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Only Since World War II has the term Southeast Asia been used to describe the area to the east of India and to the south of China, which includes the Indo-Chinese Peninsula, the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines, roughly forming a circle from Burma through Indonesia to Vietnam.
Before the term Southeast Asia became common usage, the region was often described as Further or Greater India, and it was common to describe the Indonesian region or Malay Archipelago as the East Indies.
Greater India: The expansion of Indian culture and influence both in Central Asia and the South East towards the countries and islands of the Pacific is one of the momentous factors of world history.
(image source: The historical background is the emigration of Brahmins, who brought the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and other works of Sanskrit literature.
They were perfectly free, politically and economically and their people representing an integration of Indian and indigenous elements had no links with any Indian state and looked upon India as a holy land rather than a motherland a land of pilgrimage and not an area of jurisdiction." The south-eastern region of Asia both mainland and Archipelago - owed its civilization almost entirely to India.
In Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Champa, and Java, religion, art, the alphabet, literature, as well as whatever science and political organization existed, were the direct gift of Hindus, whether Brahmin or Buddhists, and much the same may be said of Tibet, whence the wilder Mongols took as much Indian civilization as they could stomach." (source: "From Persia to the Chinese Sea, from the icy regions of Siberia to the islands of Java and Borneo, from Oceania to Socotra, India has propagated her beliefs, her tales and her civilization.
That culture can advance without political motives, that trade can proceed without imperialist designs, settlements can take place without colonial excesses and that literature, religion and language can be transported without xenophobia, jingoism and race complexes are amply evidenced from the history of India's contact with her neighbors...
The history of Indian expansion covers a period of more than fifteen hundred years.
The Vedic Indians must have charted Java, Yawadvip, thousands of years ago because Yawadvip is mentioned in India's earliest epic, the Ramayana.
The Ramayana reveals some knowledge of the eastern regions beyond seas; for instance Sugriva dispatched his men to Yavadvipa, the island of Java, in search of Sita. The Agni Purana, along with many other Puranas, calls India proper as Jambudvipa as distinguished from Dvipantara or India of the islands or overseas India.
Arab writers such as Al Biruni testify that Indians called the whole Southeast region Suwarndib (Suvarnadvipa).
Hellenistic geographers knew the area as the Golden Ghersonese. During the last two thousand years, this region has come under the influence of practically all the major civilizations of the world: Indian, Chinese, Islamic, and Western.