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Indian Diaspora in Holland

The many flavours of Hinduism in Holland

Image: Wikimedia Commons

By Shubhi Mangla

The Netherlands is divided into twelve coastal provinces. Two of its provinces namely North and South Holland together make Holland. The country Netherlands as a whole is still called Holland by some people. This is mainly because Holland emerged as the most powerful area of the Dutch Republic in the 17th century and came to be recognized worldwide.

The term ‘Holland’ is known to be derived from the word hol land meaning ‘hollow land’ as much of the land in Netherlands is below sea level. Holland is famous for its tulip fields, cycling paths and windmills. It is an attractive tourist destination, with three largest cities famous for their own reasons: Amsterdam known as the canalside capital is famous for its museums, Rotterdam is known for its architecture and design with a world-class port and The Hague, seat of the Netherlands government.

Today, more than 200,000 Hindus and NRIs have made Netherlands their home. Holland has the highest percentage of the Indian diaspora in the whole of the European continent.

Indian Arrival in Holland

When slavery was abolished in Suriname, the Dutch government recruited approximately 34000 Indian workers to work on the plantations for a period of 5 years on a contractual basis (indentured labor). When the contract ended, one-third of the Indian workers returned to India whereas around 23,000 chose to stay back.

The migration of Indians from Suriname to Holland started in the fifties and gained momentum when Suriname got its independence in 1975. The first migration was of Indian students from Suriname to Holland who came for studies. In the sixties, the economic, social and political conditions in Suriname were worsening which led to a mass migration of Surinamese in just a short span of time; most of them were Indo-Surinamese.

According to, today, the Surinamese Indian community in the Netherlands, which calls itself the Surinamese Hindustanis, numbers approximately 200,000 while the most recent arrivals from India number around 15,000.

Thus, there exist two Indian communities in Holland- the Indo-Surinamese and recent migrants from India (NRIs). Most of the Indians are concentrated in the city of The Hague with 45000 PIOs followed by other cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht (ranging from 8000-12000 people).

Also Read:Tracing the Indian Diaspora in Suriname

According to a research by Igor Kotin, Senior researcher at Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, “It is estimated that between two and three thousand Indians in Holland are illegal immigrants”.

Social and Economic condition of Indians

Initially, the Surinamese Indians were descendants of the peasants and factory workers. But today the Indian community has evolved as a community with a good variety of occupations. The NRIs are mostly doctors, businessman, engineers, scientists etc. There is a significant increase in the number of Indian families in Holland. The import of leather, tobacco, textiles and consumer goods has given rise to setting up of trading centers in Holland. There are a number of organizations set up to protect the social interests of the Indian community such as the Netherlands Indian Association which organizes cultural events, Indian Ladies club and Foundation of Critical choices for India that prepares studies on issues important for India.

Even today, Surinamese Indians still speak Sarnami Hindi which is a mixture of Bhojpuri and Awadhi language. The Surinamese Indians have managed to integrate well into the society of Holland and contribute to the country’s social and economic life. A number of schools have been set up that teache Hindi and religious subjects.

Murugan Temple, Roermond, The Netherlands
Murugan Temple, Roermond, The Netherlands


In Holland, the majority of Indians are Hindus (80%) and remaining are Muslims (16%) and Christians (4%). There are approximately 2000 Sikhs. A number of Hindu temples have been built by the Surinamese Indians in Holland. The first one was established in The Hague. The biggest Hindu temple is located in Wijchen, a municipality In South Holland. Today there are about 50 mandirs in Holland, a majority of them been set up by Surinamese Indians. Gurdwaras have also come up in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague for Sikhs.

The Aksa mosque in The Hague, Holland Image: Wikipedia
The Aksa mosque in The Hague, Holland
Image: Wikipedia

There is a total of 500 mosques in Holland. The first mosque was founded in The Hague. The biggest mosque is also located in Hague. The Dutch government has also allowed religious groups to set up their own schools. Most of them are Christian schools. Surinamese Indians also run exclusive schools for Hindu community which number to around 5. Muslim schools are 45 in number. Yoga and Ayurveda are also widely practiced.

The concept of ‘arranged marriages’ is still prevalent. The 1980s saw a significant number of marriages between Surinamese Hindu women and Indian men. This produced a significant number of children of mixed parentage but with strong Indian links.

The Indian diaspora in Holland takes pride in belonging to one of the ancient civilizations of the world and is conscious of its rich culture and heritage.


Indians in Holland have made great efforts in preserving their ethnic culture and religion.

Dance & Music

Bharatnatyam and Kathak were the first traces of Indian culture brought by the immigrants in Holland. Many dance schools are established across different municipalities in Holland that teach folk dance, classical Indian dances and modern Indian dance styles. According to Sandra Hira, Chief editor of the Global Atlas of the Indian Diaspora, “Interestingly one of the first dance schools was established by a Dutch lady Mrs. Ans Steenhuis (artist name Damayanti) in The Hague. She had learned the dance from teachers from India, and wrote an (unpublished) manuscript in Dutch as a guide to Indian classical dances.” There are many bands that play Bollywood, folk, and Caribbean Creole music. Many Indian musicians sing at marriages, events, birthdays and other ceremonies. Dutch theaters are also providing plenty of chances to Indian musicians and singers to showcase their talent. Many music and dance students visit India to refine their skills.


Royal Tandoori Indian Restaurant in Amsterdam Image:
Royal Tandoori Indian Restaurant in Amsterdam

Many Indian restaurants have come up all around Holland. Eateries offering Rotis are being run by Surinamese Indians and some Dutch people too. The city of Amsterdam has about 40 Indian restaurants.  Indian Cooking lessons are also given at several places. All major cities and towns have Indian shops selling Basmati rice, vegetables, fruits, Indian spices, flour and home products.


The Indian cinema is highly popular in Holland. A number of Dutch cable companies offer access to Indian TV channels and movie broadcasts. The public broadcasts often air Indian films. The Indian Surinamese community in 2000 held an Annual Film Festival in The Hague wherein latest Indian movies were premiered and discussions were held regarding Indian cinema. In 2005, Amsterdam also hosted the IIFA Awards (International Indian Film Academy Awards). There are video outlets being owned and managed by Indians that sell and rent DVD and Videos with Indian movies and songs. The Indian cinema is also popular among the Moroccan and Turkish diaspora in Holland.


Indian festivals are celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm in Holland. Holi and Diwali are two of the biggest festivals for the Indian community. On the day of Holi, people gather at the public square to sprinkle water and colors on each other in spite of the chilly weather. The main water fountain of Rotterdam displays colored water. Dances are performed and music is played. On Diwali, diyas are lit in homes. The Hague city also hosts an annual Milan festival to commemorate the different Diaspora in Holland. July 1 for the Africans when slavery was abolished, June 5 when Indian Arrival day is celebrated and August 8 for the Javanese community for celebrating their immigration day. The Milan festival is attended by many people mostly Indians. Rotterdam city also organizes Ramlila.


There is a publication of magazines geared towards the Indian community. The Surinamese Indians have established their own media network. There are dating sites on the Internet for Indians in Holland. The public network airs weekly programs for the Indian community. Radio stations have also been set up by the Indian community to cater to their own interests. They also serve as a medium for important communication relating to death, birthdays, marriages, events etc.

The Kingdom of Netherlands is harboring a whole new world of Indian culture created by the Indian community. It proves that Indians can win hearts of everyone and every nation. They can paint the whole world with their colors and can never leave behind their culture and traditions.

Shubhi Mangla is an intern at Newsgram and a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. Twitter @shubhi_mangla









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  • Anouk

    It really really really annoys me that you first explain the difference between the Netherlands and Holland and afterwards continuously talk about Holland, while it should have been the Netherlands.

    • Shubhi Mangla

      Holland is just a part of Netherlands and the article focuses on Indian diaspora only in Holland.

  • Anouk

    It really really really annoys me that you first explain the difference between the Netherlands and Holland and afterwards continuously talk about Holland, while it should have been the Netherlands.

    • Shubhi Mangla

      Holland is just a part of Netherlands and the article focuses on Indian diaspora only in Holland.

Next Story

CPR training for all must to save lives: Experts

Nearly 98 per cent Indians are not trained in basic life-saving technique of CPR during sudden cardiac arrest

Participants practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an important life skill to know. VOA

Imagine walking on the road and suddenly seeing a passerby suffering from chest pain and collapsing. Would you be able to give a lifesaving Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)? Most likely, no.

A recent survey conducted by Lybrate — a domestic online doctor consultation platform — showed that nearly 98 per cent Indians are not trained in basic life-saving technique of CPR during sudden cardiac arrest.

In India, sudden cardiac arrest is a major cause of death due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and shockingly 60 per cent of the people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest succumb to it even before they reach hospital, the survey, conducted in 2016, showed.

It is important to be trained in CPR. Flickr

The need of the hour is to make CPR training a must in schools and colleges and even at community level, as it can triple a patient’s chance of survival, if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, health experts said. CPR consists of using chest compressions and artificial ventilation to maintain circulatory flow and oxygenation during cardiac arrests and is the cost effective way to improve survival.

“In case of sudden cardiac arrest, the mortality is very high — almost 90 per cent or more if not resuscitated within 10 minutes,” Neeraj Bhalla, Director and Senior Consultant Cardiology at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS.

The American Heart Association (AHA) defines CPR as an emergency procedure to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a patient and, especially, if performed immediately, it can double or triple a cardiac arrest patient’s chance of survival.

“Any process to bring back the heart beats in the first minute is very important and CPR is one very effective and time-tested process. There should be a concerted effort to make CPR training a must,” added Piyusha Majumdar, Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) University, Jaipur.

The basic technique of CPR illustrated. Pixabay

The AHA recommends uninterrupted chest compression (100 chest compressions in a minute) to the patient until para-medical support is given, which helps in supplying oxygenated blood to the brain and preventing death. Bystander CPR, and AED (automated defibrillators), are very useful in saving lives,” Bhalla said.

“The use of AED — used to diagnose life-threatening arrhythmias or irregularity of heart rhythm — can also be used to treat a dying heart by using electric shock to revive the heart’s rhythm,” Vanita Arora of Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, told IANS.

The device is easy to use, and with some basic training, it can easily be operated by a layman. However, “it is not available at most places, unfortunately. An AED machine should be there at every place where there’s a fire extinguisher. That’s how important a role it can play in saving lives,” Arora noted.

Also Read: CPR Survival Rates Lower Than Most People Think

“The government can also come out with campaigns and such training should be given to all and sundry. Government and private hospitals should also be roped in to provide training, apart from making it compulsory in schools and colleges. Besides, NGOs can also be of great help in such an initiative,” Majumdar added.

The experts also noted that most people fail to identify when a person is suffering cardiac arrest. “A person suffering cardiac arrest will show the following symptoms: pain in the chest, palpitations or shortness of breath, collapse due to loss of consciousness and, most critical, no detectable pulse. The last two are very easy to detect and are almost clear signs of cardiac arrest,” Arora emphasised.

“When you see a person faint or become unconscious gasping for breath, the first thing is to check the pulse or beating of the heart. A person suffering from sudden cardiac arrest will not have detectable pulse, which means he has only seconds to survive. The next step is to call emergency medical service immediately. Almost simultaneously, the person should begin performing CPR,” she noted.

CPR is being administered while a second rescuer prepares for defibrillation. Wikipedia

At the same time, proper heart examination should be made part of routine health check up among the people in the country. People get heart check-ups like ECG and angiographies done only when they face problems like chest pain or any other symptom of heart attack or cardiac arrest.

One should never ignore unexplained weakness, tiredness, first onset chest burning or first onset breathlessness after the age of 40. Those with strong family history of heart disease should get themselves screened, the doctors said.

Leading a healthy lifestyle — including a daily exercise routine, eating healthy food and avoiding stress, adequate sleep — is good for maintaining a healthy heart. It must be made mandatory to teach CPR to all students, office-goers, security personal and almost every citizen of the country, the experts said. IANS