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Pet Sins January 2009

India as an immigration destination

There are some people, especially in the Western world, who view modern day India as an impoverished Third World country, an undesirable destination which supplies immigrants to other countries but does not attract immigrants in return. Now this is not exactly true - modern India has had longstanding problems with illegal immigrants entering its borders.1

But modern history aside, India has in fact attracted immigrants since ancient times. Jews from Western Asia first started arriving in India 2500 years ago.2 Zoroastrians from Persia came to India between the 8th to 10th centuries.3 Arab Muslims settled on the Indian coast in the late 7th century. The 13th-18th centuries saw the influx of Muslim immigrants from Central Asia, West Asia, and East Africa, many of whom were escaping political instability in their own countries.4

The late 4th century/early 5th century Chinese pilgrim Daozhen, who visitied India during its Golden Age, abandoned his plans to return to China and decided to live out his life in India instead. One reason given was that the monk Daozhen so admired the monastic discipline of Indian Buddhism that he preferred to continue his religious practice there.5 In another telling of how Daozhen decided to part ways with his companion Faxian, Daozhen was not just of the opinion that China did not compare favorably with India on the basis of Buddhist religious organization, he also held the view that India was politically more stable than the then-chaotic China.6 It appeared that Daozhen preferred to remain in India because he believed that he would have a better quality of life there. Faxian returned alone to China, bringing with him a number of Sanskrit scriptures. His travels would inspire later Chinese monks to make the pilgrimage to India.


Notes

  1. INDIA BORDER IS NO BARRIER TO BANGLADESH MIGRANTS (NYT, Apr 12 1983)
    India's ticking immigrant time bomb (Asia Times Online, Jan 14 2005)
  2. Wikipedia entry on Indian Jews
  3. Wikipedia entry on Parsis
  4. Wikipedia entry on Islam in India
    URDU-SPEAKING MUSLIMS OF NORTH INDIA AND MUHAJIRS
  5. Exhibit literature of "On the Nalanda Trail: Buddhism in India, China and Southeast Asia" at the Asian Civilizations Museum
  6. Faxian: The first to go west in search of true doctrine
  7. Faxian: The first to go west in search of true doctrine