The history of the Indian sub-continent’s Bengal region dates back to ancient times. This long history includes India’s most famous epic stories including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Ancient Bengali Buddhists were powerful promoters of Buddhism, that spread far and wide across Asia. During the 7th-8th centuries AD Bengal was the center of Buddhist expansion in India and also a key force in the development of Tibetan Buddhism, an off-shoot of Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism. Ancient Bengali Buddhists are today seen as the patrons of early Tibetan Buddhism.