The Hindus of the Caribbean: An Appreciation – by Murali Balaji

The Hindus of the Caribbean: An Appreciation

Posted: 02/13/2015 2:33 pm EST –  – Director of Education and Curriculum Reform, Hindu American Foundation – HuffingtonPost.com

Nataraja Hinduism symbolOn May 5, 1838, the Whitby, a British ship docked in British Guiana (now known as Guyana) with 249 human cargo after a nearly three-month voyage from the Port of Calcutta in India. Along the way, many of those on board were abused by the ship’s crew, and five died.

The Whitby was the first of many chartered ships that would bring Indians — mostly poor Hindus from rural northern India — to work on the sugar cane plantations in the British West Indies. Over the next 80 years, more than 500,000 Indians would make the trip to the Caribbean as indentured servants, primarily to places such as Guyana and Trinidad. Their story — shaped by the trauma of Transatlantic migration, struggles in a new environment, and eventually the triumph of forging a distinct identity — continues to be an overlooked part of colonial history. 

One of the most important aspects of the Indo-Caribbean experience was how Hindus adapted and changed practices to fit their new environment and hold onto traditions they felt as vital. As Gaiutra Bahadur notes in her book Coolie Woman, Caribbean Hindus were able to craft a religious identity distinct from what their ancestors in the Indian subcontinent practiced, especially since the practice of Hinduism in rural India was often governed by cultural norms that significantly shaped interpretation of religion.  [Read more]

 

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