Indian Influence to the Philippines

Influences of India in the Philippines

Indian Influence to the Philippines
Image Source - James Prae Liclican via Slideshare
There were many Filipino Customs and Cultures that were of Hindu origins. And even if we don’t know it, we actually have some roots in Indian Culture. Read what influences Philippines had from India as well as Hinduism.

During the time of Sri-Vijaya Empire (1180 CE), India was Asia’s most advance civilization as well as the richest country. The province of Sulu and the Visayas region was the center of trading in our country. The emperor of Sri-Visjaya is so powerful that it extended to the Bay of Malay, Sumatra, Ceylon, Java, Celebes and Borneo. When the empire collapses, it was replaced by the Majapahit Empire on 1300 CE.

Indian Influence to Philippine Culture

There is no much evidence found by archeologists that proves the direct influence of India to the Philippines. But during the reign of the two empires in India (Sri-Visjaya & Majapahit), there are evidences that the Filipino Culture was indeed had been influenced by India. There were many Sanskrit words that were mixed and used by the Filipinos.

One example of this is the word “Bathala” which is the term used by Filipinos to call their God. This word came from the Sanskrit word “Bhattara Guru (the highest of all the Gods in India).

The oldest form of writings used by our Filipino Ancestors also came from India. In fact, many of our Tagalog words today are of Sanskrit origin. Some of these include asawa (spouse), puri (reputation), wika (dialect), guru (teacher), maharlika (noble), to name a few. The subjects and characters of our epics are similar to the Indian epics. For example, the subject and characters of the epic from Lanao entitled “Darangan” are in similar to that of Indian epic. The Hindu epic entitled “Mahabharata”  is similar to the Ifugao epic about their gods. The Ilocano epic “Lam-ang” is similar structure with the Hindu. The Filipino fables such as “And Lawin at ang Inahing Manok” (The Eagle and the Mother Hen) and “Ang Unggoy at ang Pagong” (The Monkey and the Turtle) as well the legends like “Alamat ng Agusan” (The Legend of Agusan) has similar to that of India.

The industry of cotton weaving, boat making, and mining are all knowledge we learnt from India. India also brings to us some of the well-known fruit bearing and flowering plants and vegetables such as mango, jackfruit, sponge gourd (patola),  bittergourd (amplalaya), and more.

Even the cloths such as the sarong, putong, pantalong hapit, and burdadong balabal which were used by many of our Muslim-Filipinos brother are all inherited from the Hindu. The use of the veil and cord and the splashing of rice during a wedding are all of Hindu roots. It is only here in the Philippines and other Catholic countries have this kind of customs.

The “Bahala Na” Attitude and the “Leaving of our fate to God” are behaviors that we inherited from India. The giving of “dote” (dowry) by the groom’s family to the parents of the bride is a custom that we probably inherited from the Hindu Culture.

Even some of our superstitions and believes came from India. An example of these is “when a lady is singing while cooking in from of a stove will marry a widower” or “a pregnant women who eats a twin banana will bear a twins” and “the occurrence of a comet in the sky means a war or calamity is coming”.


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Back during our high school years, I can remember my social studies teacher saying that there is a possibility that Indians inhabited the Philippines thousands of years ago. He even described some of the influences as you have mentioned in this article. Thank you for sharing.

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