[INDOLOGY] Sanskrit in the Philippines

Dean Michael Anderson eastwestcultural at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 18 18:10:47 UTC 2021

 Thanks for all of the very helpful responses. It opened my eyes to an entirely new universe of cultural influences that I was unaware of.

    On Thursday, November 18, 2021, 09:45:02 AM GMT+5:30, Arlo Griffiths via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info> wrote:  
 Thanks to Dean for raising this topic, and to Tim for responding with reference to my article “The Laguna Copperplate Inscription: Java, Luzon and the notion of a Malay World,” co-authored with Elsa Clavé (Hamburg). Alas, the article is not yet in press but has passed evaluation and is now being revised for publication in the journal Philippine Studies.
A few more things in addition to and correction of Tim's repsonse:
   - Although Sanskrit as such is much less common in the Philippines than neighboring Indonesia, it is not true that no evidence has been found. About 10 years ago, I helped a Filipino-American scholar edit and write about a gold foil inscribed with a dhāraṇī of Mahāpratisarā. See the resulting article here <https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/view/13762>. It gives useful further references to all relevant archaeological evidence known so far.
   - Many languages of the Philippines have absorbed substantial amounts of Sanskrit vocabulary as loanwords. A problem is to disentangle loanwords which might have been absorbed through direct contact with use of Sanskrit (very few, if any, convincing cases of this category) from loanwords which have passed through Malay, the cosmopolitan language of island Southeast Asia over more than a millennium, which itself has directly absorbed massive amounts of Sanskrit vocabulary. This wikipedia page is fairly informative: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_loanwords_in_Tagalog>. I recommend the following article by a fine linguist, which comments in detail on how Sanskrit vocabulary passed into Tagalog through Malay: Wolff, John U. 1976. “Malay Borrowings in Tagalog.” InSoutheast Asian History and Historiography: Essays Presented to D.G.E. Hall, edited by Charles Donald Cowan and Oliver William Wolters, 345–67. Ithaca, N.Y. and London: Cornell University Press.(I am trying to attach a pdf.) J. Gonda's Sanskrit in Indonesia (2nd ed. 1973) also contains many references to data from Philippine languages.   

Best wishes,
Arlo GriffithsEFEO, Paris


From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of Lubin, Tim <LubinT at wlu.edu>
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2021 3:30 AM
To: Dean Michael Anderson <eastwestcultural at yahoo.com>; Indology List <INDOLOGY at list.indology.info>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Sanskrit in the Philippines 
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 akāyastha.


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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