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Possible Influences of India on Southeast Asian Astronomy: A Brief Review of the Archaeoastronomical Record

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Part of the Historical & Cultural Astronomy book series (HCA)

Abstract

The initial occupation of Southeast Asia by ‘modern man’ (Homo sapiens sapiens) occurred largely from the Indian Subcontinent. This can be modeled based on some simple assumptions. We present a mathematical model that simulates the possible spread of human populations from India to Southeast Asia in prehistoric periods. We discuss the nature and path of this migration and show that it agrees with the settlement patterns of humans in SE Asia. However, the interaction between the two populations has a long and continuous history where ideas have flowed in both directions in the past. We explore the evidence for contact between the cultures in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia that must have occurred since prehistoric times. India has a rich tradition of megalith-building, including a living tradition of megalithism in the Northeast states. We examine the possibilities of this megalithic tradition extending into Southeast Asia. Certain megalithic structures in India, like stone alignments, exhibit definite and deliberate orientations to points of astronomical interest on the local horizon; and we invite study along similar lines on Southeast Asian megaliths.

The influence of India on monument-building traditions in various parts of Southeast Asia from the seventh century onwards is well studied. These deliberate orientations are echoed in the design and layout of later monuments too, like certain Sun-facing temples. Unlike the unsure associations of the two regions in prehistoric times, which are not yet established beyond doubt, the link between temple-building traditions in the two regions is fairly well documented. We examine these linkages and see the broad pattern of travel of ideas between India and Southeast Asia. We end with an invitation to researchers in Southeast Asia to examine the local archaeoastronomical record for similarities with Indian monuments, both prehistoric and later, in their design and orientation, to explore possibilities of cultural contact leading to an exchange of astronomical ideas.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-62777-5_21
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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Professor Glenn C. Kharkonghor, Vice Chancellor of the Martin Luther Christian University, Shillong, for an introduction to the megalithic riches of Meghalaya, as well as visits to Rangjyrteh, Nartiang and other megalithic sites there.

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Correspondence to Mayank N. Vahia .

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Vahia, M.N., Menon, S.M. (2021). Possible Influences of India on Southeast Asian Astronomy: A Brief Review of the Archaeoastronomical Record. In: Orchiston, W., Vahia, M.N. (eds) Exploring the History of Southeast Asian Astronomy. Historical & Cultural Astronomy. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62777-5_21

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