5th June 1873 was the day on which the ship, Lalla Rookh, arrived with the first group of laborers from India. After the abolition of slavery in 1863, there was a shortage of cheap labor on the Surinamese plantations so therefore workers were brought from India. Their predecessors, the Chinese and Portuguese labors, did not meet the need. And, therefore, recruitment of settlers, targeting other countries, notably India. The recruitment center was the Indian city, Calcutta, and most of the immigrants were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. False promised were made to the poor people. They were promised a golden future. But no, they came here as contractors, for 5 years, to work on the various plantations. On arrival in Suriname, the workers were spread throughout the plantations over the whole country. The amount they earned was not much. They were underpaid. The contractors were often put to work on the sugar plantations and in agriculture field. Gradually, the Hindustani managed to gain an important place in Suriname. During and after World War II many of the British Indian immigrants moved to the capital, Paramaribo, for more opportunities to work and study.
Former contract workers were called British Indians, but a descendantsis now called a Hindustani (Hindostani).
Today, the Hindustani are, second, to the largest ethnic groups in Suriname. Also there are approximately 50,000 of them who moved before the independence of the country in 1975, to the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia, there are about 120,000 living descendants of the Surinamese Hindustani in the Netherlands.
The culture is largely preserved. The language, a mixture of Bhojpuri and dialects of Bihar, which is influenced by the Dutch, Sranan Tongo (Surinamese a local dialect) and even English, is called Sarnami (Sarnami Hindustani). The religions practiced in the Hindustani, are Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Hinduism has two groups: the Sanatan Dharma and the Arya Samadj. Most Muslims are Sunnis and Ahmediyyas. There are not many Christians among the Hindustanis, but many of them are Catholic and Moravians. Although traditional clothing is not worn everyday, people like to dress in the Indian clothing inspired by Bollywood, for traditional and cultural festivals. There is also a local song and dance form developed, Chutney and Bhaitak, but Bollywood songs are also a favorite. The most popular musical instruments are tabla, harmonium and dhol. Even the Hindustani cuisine is similar, but adjusted to the environment. Roti, rice and masala (curry) are still used, but in addition they have their own snacks. Roti is very popular among the Surinamese.
Today, the 138 years Hindustani Immigration is celebrated. Over these 138 years they have reached a high level. I am one of the descendants of the British Indian immigrants. India is the country where my ancestors come from, but there are now differences in customs and cultural experience. And since I was born and raised in Suriname, I see myself as one … a Surinamese with the Hindustani background.
You must be thinking why I named this blog Lalla Rookh? This, because with the arrival of this ship, the story of the Hindustanis began.
Note: The photos used in this blog are not mine but adapted from Wikipedia