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May 14 is marked as Indian Arrival Day or Girmit Day in Fiji

Indians in Fiji had to face a lot of struggles in their Initial days and surprisingly their hardships were hidden from the world

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Girmitiyas at Rarawai Mill Image Source: Blogspot

By Pashchiema Bhatia

May 14 is marked as Indian Arrival Day in Fiji as well as Girmit Day. On 14 May 1879, the ship called the “Leonidas” arrived in Fiji carrying the first wave of indentured laborers from India. The system of bringing people as indentured laborers came to be widely known as ‘Girmit’ which is actually a mispronunciation of the word ‘agreement’ by the non-English speaking Indian laborers.

Here are 10 facts about Girmitiyas in Fiji:

  • The people who were brought as indentured labourers had to struggle a lot in their initial days. They were not only made to work in the plantations but also tortured and the confounding fact is that there is no acknowledgement of their struggles and life in the history of Girmityas.
  • Life was so hard for them; even the food was rationed for them as they had to face corporal punishment and even imprisonment in case of failure to complete allotted tasks.
  • Eventually, after working for five years as indentured laborers or free laborers, they were given the choice to return to India but at their own expenses. Majority of people had to stay as they could not afford the expenses for the journey.
  • After their agreements or Girmits got expired, they developed their own small businesses in the towns and gradually began to spring up.

     Related Article: Indian Arrival Day

  • They developed a koiné language (also known as Fiji Hindi) formed from different languages and dialects of India and further many Fijian and English words were included. This language is now spoken by Fiji Indians and also in different communities of Fiji where there is majority of Indians.

Map Of Fiji, Wikimedia Commons
Map Of Fiji, Wikimedia Commons

  • The Arya Samaj in Fiji founded the Fiji Samachar in 1923 in order to spread their views. It influenced girls’ education and advocated Hinduism.
  • One thing which is good about Fiji Hindus is that they lack caste system. This might have happened because they all worked together as indentured laborers in plantations and everyone’s profession was revolving around farming.
  • Being rooted to their culture, Indo-Fijians celebrate festivals like Holi, Ram Navami and Diwali out of which Diwali is a public holiday.
  • Fiji Hindus have been building temples since they arrived and these temples are served as venues for important cultural events.
  • In addition to temples, various schools and community centers were also developed by Hindus to improve the social and educational opportunities.

Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu Temple Nadi Fiji Image Source: Blogspot
Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu Temple Nadi Fiji Image Source: Blogspot

Rajendra Prasad, a descendant of indentured labourers, wrote a book titled ‘Tears in Paradise’ in which he wrote about the struggle and torture faced by the Girmitiyas.

GIRMIT-TEARS IN PARADISE Image Source: Blogspot
GIRMIT-TEARS IN PARADISE Image Source: Blogspot

 Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @pashchiema

 

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Fiji is home to Indian Diaspora, Emerging as Perfect Destination for Vacationers

The Fijian archipelago is home to the Indian diaspora, which has an inescapable presence in ranges of economics and politics

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Fijian Archipelago
The Fijian Archipelago is the perfect destination for a romantic trip. Pixabay
  • The Fijian archipelago is home to the Indian diaspora
  • Suva, which is Fiji’s greatest city, has a noteworthy number of Indo-Fijian population
  • Nadi is brimming with resorts and feels like any Indian residential community

Fijian archipelago, August 11, 2017: The Fijian archipelago, situated in the western part of Pacific Ocean, houses the Indian diaspora, which has an inescapable presence in a few ranges of economics and politics.

The greater part of Fiji natives with Indian family line is the fourth or fifth era successors of Indian workers who were sent to Fiji Islands as indentured labor (Girmityas or Jahajis ) under the famous arrangement framework to deal with the sugar cane ranches in the late nineteenth century and mid twentieth century. A few late Indian entries came as dealers and now Fiji is home to a flourishing Gujarati business group. Suva, Fiji’s largest city, houses a noteworthy number of Indo-Fijian population.

ALSO READ: Grimitya’s Legacy of Slavery: Indian Diaspora in Fiji Marks 100 years of Indian Indentured Servitude system

Lautoka is the second largest city in Fiji after Suva. Numerous Indo-Fijians reside here. It swings to a film music beat in Hindi and saris replace sarongs.

Those Indian workers who arrived over 100 years back carried with them flavors of their country however the relatives of the primary entries have received ‘Fiji-time’ and a more untroubled state of mind.

Fijian Archipelago
The Fijian Archipelago has a pervasive presence in areas of politics and economics. Pixabay

Nadi is brimming with resorts and gives the feeling of any Indian residential community. It is fixed with shops offering auto parts, groceries, Indian customary garments, eateries serving food similar to actual Indian flavors.

Labasa is a town in Fiji’s Macuata Province. The larger part of Labasa’s occupants is the Indo-Fijian plunge, making this little settlement extraordinary compared to other spots. It is one of the best attractions to show the Indian commitments to Fiji’s interesting mixed culture – an enduring heritage belonging to the Indian workers who initially reached the Pacific.

– prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025

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Girmityas’ Legacy of Slavery: Indian Diaspora in Fiji Marks 100 years of Indian Indentured Servitude system

On 14th May of 1879, the British colonialists took the contracted laborers from India, transporting a mass segment of the population to the Fiji archipelago

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Trinidad and Tobago
Indentured Laborers taken from India. Wikimedia

November 9, 2016: History says, the last ship that sailed from India was the ‘Sutlej V’- on 1916. It arrived in Fiji on 11th November. November 2016 marks the 100 years of the of British Indian Indentured Servitude system in Fiji. The arrival of the last Girmit ship ‘Sutlej-V’ from India to Fiji was at the Albert Park, Suva in Fiji on 9th November 2016

To mark the 100 years of Indian Indentured Servitude System, Indian Diaspora in Fiji organized amazing centenary celebrations today. This was followed by the police band of Fiji, who led a float procession. Needless to say, that the events and the functions have wonderfully served the purpose of the celebrations.

The Indo-Fijian community dates back its history to the time of 1879. That year marks the historic arrival of the indentured laborers from India to Fiji. On 14th May of 1879, the British colonialists took the contracted laborers from India, transporting a mass segment of the population to the Fiji archipelago. The first ship, “Leonidas”, hit the shores on Fiji and marked the beginning of a long period of heavy labor, struggle and unmentioned tortures!

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Albert Park, Suva, Fiji Islands. Wikimedia Commons
Albert Park, Suva, Fiji Islands. Wikimedia Commons

The system of bringing the laborers got popularized as ‘Girmits’, mispronounced from the original term “agreement”, which had the Indians bound in a contractual labor to the foreign lands under the British rule.

Fiji saw the arrival of total 87 voyages in between 1879 and 1916. The history of the Girmitiyas is well narrated in a documentary concerning the indentured laborers. ‘Calcutta to the Caribbean- an Indian Journey’, directed by Gideon Hanumansingh, portrays the plights of the Indians who got transported to the Caribbean and post the abolition of slavery, started working in the sugar plantations.

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Post the historical sail of the ship ‘Fatel Rozack’ that carried 217 Indian men and women and reached the port of Trinidad on 1845, the voyages followed and about 1, 43,939 Indian indentured laborers got shipped to Trinidad in the course of the next 72 years. The majority of the workers, that is 2, 40,000 were shipped to Guyana, 36000 to the land of Jamaica and smaller numbers of the population to Grenada, Martinique, St. Vincent and St. Lucia.

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The contract-bound laborers were taken from various states across the country that included- Bengal (through the port of Calcutta), Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Oudh. In the earlier times of the transportation, laborers were taken from Chennai as well. The workers mostly belonged to Hindu faith and a few of them were Muslims.

History records the torture, struggle and the painful lives of the doomed laborers. A contract that got them cursed for lives. Their journey and their laboring period tell us a lot about slavery. The multiple numbers of voyages that carried the indentured Indians to the foreign lands are cataloged in history. The National Library of Australia holds the record of a proper catalog of the pass-numbers and the year and date of all the ships that carried the laborers. It includes names of ships like- Leonidas, Berar, Syria, Howrah, Ganges, Bruce, Allanshaw, Jamuna, Arno, Virawa, Sangola, Mutlah, Chenab, Sutlej and many more.

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Fiji to organise Concerts on Hindu Epic Ramayan: Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan fame actor Arun Govil to attend the event

Arun Govil, who played Lord Rama in the Hindu mythological television series Ramayan, and Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo have collaborated to perform the concerts

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  • Arun Govil ,Sumeet Tappoo and leading musicians from Indian film industry likely to attend the event
  • The world tour will kick start at FMF Gymnasium in Suva on September 23, and at Prince Charles Park in Nadi on September 25
  • Apart from Islam and Christianity, the major religion in the Indo-Fijian community is Hinduism

Sept 21, 2016:

“To be happy always is something which is difficult to achieve. That is to say, happiness and sorrow alternate in one’s life and there cannot be uninterrupted happiness alone.”

-RAMAYANA

Two concerts focussing on the Hindu holy text Ramayana will be held in Fiji by the end of September, this year. Popular Arun Govil of Lord Rama fame in the Dayanand Sagar’s television series Ramayan, and Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo likely to have collaborated to perform in the concerts.

Apart from Islam and Christianity, the major religion in the Indo-Fijian community is Hinduism and therefore a variety of Hindu festivals like Holi, Diwali are celebrated here. Over time, Fijians have open-heartedly absorbed these Indian cultures and celebrate them with great enthusiasm and fervor.

Hindu Holy texts- Ramayana and Mahabharata have entrenched a very important position in the lives of Fiji people, Hindu community in particular. The admiration for these Hindu epics have lead to a dedication through these concerts.

The concerts will feature  Ram Katha by Govil and a Bhajan Sandhya by Tappoo and Govil will also speak about the stories from the Hindu book and its relevance and message for modern society while Tappoo with six leading musicians from the Indian film industry will be singing devotional songs (bhajans).

Ramayan, where Lord Rama meets Bharata. Wikimedia

The source of entertainment for the people of Fiji are mainly Hindi movies and Hindi songs. A large number of video CDs, DVDs and cassettes of Hindi movies and songs are found in the common markets. Therefore it can be said that Indian Diaspora living in Fiji have found a home away from home.

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The duo will be going on the world tour at the FMF Gymnasium in Suva at 7:30pm on September 23, followed by the second concert at Prince Charles Park in Nadi from 6pm on September 25.

– by Yokeshwari Manivel of NewsGram