From the Wikipedia entry for Angkor Wat
The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Dedicated to Vishnu, it was built as the king’s state temple and capital city. As neither the foundation stela nor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have been found, its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as “Varah Vishnu-lok” after the presiding deity.
Cambodia was first influenced by Hinduism during the beginning of the Kingdom of Funan. Hinduism was one of the Khmer Empire‘s official religions. Cambodia is the home of the holy temple of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The main religion adhered in Khmer kingdom was Hinduism, followed by Buddhism in popularity. Initially the kingdom revered Hinduism as the main state religion. Vishnu and Shiva were the most revered deities, worshipped in Khmer Hindu temples….
Cham Hindus, an ethnic group in Vietnam influenced by Indic culture 1,000 years ago, are still Hindu to this day. Similarly, the people of the Indonesian island of Bali maintain continuity with the Hindu traditions of Java.
Now, consider this comment from the usual suspect:
Professor Truschke is also correct in stating that “Hinduism” is in many ways a constructed category. It was the British who used it as an umbrella term in the census for anyone who didn’t declare their religion to be something that the colonial power recognized (like Islam). Previously, people may have described themselves as worshipping a particular god.
It is curious that this person who protests for the honor of the Islamic religion casually asserts that the Hindu religion was created as a category by the British! While his religion taps at deep truths and must be respected, he can dismiss the faith of 800 million as a British fiction. The glamor of fashionable nonsense never ceases to attract this one like a moth to the flame.*
In any case, where have I heard this before? From the Wikipedia entry on caste:
There are at least two perspectives for the origins of the caste system in ancient and medieval India, which focus on either ideological factors or on socio-economic factors….
This school has focused on the historical evidence from ancient and medieval society in India, during the Muslim rule between the 12th and 18th centuries, and the policies of colonial British rule from 18th century to the mid-20th century….
This view, which emphasizes the colonial experience, is encapsulated by Nicholas Dirks’ Castes of Mind. A debased form of this is that “well acktchually…did you know the British invented caste?”
The genetic reality has falsified this. Evidence from places such as Andhra Pradesh indicates that the endogamy which is the hallmark of caste/jati dates back to 1,500 to 2,000 years ago. This is not to deny that the category and its organization was not influenced by the British, and likely earlier the Muslims, but its ultimate basis seems to be one which is deeply rooted in South Asia.
Now consider this map:
After many centuries of rule by a religiously Muslim elite, the majority of Indians still retained a non-Muslim identity. The legacy and prestige of Islamicate conquest-elites were such that the 1857 rebellion against the British co-opted a Mughal as a figurehead, so persistent was their glamor. And yet the majority of Indians still cohered around an identity that was called “Hindu,” originally a term for Indian.
Without any knowledge of the puranas, or the elaboration of the Vedanta centuries before Islam became a permanent feature of the South Asian landscape, the fact that most Indians remained non-Muslim after centuries of Islamic rule indicates that there was a systematic social-religious system to which they adhered. The fact that they exported this social-religious system in fragments and essentials to Southeast Asia over 1,000 years ago indicates that Hinduism as we understand it was not simply a British reification!
It is sometimes common among people who follow the Abrahamic religions to classify Hinduism as “pagan.” Though theologically there is some justification for this, to be frank, this is more an aspersion than a description, bracketing Indian traditions with small-scale primal religions which were prevalent outside of Eurasian oikoumene.
Ethnographic evidence indicates that much of “Islamic Africa” was minimally Islamicized until the 20th century. Rather, local elites patronized ulema, whose remit was sharply delimited. It was modern transportation and public health that allowed for greater central integration across regions such as the Senegal. Sufi orders, in fact, benefited from European colonization in many regions of Africa because the only “high religion” tradition that was available locally was Islam, and so many heretofore pagan or nominally Muslim tribes were assimilated into the high culture matrix that was nearest to them.
The contrast with Dharmic and Chinese paganism is instructive. Only in areas where the local “high religion” tradition was moribund (e.g., Korea) or nascent (what became the Philippines) did Christianity gain widespread purchase. In the “pagan” hinterlands of the Indonesian archipelago Muslims and Christians, and later a modified form of Hinduism, gained mass conversions from peoples previously untouched by central governance.
Persistence of native Dharmic religious traditions despite Muslim cultural prominence is strong indirect evidence of a resilient high religious tradition despite debates as to its name.
Related post: Hinduism before India.
* The same person dismisses revisionism about 7th century Islam, which he takes to be authoritatively historical, while accepting at face value the idea that Hindus had no self-conception as a coherent identity before 1800.