a few of them, are not felt as Indian culture but indigenous cultural heritages.

Sanskrit-Old Javanese texts, amongst those texts and traditions were produced in the island of Java in the periods between 9th to 15th cen. A.D. One of those groups of literatures worth to consider is what the so-called Tutur or Tattva texts. They deal with metaphysics or theology of Buddhism and Saivism. In older tutur texts the slokas were in Sanskrit with their paraphrases in Old Javanese, which are lucid. In this regard it looks like sutra literature in darsana systems of thought of India. It is further commented in bhasya or vartika form. It is perhaps done for the sake of the reader to be easier to grasp the import of the sloka. Due to being longer, sometimes it is an elaboration on certain ideas or concept. Sometimes it contains treatment of aksara in its yoga system in rather details and drawings of a certain figure along with aksara. This fact can be understood well from Tantric point of view since both Buddhism and Saivism in Java had received a great extent from Tantrism. The literature covers various genres and subjects. They become source of inspiration for the development of literature of later periods including modern Indonesian literature. Since Hinduism and Buddhism were major religions professed by Indonesian at the time, the literature depicts the existence and developments of these religions.

Up to now there has not been any precise account on the number, kinds or genre of that literature. Texts in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts (called lontar) are available in some libraries of Indonesia as well as in foreign countries, especially Leiden, the Nederland. Some of them have undergone natural extinction due to climate or poor maintenance, but their reproductions are still alive in Bali. Modern technology gets boomed with the tendency for reproducing the texts in its original language, scripts and materials are increased. It was perhaps only in Java that was capable to produce such huge number of texts in various genres. They cover various branches of knowledge, like religion, philosophy (tattva), ethics (sasana/sila), ritual (khalpa-sastra), art, drama, medicine or health (usada), sexology, poetry (kavya), political science (niti-sastra), economy (artha-sastra), farming, astronomy/astrology (wariga), etc.

Tutur10 or tattva texts are typical genre of literature. They encapsulate subtle mind of stalwarts of Javanese in pursuing subtle ideas or concept of metaphysical or theological principles. They discuss about the real existence and its relationships to self and the world, sufferings, happiness, and the way of going back to origin. From tattva its ideas/ principles go to pervade or manifest in ethics (sasana/sila) and ritual (upacara)11. If we try to look at Indian philosophical tradition, it is similar in content to Upanisad or Agama, especially on Jnana-pada in Saiva Siddhanta tradition of South India. They have their own character, indigenous nuance, and style which are typically Javanese. Such genre we hardly find in India either in upanisad or agama literatures.

  1. Transliteration and Translation into Hindi

Question may be raised in this regard, why the works related to Indian culture written or flourished in foreign countries were transliterated, translated or even commented Hindi language rather than other modern Indian languages? What is the idea behind it? As far as Indian intellectuals in domestic India are concerned, they are at least bilinguals of speaking English and their own mother tongue. As they are moveable from one state to other states due to some works, they may speak more than two languages. Hindi being the largest language spoken in India – without excluding the existence and role of other local languages within India – is more effective to inform or spread Indian culture flourished outside to native India than in English. It is a matter of sense or cultural nuances that Hindi can bring. For most of Indians, they are not aware that such textual tradition exists in Java in such stage of sophistication either in expressions or in contents. Of being the largest sub-continent with huge diversity in various aspects and some political and economic problems, Indians sometimes only concern on domestic affairs rather than abroad. However, awareness “to look at the east” is politically getting intensive recently. Since the first millennium Indian ideas had become leader in Southeast Asia and neighbouring regions in culture. It went to global world in the first millennium. It promoted love, beauty, peace, and humanity. When there was no concept of country like that of modern times, people, like traveller, merchant, or sailor they easily entered one port to another one in this vast Southeast Asian region introducing their culture, establishing mutual dialog within the range of economic activities. With the attempt to produce the work in Hindi, Indian intellectuals started to know their culture not only to be preserved but to be developed through assimilation with indigenous culture outside. It is a pride when the culture plays the role in developing nations.

Textual tradition including inscription is less known than physical monuments, like temple, e.g. Borobudur, Prambanan both are in Java, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, etc. Language constraints are one amongst those factors for the interests of both domestic Indonesian and Indian scholars. It was only very few of them have paid serious attention to and took painstaking effort to reveal subtle ideas contain in those textual traditions. The attention perhaps was paid by the poet-philosopher Rabindranath Tagore after his visit in 1920’s to Java and Bali. He was fascinated by the beauty of culture of these islands and went back home with some impressions and provoking ideas to explore this intellectual heritage. In later period, some scholars like Dr. H.B. Sarkar, Dr. R.C. Majumdar, Dr. Raghu Vira, Dr. Lokesh Candra, Dr. Sudarshana Devi, Dr. Satya Vrat Sastri, Dr. Abhiraja Rajendra Mishra, Dr. Rajendra Mishra and many others did some studies on their interest and access on textual traditions. Studies on this region were published in some academic journals, like Journal of the Greater India Society. Dr. H.B. Sarkar wrote Inscriptions of Java in two volumes is a remarkable work on major inscriptions issued by rulers in medieval Java.

Attempts to transliterate and/or translate or giving comments on some literatures into Hindi language by researchers belonged to/associated with the International Academy of Indian Culture (IAIC) New Delhi in 1950’s and 1960’s are worth to consider as far as the history of Indian values or ideas flourished in foreign lands, like Java, is concerned. Continuity or discontinuity of ideas/ concepts/ principles of Indian origins are worth to be known when history of human intellectuals is concerned. The spread of ideas of Indian origin to regions outside India is worth to be known. This academy is very dedicated to explore Indian heritages in foreign lands, like Java and Bali. The attempt provokes further study to know the connection of some principles of Indian origin and those available in ancient Java. It is suspected that some prevalent ideas or even religious practices in Java and Bali have their counterpart practices in India despite of the fact that external expression or formulation might be different. There are some similarities as well as differences on various aspects of Indian culture in the course of time. It can be acknowledged that Indian ideas or concept of various fields of domain is like Ganga water flows thousand miles taking shape in local forms. Java and Indian sub-continent are separated physically by vast Indian Ocean, but it can be taken as the power which can unite or connect Java and India together. Our ancestors both in South and East India and Java were good sailors, and sea was not considered as hurdle to communicate. Those research works are required to know more about the existence accomplished of similarities and differences between a certain points or ideas in India and Java; and how development happened in conformity with locality.

It was the first work which stimulated further research on the field. It testifies that diversity in unity prevalent in foreign lands like of those ones in India. Intellectual traditions like that of India were continued in some other forms in Sumatera, Java and Bali. Sri Vijaya Kingdom in the bank of Musi River in Palembang, Sumatera became a centre of learning of Sanskrit and Buddhism in 8th cen. A.D similar to those centres of learning along the rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, and others in India. Some ideas might discontinue to exit due to some reasons, but still the same ideas might continue in its new forms, medium and expression amongst various cultures in this region. It is really a mosaic of culture, a beautiful blend between Indian and indigenous culture. Thanks to scholars for noble efforts under the leadership of Prof. Raghu Vira of IAIC had taken this field of research opened for Indian speaking Hindi intellectuals in particular and the world in general, since some of them were paraphrased in English.

Table 2: Texts which have been transliterated and/or translated/ annotated into Hindi.

No. Name of Texts of Sankrit-Old Javanese Genre Translator/Author Published by Year


1 Wrehaspati Tattwa Metaphysics/theology (Tattwa) Dr. Sudharsana Devi International Academy of Indian Culture, New Delhi 1957
2 Ganapati Tattva Metaphysics/theology (Tattwa) Dr. Sudharsana Devi Do 1958
3 Wrati Sasana Ethics (Sasana/Sila) Dr. Sarada Rani Do 1961
4 Tattwa Jnana and Maha Jnana Metaphysics/theology (Tattwa) Dr. Sudarshana Devi Singhal Do 1962
5 Sarasamuccaya Ethics (Sasana/Sila) Dr. Raghu Vira Do 1962
6 Slokantara Ethics (Sasana/Sila) Dr. Sarada Rani Do
7 Bhuwana Kosa Metaphysics/theology (Tattwa) Dr. Kailash University of Delhi (MA thesis) ?
8 Ramayana Kakaween by Yogisvara (9th Century A.D.) Poetry (Kavya) Prof. Rajendra Mishra Sampurnanda Sanskrit University, Varanasi 1985

This attempt is of high scientific and cultural values as Indian scholars paid attention to Indian culture spreading in Java. With reference to Ramayana Kakawin12 mentioned above, as remarked by Dr. Mishra that its composer Yogisvara had borrowed the theme from Valmiki Ramayana and Bhattikavya, but at the same time, he was deeply indebted to the great poet Kalidasa, especially in the contexts of Rama’s lamentation for Sita. The ornamentation of language is parallel to the classical Sanskrit poetry of Bhatti and Sriharsa, etc. The author, Mpu Yogisvara was adept in Ramayana, Shrimadbhagavadgita, Kanadaka and Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra, etc. He used the toughest Sanskrit metres like Suvadana, Nardataka, Vanshapatrapatita, and Dandaka with the utmost capacity and efficacy13 in his monumental work.

With this attempt Indian intellectuals/ scholars/ students got acquainted with their own culture flourished outside in different forms, since they were written and produced in Devanagari script and Hindi language. Some of them use English especially in the commentary of the text. It can widen their understanding on philosophical point of view, religious elements, and culture of Java, that unity in diversity does not only exist in native land India but also in Java.

  1. Feature of Works

The nature of works done is philological. The texts were reproduced in their original scripts, i.e. Balinese, transliterated, annotated and commented in Hindi and in Devanagari script, e.g. Tattva Jnana, Maha Jnana and Ganapati Tattva. When the printing method was not introduced for Balinese script, the researchers presented their works in handwritten scripts, which were, or course, very time consuming task. However, the format was not fixed, as the transliteration works were given in Roman, and did the translations; it was only the Sanskrit slokas written in Devanagari, e.g. Wrehaspati Tattva. The resume was written in English for international readers. To see the texts bound to the living religious tradition in Bali, researchers had a visit for field research meeting traditional scholars, priests and intellectuals to know more about the availability and use of texts in the life of the people. Being strong in Sanskrit, Old Javanese and philology, they could present the works in high quality of research.

Unfortunately these pioneering works were not continued rather the later publications of Old Javanese texts by the same institution were reproduced in English with Roman script. Some studies accomplished by Dr. Lokesh Candra of the same institution were reproduced in English like Sang Hyang Kamahayanikan. In fact the use of Hindi along with English summary has more public appeal since the nuance of the texts being philosophical and religious can be maintained well in Hindi language with Devanagari script.

  1. Conclusion

Old Javanese literature of medieval Java recorded the dynamic of Javanese intellectuals in pursuing the truth. It covers wide ranges of subjects. One of them is metaphysics or theology which is revealed in Tutur or Tattva genre. When they were reproduced or presented in Hindi and Devanagari script to native India, it informed them that Indian culture had been preserved and developed in other forms blended with indigenous culture of Southeast Asia. For native Indians, this Hindi works gives some kinds of nuances of being Indian. It gives contribution to local culture to flourish to its best form. It also gives a wider understanding of the continuity or discontinuity of ideas or concepts of Indian origin for the native India, especially the academic section. With this attempt the history of Indian ideas in foreign lands can be traced back to its origin in some places within the Indian sub-continent.

Notes and References

*  Politeknik Negeri Bali. E-mail:

1          Revised paper presented in International Hindi Seminar on “Hindi Language and Various

orms of Hindi Literature in South East Asian Nations”, organized by Sanskrit Studies

entre, Silpakorn University Bangkok, Thailand, 24th-25th March 2014. The author thanks

to the committee of the conference for giving opportunity to present views in the


2          For elaborate discussion on art of Borobudur temple, see S.K. Gupta, “Barabudur: Climax

oF Buddhist Art” in G.C. Pande (ed.) History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Zivilization, D.P. Chattopadhyaya (gen.ed.), Vol. I Part 3, India’s Interaction with Southeast Asia (Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilization, 2006), pp. 371- 445.

3          See IBP. Suamba, “Sanskrit as a Vehicle for the Emergence of Indo-Indonesian Cultural

Relationship” in Lingual: Journal of Language and Culture, Vol. 2. Number 3, November

2014, p. 63.

4          R.C. Majumdar, “Sanskrit in South-East Asia” in Perala Ratnam (ed.), Studies in Indo-

Asian Art and Culture, Vol. 2 (New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture,

1973), pp. 148-149.

5          For details of words of Sanskrit origin in bahasa Indonesia [see, Mukunda Madhava

Sharma, Elements of Sanskrit in Indonesian (Denpasar: Wyasa Sanggraha, 1987)].

6    I.G.M. Sutjaja, “ Indic Influnce in the Balinese Language Linguistic, Arts, and Orthographic Perspectives” in Bali Prajna, International Journal of Indology and Culture, Vol. 1, Number 1, 2012, pp. 111-130; H.B. Sarkar, Cultural Relations between India and Southeast Asian Countries (Delhi: Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Motilal Banarsidass, 1985), p. 168.

7          H.B. Sarkar, ibid.

8    See, IBP. Suamba, Siwa-Buddha di Indonesia: Ajaran dan Perkembangannya (Denpasar: Program Magister Ilmu Agama dan Kebudayaan, Universitas Hindu Indonesia in cooperation with Widya Dharma, 2007), p. 39.

9          His list is given by I Wayan Pastika, “Pengaruh Bahasa Asing terhadap Bahasa Indonesia

ahasa Daerah: Peluang atau Ancaman?” in Jurnal Kajian Bali, Vol. 02, No. 2, October, 2012, pp. 141-164.

10        It is a Javanese word. One of those meanings is text containing religious doctrine,

Religous octrine [see, P.J. Zoetmoulder, Old-Javanese-English Dictionary, ), p. 2084]

11        I coined a term „Tri-dharma’ or ‘Tri-yoga’ to designate this triple principles. See, IBP.

Suamba, Javanese-Saivism: A Philosophical Study of Tattva Texts” (Delhi: B.R.        Publishing House, 2016), pp.74-75.

12        This belongs to different genre of literature. I intentionally add the list with this text

here as it is still relevant to mention it due to the topic of transliteration and/or translation

of Old Javanese literature into Hindi language.

13        Abhiraja Rajendra Mishra, “Sanskerta and Javanese Literature in Southeast Asia with

pecial Reference to Bali” in G.C. Pande (ed.) History of Science, Philosophy and Culture

in Indian Civilization, D.P. Chattopadhyaya (gen. ed.), Vol. I Part 3, India’s Interaction

with Southeast Asia (Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilization, 2006), p. 305.

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