The Indian Ocean and its inhabitants have inspired stories and carried beliefs for the people who have lived around its rim for thousands of years. Stories of creation, strange visitors, fantastic creatures, or magic and danger, these stories have often been made real in paintings and objects.
The ocean has also carried religions and beliefs across its waters and beyond. Traders and sailors have often spread new religions such as Islam and Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. Pilgrims and others refreshed ideas and beliefs through their travels. Hindu Brahmin priests, Buddhist monks, architects, scribes, and artists from South Asia found a market for their skills across Southeast Asia. As people moved to live in new places they brought their beliefs with them. While sometimes rulers and the powerful have chosen new religions to follow.
The connections that thousands of years of trade and travel have made and re-made have led to ideas travelling across the sea. Designs and patterns have been borrowed and transformed. New ways of doing things and technologies have spread. Religious and political ideas found new places to transform.