Srivijaya temple candi

“Many of kings and rulers in the islands of southern seas adore and believed in lord Buddha, in their hearts has flourished (the seeds of) good deeds. Within the walls of Srivijaya capital city lived 1000 buddhist monks, they have studied diligently and performed (the noble teachings) very well… If a Chinese monk wished to travel to India and seeks the (Buddha’s) teachings, it will be better for them to stay here first for a year or two, to deepening their knowledge before continued their study to India.” — Description of Srivijaya according to I-tsing

A complex and cosmopolitan society with a refined culture, deeply influenced by Vajrayana Buddhism, flourished in the Srivijayan capital. The 7th century Talang Tuwo inscription described Buddhist rituals and blessings at the auspicious event of establishing public park.

The Kota Kapur Inscription mentions Srivijaya military dominance against Java. These inscriptions were in the Old Malay language, the language used by Srivijayan and also the ancestor of Malay and Indonesian language.

Since the 7th century, the Old Malay language has been used in Nusantara (Malay-Indonesian archipelago), marked by these Srivijaya inscriptions and other inscriptions using old Malay language in coastal areas of the archipelago, such as those discovered in Java.

The trade contact carried by some ethnics at the time was the main vehicle to spread Malay language, since it was the communication device amongst the traders. By then, Malay language become lingua franca and was spoken widely by most people in the archipelago.

However, despite its economic, cultural and military prowess, Srivijaya left few archaeological remains in their heartlands in Sumatra, in contrast with Srivijayan episode in Central Java during the leadership of Sailendras that produced numerous monuments such as the Kalasan, Sewu and Borobudur stupa.

The Buddhist temples dated from Srivijayan era in Sumatra are Muaro Jambi, Muara Takus and Biaro Bahal, however unlike the temples of Central Java that constructed from andesite stones, the Sumatran temples were constructed from red bricks.

Some Buddhist sculptures, such as Buddha Vairocana, Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, were discovered in numerous sites in Sumatra and Malay Peninsula.

A stone statue of Buddha was discovered in Bukit Seguntang (Palembang), Avalokiteshvara from Bingin Jungut in Musi Rawas, a bronze Maitreya statue of Komering. In Jambi, a golden statue of Avalokiteshvara was discovered in Rataukapastuo, Muarabulian.

All of these statues demonstrated the same elegance and style of the Srivijayan art that reflects close resemblance to both Indian Amaravati style and Javanese Sailendra art.

A stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism, Srivijaya attracted pilgrims and scholars from other parts of Asia. These included the Chinese monk I Ching, who made several lengthy visits to Sumatra on his way to study at Nalanda University in India in 671 and 695, and the 11th century Bengali Buddhist scholar Atisha, who played a major role in the development of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet.

The empire of Srivijaya in southeast Sumatra was already a center of Vajrayana learning when Master I Ching  resided there for 6 months in 671, long before Padmasambhava brought the method to Tibet.

In the 11th century, Atisha studied in Srivijaya under Dharmakirti, an eminent Buddhist scholar and a prince of the Srivijayan ruling house that taught Buddhist philosophy in Srivijaya and Naland.

Through early economic relationships with the Srivijaya Empire, the Philippines also came under the influence of Vajrayana. Vajrayana (also called Mantrayana) Buddhism also influenced the construction of Borobudur, the three-dimensional mandala in central Java circa 800.

I Ching reports that the kingdom was home to more than a thousand Buddhist scholars; it was in Srivijaya that he wrote his memoir of Buddhism during his own lifetime.

The most important legacy of Srivijayan empire was probably their language. For centuries, Srivijaya through their expansion, economic power and military prowess was responsible for the widespread of Old Malay language throughout the Malay-Indonesian archipelago. The language of Srivijaya probably paved the way for the prominence of present-day Malay as the official language of Malaysia and as the unifying language of modern Indonesia.