[INDOLOGY] Sanskrit in the Philippines

Lubin, Tim LubinT at wlu.edu
Thu Nov 18 03:30:30 UTC 2021

Dear Dean,

What is today the Philippines was indeed part of the wider Javano-Malay world that adopted many borrowed aspects of Indian culture.  One of the very few surviving written artifacts from the precolonial Philippines – and the only one reflecting society around Manila before the arrival of the Spanish, is the Laguna copper plate.  All over Southeast Asia, Indian-derived scripts were used to write in the local languages, and a substantial number of words were borrowed from Sanskrit (and other Indian languages) for use in those language, especially in written registers.  This copper plate inscription is a debt-clearance certificate (viśuddhapatra) written in Old Malay, dated in the Śaka era, refers to the scribe as a kāyastha.

A comprehensive new study of it is in press: “The Laguna Copperplate Inscription: Java, Luzon and the notion of a Malay World,” by Elsa Clavé and Arlo Griffiths.  They presented their findings earlier in this conference:

Evidence of the presence of Sanskrit itself is not found in the Philippines itself, but of course there are Sanskrit inscriptions in Borneo, Java, etc.


Timothy Lubin
Jessie Ball duPont Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law
204 Tucker Hall
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia 24450
American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 2020–21
National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 2020–21

From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of INDOLOGY <INDOLOGY at list.indology.info>
Reply-To: Dean Anderson <eastwestcultural at yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 at 8:56 PM
To: INDOLOGY <INDOLOGY at list.indology.info>
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Sanskrit in the Philippines

A few decades ago I was in the Philippines and a professor there told me that the native Filipino languages had some words that originated with Sanskrit. He was not interested in Indology really, and this was long before Hindutva, so I don't think it's due to exaggerated cultural nationalism. I was only able to find one brief reference in a book there that said that their word for 'teacher' came from 'guru'. The Sanskrit influence was apparently later mostly effaced due to Islam and Christianity.

As most people here are well aware, there was significant Hindu influence in Bali and the rest of Southeast Asia. So the Philippines is not beyond the imagination.

Are there any reliable sources that talk about the extent to which Hindu or Buddhist culture may have reached the Philippines?



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