08 July 2012

Arrivals of Indians in Jamaica…


Jamaica 1

Indian theme on foreign stamps..

Kenneth - Kenneth Sequeira – Dubai (UAE)

Indo-Jamaicans or Indian Jamaicans, are primarily the descendents of indentured workers of India who are citizens or nationals of Jamaica. Indians form the second largest racial group in Jamaica after Africans.

Over 36,000 Indians were taken to Jamaica as indentured workers between 1845 and 1917, with around two thirds of them remaining on the island. The demand for their labour came after the end of slavery in 1830 and the failure to attract workers from Europe. Indian labourers, who had proved their worth in similar conditions in Mauritius, were sought by the Jamaican Government, in addition to workers coming from China. Indian workers were actually paid less than the former West African slaves and were firmly at the bottom on the social ladder. The legacy of these social divisions was to linger for many decades.


The Indian Government encouraged indentured labour and recruiting depots were established in Calcutta and Madras although agents were paid significantly less, per recruit, than for a European workers. Most Indians who signed contracts did so in the hope of returning to India with the fruits of their labour, rather than intending to migrate permanently. The Indian Government appointed a Protector of Immigrants in Jamaica, although this office tended to protect the interests of the employers rather than the workers. Although technically the workers had to appear before a magistrate and fully understand their terms and conditions, these were written in English and many workers, signing only with a thumb print, did not comprehend the nature of their service.

Arrival in Jamaica

The first ship carrying workers from India, the "Maidstone", landed at Old Harbour Bay in 1845. Indian indentureship ended in 1917 to the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Croix, Guadeloupe, Martinique, British Guiana (now Guyana), Dutch Guiana (now Surinam, French Guiana and Belize).

Settlement and repatriation

Although most of the workers originally planned to return to India, the planters lobbied the Government to allow them to stay and defray their settlement costs, largely to save on the costs of returning them to the sub continent.

Problems in returning

The lack of ships available to repatriate the workers was another factor in many of them staying on. Ships refused to sail if not full, and at other times were oversubscribed, leading to some time expired workers being left behind. During World War 1 German submarine warfare and a lack of ships further cut the numbers able to return.

The Indian workers tended their own gardens after the work on the plantations was done to supplement their diet. Indian workers, in search of relaxation, also introduced marijuana and the chillum pipe, to Jamaica. Hindu festivals such as Diwali were celebrated although many became Christians over time. Gradually workers left the plantations for Kingston and took jobs that better utilised their existing, and newly learned skills. The Indian community adopted English as their first language and became jewellers, fishermen, barbers and shopkeepers.

Indo-Jamaican Culture

Indians have made many contributions to Jamaican culture. Indian jewelry, in the form of intricately wrought gold bangles, are common on Jamaica, with their manufacture and sale going back to the 1860s. Indians established the island's first successful rice mill in the 1890s and dominated the island's vegetable production until the late 1940s.

Approximately 61,500 Indians live in Jamaica today, maintaining their own cultural organizations and roots but assimilated into the wider community. Traditional Indian foods such as curry goat and roti have become part of the national cuisine and are now seen as 'Jamaican'.

Descendants of the immigrant workers have influenced the fields of farming, medicine, politics and even horse-racing. Names such as Patel, Chatani, Chulani, Tewani, Mahtani, Ramchandani, Daswani, Vaswani and Chandiram have become synonymous with manufacturing, wholesale, retail and in-bond businesses providing employment for thousands of Jamaicans. Cricketers of an Indian, as opposed to African, background have found success in representing both Jamaica on the domestic scene and the West Indies.

The Jamaican Postal service released stamps in 1996 to mark the 150th Anniversary of Indians Arrivals in Jamaica.

Kenneth Sequeira may be contacted at email : kenneth.sequeira@hotmail.com

1 comment:

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