Chapter 3, Part 1
Istanbul, 1453. Around two thousand years earlier Buddhism began to spread across the Indian subcontinent, and for more than one millennium Buddhist kingdoms and empires rose and fell, from Anuradhapura in modern Sri Lanka to a Buddhist dynasty in Java, and Bagan in what is today Myanmar. For most of the history of South and Southeast Asia, Buddhism was in constant rivalry with Hinduism, although at times the two great religions coexisted peacefully as they did in eighth-century Java as well as in Nepal.
Beginning in the seventh century, Islam was introduced and the new religion quickly rose to prominence not only in its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula, but also in faraway lands, from the Iberian Peninsula to the west to the fabled Spice Islands to the far east. Its territorial gains prompted the reorganization of political powers in…
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