30 MAI 1845-2007 : TRINIDAD & TOBAGO COMMÉMORE LA PREMIÈRE ARRIVÉE INDIENNE
30th MAY 1845 : INDIAN ARRIVAL DAY COMMEMORATED IN TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Infos en français :
TRININDIANS, l’arrivée des premiers travailleurs Indiens à Trinidad, projet de Madame Monica PIERRE-LOUIS, professeur d’anglais au Collège de Ducos, Martinique, sur le site Potomitan
TRINIDAD, May 25, 2007 : Indian heritage day is observed as a national holiday on Wednesday May 30. On May 30, 1845, the Fath Al Razak docked in the Port of Spain harbor in Trinidad and Tobago with 225 adult passengers on board.
The passengers were immigrants from India who had come to the British colony to work in the sugarcane plantations after the abolition of African slavery. They had spent 103 days on sea during the arduous and dangerous journey that spanned 14,000 miles (36,000 km).
The immigrants were contracted for five to ten years to work in the sugarcane estates in a system that ended in 1917.
A total of 147,596 Indians came to Trinidad over a 70-year period. Although they were promised a free return passage back home, at least 75 percent of them stayed and settled in the New World colony.
In many ways, they brought India to the Caribbean.
They continued with their traditions of Hinduism and Islam, and eventually transformed Trinidad into a colorful cosmopolitan society with their introduction of new styles of dress, music, songs, dance, language, cuisine and customs.
Descendants of these Indian immigrants, who now comprise about half of the multi-ethnic society of the island (1.3 million), commemorate the arrival of their ancestors to these shores annually.
The commemoration takes the form of prayers, speeches, songs, music, dances and plays in communal as well as public spaces. The spirit of the day is invoked at various beaches with the reenactment of the landing of the first boat-load of pioneers who gave birth to the Indian community in Trinidad.
The historic day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1994.
In most celebrations, replicas of the ship Fath Al Razak are constructed. The ship holds the same sentimental value as the Mayflower has for Americans. At libraries, books and other reading materials are put on display. Schools engage children in art and research competitions, and in the re-construction of their respective family trees.
Citizens are encouraged to collect and display old photographs and artifacts relevant to the history of Indians in the Caribbean.
For the second year, the Indian Caribbean Museum at Waterloo will open its doors to the public with selected exhibits for the occasion. Its large collection includes old and antique items such as old musical instruments, agricultural objects, cooking utensils, pieces of clothing, old photographs and rare books. The Museum also houses an art gallery and a reference library.
The entire month of May has been deemed as Indian Heritage Month, but May 30 holds a special historical significance.
On that day, participants gather to honor their ancestors who had crossed three oceans to travel halfway around the world to reach the Caribbean. They gather to pray for their souls and to seek guidance and blessings for the future. Scholars, teachers and elders share their knowledge of the past and increase public awareness on this important aspect of the nation’s history and heritage.
Speakers and writers emphasize the common experience of Indians and Africans under colonial rule, and the links between indentureship and slavery. It is a day of remembrance as well as reflection, and a time for celebration of unity in diversity.
Both Indian Arrival Day and Emancipation Day demonstrate the historical similarities rather than the differences of descendants of Indians and Africans in Trinidad and Tobago.
Indian Arrival Day is a holiday celebrated on May 30 in Trinidad & Tobago. It commemorates the arrival of the first Indentured labourers from India to Trinidad, in May 1845, on the ship Fatel Razack with 225 people from India.
Between 1850 and 1917, an additional 143,000 Indians had arrived. These people were lured to the Caribbean region with a promise of the gold and a good life.
The voyage from India took over three months in ships. The journey was long and difficult and living conditions were terrible.
The Indians were subjected to abuse, scanty food, and dangerous weather conditions. Nevertheless these adverse conditions enabled them to form a bond which overcame their differences of language and caste.
Many died en-route, others committed suicide. We are the offspring of those few brave men and women who survived.
After disembarking at Nelson Island, the arrivals were fed and rested for a couple weeks and then sent to the various estates that had requested them previously.
They were made to enter indentured contractual labour for a period of three to seven years, at the end of which, they were promised a free passage back home.
They were hustled and bundled into cramped barracks sleeping sometimes four to six in ten-foot room. These people came generally from the working class and were basically illiterate. They certainly spoke no English. Communication was impossible for the first few years.
Their working and living conditions were deplorable. They worked in the cane plantations owned by the British.
The names of Indians in the Caribbean are differently spelt to these in India, primarily because they spoke no English. The British plantation owners wrote their names in the Register, as these immigrants pronounced them in their native dialects - hence the spelling errors.
Some returned, some stayed. Those who remained in Trinidad are the ancestors of the Indo-Trinidadian community and they were promised land.
In 1977 because of the efforts of the Indian Revival and Reform Association (IRRA) the Indian Arrival Day Committee was set up. It’s ten founding members were Azamudeen Jang (deceased), Khalik Khan, Anand Rameshwar-Singh, Michael Sankar, Rajesh Haricharan, Ashok Gobin, Anand Maharaj, Rajiv Sieunarine, Rajnie Ramlakhan and Ramdath Jagessar."
Members decided that the first course of action was to sensitize the nation to the event. It should be noted here that the group consisted of Hindus, Muslims and Presbyterian Indians. Fortunately they were able to get the attention of Sat Maharaj of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and the rest is history.
The first national observance took place in 1979 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Indian arrival, and then Prime Minister Patrick Manning declared it a national holiday in 1994.
Originally given the name Arrival Day, it was re-named Indian Arrival Day in 1995.
Our ancestors brought not only a new labour force, but also a new culture, food, dress, language, music, dance, religion and customs.
Music, Songs and Dance
The Indians brought their musical instruments with them when they migrated to Trinidad.
These include the tassa drum (most popular), tabla (introduced into India by the Muslims), dholak, majeera (two brass cups held together by a string), bansoori (bamboo flute with seven holes), jhal, sitar and harmonium.
They also fashioned a new instrument - the Dhantal - from their environment on the sugar estates. Along with the music are various types of songs for different occasions. There are also the various types of dances, which range from classical Indian dance to chutney.
Customs and Festivals
The Indians brought to Trinidad a wide range of festivals and religious observances. They allowed the immigrants to hold on to the values and principles which had sustained them for centuries. (Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Phagwa and Hoosay).
The Indians who came to the Caribbean initially came from various regions in India, each with its own language and customs. The majority of immigrants originated from Uttar Pradesh and the inhabitants of this region spoke Bhojpuri, a Hindi dialect, which became the shared and unifying language for Indians in Trinidad.
The indentured labourers brought not only their religion, food and clothing, but also the names of the places from which they came. They gave to the places they settled in Trinidad, the place names with which they were familiar.
Hence the reason for village names such as Fyzabad, Barrackpore, Chandernagore, and many others. Family and community were very important to the immigrants. They brought with them their family values as well as their naming convention of family members.
They also brought with them Panchayat System which was a way of dealing with inter-communal conflicts and family problems.
One ancient practice which has recently become a western phenomenon is the Mehndi (or Henna) which is the ancient art of body tattooing. Mehndi powder is made out of dried leaves from a shrub. Traditionally, mehndi is used to decorate the hands and feet of a new bride.
The East Indians introduced new fashions and clothing such as the sari, choli, kurtah, orhni, salwar kameez, garara, dupatta, gangri, pagri, and dhoti. Jewellery included the nakphul, bera, churia, and baju band, to name a few.
The indentured labourers who came to Trinidad brought with them their own East Indian cuisine, complete with traditional seasonings and ways of cooking.
Most important of their spices were the curries. Foods such as roti, doubles, saheena, katchowrie, barah, anchar and pholourie have become part of the national cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago.
article by Kumar Mahabir from
article courtesy of Deosaran Bisnath
With special thanks.