“Bay of Bengal or Mahoga Nadi had great significance as far as transmission of culture and growth of trade is concerned. There was a lot of commerce across the bay, and culture went on the back of commerce. Mahoga Nadi is like the Mediterranean of Asia and Sanskrit was like the Latin which went around interacting with all local languages and influencing them” said Renuka Narayanan, Former Chairperson of Indian Council of Cultural Relations(ICCR), she was addressing a seminar on “India & South East Asia : The Cultural Connect” at New Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum and Library recently.
Narayanan described the deep cultural ties between the two regions “India and South East Asia share a common culture, so much so that when I go to Thailand people say ‘you have a Thai name’. Paniharam is a plate for serving food used in Tamil Nadu it is also used in Thailand, if we talk of architecture Pagoda houses are common in Kerala. The old Thai script is called Pallava. The coastal people of Tamil Nadu make crab Rasam which is similar to the Tom Yum Goong a Thai Dish. Even the names and categorization of ghosts are similar in Thai and Tamil. In Odisha people commemorate the Yatra towards Bali by preparing and sending small paper boats into the ocean in the direction of Southeast. The capital of Cambodia Phnom Penh is half Khmer and half Tamil. Phnom means mountain and Penh is a Tamil word for girl/ women the capital means lady of the Mountain a pointer to Parvati.
She lamented that the history which is currently taught in India is largely Delhi centric hence it ignores the east coast of India and the importance of Bay of Bengal in facilitating trade and culture interaction between various countries. Narayanan called for academics, historians, journalists and popular fiction writers to study the historical significance of the Bay of Bengal.