Southern Asia contains two separate, but linked regions: Southeast Asia and South Asia. Southeast Asia includes the nations of Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor. Considered the crossroads of Asia, the Southeast has been influenced by the cultures and religions of India and China as well as the religions Islam and Christianity from Southwest Asia.
The culture and history of Southeast Asia is very diverse and has included numerous kingdoms and empires. Buddhist and Hindu culture has had significant influence in Southeast Asia. Hinduism was the dominant historical religion in the maritime nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Indonesia today, however, is the largest populated Muslim nation in the world. Furthermore, Southeast Asian arts and literature is very distinctive, but has been influenced by Indian, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist and Islamic literature.
The lasting effects of colonialism in this area has influence numerous problems. The Vietnam War was largely a result of colonial problems as well as the ongoing conflicts in the Philippines and East Timor. The Southeast Asian country of Laos also contains the Plain of Jars, an archeological and historical treasure that archeologists are just starting to explore (check out fellow IU South Bend student Cyndal Mateja’s paper in the IU South Bend Undergraduate Research Journal vol. 15 on the subject).
South Asia makes up the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. It also includes, according to some experts, Afghanistan and Burma. India is one of the oldest nations in the world and has been around in some manner since at least 2,500 BCE in Pakistan and western India. People have been living in the area since 30,000 BCE. India is also one of the most beautiful places in the world and contains numerous landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal, but suffers from extreme poverty.
South Asia has been the birth place of four of the world’s largest and most influential religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Colonialism has also had a detriment effect in South Asia and it has never been addressed fully, leading to tensions between India and Pakistan as well as other issues including Afghanistan and Burma.
Next in our series, the South Pacific…