PHUKET, THAILAND, August 24, 2014 (Phuket News): Even when the centuries were still in single digits, the Andaman Coast was an economically active area. Along estuarine communities down the coast, Indian, Arab and Persian traders made connections with local rulers and merchants, and would often return to the same communities year after year, often waiting several months for the monsoon winds to turn. They would be allocated a home and a wife for their stay and duly begat mixed-race children. As with today’s overseas visitors, some decided to stay permanently. And with them came their holy men, who spread Brahmin, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs.
In the foyer of the Phuket History Museum in Thalang stands a large stone statue of the Hindu God Vishnu, found on the coast of Phang Nga in the 20th Century, confirming the early presence of Hinduism in the Phang Nga Bay area. Also, several ancient Hindu stone carvings have been recovered from Ko Pra Narai mountain, located on the old river trade route inland from Takuapa. Analysis of the stone has shown that these were made in India. Hinduism seems to have been dominant in and around Phuket for around a thousand years, from 500 BC to 500 AD. This ancient Hindu heritage can still be seen today when Thais greet each other with the word “Sawasdee” which derives from the Sanskrit word “Swastika”, meaning “well-being”.